heart sand

You have Parent Issues even if you don’t think you do

It is obvious that our parents have an almost inconceivable effect on our development as human beings, and most of us can accept that. Whether you vote the way your parents do or reject that completely, you’re reacting to how you were brought up; the conversations, the assumptions, the influences. And when someone has had a tragic or abusive childhood, we can envisage why that might have messed them up. We can see that impact because it’s in popular culture, in TV and paperbacks in WH Smith with pictures of sad children on the cover. But more and more (and more) I am realising the impact that familial relationships have, not just on our development as a human being but on the very way we form relationships. However conscious we are about our decision making, most of us don’t realise the extent to which we are recreating patterns in our personal lives.

Does this sound a little self-helpy? I can see that. It’s probably symptomatic of the sort of literature that I read and the sorts of things I’ve always been interested in that this rings so true with me. The people I’m interested in (in a literary sense) are often cerebral types, often recovering addicts, people who have had a lot of therapy. I also like Jillian Michaels, the trainer from The Biggest Loser, who is- I think it’s fair to say- not a particularly cerebral type. But she is a person who understands the destructive nature of her relationship with her father growing up, and how that makes her react, in a very real way, to authority figures in her own life. When the people I’m interested in kept saying the same thing in many different ways, it slowly started to dawn on me that it made sense.

This shit makes sense!
This shit makes sense!

The problem is that because we live our own experiences and our perception is our reality. It is often very hard to see that it might be worth questioning the conclusions we’re drawing. I’ve been racking my brains for an example that isn’t vague, or boring. Of course when you have an interaction with someone and they appear preoccupied we can read that as them being rude, or having something on their mind, or interpret ourselves as boring or not worthy of their attention. But without a specific example, it’s all a bit blah. So I’ll give you mine.

In my early twenties I was almost always in a relationship and I assumed it would never be that difficult to find another. A little further into my twenties, I found myself single and working in the City, and it was suddenly much harder to meet someone. It wasn’t hard to meet people in general but it was sure as shit extremely hard to meet anybody worth spending any time with. That obviously excludes the unbelievable friends I made  there and continue to be close to: they’re gorgeous. The harder I tried the further away what I wanted seemed to be, like trying to catch a fish in your hands. I’d have dates, and second dates, and sometimes more, just to have the person disappear. Any time I got comfortable, that person would ghost on me, so of course I went into every relationship being scared that would happen. “We all have those fears!”, I hear you cry, and of course we do. But until I was in a relationship that felt like a team, where I felt secure, I couldn’t see how utterly terrified I had been in the early stages of the relationship that it would all crumble. It was a pathological fear, a physical feeling that M would leave me. I put it down to the ghosting morons. Now, 798 high-brow podcasts later, I am struck by the truth of the realisation I had a couple of months ago: my fear that the person I love will reject me is as a direct reaction to my fear that love would be withdrawn as a child.

I’m not going to criticise or blame, that’s not the point. I just feel more free and more calm realising that love felt conditional in my childhood and  that it’s had an impact. I also had a lot of unconditional love and continue to have that, and that is nourishing and has made me a lot of who I am. I just also deeply feel that love can be withdrawn.

Look, I don’t think having a critical parent with their own issues qualifies me to write a misery memoir called Why won’t you love me? My point isn’t self-pity, my point is that I have reflected on this one small element of what affects the dynamics of my relationship and it feels very true and runs very deep, and holy shit where does that leave us all? We’re screwed, doomed to repeat patterns that we don’t even recognise! I suppose some people can identify some of the many fibres that form the whole, to a greater or lesser degree. But even just taking a second to think about your opinion or emotion or irritation or resentment, taking a moment to hold it up to the light and to think about the years that went into it, the assumptions and pain, well I think that might be worth it. Holding up Not Going to Prezzo and examining it, maybe I’ll find that it turns to dust. Don’t get me started on Ways I Need To Be Shown I’m Loved. I’m trying, OK?


Category: Life
save the male CALM

Men need Feminism too…

If you buy, or spend time with someone who buys, any magazine aimed mainly at men, you will most probably have seen the ‘Save the Male’ campaign being run by CALM. Even if you haven’t registered the message, you may have seen the eye-catching image of a man’s body, mostly submerged in the sea.

I first became aware of CALM when I worked at the British London 10K this year and spotted just how many runners CALM had; they stuck out because their fundraising t-shirts are orange, the same as our runners’ were, but the sheer number struck me too and I sought out the charity to see what they were about.  CALM is ‘the campaign against living miserably, .. a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the biggest killer of men aged under 50 in the UK.’  Later, I started seeing the adverts on magazines, and buses, and it got me thinking.

There is some controversy around the oft-quoted statistic that claims that the biggest killer of women aged 15 to 44 is men, but there is no doubt that, while instances of crime in general continue to fall in the UK, we still see two women killed a week by a partner or ex-partner.  The TUC estimates that one in four women will have to take time off work at some point due to domestic violence, a statistic that sits uncomfortably in as rich a country as the UK. We all know, right now, a woman who is suffering from intimate partner violence. And the prejudice of “why doesn’t she just leave?” is deeply ingrained in our societal consciousness, as well as a belief that some arguments just get out of hand, some couples just wind each other up, some women could do with a slap. But what story starts to emerge if we think about CALM’s statistics on male suicide in conjunction with rates of domestic violence? What is our society saying about men if violence towards themselves and others is so prevalent? Surely both domestic violence and suicide are symptoms of not knowing how to cope, a deep unease with the world, even if they do present in very different ways.

An initiative in Hull which helps men who want to stop being violent
An initiative in Hull which helps men who want to stop being violent

I feel that it is appropriate at this point to write a few words on domestic violence experienced by men, inflicted by women. Intimate partner violence, whatever the gender of those involved and whatever the sexual orientation of the couple, is disgusting. We all feel anger with our loved ones at times, especially in romantic relationships, but to physically abuse another human being is truly immoral. And when it is an intimate partner, a husband or wife, the pain of domestic violence goes so much deeper than the physical, and the feelings of shame are well-documented. Estimates on DV experienced by men in heterosexual relationships do vary but around 1 in 4 of DV incidents seems to be an accepted statistic, and this points to it being a huge problem. My caveat on mentioning this statistic would be that the remaining 3 in 4 violent incidents are against women, who physically are more at danger from the violence, have a higher number and more serious injuries, and that around 80% of continuing violence is perpetrated by men on women. I have always said that there is room around the table to discuss all types of domestic violence, and I am not dismissive in any way of men suffering intimate partner violence; we need to support those men, but it doesn’t negate the extent of violence against women.

One of CALM’s three mission statements is “We believe that if men felt able to ask for and find help when they need it then hundreds of male suicides could be prevented.  We believe that there is a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help as they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen as such equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity.” I would hazard a guess that a very similar statement could be made regarding domestic violence, that men feel too much shame to ask for help and feel that there is a cultural assumption working against them. Deeply-entrenched cultural assumptions are massively, indescribably harmful to men and to women; assumptions based on gender only serve to pigeon-hole, and ignore individuality and difference. The same assumptions that tell women that they’re too emotional, too bossy, can be valued only on their physical attractiveness, attack men for not being traditionally masculine enough, dissuade them from seeking help when needed, and use the word ‘mangina’ to try to nip progressive thought in the bud. Male suicide rates are another way we’re reminded that the world needs feminism, for men as well as women.

For help and information:

The Samaritans:
Mankind Initiative:
Respect UK:


Category: Comment
Luke Barnatt

Cage fighting for girls

When M mentioned in his online dating profile that he liked ‘mixed martial arts’, I barely registered it.  I feel that way about most sport; not fundamentally opposed, just vaguely indifferent.  Yes, anything that gives me an excuse to go to a pub, and drink and shout has a certain appeal, but I’ve just never found it in myself to really care.  So with this mention of ‘cage fighting’ pretty much ignored in favour of the many other noteworthy statements on his profile- veritably overflowing with noteworthy statements as it was- we exchanged messages, texts, we met, and we were pretty much together, give or take a couple of conversations, from that point on.  Little did I know, the spectre of this ‘cage fighting’ loomed, and it loomed large.

The closest thing to mixed martial arts (or ‘MMA’ if you’re an acronym enthusiast) I’d ever watched was a few rounds of boxing. I’ve never found it particularly hard to understand why people enjoy boxing; whether it’s a sport you like or not, watching two athletes take part in something so skilled yet fundamentally, well, kind of barbaric, is something I can see the appeal of.  I’ve just never liked the feeling; the enthusiasm for wanting to see one man beaten into submission by another.  I don’t want to bay for blood!  Traditionally, I’ve disengaged and removed myself from the room.  In the populist view, take away the ‘gentlemanly’ rules of boxing and you have cage fighting: no rules, bloody, akin to human cock fighting (that might be something different altogether, come to think of it). Amoral.  Without a doubt, the most palatable and easy introduction to MMA is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).  And that’s where all your preconceptions seem to implode.

Davey Grant, of TUF 18, cornering at Cage Warriors. I think he looks pretty scared.
Davey Grant, of TUF 18, cornering at Cage Warriors. I think he looks pretty scared.

They have lights!  They fill massive sporting venues!  They have celebrities in the audience!  The UFC is the sort of production that makes it easy to acquiesce and say reluctantly “go on….”. I didn’t become a fan right there and then, and I didn’t fill with excitement at the idea of sitting down to watch ‘the fighting’ on a regular basis.  But the barrier was gone.  My inner geek had been teased out and had seen a whole world of boring stats to learn, and a cast of heroes and villains to get to know. A whole subject I’d never given a moment’s thought to, but that there is just so damn much to know about. You have two men matched to fight; weighing up to 19st, whose muscle and mass can be completely different, who are inches apart in height, and have completely different skills.  There’s racial diversity like you’d see in barely any other sport.  It’s easier for the rich kids who can afford to train all the time, of course, but there’s fighters from every background, country, and class. Wiry little fighters like angry whippets, waiting for the opportunity to grab their opponent and wrestle him to the ground. Heavyweights who slug it out for five rounds, each with knockout power but barely able to stand at the end. And so my introduction to the weird and wonderful world of MMA was a headlining middleweight title fight on a UFC event. A fight that was a proper game changer, an upset, an iconic battle between Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva and Chris Weidman.  It took that fight to expunge those feelings of middle-class guilt and unease with combat sports: I wasn’t sold, but the line had been crossed.

There are amusing and eloquent characters in MMA, as there are in every sport and especially in a promotion like the UFC that is shown on Fox in the US. They’ve got the money to throw at supporting programmes and hype that can showcase fighters’ personalities, skills, and rivalries.  It has the advertising and sponsorship revenues, and is able to invest in huge Vegas events.  That’s not to say that other promotions, like Cage Warriors and BAMMA in Europe, aren’t fun too, they just don’t have the ridiculous glitz and faux-respectability of the UFC.  But that’s not what’s drawn me in.  That can all be fun, and I’ve watched some fights that had me on the edge of my seat and looking from between the fingers I’m hiding behind, but the thing that gets me excited, the thing that makes me actively go and read this here and that there, are the women fighters.

Amanda Kelly was so lovely, even though she'd lost her fight that night.
Amanda Kelly was so lovely, even though she’d lost her fight that night.

Only fighting in the UFC since March 2013, women MMA fighters have, I imagine, had that same hard road that so many female athletes do in comparison to their male counterparts.  Lack of interest from the public, fewer chances to compete, next to no prospect of making a living from the sport.  But with the UFC’s purchase of Strikeforce, a rival promotion, and the establishment of a women’s division in both the UFC and Cage Warriors, it’s all starting to change. There’s also an all women MMA promotion called Invicta that was starting to gain traction globally before it was snapped up by the UFC. It’ll be weak for a while as the pickings will be slim, and there will inevitably be fights that allow dumb-bone MMA fans to continue to dismiss female fighters.  But, competitors like ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey, an Olympic judoka and a big enough star in the US to be launching her Hollywood career with appearances in The Expendables and Fast & Furious franchises, will pave the way for a generation of female fighters.  And as a woman in love with a man who loves fighting, and a feminist who sees the work we still have to do on equality in this world, it’s quite exciting to see how these women are going to get on in such a male-dominated arena.   And if that’s the way I have to sell to myself the reality of watching women break each other’s arms, then, for now, so be it.

Ronda is my favourite! And she's getting better all the time..
Ronda is my favourite! And she’s getting better all the time..

Epilogue: I wrote this in January 2014 and apart from a few additions and edits, it’s the same article I originally put together. However, I have since found myself enjoying MMA more and more. I’ve loved going along to the events- UFC, Cage Warriors, and BAMMA- and I’m loving having my personal favourites and developing my own knowledge and opinions. With the launch of season 20 of the UFC’s reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter, which is all-female and will crown a straw-weight champion at the end, women’s MMA is bigger and more exciting than ever. We’ve just seen world-class boxer Holly Holm signed to the UFC in the same weight class as Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano returned last night after almost a year and a half away, and great personal tragedy, to a convincing, exciting, and emotional victory.

When I wrote this piece my interest in Mixed Martial Arts was just beginning, and it was an exciting new world. I don’t feel that the piece above is my best writing, but I did want to be true to those initial feelings and put it up. Eight months later, this is a sport that has really captured my imagination, and I can’t imagine this is the last you’ll hear about it from me…. Who knows- if you give it a go, you might surprise yourself!

You can read my TUF 20 episode reviews over on Schpunk!

The TUF 20 fighters! I am LOVING it!
The TUF 20 fighters! I am LOVING it!


Picture credits:
Ronda Rousey – USA Today

TUF 20 Cast – Wombat Sports



Category: Life
my shaggy dog story!

It’s autumn! Wrap up in faux fur!

So I have begun thinking about coats , prompted mainly by Kathryn’s post about her bargain pink purchase, and The Frugality post recently on light blue (which included a very fetching M&S coat as well).  I’m a bit of a mucky pup so the thought of a pastel overcoat frightens me somewhat, and while the M&S coat wasn’t too pastel (the colour is actually ‘smokey blue’, apparently) one of the things I like most about it is the texture and structure. And texture is everywhere at the moment, especially in the new season’s outerwear.

See, Kathryn loves a faux fur too...
See, Kathryn loves a faux fur too…

The form of texture that is getting me most excited is fake fur. Furry jackets have been hanging around for the last few years, usually with an animal print, both exaggerated and more realistic.  But it’s really been the growing popularity of high-end fake fur brand Shrimps this past few months that has prompted a resurgence of bold, obviously-faux scarves and jackets.

Shrimps: bit rich for my blood!
Shrimps: bit rich for my blood!

M&S has a fetching, and fluffy, rust-coloured jacket at £149, which comes in up to a size 22 and avoids the pitfall of going too light with faux fur and ending up looking juvenile. Of course, if that is your bag then Whistles’ delightful Kumiko Faux Fur Coat isn’t exactly budget at £275, but the pink is kind of amazing and not too sugary.

M&S. Mmmm, rusty!
M&S. Mmmm, rusty!
Oh Whistles, I do love the colour of this coat...
Oh Whistles, I do love the colour of this coat…

I make no apology for loving ASOS and how responsive they are to trends so I was naturally a bit disappointed that they don’t have any attractive furry confections at the moment.  The faster fashion brands don’t seem to have jumped in with both feet yet, and some of the faux furs on offer look as if they might sit quite lumpy on the body. Probably this offering will improve over the next month or so but at the moment the emphasis is on luxe faux fur and anything under about £100 is looking a bit, well, less than luxe. I spotted a rather yummy French Connection coat in quite a baby pink, the Polar Teddy, but again, it’s £195. Only time will tell whether we’ll see any handsome reproductions of this trend at a lower price.

Polar teddy indeed!
Polar teddy indeed!

If you want to go budget- which in this tricky case I’m saying is under £100- then a more traditional, animal-print fur is going to be the way to go. One of the absolutely awesome things about traditional faux fur is that it’s automatically glamorous, and great over going-out wear, but also gives a grungey I-bought-this-from-a-flea-market feel too. You lose this with the coloured faux furs as the aesthetic is much more extravagant and obvious, and also kind of whimsical. But this more traditional faux fur coat in leopard from & Other Stories is selling very quickly at £95 and has a more structured, coat-like feel, but I still find it very appealing. For a more fur-like coat, this ASOS one is damn sexy.

& Other Stories
& Other Stories, knocking it out of the park as usual
ASOS magic..

In general, paying a few extra pounds will mean a more ‘realistic’, better quality faux fur, but if this is a piece that you’ll enjoy a few times but don’t really want to invest in, a fair option seems to be the Tesco Florence & Fred coat currently overpowering billboards everywhere. It’s only £39, although the range of sizes is pretty disappointing; perhaps the advertising is working.

The reasonably-priced F&F job
The reasonably-priced F&F job

For now, I’ll be sticking with my ASOS faux fur, which is beautifully shaggy but also fine and a less obvious animal print. I invested a reasonable sum in it (around £70, I think) and it’s got long-term appeal. It even has an element of (relative) realism to it, and the fur isn’t too stiff. In fact it”s very easy to wrap up in!

my shaggy dog story!
my shaggy dog story!


But I may well add a Helen Moore-style fur scarf to my existing jackets as a transitional piece; it’ll take my jackets into autumn and make my Whistles winter coats ultra-cosy. In fact, I will probably have ordered this ASOS racoon collar by the time I’ve posted this article!  Yummy.

I want this Helen Moore bad...
I want this Helen Moore bad…
But I will make do with this delightful ASOS bit of racoon!
But I will make do with this delightful ASOS bit of racoon!

(All photos stolen from the respective websites)


Category: Style
Lolly Dawson 1

Covetables: Clarks Lolly Dawson boots

Too many times recently I’ve found myself in one of two quandaries:  either I want to put smart footwear on and the weather forecast puts me off, or I want something comfortable to wear but I know I look scruffy in most of my trainers. Seemed to me like a pair of smart ankle boots would be the answer, but they needed to be leather to withstand the rain, and as I work in a very casual office, they also needed to be versatile.

And I’m an old woman so they needed to be comfortable too. ASOS is often a go-to for me for reasonably priced leather boots but I wasn’t taken with anything, and they all felt a bit pricey. And then I stumbled across these Lolly Dawson leather boots from Clarks! And I bought them! And man, I am in love.

I just think these look ACE
I just think these look ACE

Firstly the leather is great, so they look classy straightaway. And they’re lovely and low on the ankle, which keeps them looking dainty and makes them way more likely to suit being put with skirts and dresses, as well as jeans. But I think the thing I’m most excited about is the sole: it looks like a fine, classic boot sole, but those clever sods at Clarks have made it rubber and padded, so pounding the pavements without having to resort to sneakers or DMs is easy.

These boots instantly smarten up my jeans so that adding a shirt, silk tee, or blazer makes me look ‘finished’, but equally they could go with a casual tee-shirt or sweatshirt, plenty of which I plan to wear this autumn and winter. I realise that a chelsea boot is not exactly a ground-breaking choice, but for under sixty quid these are a great, quality basic to go into cooler weather with. And the taupe suede is pretty sexy too…

Clarks Lolly Dawson boots, £56.99

Category: Style