Scared To Blog?

A blog post about not knowing what to write for a blog post? How meta.

I’ve gone quiet online over the past few weeks, not just with my blog, but social media and even just private messaging. I found it so exhausting to keep up with and I needed a bit of a break from being so connected all the time.

However, specifically with this blog, I have drafted numerous posts then deleted them because they either sounded painful and forced, or were too personal to share online. I can’t seem to put together a coherent view about what’s happening in the world right now. I’m increasingly frustrated by the news, particularly with US and UK politics, and I think there are only so many ways to ridicule the politicians in power before it starts to feel like I’m repeating myself.

And then there are the commentaries I want to make which add to already-volatile debates. I haven’t received backlash for expressing my views on here yet, but that’s not to say that someone won’t pick up on something I say and misconstrue it.

I am the first to hold up my hands and say I’m very much an amateur when it comes to forming opinions on politics, news and society in general. I’m only just becoming more aware of and engaged with what’s going on in the world, so I’m a bit of spring chicken in the conversations about bigger issues. That means that my worldview is continuously evolving and changing as I educate myself, so something I say in one post could be different to how I feel six months later.

As soon as you click ‘publish’, there’s a sense of permanence. Yes, you can delete and edit content but it still existed at some time on the internet. We’ve seen in the past how one slip up can create uproar (remember the girl who was getting on a flight, joked about being a bomber, and when she landed, she was arrested?).

Jon Ronson, the journalist and writer, released a book called ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ which shows that one mistake in the era of social media can mean paying a heavy price.

When you see the mob mentality online, it’s easier to choose not to say anything than to open up discussions or add your two-cents to the conversation.

Maybe I shouldn’t be scared to speak up. I may be keeping quiet about little things in Brexit, but if I don’t use my voice now, what about when it really matters? What about when something affects me and I want to be heard? I don’t want to be scared then, but what sort of precedent am I setting if I’m backing off now?

I want to write regularly; I like being able to pull together my thoughts about news stories as well as talk about what’s been on my mind lately. It’s just a matter of believing my voice has value.

Do other bloggers worry about what they’re saying, whether in terms of censorship, or whether it actually matters what they post? I’d be intrigued to know if I’m on my own on this one.

Best wishes,


Prestige and Prejudice in Publishing Prizes: The Man Booker Longlist

The Man Booker Longlist 2017 was announced on 26 July and book bloggers, vloggers and reviewers alike have raised the debate again of whether these awards really matter. Being the unique snowflake that I am, here is my tuppence-worth on the subject (I’m British, we say tuppence, not two cents).

For those of you outside the book-nerd sphere, it’s like a really niche version of the Oscar’s but for publishing.

First of all, the books:


My initial response was surprise at the fact that I had heard of nine of the thirteen books before. This never happens to me; I’m usually left feeling out of the publishing loop when I’m faced with the usual list of obscure authors and titles. Even more exciting is that of those nine, I wanted to read five of them anyway, which were The Underground Railroad, Swing Time, Autumn, Exit West, and 4 3 2 1. Now that I’ve had a look at the blurbs, I’m considering picking up The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and Home Fire.

Why is this surprising? Because ever since I became aware of the Man Booker Prize, it’s felt too high-brow, too “literary” and just outright unreachable for me. The books are traditionally presented as tomes of great merit, only for the most intelligent readers. I’ve been convinced that I just won’t “get” what they’re trying to say or do and therefore have shied away from trying out the titles that are new to me.

This is irrational, obviously. Why, of all things, should I fear a list of books? Maybe it’s just the aura of prestige that surrounds the prize. I have a mental image of the judges discussing the list in hushed tones in an old-fashioned parlour room with leather armchairs, a fireplace and portraits of lords and ladies. In reality, their decisions are probably made within the depths of Gmail.

Literary prizes in general have only come to my attention in the past few years, from the Pulitzer to the Women’s Prize for Fiction, of which I’ve reviewed the 2017 winner. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those people who reads their longlists every year without fail, just because they’re in the running for a prestigious prize. However, it’s been interesting to be part of the conversation about why these books in particular are considered the best in publishing over the last twelve months.

For instance, some authors seem to crop up time and time again on the Man Booker lists, like Ali Smith, Zadie Smith, Mohsin Hamid and Sebastian Barry. Does the fact they’ve been on it before make their chances of being considered in the future more likely? Are debut authors less likely to make their way onto the list? By including more familiar names, does it make the prize appear more authoritative, because if they’re already successful writers, they will surely produce the best books? Like with most things, I haven’t got a clue, but the marketability of certain names could influence the way the lists are chosen.

We can’t ignore that literature is inherently subjective and every reading experience will differ. So how can we judge thirteen books that are so different from one another in everything from subject to narrative style?

And then, the big question in entertainment: does it promote diversity of gender, race and sexuality, in both the authors and the characters? Is this something that should come into our judgement, or should we look at the books in isolation, regardless of context and representation? Diversity is highly topical, especially in publishing, right now and I can’t help but wonder how this impacts long-running prizes like the Man Booker.

I think that the Man Booker Prize has influenced what my TBR is looking like, so perhaps what matters most is that it is promoting literature to the public that they may not have come across before or weren’t sure about reading. I’m not going to read them all because a few of them sound like the furthest thing from my taste, but I’ll be intrigued to see who wins. I’ll be even more intrigued to see the subsequent analysis of why they won, because you can guarantee that someone will be unhappy about it. This is where diversity comes back to the forefront; if they are deemed representative of one group, they’ll be criticised for excluding another. Take Days Without End, a story that explores a gay relationship. I haven’t read it, but what if it doesn’t talk about women, or non-white people? Does that make it less worthy of winning?


Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, which I read and reviewed in July, discusses diversity in film awards, but it’s applicable to literature too. She says that as soon as something is highlighted as “diverse”, it suddenly carries a huge burden as it is seen as representative of all diversity. What this means is that if the story, the director or the cast are outside of Hollywood’s standard narrative (not white, not male, not straight etc.), it becomes the flag-bearer for who they are representing. If it fails, then it sets a precedent that anything like it will also fail, and the industry refuses to invest in more “experimental” films that look at diversity. It’s a lot of pressure for a two-hour film, or a 300 page paperback.

Think of Wonder Woman. Thankfully, it blew the box office numbers out of the water but if it had been a flop, the response would be that people just don’t want female superheroes at all.


One movie was responsible for whether or not more women would be written into roles like that. I’m not explaining it very well, so I strongly recommend picking up her essay collection. She’s much more succinct and actually makes sense.

All in all, a film, TV show or book can’t be everything for everyone. It’s only one voice, telling one story at a single point in time. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s amazing TED talk, ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ is a must-watch, as I know that I have made a hash-job of this.

I’m excited that the the longlist this year has such a wide range of voices. My eyes have been opened to new authors and new perspectives. Of course, I love reading diversely so I will appreciate and applaud diversity if I see it in the longlisted works. What I have to make sure of, is that I don’t think it’s good literature just because of the representativeness, but in the book’s own right.

Do you take notice of literary prizes? And what should a book have to be a winner?

Best wishes,


Brexit Is Like A Box Of Chocolates

…we really don’t know what we’re going to get.

I appreciate a good metaphor, simile or analogy more than your average person – I’d be a pretty rubbish English student if I didn’t – but even I am sick of seeing them used to explain Brexit.

James Landale, whose BBC article I’m basing this post on, points out that at every point in the Brexit “story”, from the initial vote to the deals being currently made, there have been ridiculous comparisons: a divorce, a golf club, a strawberry crumble…

The list is extensive and seems to get more ludicrous the further we go into negotiations. The funniest part is that they aren’t being used by the tabloids or Twitter users as ways to make it “accessible”, but by leading political figures. The EU Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, are amongst the hordes of politicians who have turned their hand to poetry. Apparently.

On the one hand, it’s slightly worrying that the people who are making Brexit happen can’t seem to agree on what it means. They’re dancing around the subject with loose metaphors rather than clearly stating how the negotiations will pan out. It doesn’t really instil confidence in us common-folk when no one can seem to decide where we are with the Brexit situation.

On the other hand, I have been brainstorming my own metaphors, in the unlikely event that our political representatives’ creativity runs dry.

  • Shall I compare Brexit to a summer’s day? Thou art more sweat-inducing and uncomfortable.
  • Brexit is a taco, one bite can make the whole thing fall apart.
  • It’s like trying to quit the gym (sneaky little Friends reference).
  • Brexit is the sixth shot of tequila: it might have seemed like a good idea at the time but it’s really not worth the headache afterwards.
  • It’s like Britain has decided that it doesn’t want to pay for the all-you-can-eat buffet, but as they leave the restaurant, they’re still trying to pile their plate with food on their way out.
  • The boyfriend/girlfriend who dumps you but still wants to be friends.

And finally:

  • It’s like stepping on a plug or a Lego – the stupidest thing also being the most painful.

I admit, I’ve written better but they’re really not that bad compared to some of the drivel that our favourite politicians are coming out with.

Landale said it best:

Can we just agree that Brexit means Brexit and leave it at that?

Best wishes,


Just Thinking About Death And Stuff

You’re going to have to bear with the stupid title and image. I’m trying to make light of something that genuinely concerns me and don’t actually think it’s trivial. Humour as a defence mechanism and all that.

“Life Expectancy Rises Grinding To A Halt”

Most people will have read this headline, maybe taken an interest and moved on with their life. Instead, I have apparently decided to have yet another existential crisis. Enjoy:

Sir Michael Mormot, an academic and former government adviser, has commented on how the rise in life expectancy in the UK has stagnated. There has been a rapid increase in how long people are living over the past hundred years, but the numbers are suggesting this has petered out as of 2010. In 2015, which is the most recent study from the Office for National Statistics, men were expected to live to 79.6 years, and for women it is 83.1 years.

Some people have said that Mormot is blaming David Cameron’s austerity measures which made cuts in the public sector, like in the NHS and healthcare. Actually, when you look into his comments, he is saying that the cuts led to insufficient funds and care for the elderly. It was a link between the quality of life and length of life that Mormot was drawing on.

Upon reading about how the rise in life expectancy is slowing down, my initial thoughts weren’t so much “why is this happening?”, but “why is this a problem?”

Despite finishing Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’ over a week ago, I can’t stop thinking about it. Themes of mortality, the elderly and medicine keep coming up in the news and my conversations with other people. One of the points that really stuck with me from the book is that medicine doesn’t seem to know when to stop. When should we stop interfering with our bodies and just leave them to their natural processes, even if that results in death?

Gawande can’t answer these questions, so I certainly can’t. As a 20-year-old, age isn’t really a huge worry for me yet and I have no authority on the subject. Right now, I have no idea what it’s like for your body to fail you because it’s getting older. That’s not a brag, but an admission that I know nothing of how that feels.

However, I can imagine what it’s like when my body shuts down bit by bit. Little things like wrinkles and reduced energy with turn into bigger issues with my organs. The organ I’m most worried about? My brain.

I’ve seen people I love lose their memory over time. Alzheimer’s is almost an expected diagnosis amongst the elderly. I am so scared that I will be confused or lost, unable to recognise the people I loved. Intelligence is another thing I value highly; I am constantly trying to build my knowledge and the process of accumulating information is actually quite enjoyable for me. Academia is kind of ingrained in my sense of self (I hate myself too for saying that but I can’t figure out how to re-word it). If I grow old enough to start losing my memory, am I losing my identity? Another question that even the professionals can’t answer.

I’ve also seen people I love lose their reason to live, sinking into depression. They don’t want to live anymore – and in all fairness, I can understand. After the world has been yours to conquer, when you had few physical or imaginative limits, how is it possible to be content with one room in a nursing home or hospital? Daytime TV, 12pm lunches in the dining room, and the occasional visit from family… To end up there, after everything else you’ve experience? It’s an existence, not a life.

Why would we want to prolong that? Our care systems for the elderly are doing the best they can with limited resources but I’ll be honest, the idea of ever having to live in one terrifies me. I cannot bear the prospect of spending years in the same four walls with nothing to fill my hours. It’s not the way I want to end a life that I hope will be incredible.

Let’s get back to Mormot, and away from my brief existential crisis (that is not the depth I was planning on in this post but hey, let’s roll with it). His statement that he is “deeply concerned” is interesting. Maybe his worry is not that life expectancy isn’t rising, but the fact that it has stopped so abruptly. Why is this happening?

If this is the natural boundary for human life, then there is very little we can do about it. On the other hand, does this show that the government – and the country overall – have stopped caring about the older members of society? Their care and their needs aren’t even being met, so we can be pretty sure that their emotional and mental wellbeing isn’t either.

Where do we go from here? ‘Being Mortal’ is a 300 page book and it still doesn’t reach a definite conclusion. I’m not going to even try to answer it in a blog post.

If nothing else, read Atul Gawande’s book. Evidently, it’s a thought-provoking text. Until the government can decide on how to rectify the many complex issues within the care home system, I’ve started trying to work out how I can help. There are loads of charity schemes to try to pair up elderly people with other members of the community. I guess that, instead of just sitting around and waiting for the problem to be sorted, we can make differences to individual lives.

This isn’t a preachy piece, although it may sound it. It’s something that I thought would make more sense as I tried to write it but I think I’ve complicated it more for myself. Entirely counter-productive and now my brain needs a break. Love Island anyone?

Best wishes,


Breaking News: Politicians Are Human Too

On Wednesday 12 July, Westminster Hall was filled with the usual loud voices of indignant politicians wanting their views to be heard. They weren’t debating a policy or tax cut – they were speaking out about the abuse they received during the General Election campaign.

Okay, let’s hold our hands up and say that politicians often receive the brunt of our anger when they mess up or suggest something we don’t like.

“I can’t believe we allow someone like that to make our country’s decisions.”
“I could do a better job.”
“What a prick.”

Common phrases, and pretty much harmless. We’re familiar with the process of assigning blame to an individual for the political values they present to us.

When you enter into the political world, you kind of expect the public’s wrath to touch you at some point because no one will ever agree with 100% of what you are doing or saying. A tough skin is an unspoken part of the job description.

What that does not encompass is the racist and sexist abuse that became the norm for so many during the run-up to the election. No one should be expected to ignore or put up with threats against their lives because of the UK political party they support, much less their gender, race, ethnicity or anything else completely unrelated to their policies.

Diane Abbott, Labour MP, spoke out about some of the graphic language that has been used to attack her. The video that has been circulating of her statement shows the extent the “mindless” abuse has gotten to. I’ll link it here but I’d wear headphones if I were you because she doesn’t tiptoe around any of the language.

Big names in UK politics aren’t the only ones who are being targeted; there is a BBC News interview with a 22-year-old who joined the Labour Party for the first time this year, revealing the sexually explicit messages and threats that became commonplace during the election campaign.

And it isn’t just one political party receiving these attacks. Simon Hart, a Conservative MP, recalled instances of painted swastikas and smashed windows.

This is more than people sending tweets calling MPs ‘twats/dickheads/insert insult of choice here’, or photoshopping their faces onto pictures of penises. Anyone in the public eye can tell you that they have been subjected to this kind of humour and you just kind of roll with it. It’s someone trying to get retweeted and have a bit of a laugh – by tomorrow, no one will even remember it and they’ll move onto another person and another meme.

I can’t help but think that death threats, aggressive language and active discrimination are not in the same ball park as making fun of Ed Miliband for eating a bacon bap (which is an iconic image, of course). Still, it’s become the norm to expect not just your political views, but your entire self to come under fire. And there is nothing you can do about it.

Some people have been asking if we should feel sorry for MPs. Why should we care if their feelings are hurt? Why should we care if members of the public are expressing their prejudices? They pass the laws and make the cuts that negatively affect thousands of British citizens’ wages, housing and ways of life. Surely they can stomach – even expect – a bit of backlash?

No, not like that. It’s one thing having a bit of a laugh, but this recent debate in Parliament has exposed pure abuse. Regardless of if you disagree with their political party alignments, I can’t see how anyone could defend the need to resort to violent language. Maybe the fact that they can argue, articulate and debate properly, is the reason they’re the ones in positions of power, not you and your 43 followers.

It’s like people have forgotten that at the end of those threats is another human being. Surprisingly enough, outside of politics they have an entire existence: a family, friends, interests, passions and a life.

Unless one of the conspiracy theories is true and they’re all just lizards, aliens or robots. If that’s the case, my apologies. You are welcome to continue with your aggressive keyboard-bashing.

Best wishes,


Aliens Can’t Be Female, Apparently

I have never watched Doctor Who, perhaps aside from one or two Comic Relief specials starring David Tennant. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been veered more towards the Fantasy side of the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre – probably because my dad’s love of history, castles and British monarchies in particular, mean that the medieval reflections in Fantasy have always resonated more than the hi-tech space worlds of Star Wars, Doctor Who and so on. I digress.

When speculation about who was going to play the 13th (and final?) doctor started to circulate, my ears pricked. For anyone who isn’t a Doctor Who fan, or British, it was revealed after the Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final on Sunday.

The character will be played by Jodie Whittaker. Yes, I know, an actual female.

I could drown this post in sarcasm until it was dripping off the screen and onto my keyboard, but I think Twitter has pretty much covered that for me. I recommend a quick scroll through the hashtags #DoctorWho and #Doctor13:

Just a quick search will bring up an abundance of amazing responses to the news; some people were applauding the BBC for contributing to the new push for more female representation in the entertainment industry. I’ll link this BBC opinion piece about the glass ceiling, but it is clear that Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor and Gal Gadote as Wonder Woman are finally giving their daughters the on-screen role models that they never had. This video says it all:

There are also reactions from idiots who are saying it has ruined the show for them. Leah Broad posted a short but interesting piece on the Huffington Post about the varied responses and gender representation in children’s entertainment. It’s something I have strong feelings about but find hard to articulate concisely.

It’s not just on Twitter, though – traditional journalism has exemplified how backwards it can be with ludicrous headlines such as “is the BBC too PC” (The Daily Express), “why are males TV heroes being zapped? (The Daily Mail), and the witty “Regenderation: DoctHER Who” (The Sun). I won’t link, they’re not worth your clicking time.

So why do I care about who plays Doctor Who? I don’t follow the show at all and probably never will. Who is cast as the main character should be irrelevant to me.

Yet, when I found out on Sunday afternoon, sat in the car with my dad, I couldn’t help smiling. As someone who is interested in the creative industries, whether that be books, film, TV, music or art, as well as a feminist, this is a great achievement for diversity and representation. Those two words may make you roll your eyes – “PC gone mad” – but I don’t think this is diversity for the sake of pandering to a few liberals. For decades, the major female role in Doctor Who is his sidekick, maybe a love interest. Always the supporting act for the main character. To me, it’s important to show young girls that they can be in charge, and that the lead role isn’t reserved for boys only.

Regarding the complaints that this will “ruin” the series or isn’t plausible, they are quite frankly ridiculous. Jodie herself released a statement saying that people shouldn’t be “scared of her gender”. I want to laugh, expect for the fact that it seems that there are individuals who are genuinely terrified of what could happen if a woman is on their TV in a main role. God forbid!

You have to laugh at some of the reactions. First of all, the Doctor is a time-travelling alien, so I don’t see how the character can’t be a woman, but can travel across time and space in a police box with a screwdriver for a weapon. In fact, this tweet says it all:

And secondly, would it matter if the writers bent or broke a few rules? It’s a piece of fiction, which already allows for artistic license and a realm of possibilities. Art is often about interpretation; remodelling, reworking and adding a different perspective to something that already exists. Why not just see what happens if we change the gender of a character?

I’m waving the Jodie Whittaker flag over here, not just for feminism, diversity or creativity, but for her. She did an amazing job in Broadchurch and I think this is a fantastic opportunity in her acting career. It’ll be exciting to see what she does next, because at the end of the day, she is a woman who is just doing her job – she shouldn’t have the weight of all future female roles (and whether they will exist) on her shoulders. Carrying on the Doctor Who legacy is a big enough pressure without the added responsibility of representing all women.

What is your opinion on the new Doctor Who? And how do you feel about the mix of responses to the casting?

Best wishes,


The Charlie Gard Case: A Lot of Questions Without Answers

I’m going to link a few sources at the end of the post, but this is a brief run-down of what has happened so far:

  • Charlie Gard is the 11-month old son of Connie Yates and Chris Gard.
  • When he was born, he presented as a healthy baby but has since deteriorated due to a rare genetic condition.
  • He is currently being kept alive by a ventilator because he cannot breathe on his own. He’s suffered severe brain damage, and his heart, liver and kidney have all been impacted.
  • The prognosis for conditions like Charlie’s are rarely hopeful, as there is no cure yet.
  • The parents have gone to court to keep him on life support after the doctors recommended allowing Charlie to die
  • Since then, doctors in the US have offered a treatment that is still in experimental stages.
  • Influential names like Donald Trump and the Pope have supported Connie and Chris, as well as a petition and campaign being set up in favour of keeping the life support going.
  • As I write, they’re in court discussing whether or not to keep Charlie Gard alive.

I don’t want to weigh in with my opinion on this. I am not a doctor nor a parent, so my view is entirely that of an outsider; I can sympathise and speculate all I like but I won’t fully understand either side.

Instead, as I’ve been following it day-to-day and reading the various opinion pieces on the case, it raises some difficult questions.

Should we be contesting the views of medical professionals, who have trained for years for situations like this? But don’t they get it wrong sometimes – the wrong diagnosis, the wrong dose, the wrong prognosis? People with only twenty-four hours to live have survived weeks or months beyond that.

And how can we say no to a mum and dad who would do anything for their child? There is no doubt that they love Charlie, after everything they have gone through to keep him breathing. Then again, what if they’re too emotionally involved to see the cold hard facts and properly assess the situation?

We also have to look at the petition, which has 49,000+ signatures, as far as I am aware. Although an impressive number, how many of those people will have properly considered all options, with all the available information? How many are the signatures of people who just like to be outraged? I am acquainted enough with Twitter to know that some people like to get angry and offended for the sake of being angry and offended.

Can a court decide whether someone lives or dies? They are in the same position I am, where they are just listening to two sides of a story and judging for themselves. Does this make them uninformed, or the objective decider on the whole situation? Yet that is exactly what their job is – to listen, assess and decide. What about the President of the United States and the Pope adding their voices to the debate? Is it right for them to use their platforms to try to influence the decision?

If the ruling is in favour of the Charlie’s parents, what sort of quality of life can be expected for the 11-month-old? At the moment he can’t live off life support and the UK doctors cannot offer him any treatment, so is this all there is for him?

Let’s say they win the court case and they are able to fund the nucleoside bypass therapy in the US. How much can this treatment do for him? Is there a chance he will be able to survive without life support?

Another consideration is that they don’t know if he is in pain at present. Is it fair to keep him alive if there’s a chance he is?

My answer to all of these is ‘I don’t know’. That’s not from fear of being too opinionated or offending anyone. I genuinely feel like I have no clue what I would do if I was the one to make that decision. Who am I to decide on the life of someone else? Even if I did have the medical knowledge of the doctors or the emotional connection of the parents, I don’t think this will be a case that could ever be fully understood by any side.

Good luck to the court, because whatever conclusion they come to, it’s going to crush the losing side.

Best wishes,


A few links I think deal with it with relative objectivity. A lot of media coverage takes one side or another, so take whatever you read with a pinch of salt. Who would have thought that journalism could have an agenda?!

BBC News

The Guardian (they also have a few interesting arguments in the opinion section)

The Independent