Standing at the Crossroads

I didn’t want to believe in it. Sure, there could be occasional instances of racism, misogyny, class hatred and so forth – but how could it be embedded in an institution or system? After all, we’re good people – aren’t we? When I was young, I didn’t want to believe that I could ever be… Continue reading Standing at the Crossroads


Three years ago I was in north Northumberland with my partner. It’s an area of the country I’ve visited many times, but always in Spring or summer. I’d like to think I belong there but I don’t – not now, though I sometimes dream of moving there and watching the landscape change through autumn and… Continue reading Travelling

Knowing my Place

There’s a verse of the hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful” that we didn’t sing at school. It’s the one about “The rich man in his castle,/ The poor man at his gate” which goes on to assert that “God made them high and lowly/ And ordered their estate.” In other words: know you place… Continue reading Knowing my Place

Perfect Victims

We’ve all heard it said – that dreadful phrase: “innocent victim.” And we forget what it implies: that there’s another sort of victim who is not innocent but guilty. She may not have willed her own injury or death but she’s acted in a way that makes her less deserving of public sympathy and concern.… Continue reading Perfect Victims

Invisible Women

I’ve sometimes heard people complain about the view Americans have of British people. “They think we’re all like Downton Abbey or Notting Hill,” they say. “It’s as though ordinary people don’t exist. I often feel like that when I listen to statements about the past, especially about women in the past. I’ve lost count of… Continue reading Invisible Women

The Lost Commons

This past year it feels as though I’ve rediscovered the commons. In the time permitted for exercise I’ve been learning just how much the remaining common land of England has to offer. I’ve noticed how birdsong changes from day to day and month to month and I’ve taken a keen interest in different kinds of… Continue reading The Lost Commons

Reading as Fantasy

When I was a child, almost all the books I read were fantasy. They weren’t written that way, with a few exceptions, but that’s how I read them. They were the way into a world I didn’t know. Lots of children read like this. But the fantasies we encounter in childhood are also a way… Continue reading Reading as Fantasy