Let’s be honest. This year Christmas is going to be different – so I think the only way is to go whole hog and make it more so. Partly due to the amount of box sets we’ve managed to inhale, but also just because I fancy it, it’s been decreed that in this hovel, Boxing Day will be a day of reading and minimal electricity (think candles and open fires. maybe the odd sheepskin. I read somewhere that a Scandi country (couldn’t tell you which one) gives books as presents on Christmas Eve, to be read on Christmas Day. This, for me, is a bit of an infringement on Christmas Day, a bit too holy on the national day of greed and gluttony. But the day after? Absolutely bloody perfect.
So each person has to buy one book for another person at the Christmas table. What joy!
Which is not to say Christmas lunch will have this many people, more – how do you choose? This is quite frankly, a little slice of opt out heaven.
Laters, Kate x
I have a few creative projects on the go – This is the first one that’s come to fruition – and it starts with a lockdown story that began roughly eleven years ago……
A pregnant infertility survivor and a pro natural birth obstetrics consultant at a high risk pregnancy unit meet to discuss a birth plan. The infertility survivor would like a c-section; she now has a lack of trust in herself and wants to hand over responsibility to the doctors. The consultant wants to convince her to believe in herself and her innate capabilities. The infertility survivor hands over a print out of poems, describing the pain of her infertile years and the agony of her recurrent miscarriages. They talk. The consultant even uses two of the poems in a book she’s publishing. The infertility survivor has a successful c-section…..and my son Charlie is born.
Over a decade later, in lockdown, the Consultant, Dr Susan Bewley, finds my poems again and gets in contact. The poems are pulled out of a drawer and we agree that they are still as relevant today as they were all those years ago. So, with the help from Dr Bewley, they’ve been edited into a book….I took the decision that as they were poetry, they’d never get published down normal routes. So today, Songs For My Unborn Children has been self-published via Amazon and now they’re available to buy!
Doing it this way also means I get a say in all the art work, from the cover to the supporting instagram account.
So they’re out in the big wide world: Part memoir, all poetry, they cover the complete arc of infertility, from the pain of waiting, the grief of miscarriage to hospital visits, treatments, IVF, and finally the joy of a successful birth.
In the foreword, Dr Bewley writes:
‘Years ago, I was privileged to be given an early version of Songs to my Unborn Child from Kate during the course of her pregnancy, and to be allowed to use some for a book on Reproductive Ageing. She opened my eyes to the long, complex shadow that infertility, miscarriage and medicalised conception cast way beyond the immediate experiences. Doctors don’t bring ‘meaning’ to our everyday routines that clash with each patient’s exquisite vulnerability; it’s not a strong part of our skill set. But Kate provides another route to compassionate understanding. Few artists can paint pain, but this poetess succinctly describes the emotional roller coaster of suffering, endurance and recovery that will resonate for women who’ve experienced it, and induce empathy from those who haven’t. She gives voice to Everywoman’s shame and taboos. Even though she was one of the lucky ones for whom IVF did work, for most it does not. Every million cute IVF babies celebrated in the news and advertisements are accompanied by another several millions of futile cycles, chemical pregnancies, miscarriages and wounded souls. And emptier pockets. Although a proud mother now, Kate wears her scars. She doesn’t gloat or forget her trauma, or the ‘sisters in suffering’ who follow her. They might, or might not, take a similar journey to eventual peace but will recognize themselves. Read, cry, learn, repeat.’
Yep. It made me weep.
Songs is divided into five sections: Infertility, Miscarriage and IVF failure, Treatment, Afterwards and Pregnancy. It is ultimately a success story, but I hope the journey and the emotions will be recognised by all who have or who are walking this terrible path.
Please share, pass on to someone they might help, if you can’t buy – follow, anything to help get the word out, and I will be eternally grateful.
A big day.
Laters, Kate x
My Black Lives Matter post last week was weak; an expansive gesture hiding behind art and it’s many interpretations. Part of the reason is because for me to talk about racism is to hold extra large cartons of organic ducks eggs, one in each hand, whilst attempting to ride a unicycle for the first time; it’s bound to end in a privileged mess. Instead I have watched and listened, and it seems to me, the strongest way forward is through education, re-education, thinking, reading and more listening. Below is a list of available resources, the first three being personal to me – articles and documentaries that first opened my eyes.
Jane Elliott is an American schoolteacher, anti-racism activist, and educator. She is known for her “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise. She first conducted this famous exercise for her class on April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; she wanted her pupils to feel the pain of racism. I don’t know when I first watched this documentary – maybe it was shown in a social science class at my secondary school – I do know I have carried it with me ever since. It wasn’t just the shock of segregation along seemingly inconsequential lines, it was the shock that people (in this case children) would not only go along with it, but it would influence their behaviour outside the classroom. It was a brilliant and brutal showcase of human failing, exposing our ever constant need to conform to a perceived power source and the contagion of group think.
White Privilege, ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’ by Peggy McIntosh, first written in 1989, is an article I only read in the last couple of years. Again, it had a profound effect. Whilst’s Jane’s exercise was about conscious discrimination, this was about the unconscious discrimination we allow without thinking because we just don’t see it, because to notice has been conditioned out of us. She informed me, the word is not equal and there is no thing as meritocracy.
Notice anything about my education? White and female…
There’s not enough space to fill the books, words and videos of Maya Angelou. But with her brilliance, strength, wit and wonder, she remains a huge influence. My Grandmother gave me my first copy of a book by her – I know why the cages bird sings – and I can see it as I type this.
For the following list, I want to thank the High Low podcast, it is the result of their research combine with others such as the New York Times. Please refer back to this link if any of the links below don’t work:
Why I Am No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
How To Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
The Good Immigrant compiled by Nikesh Shukla
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Women Race and Class by Angela Davis
White Rage by Carol Anderson
Brit-ish by Afua Hirsch
My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay
Slay In Your Lane by Elizabeth Uviebinené & Yomi Adegoke
A Burst of Light by Audre Lorde
Don’t Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
Taking Up Space: The Black Girls Manifesto For Change by Chelsea Kwakye & Ore Ogunbiyi
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
Aint I a Woman: Black Women & Feminism by bell hooks
Why You Need To Stop Saying “All Lives Matter” by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle for Harper’s Bazaar https://bit.ly/3gG8rgq
Ibram X. Kendi’s reading list for The New York Times https://nyti.ms/3gKL8lH
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
On Beauty and White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Citizen: An American Life by Claudia Rankine
I know why the caged Bird sings by Maya Angelou
George Floyd’s Memorial Fund
Black Lives Matter
Black Protest Legal Support UK
Stop Hate UK
The Stephen Lawrence Trust
The Innocence Project
Show Racism The Red Card
Black Visions Collective
Girls Out Loud
Raising White Kids by Jennifer Harvey
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Can Change The World series on Rosa Parks & Harriet Tubman
A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Petition to update GCSE reading list https://bit.ly/2U6foOl
1619 podcast by The NY Times
With thoughts and positivity, Kate x
This morning is the first test of the strength and endurance of our internet – all four of us are working at the same time. So far, all good – the biggest concern is between those who can work quietly (me, John, Bella) and those who can’t (Charlie) and whether those who work quietly will influence a dial down, or the constant nagging needs of one will dial it in the opposite way; I’ve only yelled once…
We’ve all kept to our normal times. Apart from Bella, who over slept so missed the newly installed 8.00 am run – we’ve each installed the couch to 5k app with the aim to run with it every day. It’s a great programme especially for beginners; it tells you when to run and when to walk and is designed to progress you from a beginner to running a full 5k. There’s an option where you can choose your personal running coach – mine is Michael Johnson, because when he tells me I’m doing good, I really believe I’m doing good. He’s fast becoming a good friend. When we’re running as a group we look like a flock of birds, when with no obvious signal we all transform from walking to pounding the streets. The streets today were probably two thirds down on traffic, but busier than expected. I think everyone thinks their car is their own portable bubble. The thing is it’s what you do at either end of your journeys that can matter…there’s news that petrol pumps are sources of infection. Just saying.
This weekend we prepped for the sketchbook revival 2020 challenge, buying nothing, but going through book shelves for old books, gathering dust that could do with a re-love, finding old sketchbooks, tearing out pages, old letters, cards, wrapping paper, tissue paper – anything that would make it interesting, then sewing it together…very satisfying.
Mine is done now. Just waiting for the first email to drop in with instructions for the day – better check my spam folder…
Also redid our window boxes: ivy, trailing white geraniums, miniature daffodil bulbs and some white plant that looked pretty! They’re going to get a bit of love every day as well.
Something little, something often, something creative, something together. This is could be more a blessing than a chore.
Laters, Kate x
Tara Button and her website Buymeonce are a blast of fresh, spring air.
Tara’s concept is simple – our lives have been stuffed full of things we’re told we need that lets us down so she has been on a mission to track down the best quality and investment pieces that every house actually needs.
This resonates so much it almost hurts: I too am tired of this modern life that believes it can tell me who I am through the purchase of a skin cream, what I need: permanent upgrades and who I should be: spending lots of money, constantly implying that the real me isn’t good enough.
Just open your eyes to the insistent message of the season: Spring clean your wardrobes/house/family/life – it’s time to refresh!…The underlying, insidious message being that we will make you insecure to make you buy more.
(All pics Buymeonce)
Is it norm corm in the extreme? I don’t know. But what I do know is that we can’t spend our way to happiness and something needs to change. This seems a very good place to start.
Laters, Kate x
I love books.
(All pics Pinterest)
But I hate the back-to-front book thing. Though it works sparklingly well as a visual metaphor for everything that is tragic about our modern culture.
Laters, Kate x
So bookcases are now a ‘thing’? Excuse me now whilst I suppress my inner laughter.
Sometimes I think the puppetmasters of materialism actually believe their own hype. Did they really think we’d give away our books in favour of cloud storage?
‘They get rid of books. We charge them again for ibooks. Then we gloss the pintrest pictures and persuade them bookcases are it…it’s a money making winner!’
The truth? People and interiors need the soul of books, holidays need the ease of kindles. And parents, at home with children need to know that Alexa can read your kindle books aloud. Whilst I’m writing this, Percy Jackson is entertaining my kids downstairs. Now that’s a win win.
Laters, Kate x
I wish I’d seen this when mine were tiny….though it still has resonance today.
Enjoy the weekend
Laterz, Kate x
Is it too late for New Years resolutions? The dust has finally settled and now I know what I’d like to do…keep a sketch book. I have a words/ideas book (which apparently is the classic sign of an introvert – who knew?) to keep treasures like assonance and sibilance that otherwise would float away. But a book of dabblings and drawings? If this Blog is a collection of thoughts and sources of inspiration, then a sketchbook would be those thoughts made physical. I think it’s a calling….
(All pictures not mine but from Pinterest)
Laters, after an arty online shop for supplies, Kate x
Jack Monroe is my latest hero. I discovered her whilst painting the hall..the joy of decorating is having an ipad close to hand listening to iplayer doing it’s thing. Radio 4 made a drama from her life, basing it around her love of cooking and her relationship with her Grandmother: Two things that float my boat – it inspired me to seek out her cook book.
Jack started by writing, in her own time, a local political commentary blog. Then she had to give up her career when she became a single mum and her wage couldn’t extend to childcare. The only solution was benefits and a mere £10 a week for food for the two of them. Her blog ‘Cooking on a Bootstrap’ was a consequence of that constraint, written to share the recipes she magically managed to produce…which then turned into her own cookbook.
Being a single parent meant lack of time as well as a lack of resources translates into recipes that are both speedy and simple. There’s no frills or extravagant ingredients, instead she’s re-connected the umbilical cord highlighting that fantastic, nutritious food doesn’t need an overflowing handmade Devol larder and a certificate in corden bleu cookery.
(The vegetarian meals are awesome)
Jack believes that in order to tackle food poverty and a culture of convenience/microwave meals with dubious ingredients then cooking at home needs to be present on a less glossy, less sexy, less intimidating and more accessible way, which then has the rollover benefit of both spending less and reducing waste. Win win.
She makes you think about how you cook, why you cook..and how careless we are. The bottom line is we all need to care more.
I love her and I love her book.
Laters, Kate x