I’m privileged to live near Westminster – and we’re all privileged to live in Britain

I live just half a mile from the Houses of Parliament. I wasn’t sure what to write about this week’s horrific attack… So I thought I would just post what I wrote on Facebook about it…

I wouldn’t normally mark myself as ‘Safe in an attack’ but I live just half a mile from the Houses of Parliament – and this afternoon was working just around the corner from them, doing my regular Wednesday afternoon shift at the wonderful Abbey community centre (named after Westminster Abbey): a hub for local residents and workers in the area, just yards from Parliament Square.

I always think I’m lucky to live so close to Westminster. I can’t get over the fact that on a very still night, we can hear Big Ben’s chimes from our living room; that I can walk less than 10 minutes, and there it is as I turn the corner: the mother of all parliaments, in all its gothic glory. I walk past it – and over the Westminster Bridge crossing to Whitehall – a dozen times a week, at all times of the day or night. It’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that I’ve got involved in politics since going past this place so often: I’ve seen MPs and advisers and staff and others coming to and fro from what it surely the most beautiful office building in the country, and our Parliament has thus become very real and tangible.

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What A Difference 29 Years Makes

parliamentWhat were you doing in 1988? Apart from enjoying Rain Man, A Fish Called Wanda and Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’? I was 17 years old and also enjoying all of the above – as well as studying for A-levels at a comprehensive school in the West Midlands, wearing clothes which ran the full colour palette from black to grey, and sporting a frankly spectacular perm.

In 1988, my perm and I also spent a week at the Houses of Parliament, shadowing my local MP, the ebullient Tory Patrick Cormack. This was as a result of winning a sort of competition that he ran every year for sixth-formers in his constituency, and despite me blurting out in my interview that I didn’t like Margaret Thatcher. I can only assume that, in that moment at least, his admiration for youthful chutzpah overrode his admiration for the Iron Lady.

It’s safe to say that the Rt Hon Patrick Cormack and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on political matters, but he was a perfectly gracious host. I spent my week shadowing him and hanging out with his parliamentary assistants, watching the action in the Chamber and, on one memorable evening, being lucky enough to sit next to the brilliant, funny Tony Banks at a posh parliamentary dinner.

But while it was a fascinating week, it was one that also totally and utterly put me off going into politics.

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Here’s To The Ones Who Dream: A 17th Helpful Reminder for 2017

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SPOILER ALERT: La La Land is really rather lovely.

(Hope I haven’t ruined it for anyone who accidentally read that.)

To be fair, it was never exactly going to be a hard sell for me. I’m a jazz singer who loves MGM musicals, Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. Put all these ingredients together and tease me with a poster that mimics the colour palette of Singin’ In The Rain? I am IN.

And the film is truly adorable. Charming, funny, unashamedly romantic… and I mean the latter in the widest sense. There may be a love story at its heart, but above all, La La Land is a film about pursuing your dreams. And there are few notions more romantic than that.

In January 2016, I wrote a piece for Standard Issue called ‘16 Helpful Reminders For 2016’. So naturally, what with it being January 2017, I’ve been thinking about a 17th reminder to add to the list. And after much head-scratching, soul-searching and, yes, watching La La Land, I’ve decided on one. It is… *big musical-style overture* …

‘You’re never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true.’

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The Habit: An Unexpected Journey

AKA: The Two Daily (And One Weekly) Habits That Helped Me In 2016

img_2245It’s strange reaching the end of The Year So Awful It Became An Adjective knowing that on a personal level, it was possibly my happiest, most fulfilling year yet. It’s also strange to look back and realise that most of the lovely things which happened to me in 2016 were things I hadn’t seen coming in 2015: I got engaged, I got married and I went to Santorini (yes, these three things are connected); I got a place on a political mentoring scheme (with Jess Phillips MP as a kick-ass mentor); I performed an all-singing, all-dancing All That Jazz routine in front of an audience (although the less said about my rendition of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ the better); I started using London’s bicycle hire scheme and now regularly zip around the capital on two wheels, grinning like a 10-year-old (although this could be because I’m high on traffic fumes).

Even if the only thing I’d done in 2016 was marry the kind, caring, supportive, loving, handsome man I did, I would call the year a success. Dammit, I’d call my life a success. And the fact that this year involved other happy achievements, too – plus the fact that I’m looking forward to 2017 as much as I am – is down to a few things, I think. Most notably: a shift in attitude to life, and most importantly, to myself. I’m going into next year feeling braver, more resilient, more confident, more me than I’ve ever felt in my whole life.

And the reason for this post is to share three habits I adopted in 2016– and which I’m taking into 2017– that I think have helped me make that shift in thinking (and feeling). They’re habits which have had brilliant knock-on effects: they’ve helped me to achieve certain goals – not least because they’ve helped keep me on track throughout the year – and they’ve helped me to deal with life, and all its challenges, better.

In short, they’re habits which I’ve found hugely helpful – and I hope you’ll find helpful, too. And they are… *drumroll*… [Read more…]

Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun

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As a child, I was utterly terrified by Michael Jackson’s Thriller. So terrified that even putting that picture above these words now, at the age of 45, causes a slight shiver of anxiety. I was also confused: surely a ‘thriller’ was an exciting, dramatic film? I didn’t understand why Michael Jackson was singing about movies like that while dancing with zombies.  Surely he should have been calling it Video Nasty?

But I did appreciate the musical delights of Thriller – and also the tiger cub he was stroking when you opened the gatefold sleeve (my sister, older than I and therefore with more sophisticated tastes, bought the album. In 1982, I was all about Bucks Fizz and  The Kids From Fame. My sophistication would not come until 1986, when a month’s pocket money would pay for Janet Jackson’s Control).

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