My Sundays as a teenager always ending in the same way. After the family roast dinner had been devoured and the most urgent homework tasks ticked off, my ultimate luxury would be to sit at the kitchen table with The Sunday Times. (This was definitely my family’s paper of choice. It still is.) In my memory Cold Feet (the original) was always on the TV in the background, and mum was close by working her way through a mountain of ironing. I’d have a cup of tea, sometimes a biscuit, and a regimented reading routine. Always the Style section first, then the magazine, followed by a flick through the Culture section. It’s a pattern I even follow now as an online subscriber.
It’s these Sunday evenings at the family kitchen table, where my love of journalism started. It continues today. Since leaving the family home (and having to buy my own reading material) I’ve dabbled with The Observer and have a fondness for Saturday editions of The Times and The Guardian too. But regardless of the brand of my weekend reading material, it’s always the supplements that have my reading heart. I’m not an avid consumer of news (I try, but the ins and outs of politics and world affairs just don’t make me tick) but I love columnists with little exception. My weekend reading journey always starts with the frivolous musing of the ‘regulars’. Their reflections on a subject, littered with unnecessary hyperbole, accounts of essentially non-descript events in their week artificially elevated with carefully crafted colour and flouncy language. I love the supplement columnists who write with undisguised ego and excess, just as much as the sharp, insightful prose of their more salt of their earth arch rivals.
With the reading warm up complete, I’m ready to tackle the features. A thorough dissection of a popular trend, diving headfirst into a personal story, reading as a writer skilfully unravels a person through in-depth interview, being invited into a world, a life or an experience completely removed from my own, and being fascinated (for good and bad). It’s the sustenance I’ve talked about and satisfies my desire for a mind-full state of being. This kind of reading for me is the ultimate indulgence.
So I’ve decided to make my blog, Instagram and Twitter places where I can share what I’ve enjoyed reading. This will be a short collection of the writing that’s made me think, snigger, smile, or shed a tear, induced anger, fear or just a resigned nod of recognition. With so much content out there today, it’s important to give praise to the things that make an impact on you. This is my place to do this.
A reading list
Hadley Freeman’s advice for teenage girls – read here
My reading this weekend had a distinct feminist feel, which feels particularly apt with International Women’s Day happening on Thursday. It started (predictably for me) with Hadley Freeman’s column in the Guardian Weekend. With my next birthday being a milestone beginning with 4 and ending in 0 (don’t make me say them together), and with my girls still far from hitting any form of pubescent chaos, Hadley’s advice was a little lost on me, but this sentence resonated:
“All my biggest regrets stem from moments when I didn’t trust my intelligence, but instead let a misguidedly overconfident man control the narrative.”
In my personal life, I’ve always been incredibly fortunate to be loved and supported by strong, respectful men. However over the years, I’ve experienced many frustrations in the workplace when intimidated or dismissed by less enlightened male colleagues. I’ve made decisions I’ve regretted, had my self-esteem knocked, and stayed quiet in meetings when my inner voice should have been given the strength to make a scene. I learnt. I developed courage in my convictions, I have my own way to deal with these situations, and over time I gained the resilience to trust my intelligence. I believe this is one of the biggest lessons you learn as a female at work. Unfortunately my teenage self, had no idea.
‘You can track everything’: the parents who digitise their babies’ lives – read here
At the moment I’m feeling acutely aware of how intrusive smartphones are in our lives. Their omnipresence in our pockets is powerful and I’m starting to feel resentful of the hold this technology has over us. I find baby tech a little bit sinister, mainly because it appears to be designed to appeal to the insecurities and faltering confidence of a new parent. When algorithms are given a stronger prominence in a baby’s life than parental instincts, well that for me is truly sad times. This paragraph for me, said it all…
Jenny is part of a generation whose entire lives will be quantified – sometimes all the way from conception, thanks to fertility tracking apps such as Kindara and Clue. Aoife has graphs that show her how long Jenny has slept and how regular her “nappy events” were. She used Feed Baby compulsively – following its cues, ignoring its ads – until one day in January, when she had a revelation. “I was using this app so I would stop being so anxious, but the level of information it was giving me was making me way more anxious. As soon as I stopped using it, my confidence in my parenting abilities increased drastically.”
‘Do you ever think about me?’: the children sex tourists leave behind – read here
I found this such an insightful perspective. The degradation and inherent cruelty of the sex trade is something that is widely portrayed in the media and through many dramas we’re watching at the moment. This article offers another angle that doesn’t neglect the women’s plight, but shows how the impact goes way beyond them – it is felt for generations. In this feature Margaret Simons shows sex tourism through the eyes of the children that it unwittingly creates. Sex worker mother and absent foreign sex tourist father – it’s seems to be a family tree that’s all to common in the slums of Angeles City in the Philippines.
Why Dutch youngsters are the world’s happiest teenagers – read here
Now I liked this article a lot. However, it does idealise family life in The Netherlands in the same way that we’re led to believe everyone in Denmark floats through life in a Hygge-induced haze of contentment. But for anyone who has dreams of reaching a haloed state of Scandinavian zen-ness (that’s me!), there are some interesting points, particularly around work-life balance and giving priority to family time…
“At first, I remember thinking the Dutch were not as hard working as we are in the UK,” she tells me. “They leave the office at 4.59pm and don’t put the hours in. But what I fast came to realise was that Dutch culture prioritises family and relationships. They weren’t playing a game of competitive busyness and presenteeism that we play in the UK; families had time for dinner together and proper conversations. I believe that’s why their kids end up being happier humans. Your kids aren’t some hushed secret in the Netherlands – they’re the priority.”
Last week Emma Thompson quit from her role in new animated film Luck after John Lasseter was hired to join the production. In an open letter to the production company Skydance, she explains her departure and poses some uncomfortable questions about the decision to appoint someone with an established history of misconduct. She closes with what I think embodies the essence of #metoo.
I am well aware that centuries of entitlement to women’s bodies whether they like it or not is not going to change overnight. Or in a year. But I am also aware that if people who have spoken out — like me — do not take this sort of a stand then things are very unlikely to change at anything like the pace required to protect my daughter’s generation.