Lunch at Leftfield

To say I enjoy food is something of an understatement. I live for food. I’m always trawling recipe books and websites. Most of my favourite TV shows and YouTube channels focus on some aspect of food or cooking. I’d almost be inclined to call myself a foodie.

To say I enjoy seafood is even more of an understatement.

Coming from a fishing town on the west coast, it’s practically illegal to not enjoy seafood. It’s a staple. The produce is incredibly fresh and always great quality. Oban has as many chippies as it does supermarkets and there are only 8,500 locals to feed year-round.

When I first started going off meat, my parents made me a deal. I could only stop eating meat if I stopped being so picky with my vegetables (although I still hate broccoli and cauliflower) and kept eating fish. It was a little arduous at first, but with a great cook like my Mum, and the produce as great as it is, I was soon converted back to my pescatarian ways.

I’ve been a pescatarian for years now, and adore playing around with recipes, substituting meat for fish and shellfish, to see what sort of textures and flavour  combinations work.

So, yeah, seafood is pretty darn high on my Food Loves list. And good seafood is my fave way to celebrate.

On Sunday, my family and I went to Leftfield for lunch to celebrate my Dad’s birthday.

leftfield edinburgh bruntsfield

It’s a lovely restaurant in Bruntsfield. Bright and open with large windows, it has a real Scandi feel to it. The decor is inviting and the music was a golden selection that included Nina Simone and he Isley Brothers. Basically, I loved it.

Their Sunday lunch menu is really lovely. It’s small, but there really is something for everyone and the flavours are adventurous. Dad and I both opted for starters – he had the chicken pate and I opted for the vegetable pakoras which was light, warmly spiced and completely scrummy.

Their specialty, though, is a seafood platter (although it needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance) which Mum and Dad ordered unbeknownst to Zoe and I at the time.

Now, being an Oban girl, I’ve been spoiled most of my life with great seafood and often lament to Mum and Dad about how it’s just not the same in the city. Leftfield, however, knocked it out the park.

leftfield seafood platter

Every element was prepared differently, and it’s clear chef X knows what he’s doing. Barbequeued crevettes, scallops with curried aubergine, tempura oysters, clams with a delightfully fresh salsa, and that’s just for starters. Mammoth langoustines, melt-in-the-mouth fried squid and half lobsters with claws to boot were waiting to be demolished.

The marie rose dipping sauce was a wonderful accompaniment for the langoustines and the salsa gave the barbequeued prawns a real tang. The lobster claws were my favourite though – scoffed down with gorgeously golden chips and a fresh, herby salad.

I can’t get over how delicious everything was. And how brilliant the service was, too. At £25 a head, this incredibly nostalgic taste of my no-longer-home was an absolute bargain.

We all joked that it was such a shame the next family birthday wasn’t until mine in November, but I’m sure we’ll find an excuse to return for the seafood platter – every day’s worthy of a celebration, right?

Rupi Kaur’s Poetry Performance in Glasgow – A Review

Do not listen to the adage “Never meet your heroes” because then you’ll not get the chance to sHARE A STAGE WITH THEM LIKE I DID!!!

St Luke's empty stage Rupi Kaur Glasgow review

I’m not joking. Rupi Kaur completed her whistlestop UK tour in Glasgow, shrouded in purple and pink lights and smiled down on by the stunning stained glass of St Luke’s on Bain Street. While the east end of Glasgow initially seemed an unusual choice to me, Waterstones certainly introduced Rupi to a warm west coast crowd.

Rupi Kaur Glasgow review

The room was abuzz with excitement. I was so glad to have bagged seats in the second row. It was the perfect view to soak up the palpable emotion that dripped from Rupi’s lips; rich like the honey she repeatedly makes mention of in both her published works.

Key readings were set to music that, at first, seemed odd choices but soon they married perfectly; matched – and mismatched – to stir up feelings I couldn’t put a name to. That’s one of the most magical mysteries of Rupi Kaur – her uncanny ability to unite a room with an emotion, even if it’s foreign to the crowd until she brews it with her piercing words.

Lyrical, smooth and utterly bewitching – Rupi Kaur was showered in clicks (a common sign of appreciation in the slam poetry world), claps and stomping as she roused a solidarity among the audience.

More wonderfully, though, was her interjections with utterly human stories of her friends, childhood, family and female experiences. She jokingly made mention of no longer being able to live now that her book is written – that she must practice what she preaches and accept the compliments that were made for her. She is adorably bashful and thankful for every click, clap and whoop that echoes through the church hall. Some moments, you could hear a pin drop as we hung on her every word. Other times, we were excitedly yelling in agreement with her empowering messages and proclamations of love before the words left her lips.

Being able to share a stage with Rupi Kaur will go down as one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. I cannot begin to explain the nerves, disbelief, fangirling and admiration swirling through my veins. Words still escape me as to how surreal the experience was. I read her words alongside her – her arm around me, soothing and encouraging – as I prayed I didn’t butcher her art in front of her adoring fans (I only stumbled once or twice, thank god).

I’m still shaking with excitement. I hope someone took a photo or recorded it so I can share it with the world forever and ever. For now, you’ll have to make do imagining me shakily reading the odd numbers and her perfectly delivering the evens.


If she ever comes back to the UK (which she did say she hopes to), I would buy my ticket in a heartbeat. It’s not often you find words that, even on a page, reach down into your soul, set you alight and leave a lasting warmth emanating through your entire being. Hers did, and being able to imprint her own glorious energy to memory and revel in her delivery of such similar experiences to mine is something I could happily experience again and again.

My Embroidery Journey So Far

The least creative creative person in existence

I describe myself as someone who is creative, but not artistic. I appreciate art and creativity, and at any one time can have a dozen art project ideas in their infancy, but I rarely complete them. Mostly, this is down to lack of skill or ability. Sometimes, it’s down to time or resource. Other times, it’s because I get distracted by the Next Great Idea. I have a lot of NGIs…

A little over a year ago, my sister gave me a cross stitch kit for my birthday. I was so excited, because it was a fun project to get stuck into and I knew how to cross-stitch already. In primary school we were taught some basic stitchings as a Mother’s Day bookmark project and it’s one of those weird memories I’ve never forgotten.

It took me a long time (cramping happens) and a lot of thread, but the finished piece was fantastic and so adorable!

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You could say that my flamingo project was the start of a love affair with needlecraft.

After that, I indulged myself at Hobbycraft and picked up the basic supplies to continue my new hobby:

  • aida
  • embroidery threads
  • wooden hoops
  • embroidery scissors (or, if you have a spare pair, just use nail scissors)

I already had a bunch of needles and a Cath Kidston sewing kit (another present from my sister from a few years back – she knows me so well). I was ready to get started.

It makes me a little bit sad that I can’t remember the first hoop I created without a pattern. I think that’s probably because there have been so many!

The benefits of embroidery

This particular creative outlet is, for me, one of the most enjoyable. It’s low energy, low maintenance and low mess (apart from when I sprawl all my kit across the entire sofa and leave no room for Tam to sit…)

One thing I really love about embroidery is the sense of accomplishment. It’s a productive hobby and you can measure your progress very easily and visually. As the number of completed hoops begins to pile up, and I refine my technique or learn a new stitch, I feel proud of myself. It’s a simple pleasure, but an important one. Pride in our work, and in our abilities, is an under-appreciated luxury in our society. Embroidery gives me a spark of accomplishment with every new stitch and I love that!

For me, embroidery is incredibly therapeutic. It occupies just enough of my attention, but doesn’t require so much concentration that I can’t listen to the latest Guilty Feminist episode or rewatch Brooklyn 99 for the 147th time. The repetitive motions are soothing for an over-active brain like mine, and it can literally be done anywhere. I’ve taken hoops on buses, to cafes, to work, and I’ve even been known to finish some stitching in bed of a weekend. It’s a versatile, flexible hobby that can fit into your lifestyle, no matter how busy you are. It’s the perfect Me Time activity, in my opinion.

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There’s a really wonderfully tight-knit crafting community online (pardon the crafting pun). Embroidery is especially prevalent on Instagram. Check out different hashtags to see the vast range of embroidery art that people share, sell and teach via Insta, it’s really quite incredible.

You cannot make an irreversible mistake when you’re embroidering. Either unpick, cover up or snip away any rogue stitches and no one will ever know your needle went for a walk off the beaten path. And don’t be afraid to get creative. The possibilities are endless with embroidery. People embroider all sorts of things, in all sorts of places. The opportunities are there for the taking – unleash your creativity and see what you can create!

How expensive is embroidery?

In all honesty, it can be a pretty cheap hobby. Most people have a sewing kit lying around from a Christmas cracker or hotel room. Skeins (or embroidery threads) can be relatively pricey, depending on the colour and manufacturer. DMC embroidery thread is lovely, but cheaper versions do exist. I recommend bulk-buying to avoid running out too quickly and to lower the cost per skein. It’s the economical way to do it, I reckon.

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Hoops are available on Amazon for next to nothing if you bulk buy. Again, shop around. They come in varying sizes – all measured in inches – and for beginners it makes sense to go a little cheaper at first. If you’re keen to display your patterns in their hoops, you might want to go for slightly more expensive hoops, though. If you’re not planning on displaying the hoops, why not invest in plastic embroidery hoops? Tam gave me a set for Christmas and I ADORE them.

As for fabric, anything that can handle being punctured by a needle is good material. You might have old clothes that are too raggedy for the charity shop – why not practice your stitching on them first? If you have the budget, packs of aida are great – especially if you’re new because the fabric is woven in squares and makes creating patterns very intuitive. I bulk-bought a bunch of fun, printed cotton fat squares from eBay for more variety, too.

My fabric pens and pencils all came from Amazon. I’d highly recommend picking up a few – especially fine-tipped pens. You’ll need those if you want to draw anything detailed. The ink disappears under warm water, like magic!

Presents will never be hard to come by again, either! Who doesn’t love a handmade gift? You’ll be able to show off your newly learned skills and give someone a heartfelt, thoughtful pressie for every holiday and birthday from now on. Win win!

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How do I start embroidering?

Thread a needle and stab some fabric!

If you’re not keen on drawing out your own designs or free-handing it just yet, there are plenty of places you can go for lessons on stitching and pre-drawn patterns.

DMC has a fantastic selection of patterns you can download for free from their website. If, like me, you don’t have a lightbox at home, just stick your design to a window and trace the pattern onto your material that way. Their patterns also tell you which stitches to use and how to create them. I’ve used a few of their patterns already and have a bunch more downloaded, waiting to be copied onto some fabric.

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YouTube is also your friend. You can learn specific stitches from a wealth of videos online. I reference them now and again when I forget how to do something. They’re incredibly useful and straightforward to follow.

Buy books! Check in the charity shops, book shops and online for beginners’ guides to embroidery. There are so many, and once you’re feeling confident you can pass the book on to someone else.

Etsy is a great place if you’re able to pay for patterns. Buying pre-drawn patterns or embroidery kits from Etsy sellers is a great way to explore different styles and patterns while supporting artists and helping the embroidery community continue to thrive!

What are you waiting for?

Embroidery is really fantastic. It’s productive, pretty and you’ll end up with presents and wall art for everyone you know! You can only improve your skills and you’ll always feel like you’ve achieved something after a stitching session. I’m always up for a crafternoon session, so if you fancy getting started and want a friend to stitch with, hit me up!

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Product Review: Forest and Shore Hallelujah Hair Oil

I’m incredibly excited to tell you about a product I was asked to review: Forest and Shore‘s Hallelujah Hair Oil.

Available on Amazon, my hair oil took 3 days to arrive (and came on a hair wash day, which was highly convenient!).

The packaging

I really love the pale blue and the dainty floral design. The card is slightly textured and soft. It’s a pretty box and I’m not about to get rid of it any time soon!

forest and shore hair oil review box

The bottle

I adore a bottle with a pipette. Couldn’t really tell you why, I think it’s probably the novelty because it’s not a common feature. The glass bottle is frosted.

The hair oil

The oil itself is a warm yellow colour and runs a lot smoother and less gloopy than some hair oils I’ve tried before.

It ticks so many of my boxes – it’s organic, vegan and smells incredible. Made from a blend of essential oils, the most prominent smells are the coconut and lavender. It has a near minty freshness to it.

The directions on the box suggest 2-5 drops of the oil run through from mid to ends of towel dried hair. Despite being an oil, it doesn’t leave a heavy residue on my hands, which I really appreciate. It spreads evenly through my hair (I used 5 drops because my bleached locks really need all the help they can get). I couldn’t find my wide toothed comb, so I settled for my tangle teezer to brush the oil all the way through my hair and settled in for the night.

forest and shore hair oil bottle review

The verdict

Hallelujah is right – this oil is heaven sent!

In the morning my hair smelled fresh and was nearly tangle-free – which never happens. I brushed out the few pillow-made tangles with my fingers and that’s all it needed. It sat perfectly, with nearly no flyaways (although with my hair needing cut and having been bleached a tonne, flyaways are not something I can altogether avoid). It looked healthier, it had more life and stayed soft for days after using the oil.

I’m honestly blown away! I find a lot of hair oils in the shops are too heavy for me. I have a lot of hair and it’s hard to keep volume and life in it without slathering my scalp with a concoction of lotions and potions, which inevitably weigh it down after a few hours and leave it greasy and desperate for a wash. I didn’t find that to be the case with the Forest and Shore oil. It didn’t leave any residue on my pillow, and my ends were visibly tamed. I’ve used it after a few shampoos now, and I’m still loving the results.

forest and shore hair oil review selfie

Being an all-natural product, the hair oil has a shelf life of 9 months. Priced at £15, which is more than I would usually spend on haircare, but because all the ingredients are natural, and it’s a small UK company, I’m not as reserved about spending the money. I did receive a complimentary bottle from the company to review – but I would happily spend the money on a new bottle when this one runs out!

All I can really say is I hope Forest and Shore create some more products soon, because I will definitely be trying them as soon as they are available! Washing my hair has always been more of a chore than an enjoyment for me. There’s a lot of it and it tangles easily. This product makes the whole process a little less daunting and brushing my hair doesn’t leave my scalp tender any more. I haven’t tried it as a scalp treatment yet (going to bed with 2-3 full pipettes of oil on my scalp and through my hair, washing out the following morning), but I’m definitely going to in the run up to my holiday so my skin is in tip top condition for the sun!

Friyay Feelings

There are a lot of them…

It’s finally the weekend!

This week has been a bit of a doozy at work. I’m battling a cold for the fourth week and it’s made everything seem a little more stressful.

There have been some highlights, though, and I thought I’d share them with you to end this week on a bit of a high.

Firstly, I’ve been keeping super hydrated! My water bottle is getting a bunch of laughs from colleagues (which is fair – it’s bloody massive), but two weeks with no dehydration headaches is testament to how necessary a purchase it was. Having 1.5 litres of water in front of me and being able to sip away while I work has been so useful. I’m terrible at remembering to refill my water bottles. And I’m not really missing out on the steps to the kitchen and back because I’m making twice the number of trips to the loo! You can grab your own from Primark for £4 – bargain! My skin is really thanking me for it, too, and the stress break-out I was suffering from on my face and chest has really calmed down.

Yup, I’m cute and like it when things match

Speaking of skin, I’ve treated myself to another Smoothie Star breakfast scrub body smoother from Soap & Glory. My legs are so smooth and it smells delicious. It’s a bit pricey (£8 for a 300ml tub at Boots), but I find a lot of other scrubs are too harsh for my sensitive skin. This one gives just the right amount of exfoliation, without ripping away layers and layers of skin. Which is lucky, because I need to be well buffed in the run up to my holiday!

Today was a long one. Like, reeeeaaaally long. So long that I ended up indulging in a bit of retail therapy. I’ve purchased 3 new outfits (2 dresses and a playsuit) from Zara and I’m so excited for them arriving tomorrow!! I’ll post an update with pics and thoughts once I’ve tried everything on, but if they fit they’ll be going in the holiday suitcase (with the occasional outing beforehand if the weather gets any better).

On the topic of holiday shopping, I’m struggling a bit to find a pair of sunglasses I like. I need a deeper frame, but it can’t be too thick or I’ll end up getting lost behind them… I like a classic tortoiseshell, but I’m seeing a lot more block colour in the shops already, so maybe that’s an option? What do you think? If you have any suggestions, fire them my way!

My last sun holiday (I don’t count Lisbon because it rained almost everyday…) – how do you top these sunnies?

Going on holiday is really exciting. This will be my first sun holiday in 2 years, and my first time going away with my boyfriend. While I can’t wait for the holiday itself, I’m really succumbing to the gossip-mag-mentality of not being Beach Ready. It’s infuriating knowing that I have so many internalised body-negative views – and if anyone else was to peddle that rhetoric I’d shake the negativity out of them until they were only filled with self-love and joy.

The problem is that I’ve not been happy with my body in a very long time. It’s something I’ve struggled with for years, and holidays only exacerbate the issue. Being more exposed – literally and metaphorically – is daunting. That vulnerability is prime breeding ground for negativity and my anxious brain has grabbed onto the self-loathing vibe pretty strongly this time. I’m trying to remind myself that my enjoyment on this holiday won’t come from my size or shape, only from the fun I have. Nonetheless, to try and assuage some of the fear I’m feeling about my current weight and the social implications (although I know technically there are none), I have promised myself to eat better and exercise more.

Exercise has never been my friend. My asthma and joint issues make that difficult. I’m not going to start gymming daily, but I’m making an effort to be more active. I’m walking 1.5-2.5 miles extra a day. It’s not much to some, but for me, with my sedentary lifestyle and desk job, it’s a big step. I’m hoping to up the distance as the evenings get lighter and warmer, too.

I’ve also committed to cutting out junk food. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a crisp fiend. I love salt and vinegar crisps more than just about any other edible thing around. But, for the purposes of feeling better about myself and promoting a healthier lifestyle, I’m saying goodbye to them for two months. I’ve been at it for just over two weeks now and it has been really hard. I am surprised at how much energy I’ve had on some days and just how accustomed I had become to snacking. I’m hoping to break a bad habit, however difficult it is.

Today’s lunch from Rocksalt Cafe was incred
For me, this is less about losing lots of weight, and more about becoming healthier. I don’t want to struggle to climb the volcano or play on the beach when this holiday is such a big one for me, and for us. I want to get there knowing I’m a little fitter and healthier than I was a few months back. That I’ve made steps to ensure I’ll enjoy myself and not worry about how I look in my swimwear.

So, while it has been a long week, it has also been a fairly positive one. I’ve taken lots of time for myself. I’ve not overcommitted to plans outside of work. I’ve slept lots, indulged in good skincare and haircare products, enjoyed watching my new tulips bloom, and eaten really well. I feel better for it. I’m starting to feel a bit more on top of things, and accepting that sometimes I have to let the chips fall where they may.

(I’ve written the word chips and now I’m back daydreaming about S&V McCoys…help me!)

Pamper night is in progress

The Cost of Kindness

I recently saw a Tweet about compliments:

I responded, saying that I get this a lot, but I also enjoy complimenting others. I also said that I reckon compliments should be free – “don’t expect thanks/gratitude/compliments in return and then you lose nothing by putting yourself out there, just the good feeling of the compliment giving”.

My last comment, I realised later, was a little glib (which I now feel hugely embarrassed about) and it didn’t really consider times where compliments (or kindness more generally) cost the giver a great deal.

How much does kindness really cost?

I suppose the answer to this is context-dependent and a bit complicated.

When interacting with strangers, I guess kindness costs the emotional toll of the potential embarrassment or upset of being ignored or a poor response.

When interacting with loved ones, kindness costs the energy you put into cheering them on or propping them up.

Kindness can cost people physically – by doing something tiring or strenuous to help a friend out. It can be a mental endurance test, too. For example, spending time with a toxic person as a show of solidarity to a loved one. When interacting with loved ones who are emotional leeches, kindness costs a hell of a lot.

Then there are acts of kindness you commit for yourself.

Acts of self-kindness

When being kind to yourself, the pay out is all the more complex. You might weigh up self-kindness against social expectation or cultural norms or external pressures or internal biases. You might pit self-kindness against your own expectations or goals or dreams.

Self-kindness should be a ritual; a habit instead of a fad. Unfortunately, we live in a society of infuriating oppositions.

Be the best – you’re not worth it.

Find your inner strength – you’re meant to be weak.

Be open – vulnerability is unattractive.

You deserve better – you’re the reason you’re not treated the way you want to be.

Nothing can stop you – why would you aspire to be something unrealistic?

It takes a great deal of courage to block out the negativity perpetuated by our society. It’s even more impressive when that negativity comes from the people who are supposed to lift you up.

Lora Mathis (a favourite artist of mine) talks extensively about self-care. I’ve written before about her concept of radical softness as a weapon – whereby living authentically; emotionally, is a form of political protest and you are weaponising your feelings in a positive way.

She is currently writing an essay called “Setting Boundaries as Self Care” (according to her Insta Stories) and I for one can’t wait to read it. Boundary setting is something I’ve been consciously trying to get better at. There are people I love, and those I don’t, who are negative for my wellbeing. I do my best to avoid putting myself in situations where I have to deal with that, now.

A friendship break-up two years back made me realise just how important it is for my wellbeing that I not put myself in positions where I know I’m going to be hurt, made to feel uncomfortable, or be surrounded by toxic negativity. It would wear me down and take days to fully recover from, because trying to make all that negativity bounce off you and not latch on and wear you down is bloody exhausting.

The value of kindness

Kindness is an invaluable, but not unending well. It’s a finite resource and you need to save some of that for yourself. I tried to come up with an equation to estimate the cost of kindness. This is overly simplified and definitely flawed, but in the broadest of strokes, I think the true cost of kindness is this:

the cost of kindness

If you find the toll to be much greater than the energy required to be kind, then you should evaluate whether that act is a necessary one to perform.

Finding ways to cut back on kindness is hard. Prioritising those you hold dearest may not actually reduce your emotional toll deficit by much, especially if a loved one is struggling through something right now.

The best way to ensure you don’t completely burn yourself out is to prioritise yourself. Use up all the energy you need to take care of yourself, first and foremost. You’ll probably soon find that you have more energy to spend on others, because you’re fully concentrating on yourself. We let ourselves take the brunt of our kindness deficit far too often. Self-care is not selfish, it’s absolutely necessary to ensure we’re performing to the best of our abilities as often as possible.

Be kind to yourself, and you’ll find it easier to be kind to others who deserve it most.

A Day to Celebrate All Women

Want to know why we need an International Women’s Day? Look no further than Mhairi Black MP’s speech.

Misogyny is rife in our society. Women are belittled, threatened, victimised, assaulted and overlooked in all areas of society. Every. Single. Day.

This video is one example why, in my opinion, feminism is still relevant as a political movement. It highlights the very real situation countless women are in currently – subjected to violence and degradation simply for being female.

Violence against women is not in decline. If anything, with technological advances, women are faced with evolving dangers and laws that lack adequate protections. For example, the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, known colloquially as Revenge Porn, is on the rise and only recently did Scottish law catch up to it.

The UK Government’s latest Violence Against Women and Girls Digest found that “violence against adolescent girls is understudied, with most research looking only at the impact on one form of violence”.  Child marriage is a huge issue worldwide, and tens of millions of adolescent girls are subjected to sexual violence every year.

Around the world, girls are being denied education. Or unable to attend school because of period poverty. Female Genital Mutilation is a widespread problem – some 24,000 girls are at risk of undergoing FGM in the UK alone.

Findings from the Wave 10 post-campaign evaluation of the Domestic Abuse Campaign 2006/07 found that “[a] domestic violence incident is recorded every 10 minutes in Scotland”.

Penny Mordaunt highlighted a number of other issues faced by women and girls worldwide. That list is anything but exhaustive, but it does light a fire in my belly.

This International Women’s Day, I’m going to be thinking about the women who don’t get a platform.

The abused women.

The exploited women.

The trafficked women.

The sex workers.

The immigrants.

The overworked.

The unemployed.

The disabled.

The homeless.

The victims.

The survivors.

The trans-women.

The lesbians.

The queer.

The Scottish women.

The women around the world.

The women of colour.

The activists.

The grieving.

The strong.

The loud.

The silenced.

The few.

The many.

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On Women Saying No

I’m signed up to GirlBoss’s newsletter and my weekly email from Sophia Amoruso dropped in my inbox like clockwork. I like Sophia. She is bolschy, driven and badass. Her latest email, though, left me torn.

The power of no

In her email, Sophia talks about the power of saying no. In the context of the email, she’s talking about finding better focus and the rejecting the daily distractions that make procrastination easy and getting shit done all the harder.

Learning the power of “no.” Sure, saying yes can open doors for us, but once we’re focused on what we want to achieve, often “no” is much more powerful…It can help to start saying “I don’t do that” rather than “I can’t do that” when responding to requests from people, so they know that as a rule, you aren’t interested in a particular type of engagement. It can be liberating to go home at the end of the day and not do something. I’ve found that not drinking on weekdays can make me much more apt to decline social events that could distract me from my focus.

In self-care terms, I think Sophia is right. Learning to say no, to prioritise your own needs over others’ is a great skill and one we find difficult to master as a general rule. However, “just saying no” doesn’t always work.

Broken records

While the sentiment of this email initially comes across as empowering and encouraging, it’s kind of missing the point. Women have been saying no for years. We’ve been saying no to telesales calls and street marketers trying to sell us broadband. We’ve been saying no to men who won’t take no for an answer. No isn’t enough. And to tell us to “just say no” is patronising with a touch of victim blaming.

This fantastic article from Jessica Eaton highlights the problems with telling women to “just say no” and I can’t recommend enough that you read it. It’s wholly relatable to women who have been accosted and analyses the reactions we have.

There is no weight behind a woman’s initial No. In fact, most women won’t actually say No in the first instance because we have to weigh up the potential consequences of telling a man no. I’m sick to the back teeth of that. I don’t want to have to put another human’s feelings before my own safety, but many times I do.

rejection

Softening for protection

Clothing. Words. Facial expressions. Reactions. The routes I walk home. The time. My company. The number of strangers.

These are some of the considerations I make to minimise the chance that I encounter some form of harassment, or worse, on a regular basis. I don’t walk home alone late at night if I can help it. I consider how provocative I look. Whether my actions could be misconstrued. How I present myself to friends and strangers alike.

I soften my rejections of unwanted attention online too, to save myself from a potential, real danger. I’m angry that I have to weigh the pros and cons of telling someone to leave me the hell alone. That, in doing so, I may be putting myself at further risk – not unlike in the physical world.

I shouldn’t be worrying about the consequences of my actions in these cases. I’m furious that, out of fear, I must extinguish the rage. I must hold my tongue, stop myself from flying into a fit of keyboard-smashing fury, and sharing exactly how I feel about these unwanted and unnecessary messages or comments.

It’s not cute. It’s not flattering. It’s not even pathetic or worthy of sympathy. It’s just wrong.

furious baboon

There are so many potential dangers I think about when I reject someone in person. When interacting online, there are always communication barriers and issues in recognising tone, intent and a dozen other cues usually read through body language, vocal pitch and facial expression. However, when you’ve been given your seventh polite No Thanks – on or offline – take the hint.

What you may or may not realise is that through all the polite declines, your conversation has likely put the other participant through the emotional wringer. She may have been flattered at first in your interest. That flattery will soon turn to boredom, then disdain, and then anger. Anger at the fact that she cannot tell you to Fuck Off because you have the power to hurt her, even through a screen.

The threat you potentially pose is not enough for me to relent. You will not wear me down until I say yes. You will exhaust me, though, and force me into the position where I feel I have no choice but to put myself in jeopardy. The pain, anguish and fear such a decision creates as I tell you where to go is on you.

Your intentions may be pure, but your characterisation of those intentions is hugely intimidating. Take a step back and assess the conversation. If I’ve never shown interest before, why would I now? What you’re doing is trying to manipulate me. I won’t ever agree to that.

Take the rejection well, learn from it and promise yourself that you’ll not pursue your next target so relentlessly.

We’re all vulnerable and we’ll all make mistakes, especially by misinterpreting others. Reflecting, assessing and learning from our pasts gives us the opportunity to do it right next time.

Just Say No

Like Jessica Eaton pointed out – telling people to Just Say No is victim-blamey and uncomfortable. It suggests women aren’t pained, emotionally drained, and often physically hurt by saying No. No has become irrelevant. Consent has lost its weight. The conversation needs to change. Why aren’t we asking men why they still keep asking? Why aren’t we questioning men about their shameless pawing and relentless badgering of women? Why aren’t we shaming men for not respecting women’s decisions?

This tired, misogynistic stereotype of the Woman Chaser is so overcooked by Hollywood it’s nothing but ash. It’s not romantic to be chased. It’s not flattering to be harassed. It’s not a sign of love that you won’t give up – it’s uncomfortable. Wearing a woman down until she says yes is not enthusiastic. It’s barely consent.

unamused owl

We need to get rid of this hurtful narrative – it’s teaching women to want to be chased, and promoting harassment as love to men. We all deserve better. We deserve to be treated with respect. We deserve to be listened to in the first instance. We deserve respect as women and as humans, not as someone else’s girlfriend/wife/property.

Learning to say no, for ourselves, is one thing. Learning to listen and respect a woman’s No is vital. Both are valuable lessons and both are necessary steps forward if women are to share space with men as equals.

Homelessness in Scotland

Homelessness in Scotland is on the rise again. In 2016-2017, 34,100 homelessness applications were made. Latest figures saw a 2% increase in applications for housing assistance. There’s been a 10% increase in the number of children facing homelessness in the last year. In August 2017, there were an estimated 800 rough sleepers in Scotland. Analysis from researchers at Heriot Watt University predicts that things are only going to get worse – with an estimated 53% increase to be seen in the number of rough sleepers over the next 20 years.

Shelter published the following diagram, which highlights that single males make up nearly half of all homeless individuals in Scotland.

shelter statistics homelessness

Shelter helped 21,145 people in need last year and actively tackles homelessness and housing problems in Scotland

The Beast from the East

The Beast From the East has hit the UK hard. Scotland has been issued with amber and red weather warnings. This is serious, you guys. Red weather warnings equate to “risk to life”. While most of us rushed home from work to the warmth of our heated flats and excitedly made hot chocolates because any excuse, others are not so lucky.

In this current treacherous weather, the homeless are likely to suffer massively – especially rough sleepers. I’ve put together information on charities and shelters that can provide help and shelter to those in need of a bed and hot meal over the next few nights. If you see someone who looks like they need help, please approach them and offer to reach out to a charity. Even just buying them a sandwich and a coffee would make a huge difference. Compassion and empathy is crucial at times like these, when the homeless are most vulnerable.

Edinburgh

Shelter – www.scotland.shelter.org.uk – 0808 800 4444

Streetwork – www.streetwork.org.uk – 0808 178 2323

Bethany Christian Trust – http://www.bethanychristiantrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Signposting-leaflet-updated-Sep-2017-4.pdf

St John’s Episcopal Church

Meadowbank Parish Church

meadowbank parish church night shelter

Glasgow

Glasgow City Mission

Glasgow Night Shelter – 07555 591 466 / 0141 221 2630 – 35 East Campbell Street, G1 5DT

The Simon Community Street Team – 0800 027 7466

Dundee

Homeless Services Unit – 01382 432001 (24hrs) – East District Housing Ofice, 169 Pitkerro Road, Dundee DD4 8ES

Night Ministry – 07999 872 928 /01382 871144 – www.nightministry.co.uk

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Cyrenians – 01224 625 732 / 07870 230 692 (out of hours) – Street Alternatives, 62 Summer Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1SD

Elsewhere

If you don’t know who else to call, please call 111. The Police Scotland phone teams will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Look out for each other

At the end of the day, we need to have each other’s backs. If you’re passionate about the safety of homeless people and want to push the Scottish Government to do more, contact your local MP. Ask them for their opinions on the effectiveness of current legislation and what they think could be done to improve it. Show you care. Show you’re not going to let this issue slide. Show that you believe every human has the right to more than concrete for a bed.

Profiting From Beauty

The Grid Girls

A few weeks ago, there was a rather noisy controversy around Formula 1’s decision to scrap the Grid Girls. This left many women jobless and caused quite the stir among Formula 1 fans, feminists and many others.

On the one hand, many were exultant because they saw this as progress towards a society free from sexism and oppression – of which the existence of Grid Girls was a symptom. By this reckoning, the Grid Girls were considered to be existing in a male-dominated community. The Girls’ freedoms were devalued because their jobs made them vulnerable to men, and therefore inferior; thanks to the patriarchy.

Others were furious about the decision and accused F1 of pandering to over-the-top pressures from militant feminists and others who are pushing for a puritan ideology to take hold in our progressive, increasingly liberal society. This side of the debate argued that these women were not forced into the jobs they were hired for and that their dismissal was a puritan persecution of those who refuse to accept that humans can profit from their bodies, appearances, and – most importantly – beauty. The slippery slope argument (that if Grid Girls are acceptable then it sets a precedent for misogyny elsewhere) is exactly that; slippery.

Source: Getty Images

Society is heavily divided in arguments like these; consider the divisiveness around conversations about sex work. For some, legalising sex work gives those who sell sex legal protections from harm, while others believe that the patriarchy has conditioned us into believing that sex work is a job we should encourage when it is not. I’m aware that this barely scratches the surface of the sex work debates, but I’m going to save the intricacies of that for a future blog post. To delve into it now would likely result in this being 5,000 words long and I’d still have more to say! Back to Grid Girls…

Here’s a difference between sex workers and the Grid Girls, though: the Grid Girls are capitalising on their beauty. There’s also the fact that Grid Girls were not, to our knowledge, ever trafficked or forced into working against their will. Grid Girls did not face potential prosecution as they earned their wages. Grid Girls did not deal with nearly the same stigma or potential danger that sex workers do.

For me, one of the most important points made in the Grid Girls debate was made by Sara Pascoe during her performance for The Guilty Feminist podcast’s Suffragette Centenary Special – Part 1. The perfect-star-alignment of this conversation is not lost on me: we are still debating what women can and cannot do, whether it be voting, sex work (or any work), or breastfeeding in public.

pin up girls spray paint

Sara made a brilliantly eloquent point about 24 minutes in which I’ve done my best to transcribe accurately:

…feminism is this huge thing and some of us are running in different directions…I think that what happened with the Grid Girls is really shocking and I don’t want feminism attached to that kind of thing…I feel like sometimes there are these massive misunderstandings, like, beautiful people of any gender are allowed to make money from that. The difference between the Grid Girls and the Presidents Club where people were being harassed at work – they’re entirely different things. It isn’t about outfits, and I feel like I don’t want to be part of something where some women get to decide who women are based on the bodies that they’re born in. And I feel like something like this is so huge that sometimes in a group we get kind of pulled along – we have to remember that it isn’t…it’s interesting that it’s women in their 30s with money who got the vote first. Quite often in feminism, and I speak as one of them, we are the people who also have a voice.

I bloody love Sara Pascoe. The example she gave comparing the Grid Girls to the women at the Presidents Club is perfect. The Presidents Club dinner in January deserved the media attention. Those men deserved to be outed for the sexist, chauvinistic pigs they were. They were harassing women who were there to do a job. Those women didn’t ask to be grabbed, leered on, or assaulted. They were there to do a job, collect their wages and carry on with their lives.

Beauty as a commodity

I also loved Pascoe’s highlighting of a maddenly uncomfortable truth – people don’t like other people profiting from their beauty or looks. Models have such a bad rep as being vacant or uneducated and that they have no prospects outside their looks. It’s completely unfair, widely inaccurate and drilled into us from a very young age.

I remember a friend of mine at primary school, a beautiful girl with blonde hair, fabulous cheekbones and legs a mile long at age 10 being so upset when others suggested she become a model. She asked if that’s all we thought she was good for, if they didn’t think she was clever enough to expect more in her life. Looking back, that breaks my heart. Why can’t such a young girl have both? Why can’t she want to be a model and be intelligent, conscientious and successful?

Pascoe’s point about profiting from beauty is thought-provoking. Beauty as a commodity makes it valuable, tradable and, most importantly, valuable. It is not vain to admit to being beautiful – it is important for us to recognise and accept ourselves for who we are and what we have. While what we consider beautiful is highly subjective and in the eye of the beholder, when others recognise that beauty, do we not have the right to capitalise it like we would our musical ability or aptitude for maths? What makes beauty so different from the ability to compose or design or build or create? While the questions don’t sit entirely comfortably with me, I’m asking myself whether that discomfort is with the idea of beauty being an acceptable trading token, or whether there’s a deeper issue I’ve yet to articulate.

girls

Grid Girls weren’t scrapped as a concept because the women dealt with workplace harassment, misogyny and potential harm. They were removed from the F1 to give off the impression that the F1 bosses are woke and tuned in to world politics. They were removed under some illusion that sexism can’t exist if the women aren’t there. That the problem is only surface deep, and not in fact ingrained so heavily in society it’s painful when we do exorcise those demons.

Whether you think the Grid Girls were outdated and misogynistic or not should not be the sole focus of this debate. In fact, we may well find that we settle on an answer when we delve a little deeper into the other problem – whether women are capable of making such employment decisions for themselves.

We need to highlight that women do have the capacity to make decisions for themselves – we need to remind ourselves that maintaining women’s agency is vital. Women who have agency have the right to decide for themselves what is acceptable and feasible employment and what is not. To start arguing that these women were misinformed or fell victim to the patriarchy or misogynists or whoever else is an insult to women worldwide.

We’ve seen through the patriarchy’s bullshit long enough now – we know our own minds and our own bodies. We should be able to decide for ourselves what we do with them. Isn’t that what feminism is truly about: having the right to choose for ourselves and escaping the patriarchy’s cold, unwavering grip?

solidarity sisters