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An Open Letter to Toyah Wilcox

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Dear Toyah,

The 80s shaped me. I became a rebel without a cause and my poor parents didn’t know what to do with me! I sang your songs at them, dyed my hair a myriad of colours mixed and matched the most outlandish clothes, cast off any preconceptions about who I was and who I should be and had the time of my life. I should blame you for me dropping my A levels before I’d barely started them and for drinking, smoking, riding motorbikes and generally behaving like a punk. I do blame you. I thank you! You see I had to get it wrong before I could get it right. I had to find out who I was before I could be comfortable with myself.

Now you’re in trouble with me again. You are touring and misbehaving – not toeing the line. You are perfectly capable of selling out large arenas, yet you insist on playing some absolute dives enabling people like me to go your gigs. You are putting enjoyment before money! Your fans before your wealth! You really don’t fit in well to the “rich and famous” brigade do you! Screaming along to a gig at Middlesbrough rekindled the rebel in me.

Then, to completely tip me over the edge, I attended the Film Premiere of “The Unfortunate Woman” at The Forum in Darlington, and there you were, giving the most inspirational talk to the audience about the next PIMM film and the part you are playing in it. You stood on the stage and reminisced about banging on a film producer’s door, demanding that he give you the part you’d auditioned for in “Quadrophenia” and I thought YES! Never mind me sitting back all lady like and demure, hoping that someone will publish my book, hoping that I can reduce my hours at work to spend more time doing what I love, wishing that I could set up my own business. I’m not giving people choices anymore. I might be an ageing hippy, but inside me, there’s still a feisty punk. Punk Never Dies! So I’m off to bang on some doors! If I get into trouble for being a nuisance or too demanding, I blame you! Thank you 🙂

Yours sincerely,

Rachel HippyPunk Coverdale

Why We Should All Want Our Little Girls To Grow Up To Be A Princess

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Once upon a time, little girls were told to look pretty and act demure as their purpose in life was to gain “happily every after” by marrying a rich, handsome prince and their only contribution to society was to bring forth fat little heirs.

Well that was then and this is now. Judging by the latest two princesses to join the Royal Family, a princess is a strong, intelligent, independent woman.

I watched in genuine awe as Meghan Markle wore her freckles like a badge of honour. No hiding differences for her. Her freckles are part of her, and in my opinion are part of her attractiveness, but I didn’t get the feeling she was showing them for their beauty. She was showing them because why shouldn’t she?

Meghan is mixed race. She says this sometimes caused difficulty gaining acting roles as she was often too white to play a black person and too black to play a white person. Did she whinge and complain? Stamp her feet and demand? No! She simply persevered, made sure her acting skills were the best and gained roles based on her skill set. She is resilient and will not allow knock-backs to knock her back. She is proud of both her races, just like she’s proud of her freckles. Just like she’s proud of her success.

Let’s just take a moment to look at our Pretty Princess’ personal achievements before she ever even met her Prince Charming:

  • It is now well known that as a small child, she stood up against sexism in an advert which she felt was wrong. There are so many people who complain to each other, or on Facebook, but how many actually do something constructive about it? Meghan did. This shows her proactive nature and strong moral code.

 

  • Meghan Markle has a degree which proves not only a level of intelligence but is also evidence of independent study, resilience and determination.

 

  • She also set up her own business – an online lifestyle magazine which was hugely successful – so she’s an entrepreneur too!

 

  • Meghan Markle is recognised as a philanthropist and has been heavily involved in charity work for many years proving she is compassionate and caring.

 

So to sum up, if you would like your little girl to follow in the latest princess’ footsteps, she’ll need to do a little more than smile sweetly in a pretty dress. She’ll need to be studious, determined, resourceful, independent, kind, moral, generous, entrepreneurial and have many other good, strong, characteristics.

And what about her modern Prince Charming? The fairy-tale prince of days gone by was looking for a young girl who would be grateful for his attention and do anything for him – including wait in a tower for 100 years. Somehow, I don’t think our modern little princesses mentioned above are going to entertain that idea. The modern Prince Charming is someone who gives as he receives. He is the hero who not only irons his own shirts, but irons everything else in the ironing basket too. He cooks and cleans without expecting a grateful “thank you” because he knows he lives there too. He cares for the kids on a sharing rota with his princess. In fact, he has all the qualities, mentioned above for the princess. Mr Charming and Mrs Princess are no longer a helpless damsel and a saviour. They are two halves of a dynamite couple who support each other.

I’m looking forward to the day my daughter meets her Prince Charming – and she’s strong enough to know it’s the modern version she wants to meet 😊

Boy Racer

Capri

Hi, I was once you and now I’m me.

I hear you before I see you, revving your engine, squealing your tyres, racing up the road just an inch off the car in front. I stand there shaking my head at you, disgusted at your speed and  disregard for the rules of the road.

I once commented on our local town Facebook page, something along the lines of “Who are these idiots tearing around the estate – they’re going to cause an accident”. Someone replied, possibly one of your friends “Weren’t you ever young once?” I’m sure it was supposed to be a rhetorical question and designed to wind me up further than I’d already wound myself, but the question took me by surprise.

Yes! Yes, I was young once. Yes, I did tear around in a car revving my engine, squealing my tyres, racing up the road just an inch off my friend in front. I’d forgotten! I’d forgotten what it was like to be young and full of energy and fun and life and vigour. When the slightest thing would excite me and set my adrenaline running. When I was an adrenaline junky and speed was my drug (mph not chemicals).

These days boy racers are in hot hatches, in my day we were in Capris, Cortinas and Escorts. But only the cars have changed. I remember feeling invincible. I remember feeling fully alert – far more alert than the old fuddy-duddies shaking their heads at us as we raced past. We used to reason that we were safer on the roads than the old folk because our reactions were faster and at the speed we were going we had to be fully aware of our surroundings.

We survived. Some of us. Through luck not brilliant driving. Nobody’s ever as good as they think they are. But we were young, we were arrogant and we were fairly skilled and very lucky.

As I’m older, I probably have lost some of my spark, but it’s not old age that’s worn it away: it’s experience. The experience of knowing a child who was accidentally killed by a “boy racer”. Having a relative killed on his motorbike. Seeing too many reports on the news. Being a parent and feeling the empathy with bereaved parents. You are a brilliant driver I’m sure, but sometimes other people make mistakes and your speed does not make allowances for this.

So, to the young man in the little blue car with smoked windows. I’m not going to shake my head or my metaphorical fist at you anymore. I’m going to understand how you feel, but I’m going to make a suggestion. The way you feel right now, so alive, so full of life, so excited at just being. So brim full of joy that you can’t help but race. Let me tell you that all this will be taken from you in a flash if you make just one mistake that ends a child’s life.

But … you DON’T have to stop racing. The racing adrenaline is inside you. Don’t fight it embrace it: Save your money, save the money you normally spend on fuel and tyres and fines and get yourself to a race circuit. Who knows, if you’re good enough maybe you could make a career out of it, or if not a career, certainly a hobby for life. You’ll meet so many other like-minded people, that instead of people wanting you to go slower, they’ll be cheering you on to go faster. Instead of a police fine, you’ll win prizes. Go for it. If you want it you can get it. Tell me when you get there – I’ll be cheering you on and wishing someone had told me to do this when I was your age. I’m excited for you.

Happy racing. Safe racing 😊 x

A retired “boy” racer.

Mixed Race! Well Who Isn’t If You Go Back Far Enough?

Have you ever wondered about your ancestors? Wondered what stories they would have to tell? Wondered what trials and tribulations they’ve endured? Wondered what they have excelled at?

More and more people are using ancestry websites to find out about their family, and every single one of my friends who has started researching their family background has uncovered a family secret! So I often wonder … Am I related to someone of importance? An inventor? A member of the Royal Family? Or am I related to a serial killer or famous fraudster?

A couple of years ago, my sister discovered that we are part Southeast Asian. It came as a complete surprise to me – I was born with blonde hair, blue eyes and fair skin. We were trying to discover whether we had German or Scandinavian routes and discovered we have Southeast Asian routes!

What is ridiculous is that we never worked it out before. Our mum always complained when her photo was taken that smiling caused her eyes to narrow. She had dark skin, dark hair and was fairly small yet very athletic and flexible – all stereotypes of Southeast Asian women. It’s strange how you don’t really look at someone you see every day. She was just Mum.

Then we dug out a photo of her dad. A picture we’d seen many times before. He was little, with dark skin and similar shaped eyes.

My friend has already researched her family and was intrigued so she researched ours. The probable strand that came from Southeast Asia stopped in Ireland so she continued along my maternal grandfather’s mother’s path and ended up in 1708 in Orkney. Not only have I “out-northerned” all my friends (something to be very proud of when you’re a Northerner), but this means we almost definitely descended from Vikings!

I had already suspected the Viking strand for a long time, because I can’t eat ice-cream without getting a headache. I had read somewhere that Vikings have a thinner palate and therefore are more susceptible to brain freeze. Also my colouring suggested I may have descended from Vikings.

It gets more interesting, because my blood group is A rhesus negative. Apparently, according to the internet (so it must be true) A- blood combined with blue eyes means I am probably descended from Aliens!

So here I am, part Southeast Asian, part Viking, part Alien and part probably many other races too!

So when I hear the racists’ battle cry “go back to your own country”, which country shall I go to? I don’t yet know which part of Southeast Asia my Southeast Asian ancestor came from, but we have deduced s/he stopped off at Ireland on the way to England so shall I go there? The ancestors from Orkney and Shetland were settled there for several generations, shall I go there? What about the fact that they were more than likely Vikings – shall I go back to Scandinavia? Which country in Scandinavia? Does a planet count as a country? I really have no clue which planet my Alien ancestors came from or whether it still exists – what if it doesn’t exist? Oh this is a pickle!

There’s a strong possibility that people who look a lot less “English” than me are more English than me. Oh dear, I really don’t think the racists have thought this far enough through … what if THEY’RE not 100% English? Should they send themselves back?

So many questions, so few answers, but I think I have a solution. It’s a bit wild and wacky and far out but, bear with me … how about we all just leave each other alone and get on with our own lives! It can’t be that hard can it?

I’m off to make some green, sweet n sour, ice cream 😊 #mixedrace #mixedcultures #mixedfoods

alien 1

Here Lies Rachel Coverdale

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Recently, I took my life in my hands: I went to “The Big City”. I’m just a country lass and although I always enjoy London when I get there, I still get a bit intimidated by its sheer size and all the terrible murders Sherlock Holmes has to solve. Therefore, I was a little anxious as I climbed aboard The Grand Central train on Tuesday.

The journey down was fine – 2.5 hours of reading “Gone” by Michael Grant just flew by. I got to London and blended in by walking fast with my head down. It’s actually quite a skill and I feel like I’m picking it up really quickly. It should be an Olympic sport. Proud that I knew my way to The Tube, I headed straight down and inhaled the stale air that came gushing up to meet me. I then stared gormlessly at the map trying to work out which line I needed to be on. This is where my disguise failed and I was exposed as a Northern country bumpkin. I tried to ask people for help, but they were all rushing around with their heads down and I couldn’t make any eye contact. Then I remembered – eye contact is illegal in London.

Eventually I found someone whose job it is to speak to foreigners like me. She gave me three instructions in a row; I followed the first two instructions and then asked again for the third. Blending in like a Londoner again, I rushed down the left hand side of escalators, overtaking the mildly rushing commuters and keeping up with the excessively rushing commuters – I was in the pro league! I made it to Liverpool Street and then rushed onto the tube for Bethnal Green feeling very smug at the way I entered quickly but casually just as the doors were closing. Honestly, I was blending in so well I could easily be an undercover spy for North Yorkshire.

The tube set off and I’ve never heard such an horrific noise in my life. Well actually I have, but only on horror-action movies. You know when a bomb throws a bus onto its side and it scrapes along the road forever, making a horrible loud metallic screeching noise? Well imagine that louder and screechier! It was horrendous. I no longer looked at the ground. My knuckles were white as I clung to the rail. I glanced around at the other passengers. I thought, I’m in one of those moments when complete strangers all bond and pull together in an emergency. Nobody looked up. The screeching got louder. I held on tighter. Nobody looked up. The noise quietened slightly and I reflected on the fact that this tube wasn’t “tube shaped” like all other tubes I’d ever seen or ever ridden on. It was more hexagon shaped – squared off rather than rounded and looked like it was probably too old for safe service. Suddenly the screeching started again – long and protracted. I was pretty sure something was terribly wrong. I started to think about the last conversation I had with my husband:

Me: I’m worried about going to London. (How prophetic!)

Hubby: It’s just a city like any other city with good areas and bad areas. Where are you going?

Me: Bethnal Green.

Hubby: Oh! That’s where The Kray Twins are from!

Well that memory hadn’t helped at all. Even if I survived the horror tube journey, I was going to be horrifically murdered when I got off.

This was the point I began to think of my epitaph for my grave.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved wife and mother.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved wife, mother and grandma.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved daughter, wife, mother and grandma

But one day my grandchildren will have children. Graves don’t get updated so should I put that part down now?

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved daughter, wife, mother, grandma and great grandma.

But where would it stop? The great grandchildren will have children too and what about the fact that I’m my grandparents’ granddaughter?

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved granddaughter, daughter, wife, mother, grandma, great grandma and great great grandma.

Maybe it would be easier to just say ancestor and descendant? But what about my brother and sister – they haven’t been acknowledged. My friends haven’t either.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved descendant, ancestor, wife, sibling and friend.

Now unlike Frank Sinatra, I don’t have regrets. There are plenty of things I would do differently if I had my time again, but I don’t really have regrets. In fact, my life has been extremely colourful – to the point that I often hold back on some stories because I simply don’t think anyone would believe them. If I wrote them as a fiction story, people would think some of the events were too far-fetched or exaggerated. Every mistake I’ve made has become an adventure or as Grandma used to say “it’s all part of life’s rich tapestry”. That’s it settled then.

Here lies Rachel Coverdale, beloved descendant, ancestor, wife, sibling and friend.
Her life was her best story.

No doubt Bethnal Green would turn out to be another one of my dramatic adventures.  Talking of which, why wasn’t I at Bethnal Green yet? And then I realised … I was going the wrong way. The tube scraped to a stop and I literally jumped out and ran across to the opposite platform and straight into another train; smooth like an assassin chasing down their victim. I hoped it was going in the opposite direction and I hoped it wasn’t going to kill me.

The tube set off with the same unmistakable screech. I tightened my grip on the hand rail. Nobody looked up. I looked down and awaited my fate. Eventually, with my nerves in tatters, I reached Bethnal Green. It looked scary. It looked like the type of place notorious gangsters would hang out. I crossed the tiny park and walked up the steps to the old run down Victorian building which claimed to be the address I was going to. The paint was peeling off the door and for a moment I hesitated and thought I’d just spend this month’s wages on a taxi straight back home. Then two little robins and a sparrow hopped out from under the bush next to the door and I thought, surely you wouldn’t get lovely little birds outside a murderer’s house? I banged on the door with forced confidence and …

It was the right place and the meeting went ahead as planned. I was almost disappointed not to be fighting off some East End gangsters. Almost …