A quick post on #SmearforSmear

I won’t be doing #smearforsmear and not because I don’t think getting a smear is vitally important or that it isn’t important to increase the number of women who do but because once again I’m struggling with the damage that can be done by un-nuanced viral messaging.

If you don’t know, it is a campaign aimed at encouraging women to share photo and video selfies of themselves with their lipstick smeared. The idea is to draw attention to the fact that the number of women who aren’t getting regular tests is falling.

  • A smear isn’t just 5 minutes and easy for many women. As a sufferer of vaginismus it far from easy and pain free. I bled for 3 days after my last smear and had to return for a second attempt which I yelled and sobbed through. It wasn’t the GP’s fault but it is what it is – next time I may have to be drugged to get through it – fun eh! 2 in 1000 women suffer from vaginismus , probably more, but, ironically, they don’t report because of shame.
  • Any woman who has been assaulted or raped, doesn’t find it easy. I don’t think I need to elaborate
  • If a woman is embarrassed about going for a smear it is because the patriarchy teaches her to be ashamed of her body which, for X reason today, doesn’t conform to whatever is currently correct and attractive to men.
  • If a woman is embarrassed about being hairy in particular, it is recognised to be related to the prevalence of hair-free women in porn. Which is in no small way related to the attraction of some men to pre-pubescent. Shave, or don’t shave – but it is important to recognise why shaving is a thing.
  • The survey on which #smearforsmear is based (although I can’t get a copy of the original questions asked) also suggests not being able to, or wanting to, take time off of work is a significant barrier to accessing a smear. Are women in a position that they can’t look after their health without fearing reprisal or risking their employment? Why isn’t this the news?
  • The survey also suggests that 26% of women can’t get an appointment even if they want to. Surely a result of the defunding of the NHS. And that bit isn’t making the news either…
  • Also, mustn’t forget PSH-education is still dismissed as unnecessary and too embarrassing to teach (the irony), so of course women don’t understand their own bodies, the risks they face and how to stay healthy.
  • And, yeurgh, women and lipstick…. It is a bit like #nomakeupselfie isn’t it?  Let’s accept a stereotype while trying to fight something that is caused in no small part by stereotypes.

So yes, sharing a selfie might make a point to some women about how important detection is. But sadly can also trivialise the real reasons women don’t/can’t get smears by normalising the ‘they’re embarrassed because they’re vain’ or ‘lazy’ or ‘uneducated’.

There is so much good stuff in the work that has been done. I’m just once again disheartened that the messaging and ‘call to action’ is missing a huge opportunity, and could have focused more on the fact local heath services are not doing anything to improve access to smears, or educating women as to the reasons to have them.

So this all smacks of victim blaming.


40 things: a reverse bucket list

heather geologyAs is somewhat obligatory as people reach milestone birthdays, I started the whole “what 40 things should I do to celebrate my 40th”.  Not intending to do lots of things in the next 7 weeks, but over the next year, and not doing things for the sake of hitting 40 things but just because it would be good to have a go – no feeling guilty for not doing it, no arbitrary meaningless targets, but a bit of fun.

I asked friends on and offline for ideas and what struck me was how bloody blessed my life has been so far. So before I go any further with picking 40 things to do in my ’40th year’ I wanted to recognise and celebrate 40 things already done…

I want to look back before looking forward…so in no particular order and definitely not exhaustive…

  1. Graduated with honours (Geology)
  2. Travelled to many, many places
  3. Become a long distance walker including completing the 50km of the Thames Path in less than 12 hours, Hadrian’s Wall Path and the Great Glen Way.
  4. Lived by the sea
  5. Learned to ski
  6. Visited 30+ UNESCO World Heritage Sites
  7. Been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land – and learned about the conflict there that has changed me forever.
  8. Had my photographs published (and not just for free in the local paper but in stuff people pay for)
  9. Talked at Greenbelt (been on the bill)
  10. Been a best man, and a bridesmaid and a God Mum (4 times over although I’m a bit rubbish at it!)
  11. Studied post grad (theology)
  12. Fell in love and got married
  13. Photographed a wedding (never again – too stressful)
  14. Took Mum to Buckingham Palace for a tea party
  15. Helped set up a charity
  16. Visited refugee camps and met the people who live there
  17. Quit a job (I loved but was no good for me)
  18. Slept in a log cabin on the side of the Athabasca river in Canada
  19. Seen the Northern Lights
  20. Met people from two of my fave bands and thanked them for their impact on my life (without totally embarrassing myself)
  21. Washed my hair in a waterfall
  22. Been interviewed on Radio 4 (and of course the fabulous Wycombe Sound)
  23. Cycled the Bristol to Bath cycle path
  24. Sat on the KT Boundary (as in the rock layer where the meteorite hit that ‘killed the dinosaurs’)
  25. Lived on my own
  26. Sung a solo in front of 300+ people
  27. Seen whales in the wild
  28. Been to the Olympics
  29. Flown in a 4 seater jet plane
  30. Planted and hugged lots of trees
  31. Slept outside, right under the stars and not in a tent
  32. Learned that ‘no’ is not a bad word
  33. Stood in front of a Turner for an hour and come away changed
  34. Had afternoon tea at the Ritz, London
  35. Completed an OU course in photography
  36. Asked for help for my mental health when I needed it
  37. Learned, and used, first aid
  38. Seen a comet, and a total solar eclipse
  39. Made great friends I’ve known since I was a child, and some I haven’t
  40. Am an auntie which is the best job ever

Thames Path Challenge. Tick.


We did it! 31 miles of the Thames Path in 13hr 48 minutes with breaks, or 11hr 11 minutes of walking.  See the gallery below for the photos I managed to take.

Thank you each and every person who sponsored us, supported, encouraged and prayed for us. You all rock and between you raised almost £800 (so far, inc Gift Aid) for Cardiac Risk in the Young in memory of my late bestie – James.

Whinge warning

It’s been a hell of a challenge. We signed up to do the Thames Path Challenge exactly a year ago and trained our socks off, to the detriment of seeing friends and family – sorry! We’re back now. I think we got over 200 training miles under our belts, but nothing, nothing really prepared us for the 50km.

It was bloody hard and bloody fun.

I think my lowest moments were the 8km after the half way mark which I’d had in my head would be good because it was the shortest section between two stops, but no.  Walking in the dark wasn’t, by itself as hard as I thought it was going to be, but 44-49km were bad. My legs had turned to lead and I developed an agonising pain in my left foot which sent shooting pains up my leg with every step. My rucksack, which has never caused me any issues was digging into my collar bone and my left shoulder blade for the last 20km. We’d both been bitten by bugs and Rob nearly look my eye out with his walking pole swiping midges.  It rained, nowhere near as much as the forecast said it would, and in parts the rain was a welcome cooling spray but still soggy.  I had to change my socks after 10km because of sore spots but managed no blisters, either of us. When we got home, Rob staggered into the bath and I hopped straight into bed and was overtaken by the shakes for half an hour – not pleasant!

Random lovely people

As we expected, the camaraderie walking with a group was fab, although there were long stints, especially at the end when we were on our own. A man carrying his daughter on his shoulders was clearly out just to chivvy us all along; she’d bought flags to wave. A woman called out of her window at Penton Hook just to ask if we were heading for Runnymede and to encourage us that it wasn’t far now.

Then there was the woman in Richmond, waiting for her friends to trek past. But she stopped us and asked what charity we were walking for and why, and when I told her I got all upset for the next few km but I held on to that memory for the walk – kept me going.

Less random were our faves Rachel and Phil who were our support team. Thank you lovelies – especially for my turkish delight and clean trousers!

Rob’s pretty cool

I would love to just say how flipping brilliant Rob has been through this whole thing. I totally talked him into it, but once convinced he’s been the driving force and to say he is the ‘glass half full’ guy is putting it mildly. On a training walk between Abingdon and Goring when I sat on a bench and cried, he gently got me walking. My gentle-man.

And on Saturday, he never once got grumpy. He was exhausted, he hurt, but he just kept plodding. When we got home he was able to RUN up the stairs to our flat which, to my amusement, turned out to be adrenaline – because he’s been hobbling round the house ever since. But he made me laugh, apart from the pole in the eye thing. Love you Bobbert.


So that’s that done. We’ve now down 125 miles ish of the 184miles of the Thames Path. We might have a teeny break before finishing it off mind you.

If you’d like to put some money in the pot for CRY click here 🙂


I’ve spent quite a lot of this week reading and hiding comments on a boosted post on Facebook that I created on behalf of the charity I work for. It is about an appeal raising funds for humanitarian aid projects run by the tiny minority of Christians in the Gaza Strip.

The boosted post has been targeted to be seen by people who, among other things, have expressed an interest in the poverty alleviation, international development and the Middle East.

Comments I have seen include fair questions: how do we know the money doesn’t fall into the hands of Hamas? How do we know we are funding the truly needy, given there is wealth in Gaza, albeit in the hands of people doing nothing for the most marginalised and vulnerable population?

Then there’s the questions edging towards something else: Why have we chosen to support people, who over the years appear not to help themselves?

These questions are tricky to answer on Facebook (or anywhere) so we answer them through different channels.

And then there’s the other comments.

  • Tell the moslems that are here claiming benefits to send them money.
  • Donate to a country that teaches it’s children the importance of killing all Jews?
  • F*$! them. Their all the same underneath: appeasing Islam is like sponsoring your own assassination
  • Every family that is scarf is because they have brought up bloody terrorist muzzrat ….so go f yourselves f’ing c’s….
  • And there was me thinking all they wanted was more guns to kill Christians and Jews with.
  • Won’t be saying that when the Muslim brotherhood are raping white women, committing XXXXXXXXX atrocities on British kids and killing non Muslims. All with the love of their prophet the XXXXXXXX*

I went to Gaza earlier this year and met some of the Christians and Muslims running the humanitarian aid projects. I sat and ate with them as they told me of their struggles living in a place even the UN state is going to be unlivable by 2020. I sat in the ‘homes’ of Palestinians of different faiths who have nothing, literally nothing, and are only alive because of the work of the projects. It affected me, of course it did, but I tell this because I anticipate one of the responses to this blog may be – you’re responding emotionally…

Two things: I’m not, I’m a professional. I am, I’m a human. Telling me I am responding emotionally to a humanitarian crisis or the cold-blooded murder of a woman in the street, and the motivators that drive those acts is small and meaningless criticism. Of course I am. Next.

If you’re the kind of person who thinks everyone should see the pain and destruction in the world, then step back and vote dispassionately, great. But there are more people voting because of greed, hatred and fear or because of love, compassion and hope. I understand both of them more.

The man who murdered British MP Jo Cox turns out to be a far-right extremist, stating clear indicators during his initial court hearing and appears to affiliated with and has campaigned for a far-right political party.

His actions are being excused by some: he’s just a nutcase; he’s mentally ill; he’s a lone wolf; there’s nothing we could have done; some people will always do things like this.

And yet, they don’t. Hardly anyone walks up to a public servant in the street and kills them. Hardly anyone takes an automatic weapon into a gay nightclub in Florida and kills 49 people.

What does happen every day is that people are othered. They are dehumanised. People are labelled every single day. Language and images are used that are damaging.

Migrants and refugees are conflated daily by the independent but influenced BBC. So-called documentaries chart the shenanigans of our benefit scrounging neighbours, our corrupt public servants.  Publicly and loudly leaders in all sorts of spheres appeal to their people  by exploiting their understandable fears – that there may not be a job, an education for their kids, help when they’re ill.   And a significant and influential proportion of our beleaguered media who report what is said, and sometimes what isn’t.

“You’ve got a swarm of people coming across the Mediterranean seeking a better life.” Cameron 30/7/15. Under the  previous  Labour  government,  Home  Secretary  David  Blunkett  was  criticised  for referring to child asylum seekers as ‘swamping’ some British schools (BBC  News, 2002).

The poisonous vitriol our local MP has been on the end of over his Leave position and ClKf_zhWAAA6vz_pretty much anything else he’s ever done.

“The London Mayor – who is backing the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union – criticised the US President for his intervention in the EU referendum debate, adding his attitude to Britain might be based on his “part-Kenyan” heritage and “dislike of the British Empire”.  Boris Johnson 22/4/16.

“Media [coverage of the migrant crisis] also differed widely in terms of the predominant themes to their coverage. For instance, humanitarian themes were more common in Italian coverage than in British, German or Spanish press. Threat themes (such as to the welfare system, or cultural threats) were the most prevalent in Italy, Spain and Britain. Overall, the Swedish press was the most positive towards refugees and migrants, while coverage in the United Kingdom was the most negative, and the most polarised. Amongst those countries surveyed, Britain’s right-wing media was uniquely aggressively in its campaigns against refugees and migrants.”[1]

Othering has always happened, it always will happen.  I have been guilty of it myself and will be again.

I’ve said a few times in the EU Ref campaign that I have spoken to people on both sides of the debate, who have realised a piece of evidence, or position they hold is wrong or tenuous at best. And they won’t change their vote. They hold on to their position above and beyond what the evidence points to. They *want* to be right about their view. Their passion to see wrongs righted has been disassociated from compassion towards  people that are going to be impacted by their choice and are already being impacted by our colonial past. That rose tinted past that never existed.

To deny that othering happens is to be complicit in the consequences of it. Complicit in all of the mess and murder that happens as a result. Harsh? Yes, and I include myself in that condemnation. To say we can’t do anything about it is to give up on each other – the other who might not be my colleague/friend/family member who thinks the same way I do about everything. and who never challenges me or my world view.  The other who is a human too no matter where the luck of their birth placed them on this earth.


*I had to delete some words, because there is some sort of attention I don’t want my blog to attract.

[1] UNHCR: Press Coverage of the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in the EU: A Content Analysis of Five European Countries:  http://www.unhcr.org/56bb369c9.pdf

Extra reading: Our health and theirs: Forced migration, othering, and public health. Natalie J. Grove, Anthony B. Zwi School of Public Health and Community Medicine, The University of New South Wales https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7524802_Our_Health_and_Theirs_Forced_Migration_Othering_and_Public_Health