Sunday Suggestions 11th December 2016

Sunday Suggestions: a round up of things to read, watch, listen to and do
Sunday Suggestions 11th December 2016 ||

Welcome back to my regular series with suggestions of awesome people and things to check out, read, participate in and follow.  The festive season is much on my mind today, with a couple of great ways to transition from this year to the next as well as some bits of reading about Christmas.  This is followed by two pretty serious pieces about extremism and the controversy around recent revelations about Last Tango in Paris.  Lightening things up towards the end is another article about kawaii and our attraction to cute culture.  Last up, as I like to finish with a funny video, is the first viral video I ever saw (I was a bit late to the game with this phenomena): a hilarious send up of Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind.  Enjoy!


Susannah Conway has been offering her free ‘Unravel Your Year‘ workbook for several years now and it’s an essential part of Christmas for hundreds, if not thousands, of women around the world – myself included!  It’s completely free to sign up for and contains lots of gentle but powerful questions and prompts to help you reflect on the year that’s passed and look to the one ahead.

Susannah also offers a free five day course entitled ‘Find Your Word’ which helps you to discover a word or phrase to guide you through the coming year.  I’ve also done this a few times and recommend it highly too!


Christmas reads

Gender equality is for life, not just for Christmas: Kat Lister writes for the always brilliant The Pool on the extra emotional and physical labour that December’s festivities place on women in ‘The “perfect” Christmas doesn’t exist so why are women still expected to provide it?’

If that one might stir up anger then the next two may well generate some tears:

Fi Newsam’s ‘Father Christmas didn’t come’ for The Huffington Post blog tells of what it was like to grow up in a family who belonged to a Christian denomination that didn’t celebrate Christmas.  At all.  No presents, no special food, no nothing.  The emotional impact upon Newsam is fascinating and also so sad.

Totally contrary in tone is the story from this week’s Independent that a Muslim-owned restaurant is opening up its doors on Christmas Day to offer free meals to the elderly and homeless.  Welling up just writing this plug for it!  Just goes to show that even a holiday traditionally associated with one religion can actually provide an opportunity for different communities to come together.  A gorgeous story.


The serious stuff

Also from the Independent, and also about Muslims, but very different in tone, is an in-depth report on what make young British women turn to an extreme form of Islam known as Salafism.  This branch of the religion is associated with the Islamic State and very strict rules and regulations.  This article provides a nuanced insight into these women’s lives and experiences that will undoubtedly make you think.

The Pool provides a second recommendation this week: the also brilliant Sali Hughes (whose work appears here quite regularly) wrote a powerful piece for them about the revelations that have recently come out regarding the notorious rape scene in The Last Tango in Paris.  Even if you’re not familiar with this debate, or the wider issues that it draws upon, ‘The callous abuse of Maria Schneider, and the impunity of Hollywood men’ will make you care.


Now for something completely different: kawaii

If you’re looking for an intelligent read on a diverse range of topics, the Conversation is great resource.  The site features blogs from academic experts on all sorts of subjects, including this analysis of kawaii  and what the attraction of this Japanese cult of cute is.



I was a latecomer to the world of viral videos but I clearly remember the first one I saw: it was late on a Friday night at my friend Mel’s flat in Wandsworth and I’d gone round at the last minute in order to do a 5k Race for Life with her the next morning.  She was incredulous that I didn’t know what a viral video was nor had seen this particular example of the genre – a parody of Alicia Keys’ epic song Empire State of Mind featuring the Welsh town of Newport.  Clever, so clever – and hilarious too.  Point of information for readers outside of the UK: the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) is a government organisation that deals with driving licenses etc and is based in Swansea, another south Wales town.  Because so many people have contact with the DVLA, it’s well known for being based there.  In fact, the agency’s address is DVLA Swansea SA99 1TU – that’s how intertwined the two are.  There are probably lots of jokes in the video that need explaining to non-Brits but that’s the one that jumped out for me!

If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you could share it on social media using the buttons below.  And if you find yourself regularly coming back here, how about signing up to my mailing list?  You get a monthly letter from that comes complete with links to all my writing (blog posts, Sunday Suggestions and articles elsewhere) as well as a creativity prompt for you to try.  







The announcement: not the one I was expecting.

I’d excitedly posted on social media the other day about a new group programme announcement coming at the end of the week.  Here it is.  It isn’t the announcement – or the programme – that I was expecting to make…

I had
developed a group programme under the title The
Fourth Quarter: use the time that remains
I was excited about, thinking about the different ways it might help
participants.  I put out a few announcements.  I even put all the bits of paper in their own plastic folder, a definite sign that
this was real and happening.

It would
have been a good programme, I’m sure.
But…you knew there was a ‘but’ coming, didn’t you?  But it felt out of sync.  The material was strong but ran contrary to
where I am in my own life.  Right now I’m
all about nestling down, whereas the programme was about gearing up.  After an intense few months of work and
travel, I’m craving quiet nights under a blanket with a good book – a retreat,
not an expedition.  Whilst I knew I could
do a good job, I began to wonder if I’d be at my best if the programme’s
purpose was out-of-step with the ethos I’m channelling at the moment.

original plan also felt a little out of sync with what A Life Of One’s Own is all about.
Not contradictory or in opposition, just at a different angle by a few
degrees.  Lots of coaches could deliver
similar material.  Cerebrally I liked it
a lot, but it didn’t resonate deep down in the way 24 Days Before:
an advent journey
(my previous group programme) had.

deeply authentic material by some of my favourite fellow-travellers on this
exploring/writing/coaching journey made me pause the preparation process.  A beautiful offering from Sas
, a heart-warmingly honest missive from Susannah Conway, a thought-provoking blog post from Courtney Carver,
a blossoming community with Tori’s Tales
#talesofseptember Instagram challenge: these made me stop and think this this is what I want to do, want to offer, want to create – things
that touch people on a deeper level.
This is what A Life Of One’s Own is
about, this is where I want to get back to.

In the
spirit of my latest read, Brené Brown’s new book Rising Strong, I wanted to be open
and honest about this change of heart.
It makes me feel very vulnerable saying ‘I wanted to do this but now I’ve
changed my mind.’  The story I’m telling
myself (to use Brown’s phrase) is that you’ll think I’m at best a dilettante,
playing at self-help and navel-gazing, and at worst incompetent, not having a
clue what I’m doing.

I hope not,
dear readers.  I hope that you recognise
that this kind of work is always in progress, never complete, never
perfect.  I am working to create a product
– and more broadly a practice – that gives voice the deepest parts of my inner
life and in doing so speaks to yours.  My
original design and concept for the group programme was a good idea, but it did not do that.

And now the
instead…Instead I’m putting out there a much softer programme.  The Fourth Quarter
remains as a title, but this comes from a different place.  The Fourth Quarter now
is about scaling back, toning down, sinking deep.  It’s about growing in one another’s company,
hence the new subtitle: let’s
spend it together

With three
quarters of the calendar year now almost past, The Fourth
is about using the time that remains in 2015 to embrace the
seasons around us.  Let’s show up for
autumn, and then for winter too.  Rather
than simply trudging through the darker nights and trying to ignore the cold, let’s
work with this time of year to make it our own – a period with meaning.  

I was out
of sync and now am getting in line simply with where I am and where the world
around is.  I invite you to join me in
doing the same.

information about The Fourth Quarter: let’s
spend it together
is available here.

“To embrace the Goddess is simply to discover the Divine in yourself as powerfully and vividly feminine.” Sue Monk Kidd

A beautiful quotation that I spotted in a tweet by Susannah Conway – and very apt as I’m on a retreat entitles “Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine” for a few days this week.

(The photograph shows one of my favourite pictures by Dame Laura Knight)

Carpe Weekend

As part of The Queen Sweep programme that I’m doing with the fabulous Anna Kunnecke, we were encouraged to spend a tiny amount of time each day working towards our big dreams and goals.  The reason for going with a tiny amount of time is that we have less excuses for not doing it, nor does the prospect of working on something for a short time intimidate us as much as thinking ‘I’m going to spend the whole afternoon on it’.  My tiny amount of time was five minutes per day.  I’ve been doing it for a week now and, oh my, it has exploded!  So much has happened, so much stuff has shifted, so many possibilities opened…and I’m also finding that I have much more than five minutes per day now that I’ve started on it.

I don’t feel quite confident enough to declare publicly what my dream is just yet, but one of the things that I’ve been doing as part of working towards it is start a document where I note down all my thoughts and ideas about it.  This includes questions to research, ideas to follow up and inspiration about what I could actually do.  As part of this, I was suddenly struck by the urge to start a weekly suggestion on my blog.  Inspired by the Rich Juicy Starry Beauty missive that comes from Anna Kunnecke each Friday and Susannah Conway’s ’Something for the Weekend’ posts, I want to create something similar.  I had assumed that this would be something that I do *one day*; one day being I don’t know when, possibly when Oprah asked me to write a column for her magazine or some other kind of external proof that I had the right to do this.  In this shower this morning, I though ’**** this.  I’m going to start it today’.  So here it is: my first Carpe Weekend post.

Carpe Weekend

Most of us are familiar with the phrase ‘Carpe Diem’, or ‘Seize the day’.  Yet rather than seizing every day, often it is only on the weekend that we feel we have time to stop, collect ourselves and breathe.  This feature is designed to help with that: a small suggestion, tip or hint for you to try (if you wish!) over the weekend.  Maybe it will make a difference to your life, maybe it won’t, maybe it will prompt some other thoughts.  Enjoy – and seize your weekend!

Start a memo or similar in your phone labelled Shopping List.  Whenever you come across something that needs replacing (or even better, will *soon* need replacing), or you remember an item that you want to buy, simply add it to the list.  I’ve found this really helpful when I spot that i’m running low on particular toiletries, especially because my phone is never far from hand.  

Delete the item once it is purchased, but keep the list ongoing – or even create a list of regular purchases, rather than having to think afresh every time you’re in the shop.  If you share the shopping with someone else, maybe you could create a shared list in Google Drive or similar.  Of course, having a list to hand doesn’t mean you’ll actually remember to look at it, but it’s a start!