Wonderful Women

This is not just a post about women, so if you’re a man, don’t be put off!  I have a lot of wonderful men in my life.  I have 3 wonderful brothers; all unique in their talents and I am equally proud of all 3 of them, even if my OCD tendencies (and their lack of them) create clashes at times. I also have a wonderful Father; words literally do not come close to expressing my admiration and love for him.  I have a great set of male friends, colleagues and associates.  Men have always been and will continue to be important in my life.  I like their frankness, humour, banter about sport and current affairs and general sentiment.  In fact, I have always got on well with men, often, better than I have with women, but that is subject matter for another blog post.

This post is, as the title suggests, about women.  Wonderful Women.  I know so many of them and want to find a way to celebrate them and connect them. I believe that women are at their most powerful and influential when they are collaborating together around stuff that they feel passionate about.  I use the word ‘stuff’ deliberately, because women can be passionate about all manner of stuff; be it cooking, knitting, shopping, business, politics, investing, music, sex and the city, Strictly etc.

I love women that love women!  Women in my opinion are the biggest advocates of women.  It pains me when I meet women that go out of their way to obstruct other women.  It literally pains me!  I mean I feel hurt by it.  I don’t understand it.  I have never been someone to feel jealous, and when I see jealousy at play, especially within a female to female context, it always sits uncomfortably with me; whether it is directed at me or at others.  I see no need for it.  Ever.

That’s why this post is entitled  “Wonderful Women”.  I’m losing count of the amount of Wonderful Women that I have met. Women who are business leaders, mothers, business leaders and mothers, script writers, songwriters, entrepreneurs, artists.  And as I was catching up with one of these wonderful women this evening, we spoke about what we could do to bring these amazing women that we both know, together, and we came up with a few cool ideas:

  • One idea inspired me to write this blog post and to seek opinion from you, so please leave your comments below
  • One was to create a small (to start with) social network for Wonderful Women to meet on and share ideas
  • Another way was to create physical events to further develop the network

Women are inherently social, much more so than men (fact!), so let’s all get together and celebrate and share the wonderful things that we have accomplished and can do together

Yes, Women have achieved a lot in the last 50 years, but we can achieve so much more.  I, for one, do not want my daughter/s to be talking about the glass ceiling.  Instead, I want her to be saying, “What ceiling?”  If you believe in my vision, and believe that women are indeed wonderful, keep in touch with me, as I have something brewing that I think you might like.  Something that might just burst that ceiling, once and for all and something that just celebrates women for being just wonderful!  www.wearewonderfulwomen.com

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TFL Hell – A Poem about TFL

Buses to me are like rubbish TV,

Time-wasting, drab and dirty,

I’d rather take the car,

Than travel so far,

On a smelly, red, vessel of accidity.

Last week after boarding the bus,

An Inspector accused me of cheating,

He said, “You’re a fare dodger”,

” A pirate, a jolly Roger”,

Indignant, I argued whilst beating,

My fist repeating and repeating,

“I’m not”.  “I swiped my Oyster card”

“Check with the driver, or Scotland Yard”.

“Do I look like the sort of person to avoid paying my fare?”

“Do I look like the sort of person who cares?

Was that a rhetorical question? Asshole!

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Seven Year Itch

I bought my first flat seven years ago, and tonight is the last night that I’ll spend in it.  It feels a bit emotional for many reasons.  I guess it’s like moving on from a first love, although I’m not having an affair, as my title may imply, I’m certainly moving on to a new love, and I wanted to capture my feelings for my old one, whilst it’s still familiar.

I bought my flat when I was 27, having been through, at the time what I described as a 1/4 life crisis.  I was just about a year out of a difficult and tempestuous relationship, and I had also moved on from a career that I thought was going to be for life.  Teaching is considered/was considered as a career for life, and I was devastated when I realised I wasn’t satisfied and wanted more.  Sometimes the most difficult decisions are the best ones, and once I made the decision to leave the teaching profession, I literally didn’t look back.  The ill-fated relationship was intertwined with teaching too, and it was a difficult one for me to get out of, but essential for me to leave in order to grow and develop as a person.  I’ve heard many a wise businessman say that Strategy in a business context is about working out what a company shouldn’t do, as much as what it should, and I knew that that relationship was wrong for me, along with my career choice.  So at 26, I left the world that I knew and embarked on a new adventure.  I took a risk, and got a huge amount of happiness and fulfilment in return, culminating in buying my first flat a year later.  

That was seven years ago, and so much has happened in that time.  I’ve had numerous different flatmates, who were all lovely on the whole, with one exception.  Those of you who know me, will know who I am referring to.  Meeting this man on a bus, and then inviting him to live with me, was probably not my finest hour!  My over developed sense of empathy tainting my better judgement once again!  But I’m a firm believer in learning by mistakes, and I certainly learnt my lesson with that one (even if I facetiously blame the Alpha course for making me even more charitable than usual).

There have been so many fun times too:  My moving in party where the next door neighbour knocked on my door in his dressing gown to tell me to keep it down, numerous cigarettes smoked out the window with numerous friends and numerous bottles of wine being drunk, my poor brother being woken up by Maximo Park blaring out of my stereo after school night nights out, random people coming back for ‘parties’, playing the guitar really badly, singing really loudly/badly, having to call an emergency plumber whilst trying to stop the water gushing out of my radiator when I tried to bleed it at midnight, my Christmas gatherings and laughing until it hurt.  I could go on and on.

There have been serious and sad times too.  The serious times were mostly of the “What am I doing with my life nature”, or working on MBA assignments until the early hours, and the sad ones were mostly to do with losing people that I cared deeply for.  One in particular though, I know will be looking down at me, “like he was in the next room”, ‘deligthed’ with what I’m doing and where I’m going.

252 Chiswick village has been a haven for fun and love I suppose.  Deep friendships have been curated and love has come and gone.  I’ve felt settled here yet transient.  (Perhaps a metaphor for my life).  So this feeling of sadness is natural.  It’s natural to feel sad about something you’re leaving behind, or someone that’s left you behind, and I think I tend to suffer from that more than most, having lost my mother at a young age, but expressing the feeling, and knowing that my track record has meant that in leaving something behind, however hard it may be, I usually come up trumps, I have faith that in the long run, this can only be good.

So here’s to my next seven years.  I doubt there’ll be an ‘itch’ for a while in my new home, but who knows.  The number 7 is usually considered lucky, and I’m moving to number 21, which is the ‘key to the door’, so here’s hoping what’s behind that door is as good as what’s gone before the door I’m leaving behind.

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New York and Revelations

From the first time I touched down in New York in 2004, I have had a yearning, deep down in my soul to live there.  I have only ever been in New York 4 times, but each time I have been there, I’ve felt at home!  Literally!

One time, when my flight was touching in, I actually felt like I was ‘coming home’, which wasn’t felt in the cliched way, but felt in a ‘real’ way, in terms of  of actually ‘coming home’, which was a little strange.

This time, I felt somewhat relaxed about the whole trip and the place, which may explain my current sentiment about it, which is most probably influenced by my current sentiment about me – relaxed, content, etc…

So I arrived in New York on Wednesday evening, fairly tired, but pretty relaxed.  The new start-up company that I work for is taxing mentally, but way less stressful than the corporate I worked for before.  My mind is constantly on the go, but it’s working towards something I can have a serious impact on, so I’m happy, and I don’t mind working all the hours God sends on it, because I believe it is really going places and will make a real difference in the world.  This ties in with so many of my friends that I met in New York.  I met so many inspirational women that are working on entrepreneurial stuff.  I met the founders behind the amazing Hidden Baby, who are an inspirational pair of sisters, who have used their creativity and vision to make a difference in the world.  I also met my beautiful, wise and inspirational young friend Magogodi.  Wow!  Too short a time with too great a mind!  Always too inspired and wanting more from this woman!  Urrrrggghhh!  You have to come to London so I can spend more time with you and selfishly expand my mind:-)

And I met old friends, who now have family.  And it’s not perfect!  In fact it’s bloody hard. I got to see the harsh realties of life, courtesy of one of my very good old friends, Colin.  He has a beautiful family:  a gorgeous, gregarious daughter and a beautiful little son that is struggling with a genetic, yet curable disease, that sees him in casts for the foreseeable future. But he will survive and live to see a full life!  He has amazing parents with such a positive outlook.  Whenever I feel slightly sorry for myself, I think of this family, and gain inspiration.

In fact I gained inspiration from many people I met in New York (Manhattan and Brooklyn).  The people I met were entrepreneurial: Darren, Courtney, Malene B, and magododi, not to mention many more.  And I got to think more and more about creatvity, and how valuable it is for all of us.

I personally feel that creativity has been killed in many of us, mostly because of our Education system, and I can say this, because I’ve been through the Education system and because I have been a teacher.  I tried being creative when I taught, and on the whole, I think the kids loved it.  Let’s be honest, we all love a being given a vacum to express ourselves!  But teaching to the curriculum was always a barrier.  We have so many creative teachers out there that have creativity oozing out of their bodies, but are restricted by the curriculum.  This creative restriction manifests itself in the workplace too.  There are so many creative workers out there whose creativity is stifled by the very size and bureaucracy of the organisations that they work for.  I for one won’t put up with it.

So my new challenge is to promote young talent and creativity through movellas (the company I work for), whose mission is to create a platform for young people to express themselves in whichever form they see fit:  whether that be poetry, fiction, illustration, video – the works!  I’m so proud to be working for a company that provides a wonderful platform for self expression and creativity!  So, if this is a revelation or even inspiration to any of you, I’m very pleased.

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”  Book of Revelations.

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Day 5: The end of the line! (see what I did there)

I’ve never been as pleased to go to bed as I was last night, because I knew that in the morning, my challenge would be complete, and I could start eating and drinking whatever I wanted, because I had reached the end of my living below the line challenge for Positive Women.

Day 5 of living below the line wasn’t as hard as some of the other days because the end was in sight.  Rather than write a long blog about my insights and feelings, I’ll just list the things that I have learnt:

1.  If you have to live on £1 a day for 5 days, don’t waste 47p of your budget on Morrisons own brand coffee.  The clue is in the name and the price.  Instead buy another lemon and make do with hot water and lemon and forgo coffee for 5 days.

2.  Buy more fruit or bread or bring your porridge into work for a 4pm snack, to avoid the tummy groans and hunger pains.

3.  If you ever feel like life is really tough, it really isn’t when you compare the choices we have with those of the 1.5 billion people that live below the poverty line.

4.  Water!  I waste so much money buying bottles of water every day, but I don’t really need to do that.  I could probably save £5 a week by filling up my bottle of water more often and then donate that money or spend it somewhere else.

5.  I have a coffee addiction.

6.  Addictions can be overcome.

7.  I’m now learning to drink (coffee) responsibly.

8. My friends, family and supporters have been amazing.  It really does help to have all that support.

9. A simple life is a more profound one.

10.  Writing a blog every night is really hard, but writing is really liberating.

If you were waiting until I had completed the challenge before sponsoring me, I don’t blame you for doubting me, but if you fancy sponsoring me now, you can do so here:  https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/ybiggins

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Day 4: Bikram Below The Line

Before I start a rumour, Bikram Choudhury is not taking the challenge to Live Below The Line this week, at least not as far as I know, but it might be fun to lobby him to take part next year.  No, the title refers to me doing a Bikram Yoga class whilst living below the line.  I took up one of the offers a while back for Bikram Yoga in Soho, and I needed to use it up, so that’s my excuse.

Bikram Yoga!  Love it or hate it, anyone that’s ever tried it will know that it takes discipline. I have a love-hate relationship with Bikram yoga. I’m strangely drawn to it, which gets me in the door, I hate it during a class, I hate the changing rooms and sweaty, sticky clothes after a class, but I love the feeling I get afterwards.  So in this way, it’s not too dissimilar to living below the line: I’m strangely drawn to it, really struggle doing it, but will love the feeling afterwards, partly due to relief, partly due to achievement, but mostly because I’ll have raised money for a cause that I feel passionate about, that will give women and children in Swaziland a slightly better life.

One thing you notice about living on £1 a day is that choices become very limited.  I actually had a choice this evening to pass by the Bikram yoga studio on my way home, or go in and challenge myself a bit further. God knows I like a challenge, and maybe God had a hand in my experience tonight, and nudged me with my choice to turn right rather than left, into the studio.

I was a little late getting to class, after struggling to find a free locker etc, and there was only space left, which was right at the front of the class.  If any of you have ever been to Bikram yoga, you’ll know that the front of the class is reserved for pros, not part-timers, like my good self.  No offence to any dancers out there, but it’s usually occupied by dancer types with perfect bodies and  a ridiculous ability to create shapes with their bodies that almost shouldn’t be allowed!  It is certainly not for the likes of me, who due to past injuries, battles with many of the postures and is the total opposite of flexible.  Stiff is a much better description for me.

The front row also means that you’re right in front of the mirror. There’s nowhere to hide. Total exposure. You really do meet with yourself there.  My insecurities were spinning round my head as I tried to stay composed and stop my mind wondering. I don’t usually feel sorry for myself, but I usually indulge a little bit of self-pity during Bikram classes and joke that I should be in a special needs class as I can’t do many of the moves.  But that stopped tonight. Next to me was a young man that was obviously suffering with a physical illness. He did not seem in control of his limbs at times, sporadically twitching and almost fighting with himself to stop spasming.  I thought to myself, “how brave”, and also “how pathetic ” of me to feel sorry for myself, when there are people much worse off than me.  I still felt like I wasn’t very good, but it put things into perspective for me.  Society conditions us to compete with each other all the time, even when we’re supposed to be in environments that strive to unite mind, body and soul.  Standing at the front of a Bikram class, with a physically impaired person next to you, is one sure fire way to kick your ego into touch, and get back to what really matters.

I’m not sure what I think about God, but I felt something spiritual at play this evening. Whatever God you believe in, he/she/it is often described as having a sense of humour, so when I left yoga and was greeted by this image sprawled across a shop window, I had to have a chuckle to myself.

So as I approach the end of Day 4, having madly done a challenging Bikram yoga class at the most hungry part of my day, I can’t help but think about the women and children of Swaziland, and the challenges that they go though every day and I’m happy that I’ve gone through my own challenge this week as I know that it has given me deeper insight into life, struggles and what really matters.  I hope some of you that are reading my blog and supporting me feel the same.

Thanks and Nameste!

Remember you can sponsor me here:  https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/ybiggins

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Day 3: Biggs Below The Line

Enough already!  That’s about the incessant rain that we’re all experiencing, this challenge that I have taken on, and because I like the saying (putting an American accent on in my head as I write)

Actually, I’m feeling much better tonight than I did last night, although eating this many carbs is evidently not good for me.  The less said about this topic the better, but I may need to book myself on another detox if this bloating continues.

We have an American intern working with us at the moment, and he’s been telling us how big the breakfast market is for Mcdonalds in the U.S, and how much demand there is for it.  So just to prove his point this morning, to justify why “Americans queue out the door for Mcdonald’s breakfast” (his words not mine), he thoughtfully brought in a whole load of Egg McMuffins and coffee for the office.  Thank God I’m not a big fan of Mcdonalds.  That detox that I mentioned in my last blog post put me off Mcdonalds for life, after the course leader (Sho – yes very bohemian) passed a specimen round the group which was infact a Mcdonalds hamburger and fries that she had bought 2 years previously.  It was in a plastic cover to cover the smell, but it looked like it had been bought yesterday!  So, it wasn’t such a big deal for me, but I must admit, the coffee smelt really good.  And I did find a certain amount of irony in the fact that I was living on my £1 a day, surrounded by Mcdonalds packaging.

I’m over half way through the challenge now.  I’m getting used to going into coffee shops for meetings and just ordering water, but I’m sure I’ve been caught a few times drooling over cakes and the smell of coffee, or just staring at the staff to try to avoid temptations.  I probably have a bit of a mad look.  More mad than usual!  I’ve found myself rather apologetically stating, “I can’t”, even when I haven’t even been asked if I want a coffee.  It’s like I instinctively feel like I have to defend myself for not being able to buy anything in exchange for using the premises, even though I’ve spent numerous amounts of money in these establishments in the past.  It’s funny how we’re conditioned, or maybe it’s just me to feel this way.  Being able to transact is another basic human need nowadays.  ‘Nothing will come of nothing’ to quote King Lear.  Without money, choices are very limited.

I managed to do a bit of exercise tonight before dinner which was good, but I was clearly lacking in energy and patience.  When I got home to cook my rice and veg, I was so tempted to have some more banana whilst I waited for it to cook, but I reminded myself that I have to ration my food so that I have enough for the week.  I’m already panicking about the fact that I only have 4 slices of bread left (that’s 2 slices for tomorrow and 2 for Friday)

Whereas my mind is usually filled with some of life’s big questions, or busy working things out, it’s now being filled with planning my food and obsessing over different food possibilities.  I suppose, when you live on £1 a day, like so many living below the poverty line, these are the big questions.  Questions that I guess it’s fair to say those queuing in line for Mcdonalds every morning, don’t ask themselves.  Makes you think!


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