34 for 40

Back in January 2018 I thought about making a bucket list for the year I turned 40, but they’ve never really done it for me – I don’t do well with having too many goals. I took time instead to reflect on amazing things I’ve already had the chance to do and it made me very grateful.

So I decided to keep a record of things I did this year that really made me happy, or helped me grow/be grateful. Some were planned as special things for our 40th year and were things I’ve always wanted to do/try, some came our way via friends, some – I have no idea but they’re lovely to remember. List and photos below. Of course, 40 for 40 would have been funnier, but this list is more than enough! List and photos below.

  1. Read a lot of books by women and only women
  2. Planted bulbs, dug a wildflower bed, and looked after our garden
  3. Start using my proper camera again – my phone has a great camera but I much prefer the skills and thought involved in using my DSLR.
  4. Took part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch and became a bit of a twitcher
  5. Looked at the moon through our telescope a lot
  6. Visited Adam’s Farm
  7. Made wild garlic pesto from the crop that grows in Mum’s garden
  8. Visited Parliament – a reception to highlight the work Christians are doing in the Middle East
  9. Visited a bunch of Bucks Art Weeks studios/exhibitions
  10. Visited St Tiggywinkles (hedgehog and wild animal sanctuary – very local and I’d never been!)
  11. Kayaked with the family
  12. Sorted out the garden pond – and spent time just watching things living in it including frogs, larvae and other freshwater creatures
  13. Joined a church ‘properly’
  14. Visited Kop Hill Climb (v v local I’d never been!)
  15. Visited Marrakesh
  16. Put my nose stud back in
  17. Made meditation a daily habit
  18. Kept up my bullet journal
  19. Trained myself to like lots of foods that are good for me but that I’ve never enjoyed so I can widen my diet. Includes sweetcorn, olives, and lots of soft fruits
  20. Went to Venice
  21. Stepped down from being a trustee at the foodbank
  22. Saw live dance at Sadler’s Wells
  23. Visited Bletchley Park
  24. Became an auntie again
  25. Joined BBOWT and went on orchid walks, spotting my first Musk Orchid
  26. Trained to be a river-fly monitor
  27. Partook of a bunch of women’s rights activism and environmental craftivism
  28. Managed to totally surprise Rob with his ‘Keeper for a Day’ birthday gift
  29. Sadly said byeee to my friend but booked in to see her soon in Nova Scotia
  30. Had some great times with friends (our birthday, Rinfest)
  31. Loved that we had distinct seasons – spent a lot of the very hot summer in our garden
  32. Found a new favourite tree
  33. Had knafeh birthday cake (a traditional Palestinian treat)
  34. Had drinkies with my lovely team at the top of the Oxo Tower, London

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2018: Words from women

I challenged myself in 2018 to only read books by women*. It’s been  bloody fantastic. Here they are for your perusal (couple more to finish off before the end of the year and will add). Click on an image for a one sentence review.  I recommend giving the challenge a go!

*I did read the latest in Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series to avoid spoilers 🙂

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