#me too

To the girl in the corner,

It always amazed me that you had taken my performing arts class. You would always sit in the back, in your prison issue, pale blue slightly dirty, sweatshirt. You never really said much. I look back now and I really hope you were listening.

We were putting on a play. The main parts had been given out to the ones who wanted them. You were in the stage hand team if I remember. We rehearsed in a dump of a workshop. It was next to a loud and bustling recycling workshop and that is what he was in charge of.

I am going to call him Mr B. I don’t want to write his name. Not because I am scared to, not because I don’t want to upset him, but mainly because I just don’t want to. You will know who I mean, I am guessing as will every other woman who was there that day.

Prison is a funny place, I can’t imagine what is was like for you as a prisoner but as a teacher it was surreal. You women were inmates, but you were people too and I will admit it was really hard to not build friendships with some of you. Because that’s what I think we do as women we come together. We look for allies and confidantes. Mainly because are all the same or because we carried children, or we share the same experiences. Good and bad.

Prison is filled with banter, Jesus I hate that word it is just a get out clause isn’t it, an excuse, a mask and an open invitation to say what you like,then back track when you realise you might have taken it a bit far. Like the day you were sat in the corner and I asked you to pop next door and ask if we could borrow a broom. One of the loudest and most confident women in the group took it upon herself to go with you.

Mr B decided to reply ‘ tell her she can have it if she sucks my cock’

I am so fucking sorry that you all had to hear that.

You didn’t have to tell me, the other woman told me loud and clear and made sure everyone else knew too. You just stood there.

Everything seemed to happen so quickly then. One minute I was telling you all to get in line as you had to go back to your cells, fielding off questions and comments like ‘ miss are you gonna take that?’ ‘Miss, I would slap him if I was you’ ‘Miss, bet he was joking’ ‘Miss, can you believe it’ ‘Miss. it is because he is an officer and your just a teacher’

We put on our performance, the drama course ended and you all changed activity. But you all kept on asking me ‘ What are you going to do about it’ ‘Have you spoken to Mr B’ ‘Don’t let him get away with it’

So I want to let you know, the girl in the corner, and all the other girls there. I didn’t let him get away with it. Because what he said that day was sexual harassment. It wasn’t banter, it wasn’t just how he is, and it wasn’t ok. I felt sick and vulnerable and he made me think that I was someone who wasn’t respected. But do you know what he made me feel more than anything else. Anger, pure and gut twisting to the bone anger. Because I had read your files, I knew that some of you had been in situations that I can’t even bring myself to type because they are so horrendous.  I had listened to you all taking about the domestic abuse you had suffered when we got to a part of the play that made some of you remember things you hoped you had forgotten. Anger because here you were in a prison for what ever reason and you were still witnessing a man think it is ok to say and imply anything he wants to a woman because he didn’t mean it.

I fought for you all. I took it to my union. An investigation was launched. I had to see him everyday,  telling people ‘ It was just banter’ ‘You all know what I am like’

I watched as people whispered about me ‘ How can she do this to him ‘ Mr B is such a nice bloke’ ‘What a stuck up cow she is, she flaunts all around here but can’t take a bit of banter’. And probably the most hurtful of all from a group of female officers’ She is such a twat, its not like he touched her tits!’

I had to have meetings were I was repeatedly asked why it bothered me so much, did I realise this could have serious consequences for him. Did I know what I was doing?

I knew exactly what I was doing. I was setting you all an example. We as women do not have to put up with this bull shit. We do not have to be touched to be abused. We do not have to have physical contact for it to be harassment and we most certainly do not have to accept it as banter. I won’t lie to you. The whole situation very nearly brought me to my knees. I lost people who I thought were not only my colleagues but my friends. People looked at me differently. Or they didn’t even look at me at all.

I was signed off with stress and in the end I gave up a career I loved because I could not give one more minute of my time to a place that didn’t show some of the most vulnerable women in our society that we all deserve respect and we all have a right to demand respect. About five people came to my leaving lunch and my bosses didn’t even sign my leaving card.

As the media fills with stories about how women are being brave and coming forward about their situations I often think of you in that corner. You were supposed to be in a place that protected you from that behavior. In a place that was staffed by people who were to help you, rehabilitate you and most importantly show you that there are decent people out there.

You women were the reason I acted, for you and for me and although it was a dark time in my life I want you and my daughter and my sister and my mother and all my female pupils to know I would do it all again in a heartbeat. And I will do it all over again if the situation arises.

I want you to know that there are women out there who are willing to make a stand and willing to fight for the respect and safety that we are entitled to.

Maybe a new day is on the horizon. x

 

 

 

 

 

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Once Upon a Christmas fatty …..

Ah, it’s the season to be jolly! I bloody love Christmas, all of it!

The tree, the presents, the 2,3 or 4 party dresses you have to buy, the sales, the wine, the buffet, the lights, the school holidays and the promise of a new year and new opportunities and new beginnings and a whole page of your story unwritten.

But this year I feel a bit of a stirring people like our old mate Otis said ‘Change gonna come’.

You see for as long as I can remember my new years resolution has been to lose weight blah blah, new year new me! (same twat lol) how chuffing boring. I regularly get to January the 2nd (no diet ever started on new years day surely!) and buy some crazy work out gear, fill my trolley with cardboard, I mean diet food,and vow to be a new me by my birthday.

Not this year.

I am so so sick of setting un-attainable and quite frankly bollocks goals for myself that I wont reach, will depress me when I don’t and not to mention the amount of money I am wasting on said goals. So this year I am going to follow a to do list when that bell chimes on New Years eve. It looks like this

  1. Be the best person I can be in a world that is hell bent on making us all be bitches to each other

That’s it.

Because when I watched a group of children grateful and crying with happiness over a black bag of toys that the school had given them, meaning they would get something on Christmas day, and when I thought about some of the challenging times some of my family and dearest, dearest friends are going through,and when I thought about all the hatred and bullshit politics and injustice going on in this world, the sexual harassment, the corruption, the poverty and the hurt.

Not once did I think ‘ and if i was thinner all this would go away’

Merry Christmas x

 

 

 

 

Why aren’t we all on the same team?

Something has made me cross this week. In fact it pissed me off. I think I got so mad about it because I don’t understand it.  Then of course my overactive brain started thinking that the problem was much bigger than the one that caused me to have to have a two finger Twix for my tea!

I am a hard worker, and a team player. I’m not afraid to say that. I give you my best when I am at work. I do everything that is asked of me ,  and more if needed. I will work at home if I have to to achieve a goal, and I am pretty sure if you ask any boss I have worked for (apart from that stint in a Coca-Cola call centre) they will tell you the same.

What I don’t profess to be is early for work,  good at IT and I am pretty rubbish at spell checking emails, I also possibly have a habit of marking books in pink and purple because it looks nice.

However I am not a slacker, skiver or one of those lazy irritating idiots (there is a stronger word to be inserted here but I don’t want to offend either of the 2 people who possibly read my blog ) who think they work the hardest and actually do sod all, but by god they make a living out of moaning about it.

I have started a new job, well it’s not really a new job. I went from temp to permanent. I work in a school so even with my timekeeping I get there before the children come in and if I have nothing else to do, I leave after the little darlings are all safely in the hands of their parents, carer’s etc. Anything I need to do I will at home if necessary, that’s just how I roll.

So far pretty boring right, nothing to get angry about.

But one day last week I was maneuvering my car out of the school gates when someone I worked with literally threw themselves on my car bonnet (well you know what I mean) and said to me in the pouring rain, ”and where do you think your going?” I sat there in my aging Fiat and said ‘Pardon’ they then repeated as they looked at their watch ‘ Where are you going’  I replied ‘I am going home’

Was this person my boss, no

Was this person concerned for my welfare, no

Was this person checking if I was skiving- yes

I felt a red rage on the way home. Not because they were checking on the time I was leaving, I have nothing to hide, but because why aren’t we all on the same team? Why are people bothered about when others are going home? Why aren’t we saying, see you later you have worked hard today, in a tough environment that pushes us all to the limit some times.

Why are we now spying on each other ? This isn’t just about this incident, I mean yeah I was absolutely gobsmacked that this person was so interested in my comings and goings, (I might buy said person a sparkly notebook and a Parker pen, you know to help them really keep an up to date record) it is that as people we just seem to be so against each other right now.

Even in the supermarket, it really is like taking your life into your own hands. Killer trolleys, lane hogging and fights over reduced food. Even getting bashed up by people who think that it is acceptable to ram you out-of-the-way to get to their jar of Branston Pickle. Lifts! The race to get in the lift, if your inside you literally have to play challenge Anika to get out before it fills up again and you get crushed by a door! All for wanting to visit the knickers department of M and S.

Social media is a den of I am better than you, my shoes cost more, people slagging each other off for their life choices. I just can’t help but wonder when we all stopped being on the same team? why aren’t we all nicer to each other, more supportive? Why don’t we wave each other of from work and not be suspicious that we have worked one minute less than someone else.

I am by no means saying we should all start free love on the free love high way (a nod to Ricky Gervais) but I do think we need to have a serious think about how we are all treating each other.

And who knows the world might just be that bit brighter for us all. (well at least when we want to look at knickers anyway.)

 

 

You can be anything you want sweet pea, just don’t love yourself ….

 

I was having a conversation with one of my besties, I have spoken about her before but one thing I love about this friend is that we can be completely ourselves when we speak. There are no airs, graces or fake news.

We sometimes talk about what is bothering us, we give each other invaluable advice about products that will tan you into next week or make your eyelashes grow at the speed of that hair on your chin!

But something else we often talk about is the things in our lives that are going well. The things we have kicked ass at, or the things we know we are bloody good at so we will kick ass later on.

She often wears a t-shirt saying ‘in your dreams’ and apparently in an incident she found herself in this means she loves herself.

It got me thinking about this little world we live in, as a woman it seems you can be anything you want these days, except confident.

Because surely if your confident you love yourself and are a big head. Right?

It reminded me of a time when I worked in a prison. I was a teacher so I wore my own clothes. Each morning I would put together some stylish and downright fabulous outfits and team them with the nicest mid –heel I could find (due to prison staff regulations and security reasons otherwise it would have been the full on stiletto!).

I took pride in my appearance and was, and still am, proud of how I looked. I invested time and money in myself. Why did I do that? Because it makes me happy ,it is what makes me feel comfortable, confident and I have always believed as a teacher I am a role model to the women I teach. Often I would have a conversation with the prisoners about how cheap it can be buy things that look expensive and it’s more about how you wear it than where the label is from. We would discuss how it can make you feel good and improve your mental health by focusing on you and having pride in yourself and how you look. Hey, some of those ladies even started to come to my classes with a bit of mascara on, or a bit of lippy if they could acquire it,  Am I proud of that? Hell yes I am. Did I change their lives? Who knows, that’s probably a whole new blog post for another day. But if one of those women who had had any shred of self- confidence beaten or dragged out of them left with a tiny bit more than they came in then well ,I am more than ok with that.

I am digressing……

There was a certain element of distance shall we say between some of the female prison officers and the non-uniformed staff. However, I have to point out there were some absolute gems of ladies who worked there and some who I am still very much friends with today and I salute you ladies because you’re doing a sterling and bloody great job.

There was a certain group of ladies who, well you know what ,they weren’t very nice ladies. They certainly didn’t appear to me to be in the ‘women for women’ movement if you get my drift. Any way, we used to have to smoke or Marlboro lights in a bus shelter back in those days, the glamour!

Said bus shelter was on the way to the education block so I would have to walk past there every days. At certain times said group of ladies would be enjoying a fresh air break together and they were also at times enjoying a little wondering about me and my fabulous outifts in their designated break time. Really they needed to get new material ‘Who does she think she is?’ ‘Is she dressing up to shag so and so’ ‘Why does she wear so much make up to work’ and well I won’t go into the ‘who did she bonk?’ rumour mill when I got promoted. The level was basic and the words ridiculous.

You see I walked with my head held high, I used to wave at them when they made comments and when I used to see them professionally on my own, I killed them with so much bloody kindness I made them nervous. You see I was never upset by these girls. I was angry. I was angry that the world had made them have a view of other women’s confidence as a sexual thing or a big headedness that can’t possibly be tolerated in this world. Least of all by a 20 something year old with a brilliant career and banging shoes.

I was and still am a confident woman. I am proud of my values and my beliefs and I am really happy with who I am. I believe that confidence and body confidence are two different things and I make no apologies for being this way.

I can list for you many things I am good at and never fail to answer the ‘Tell me your three greatest strengths’ question in a job interview. ?

And what I ask is so bloody wrong with that? Because I tell you if I was a guy walking past that bus shelter, you can bet your bottom dollar the comments would have been very different.

So you know what I say to the girls in the bus stop smoking their Marlbro’s back in 2008

I am Katie Howard. I dressed that way to impress myself and no one else. Don’t lower yourselves to talk smut in a public place, I wore so much make up to work because I wanted to. And trust me my lovelies I got to the top by being fucking amazing at my job, well most of the time (wink) x

Your Poo Ain’t Private Anymore…

So my baby sister ( I  know you hate it when I call you that!) your having a baby.

I think I’m supposed to be able to give you amazing and useful advice on how to raise the perfect, yet ever so cool and quirky, child. I think I am supposed to be able to give you advise about how to regain that perfect body and banish any hint of baby blues. I think I am also supposed to be able to advise you on how to make perfectly pureed niblets of weaning food that your baby will savour with every taste of his being.

The truth is I can’t. And to be quite honest I don’t want to. I want to tell you some things I have learnt. Then there might be something in my warbling’s that helps you along the way.

The first thing I have learnt after becoming a mother two and a half years ago, is that your poo is never gonna be private any more. Let me explain, you give birth, and in the hospital they want to know when you’ve been and how it was , then the powers that be will let you home.  You get home, and you’re too scared to leave the baby ,so you take them in the toilet in a Moses basket, lovingly knowing  you can watch them whilst trying to go (because maybe you might not be experiencing the same free flow as you once did). But because you have the baby in there, anyone who is in the house assumes it is fair game to open the door and have a full-blown conversation with you or take said baby away to give you a minute! Then your little bundle of joy will start to walk and then you will need to be able to position yourself on the throne so you can see them at all times, or maybe restrain them whilst doing your business depending on their exploratory nature. Oh and the final incident in poo gate- is when the little loves start to talk. ‘mummy what is that poo, why is it runny’ ‘Mummy your poo smells’ and my ultimate favourite, whilst I was standing in line in Morrison’s ‘ Mummy do you need a poo? you haven’t been today!’

The other major life change I would say is the absolute abomination of your emotions as you know it. I am not taking about a few little weeps about your leaky boobs. Everything you ever thought  you knew is thrown into one of those fancy Nurti- Bullet blenders and spat out alike a disregarded pair of split Primark leggings. I have never been so anxious, so scared, so happy, so alive and so confused all at the same time. It’s like, once the after birth comes out so does your former self, and a whole new persona is placed in you and poof your off on your new journey as a mom. I am not sure yet if this is a good or a bad thing, I’ll maybe let you know in 18 years. But however your feeling, good or bad I can assure you it is all ok and natural, just keep talking and letting people know how your feeling. Nothing is ever too big to face and you definitely do not have to do it alone.

The only piece of real sound advice I can actually give you , is to do it your own way. Everyone will have a bloody opinion. Mores the point everyone will want to give it to you, be respectful but never forget if your child is safe, healthy and loved then you are doing it right. There will always be someone on some social media site who appears to be doing it much better, there will be someone who seems to always have everything together. Let me tell you now they are lying. They are eating takeaways for third night in a row, in their maternity pants because they haven’t slept for 72 hours. It is just a shame they feel the need to fabricate instead of educate.

I’m not going to dwell on the changes your body goes through. Yes it does change and no it wont ever be the same again. But that body gave you the best thing you will ever hold in your arms. My wish for you is that might just remember that when you cant find anything to wear and feel like putting your pyjamas back on and skipping the baby group again because it’s easier than going ten rounds with your wardrobe.

But let me tell you something I do know. Having your baby gives you a reason, a reason to keep going after 17 sleepless nights straight, a reason to keep going when post-natal depression might try to drag you down by your ankles. A reason to keep going when you are fighting with your partner again about who is doing the most. A reason to keep going when you look in the mirror and you look at yourself and see someone you don’t recognise.

I know that you will be an amazing mom, and I know that because you are an amazing sister and a bloody cool aunt to my baby girl. You have been my rock and my best friend for many many years, and if I’m honest I am a little sad that I might not get as much of your time any more.

So for now , in your swollen ankled and heartburn state, go have a poo. In private while you can.

Love you baby A. x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A letter to you Ladybird ………..

Dear Miss Ladybird,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you that. Your only 10 years old and I want to tell you  few things about how to deal with those girls who are calling you fat.

They are twats, it’s probably not very politically correct for me to call them that. I think I am supposed to excuse their behaviour because they are only young. But I am guessing that they know right from wrong, and I am pretty sure they know the things they are saying are hurting you.

Let us not waste anymore time on them lets talk about you. Your mom said you’re not that happy with your body and that you want to lose weight. Darling, darling girl you are so much more than the words they are calling you.  You are funny, sensitive, kind, creative, and downright fabulous.

You cant see it now, you can only see the names they call you. I am not going to sugar coat it, weight goes up and down your whole life but you know what life is so much more than how you look. You are at a defining moment in your life sweet pea, and at 10 years old I am  guessing your thinking I’ve lost the plot by now.

You see you have a choice, You can choose to listen to these plonkers and spend the rest of your life believing that your weight defines you and is some sort of measure of success.

Or you can choose to not give two hoots what they say to you and remind yourself that whatever your weight is you are utterly fabulous and you have so much more than a number on a scale to offer the world.

I hope from the bottom of my own  fabulous heart you choose the latter, life is for living , loving , eating and unfortunately there are bigger challenges and tests in life as you become older than worrying about what some Hannah Montana wannabe said about you at school.

I know it hurts now, as a teacher I’ve often thought the playground is the biggest of bullies. It’s vast space and dark corners allow children to be so, so  cruel to each other without the prying eyes of teachers. But these comments and these people won’t matter to you in five, ten or fifteen years time. You are in charge of how these people effect and influence your life.

Don’t let them make you think anything less of your self than the 10/10 that you are. Beauty and success isn’t measured in dress size or on the scales little one. Those things are only impressive if your impressed by them. I am pretty sure you are more impressed by a pair of beautiful shoes and  Little Mix’s new song right now. And don’t ever let that change.

People  will always use weight as a first point of insult, we live in a society unfortunately that thinks that is the way to hurt someone. You know what would hurt me more, if someone said that I wasn’t kind, or that they thought I was selfish, or if they said my roast dinners were rubbish.

What I am trying to say beautiful girl is that no one in this world has the right to make you feel like you can’t love yourself. Weight, fat, whatever you want to call it is so unbelievably irrelevant in the scheme of life.

You are and will continue to be a fabulous young woman, don’t be defined by what these nasty Nancy’s are saying.

There is a saying that I wish I could tell you, but it contains a word that you’re not allowed to use, I am going to try to write it in a ten-year old friendly way

‘ She gave no hoots, not one, and she lived happily ever after’ when your 18 I am going to take you for a glass of Merlot and a bowl of chips and I will help you shout the adult version from the roof tops.

Until that day, next time they call you fat turn round to them and say ‘whether I am or not is none of your concern,  I am however fabulous, don’t forget that darlings’ xxx

 

It’s Like a Bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese’

It’s been a while.  The main reason for my absence is that the universe has blessed me with the most beautiful, intelligent and smart -arsed daughter you could hope for, oh and she doesn’t like to sleep. I mean really doesn’t like to sleep.  So whilst my daughter is playing tool boxes with daddy (toy one obvs Social Services) I am taking five minutes at 20:53  to write about something that has been playing on my mind for a while.

Not long ago one of my most beautiful and wonderful friends said something to me that got me in a thinking frenzy. I feel it is of the utmost importance to let you know that I actually don’t like many people but I love her to the shoe shop and back, I mean to be fair my circle is getting smaller by the minute. I can count on one hand the people I love and consider my ‘inner circle’. She is firmly rooted there and I hope she never leaves.

I do feel however that this is digressing and I am making a mental note to write my next blog post on ‘why I actually only have 3 friends’ a memoir by the most fabulous loner in the Village of Thorney.

So this friend said to me ‘ I love the fact you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up!’ and to be honest to the outside world I can totally see why she said that.

But the thing is I have always known.  I have wanted to put my head on my pillow every night and be confident that every decision or path I ever chose in that time was right for me. It was where I felt I was meant to be and that in turn gave me happiness and contentment. Obviously I don’t mean every night I go to bed like ‘ yes you are so smokin hot and totally winning at life girl’ Let’s take Saturday night I went to bed thinking why have I just eaten a kebab, when the onion will give me indigestion and I HAVENT EVEN BEEN OUT! At least I was drunk and found it hilarious, much to my husbands disdain!

My career and my life have been as zig zag as a bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese. But you know what, I have the most amazing stories to tell my daughter, students , basically anyone that will listen! and some experiences that have shaped me and changed me beyond belief. Only last week I have got a job in a place I never thought I would work, and you know what, it excites me. This world is constantly telling us we need to be or have  more, more money, more stuff, bigger houses, bigger cars, the promotions, the look, the perfect life.

But you know what, it’s only impressive if your impressed by this stuff.

I am impressed by people who know how to be happy and know when what they have is more than enough.

I wanted to write this post to all the other people out there who think they need to have it all figured out.

You have it all figured out right now. If your safe and warm and happy. If you’re rocking a fabulous outfit on a random Tuesday just because you can. If you’re make your decisions based on what is best for you and or your family right here and right now. Then you’re doing ok by me kid!

x