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I spent 24 hours as a female truck driver for VICE

This was, without doubt, the best commission I’ve had all year. I loved absolutely every single minute of it.

Thank you Kerry Hughes for all her help, generosity and company. I couldn’t have done it without her. Read it online HERE or the first draft, with photos, below…

It is 4am and I am sitting. alone, in a Travelodge outside Halifax, drinking a cup of instant coffee and staring at a carpark. My 24 hours as a female lorry driver are about to begin and I’m so excited I hardly notice that the milk is a foil-fresh tub of wet chalk.

“I’m outside a door. Not sure it’s the right one. Lol.”

Kerry Hughes, HGV driver, motorbike enthusiast, horse whisperer and my driving companion for the next two days has arrived. She is taking me to meet my motor. Well, I say my motor; I can’t even drive. I’ve lost my provisional license. The last time I took a lesson my instructor’s rotund father in a navy nylon blazer asked my mum out on a date and I’ve never got behind the steering wheel of a car since. And yet just 16 hours from this moment I would be sitting behind the wheel of an 18-tonne lorry, in my pyjamas, turning the key in the ignition. (Continued)

I wrote about futuristic ugliness for The Guardian

It was just luck (and not good luck, really) that this came out after we realised the nation was facing another five years of Tory government. An ugly future indeed. Read it online HERE.

I interviewed Simon Denny for Space Arts

I quite liked Simon Denny – hopefully you can tell from this interview. Read it online at Space Arts, where there are loads of lovely pictures of his work. Or see the text only version below…

I write this on a screen. You will be reading it on a screen. And it will have passed through several screens to get to you. Who designed that screen, decided what went on that screen and owns the right to that screen is sometimes shadowy, if not unknowable. That phenomenon has not only intrigued but inspired New Zealand artist Simon Denny, who will be representing his homeland at this year’s Venice Biennale. His show, Deep Power, explores and recreates the kind of imagery used by the National Security Agency (NSA) to communicate its methods internally, in both the Marciana Library and Marco Polo international airport. (Continued)

I wrote about the good news for The Guardian

On Friday morning the mood in the Guardian office was, to say the least, deflated. So Clare Margetson asked me to look for some good news stories to try and break the gloom. You can read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

The sky is the colour of an unwashed flannel, Paddy Ashdown is yet to eat his hat and we are facing the electoral result many Labour, Lib Dem and Green party voters never expected, even less wanted. But while frustration, anger and despair are natural parts of the grieving process, there is good news all around, offering glimmers of hope. You just have to set your sights beyond these grey and gloom-heavy shores.

Liberia is set to be declared Ebola-free (Continued)

I got interviewed about IdeasTap by the Evening Standard

What urge is it, exactly, that prompts photographers to squat down on the floor like someone in a bombing raid, just so they can capture your very least flattering angle? Anyway, the lovely Susannah Butter from the Evening Standard interviewed me about the closure of IdeasTap the other day. You can read the full interview HERE.

I wrote about the glory of shit British picnics for VICE

This is about as close as I get to patriotism. Read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

Until you have watched a family of five eat a sedimentary pile of squashed and gently-sweating cheese sandwiches beside a flyblown bin in the ‘picnic area’ off a dual carriageway then, my friends, you know nothing of the British picnic.

Kenneth Graham may have conjured halcyon (if somewhat cannibalistic, given the circumstances) picnics of “coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrenchrollscresssandwichespottedmeatgingerbeerlemonadesodawater”, but the truly British picnic – the meal that will blister us into our midsummer night’s dream –  is a packet of Doritos, two cornershop scotch eggs, a bag of cherry tomatoes and a packet of 10 Marlboro lights, consumed in the watery British sunshine beside a man playing acoustic versions of Bob Marley on an out-of-tune guitar.

I love picnics. Even just smacking the word against the back of your teeth is fun. I love the fag butts, the cocktail sausages, the warm white wine and the imprint of grass stalks across the back of your sunburnt thighs. I love the slow unwrapping of pond-smelling supermarket salad and the three-outings-out-of-date tubs of gently fizzing homous. I love the brittle brown crust that appears along the edges of tuna mayonnaise and the cut up chunks of carrot sat beading in a click-and-lock tupperware box beside your upturned bike. (Continued)

I wrote about exam season for The Guardian

Last week was probably one of the most exciting weeks of my life. I spent the whole election week working on the Comment desk of The Guardian. Can you imagine? Anyway, here is a little something I wrote when I was there about surviving exams. Read it online HERE.

Arthur Smith invited me onto Radio 4 Extra

That lovely Arthur Smith off the radio very kindly got in touch to interview me about The Playlist. He even sent me over his chosen songs. You can hear the whole thing HERE or click on the link below. What a nice man…

(Continued)

I wrote about female hormones and mental health for VICE

VICE, in conjunction with MIND, ran a brilliant guide to mental health this month. You should definitely read it – the commissioning, by Eleanor Morgan, is brilliant and the illustrations, by Nick Scott, are great too. I wrote this, about how female hormones can effect out mental health. Read it online HERE or the unedited version below…

Mood swings, depression, tiredness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, reduced cognitive ability, aggression, anger, sleep disorders and food cravings; one of the fun things about having a womb is that the above are simply considered par for the course. That’s your lot. Sorry gals, but if you’ve got the temerity to be biological, then you’re also going to have to suffer the psychological.

Now, the relationship between female hormones and mental health is a razor-sharp, gravel-scattered line to walk for a woman like me. Because, on the one hand, of course we should take the time to consider this shit. As Gloria Steinman argued in If Men Could Menstruate, were the bleeding tables tipped to the other gender,“Doctors would research little about heart attacks, from which men would be hormonally protected, but everything about cramps.” We’re not a second sex and this stuff is worth the investment of our time and attention, not to mention money. But on the other hand, as a woman who cries, cuts all her hair off and then realises two days later as her gusset fills with blood that it was that pesky progesterone all along, I am extremely wary of painting women as somehow weaker as a result of our hormones. The last thing in the world I want to do is add fuel to the fire of dickhead Mark who sits by toilets in the Finance department and makes lazy, humourless jokes about how one of his female colleagues ‘must be on the rag again’ because he just saw her giving someone their P45.

(Continued)

I did the Machynlleth Comedy Festival

Last weekend I was honoured to join Henry Widdicombe’s brilliant Machynlleth Comedy Festival with my little music show called The Playlist. Of course, the show would be absolutely nothing without my brilliant guests and this year I was so, so lucky to be joined by Josie Long, James Acaster and Nathaniel Metcalfe, who all talked about The Song They Wish They’d Written, The Song They’d Like At Their Funeral and The Song That Always Makes Them Dance. James Acaster actually danced. I have never been so pleased and so proud.

I’ll post a recording of the show soon but, in the meantime, here is (some of) what I said:

The Song I Wish I’d Written – What A Man by En Vogue and Salt n Pepa

Allow me to take you back in time. Back to a magical time. A time when I looked like a small Meatloaf impersonator in a Save The Whale t-shirt. A time when when a trip on the bus cost 25p for halves. A time when, as a young girl, you could legitimately say that you’d seen Norman Lamont quivering on Brighton seafront in just his underwear without anyone calling the authorities. A time when Jean Paul Gaultier advertised Silk Cut. A time when female pop artists would appear on television wearing satin pyjamas, caterpillar boots and, somewhat unaccountably, a pair of navel-height box-fresh white Y-fronts. I am talking about 1993 – the year that Slovakia and the Czech Republic had a velvet divorce; the year Bill Clinton came to power; the year of the Maastricht treaty. But, most importantly, the paragons of female Push It sexual assertion and emancipation, Salt n Pepper and En Vogue came together to bring the world, What A Man. (Continued)