Archive for November, 2009

70 year old Superwoman on Embarrassing your Children

November 25, 2009

Thanks for the complimentary responses to my old lady blog.

I have no reason to hide my identity but all Superwoman blogs seem to be anonymous.  My reason for being OK about anonymity is that one of my sons has a desk not a million miles away from Bethan’s, and I was hoping he would not be obliged to hide behind the filing cabinet in embarrassment about being associated with the mad old bat on the blog. There’s a saying in New Zealand, where another son lives, which is “You know you are getting old when you stop embarrassing your children”. I’m not there yet.

On one memorable embarrassment occasion I was invited to watch a son play rugby. I have of course, with three sons, spent many hours on this fruitless activity which does not interest me at all and I still haven’t a clue what they are actually doing on the pitch pushing each other over to some purpose or other. I know – sacrilege in Wales, innit? I was working as a lecturer at the time – sociologist/ psychologist. We trendy social scientists had a uniform in those days- bomber jacket, jeans, Doc Martins and a Rupert bear scarf. I said OK I’ll come after work. So showed up in boots, jeans, a pink and purple bomber and the regulation scarf. With hindsight one has to cringe at the colour clashes but hey – small sacrifice to be leaders of the academic fashion pack. I lined up on the touchline with other parents in sheepskin coats and manky fox furs. And that’s just the fathers. So looking well out of place. Nothing that’s ever bothered me. Gave son a little wave which he naturally ignored as too busy kicking somebody’s head in. Nasty rough game. It was mercifully over soon, and he came out of the pavilion and said Let’s go, bundling me towards the car, rather hastily, I thought. I said What’s up. He said you don’t have to come to any more matches. For this relief much thanks, but why? One of his team mates had said in the changing room Is that middle aged last chance trendy your mother? Oh, the shame of it!  Get behind that filing cabinet, sunshine, you’re outed and beans are spilled.

Top 50 sexiest men in Wales

November 16, 2009

I feel obliged to mention the men’s sexy list having blogged last week about the women’s.    I’m all about equality, me.

Jamie Roberts is officially the Sexiest Man in Wales, well according to the anonymous researchers at the Western Mail who come up with the list.     As with the women’s list it would be more accurately described as wonderful Welsh men who are on the telly a lot.  Much better representation of sports people than on the women’s list – 10 sportsmen whereas the top 50 women’s list didn’t include a single sportswoman.   Then again five of the sportsmen listed were in the Welsh rugby team and let’s face it the men’s Welsh rugby team is on telly a whole lot more than the women’s.     

As with the women’s list the more you’re on telly OUTSIDE Wales then, as a general rule, the higher you scored so Joe Calzaghe was at number 10 and Matthew Rhys and Ioan Gruffydd were up there in the high teens.  Not certain therefore why Rhys Ifans was only in at 38 as he’s been on telly a lot this year.     One businessman also managed to slip into the men’s top 50 – Huw Eurig Davies, chief executive of Boomerang, the independent TV production company.  Not quite on the telly but runs a company that makes telly programmes and therefore a close enough association with the telly to scrape in at number 49. 

Two politicians made it to the men’s list (only one in the women’s) although only towards the bottom of the list,  “charming” Huw Lewis at number 46 and at number 47 the 63 year old presiding officer of the National Assembly Lord Dafydd-Elis Thomas because “power is sexy, but this former university lecturer from Ceredigion exudes cool and calm with it.”   If power plus cool and calm equals sexy where was Carwyn Jones then?  Or should we all be really rather glad that the person tipped most likely winner of the Welsh labour leadership contest has managed to avoid the sexy list?

A Tale of Two Bridges (with apologies to Charles Dickens)

November 12, 2009

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times………………”

Earlier in the year, it was announced that the toll on the Humber Bridge was going to be increased. The people of Grimsby and surrounding area, reacted to this news by starting a petition against the increase and getting it signed by 10,000 people!  In the face of this huge opposition, the Minister of Transport refused to increase the tolls.

 In October it was announced that the Government was giving a grant of £6m to the Humber Bridge Company, so that they can freeze the tolls until 2011, the grant will be used for necessary maintenance.  In announcing this, the Minister for Transport, Sadiq Khan, said that “the Government is committed to doing everything it can to protect communities and businesses from economic downturn and to help the country recover”

 The news of the grant was met with an angry response by transport and haulage companies and on both side of the Severn. Many companies who operate across this Welsh-Anglo border, rack up tens of thousands of pounds each year in tolls and though the Government’s commitment to reducing costs is very welcome, it should be applied across the board. The Freight Transport Association responded to the Minister’s comments by issuing a press release calling for the same commitment to be given to Wales and the South-West.

 However, it is not just transport companies who are affected, although the tolls they pay are the highest in the UK. Paying the toll has a knock-on effect for every company who use the Severn crossings in the course of their business. It is seen as a disadvantage to many large companies when looking at this part of Wales as a possible business venue.

Both bridges are owned and operated by Severn Crossing plc, but the ownership of the bridges should not be a reason to do nothing. There is a solution to every problem if you try hard enough to find it. The Government, in its’ wisdom, decided to add VAT to the tolls back in 2003. The tolls were not increased, so this slipped relatively easily under the radar and they just agreed with the company to extend theirterm of ownership.  This has meant that the bridges will not revert back to public ownership now until some time around 2016 and we just go on paying………….

 So, although age has curbed my former redheaded temper, I just felt that I couldn’t sit on the sidelines on this one.  I feel that the people and businesses of Wales have enough on their plate at the moment; times are tough out there and we need all the help we can get!  After the initial rise in blood pressure, I decided that I too would start a petition, to ask the Government for help for the Welsh economy too. And, in this highly computerised world we now live in, I chose an e-Petition.

 If you feel as strongly as I do about the inequality of this gesture by the Government, then please will you follow the link and sign the petition. I am told that if we get more than 500 signatures the Government has to respond.

Denise Lovering

The Western Mail’s top 50 sexiest women in Wales

November 8, 2009
According to the front page of the Western Mail (Wales’ National Newspaper) yesterday was Super Saturday.  This was because Cardiff and Swansea were playing football, Wales and New Zealand were playing rugby and the Western Mail was publishing its list of the top 50 sexiest women in Wales.  Wow!  Sport AND sex on the front page.  That’s got to help the circulation figures.
The job of trying to define sexy (or more accurately of trying NOT to define it) fell to Karen Price.  She asked “What does sexy mean to you?  Does it define someone who is conventionally gorgeous-looking with an effortless style to boot?  Someone who oozes confidence and isn’t afraid to stand up and be counted?  Perhaps it’s someone who’s intelligent and go-getting? 
Er, no, actually.  Stacey Solomon was charged with the task of looking sexy on last night’s X factor.   The primary definition of sexy according to my Chambers 21 Century dictionary is: sexually attractive, stimulating or arousing sexual desire and that’s pretty much what Stacey was trying to be although she found singing with a pout and walking with a wiggle at the same time difficult to do.  However much the Western Mail may try to stretch “sexy” into a catch all kind of definition for something much more complex and multi-layered, the clue to what most people mean by sexy is right there in the word.  It means shaggable.  
I obviously have a thing about lists.  I’ve already blogged about Insider’s Power 100 and the Western Mail’s Movers and Shakers complaining about the lack of women in those lists.  And now here I am moaning about a list compiled entirely of women.  There’s no pleasing some is there?  One of the things I’ve queried about the “business” lists is the criteria used for selecting the people who make the lists but at least they set out those criteria.   The top 50 sexiest women in Wales list didn’t bother with that but their criteria weren’t exactly difficult to work out – candidates have to be on telly or radio – acting, singing, presenting, news reading, reality TV at a push – and have a pretty face.    And if you want to be in the top half of the list you’ve got to be on telly and radio and sexy OUTSIDE of Wales too.
Katherine Jenkins made it not only to number 6 of the sexiest women of Wales list but also to last year’s Insider Power 100.   The only woman in Wales this year apparently who is both powerful and sexy.  Otherwise, there are no Welsh sportswomen or academics or business women in the sexy list this year (and just one politician, Bethan Jenkins at number 41, who used to be in a band apparently so that’s alright then).  Presumably, to answer Karen Price’s rhetorical questions, these sorts of woman don’t ooze confidence or are afraid to stand up and be counted?  Aren’t intelligent and go-getting enough? 
For the most part, I really rate the women who feature in the sexiest women list.  Joanna Page is exactly as the Western Mail describes her – funny, warm, confident, intelligent, down to earth and with a natural beauty.   The list is stuffed with talented, capable, outspoken, beautiful women who are flying the flag for Wales in the media in the fields of music, acting and presenting.   Women who have made us laugh and cry; made us proud.    That description uses more words and might not sell as many papers as “sexy” but it’s so much more accurate.   Here’s an idea for 2010: The Western Mail’s top 50 Wonderful Welsh Women in the media.     

Red’s Hot Women Awards 2009

November 4, 2009

Another set of awards for which I was shortlisted but did not win!  At least I knew beforehand this time.  I still got to go to the glamorous, glitzy awards ceremony on the 29th floor of the Millbank Tower with breathtaking views over the whole of London.  It was wall to wall famous people dahlink – Sarah Brown, Jools Oliver, Fay Ripley, Joanna Page and Jo Whiley who was the host of the awards.    I put my foot in it during the champagne reception by not knowing who Brix Smith-Start was (she’s a presenter on Gok’s Fashion Fix) and commenting that she had her photo done like she does it all the time (turn to the side, suck in stomach, pout like a Beckham).  That’s because she does you dimwit!  I also had the slightly unnerving experience of talking to a well known journalist who kept looking over my shoulder looking for someone famous/beautiful/thin/holding a camera to talk to instead. 

A lot of the women there were wearing high heels.  I mean really high, five inch heels.  Some were having trouble standing, let alone walking.  I don’t get this.  It just looks daft.  And painful. Just as well I’m a lawyer not a writer on a women’s magazine.  And most of the women in high heels didn’t eat the dainty finger sandwiches and scones on offer.  I could hear my Gran in my head complaining about the terrible waste, nay shovelling the left overs into her handbag to give to the dog later.  (She doesn’t have a dog).

When the winners were announced, I started to feel really very chuffed at being shortlisted.   They included Gillian Tett, assistant editor of the Financial Times (who dedicated her award to her mother, commenting that behind every successful woman there is usually an amazing mother.  Hear Hear!); Natalie Massenet, founder of Net a; Katharine Viner, deputy editor of the Guardian; and the founders of Mumsnet, Carrie Longton and Justine Roberts.  The winner of the category for which I was short-listed, Mentor, was Kate Grussing of Sapphire Partners Leaders in flexible resourcing solutions for senior professionals.  Inspirational, motivating women.   And mostly wearing modest heels. 

The  returners award went to Catherine Paget, who, as a single mum of three and at the age of 39, started a medical course to be a doctor.  Red Hot.   She did say during her acceptance speech that the university had discussed whether she should be admitted due to her age but thanks to age discrimination legislation they let her in.  The award was presented by Sarah Brown who commented “What happens to us is down to us, we can’t control what happens to us but we can control how we respond to it.” 

I like the attitude of this approach but I also think that whilst we can’t control what happens to us, we can challenge it and seek to change it.  Kate Grussing’s work at Sapphire Partners includes championing the cause of flexible working and we can all drive this forward – not just with employers but also by challenging the attitudes of fellow employees (She’s not serious about her job, she skips off out of here every day at 3pm) and kicking ass when we are at work.  By this I mean delivering on the job, not actually kicking people, in the ass or otherwise.  We have a number of part time staff at my workplace, including one who only works 10 hours a week, but they whizz through their work like Tasmanian Devils and their contribution to our working week lasts until they are back at their desks again.   These women are all Red Hot Women too, each and every one. 

Details of Red’s Hot Women Award and the winners, “We’ll change the way you think about work” are in the December edition of Red Magazine.

I’ve never won a prize in my life – 70 year old Superwoman has her say.

November 2, 2009

Just read the blog from the blogger who failed to win businesswoman of the year, or whatever.  I’ve never won a prize in my life, apart from a poetry prize at school aged 11. I may still have the crap poetry book I won somewhere. It’s not that I haven’t been competitive, and not that I’m no good at anything, just it’s always seemed a bit weird to me to put yourself up for prizes at something you enjoy doing and know you’re good at then seek public recognition of same.  Self worth doesn’t come from public recognition – stuff that, it comes from within.

I am now 70 years old. I’m of that lucky generation where social mobility was available so dirt poor kids like me who got an education could do anything they wanted. When I left university very high-falutin’ outfits were queuing up to employ graduates. I had an interview with the BBC and realised I had made a complete eejit of myself when the talk turned to classical music and the guy’s jaw dropped when I mispronounced Sant Saens, about whom I knew damn all and now possibly can’t even spell. Thus began a 50 year career of bullshit. And lies. The secret of being a plausible liar is to remember who you told which lie to. Consistency essential. So did I get to be the coalminer’s daughter who became a brain surgeon? No. I butterflied my way through life following my inclinations, so never got to the top of any tree at all. But had a fantastic life doing what I did.

I have had at least six careers. Dancer? Pantomime babe tap dancing round the stage aged 6, (loved the shoes) long legs so progressed to front row of the high kicking chorus by 18.  Principal boy (wanna hear me doing Slow Boat to China, from Aladdin circa 1959? Not recommended.) til the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd lost its charm. Academic? I “coulda been a contender” for a chair – but got bored and moved on. Business woman? Almost made a million but left husband who got custody of the money while I got the kids. He made the million eventually. Software publisher? That worked til I realised my partner in that was bone idle and couldn’t keep up my pace. Hotelier? Great fun but not enough capital to make it the Ritz. If you want to age twenty years in five go into the hotel business. Author? One best seller then 8 niche publications.  I wrote the 8 in Welsh so never anything but a niche option. BUT – that’s what I wanted to do.  Butterfly? Yes. Other side of the coin is knowing when to move on and follow the gut instincts. Does this sound like an “almost” life? Not to me. Varied? Yes. I have no regrets about any “almosts.”

I am now sort of retired. I run the financial end of a small business. Having money skills I am also a charity treasurer. I run the local village Art Exhibition annually. Can’t draw a straight line with a ruler myself but like art and am a good organiser. I also had “the call” about ten years ago to become an astrologer. Late discovery of psychic ability. Many people I knew thought I had finally flipped my lid slipping across that fine line between eccentric and bonkers. Now they all want their charts done. Except one of my kids who asks How’s the witch business? Not witchy at all – your dear old fashioned mother communicates with the planets. Get over it.

Self belief has kept me going starting at the bottom of every ladder and following the next challenge. I have never tackled anything I didn’t think I could make a success of. So never failed. Except at marriage at which I am not very good at all. And I am a rubbish housekeeper. Not a bad cook. I have mentioned I am a mother.  I have three fantastic sons for whom I take no credit whatsoever. They were all brought up to stand on their own feet and pursue their own destinies. They do OK. All by their own endeavours. All I did was love ‘em to bits.

I’ve had a great life, have less ahead of me than behind me, but for as long as I have left will continue to dance on the tables whenever the opportunity presents itself, get up the noses of the po-faced, be very kind to selected people, help them out when I can and put two fingers up to many others.

I have achieved all I wanted to achieve, and still go on doing so. I am no superwoman, but for those who want to be, a few tips. Take every opportunity that comes your way – putting  only your own talents and skills on the line in pursuit of same. If you don’t enjoy what you do get out and do something you do enjoy. Avoid standing on other people’s heads, faces or shoulders to get where you want to be. Do your best by your kids and love them. Don’t take any shit from anybody. The latter is my life long mantra. If you have as rewarding a life as I have had and have now you won’t need any prizes. Prizes? For what? I have never won a prize for anything. And would never in a million years want to come second. I’m know I’m good, who cares what anybody else thinks?