Are we all too immature to be president?


Welcome to Midlife Crisis, a new magazine-style column of a very real account of being over forty and sliding into a midlife mud pool.

Donald Trump has been told that he needs to be ‘more mature’ to be USA President. Yep,  amidst a long running feud with Fox News, Trump was  asked what he thought about criticisms that not only did he need to be  more, ‘kind and mature,’ but that Trump did not, in fact, behave in a presidential manner.

Now, here’s the thing: I can’t be doing with Donald Trump. He’s rude, sexist, doesn’t seem to apparently care what its like to struggle along the bread line of life. But, nevertheless, the immature thing got me thinking. You see, who, if any of us is mature enough to become something like President of the United States, or any country, for that matter? I wake up every day and am often amazed I’m a grown up – and I am 41 (I think…). And it’s not just me. Tonnes of friends I know who have hit our ‘middle aged years’ act like kids, in fact, we mess about so much that we get a right shocker when we look in the mirror and see, not a fresh-faced image staring back at us, but instead one marked by growing wrinkles, dark eye bags and Mr Magica style stick up grey hairs (and don’t get me started on the chin whisker…)

In a recent study into the differences in maturity between genders, it was revealed that both men and women agree men remain ‘immature’ well into their late 30s and early 40s. Now while, yes, I think we can all nod our heads sagely at this, isn’t it also true that we are all immature in our way? Most people I know, if you ask them, say they don’t feel their age and are waiting to grow up. We’ve just

Donald Trump: yes, this man wants to be USA president. Really.
Donald Trump: yes, this man wants to be USA president. Really.

moved house and it feels so grown up, the largeness of the place, the tree-lined garden, the ‘needs a lot of work doing to it’ plot it presides on. And yet I still can’t wait to meet up with friends and stay up till late singing to our dodgy karaoke machine. Ok, sure, come the next (two) days, we suffer more – headaches, aching limbs, slow, pulsing burning behind the eyes, but hey, we’re cool, right? Right..?

With Donald Trump,  his whole unsuitability to become President of the USA (God forbid. Please no, America, NO) is less to do with his apparent immaturity and more to do with him being, quite frankly, a total idiot. Basically, the man’s not a very kind or thoughtful person.

As for the rest of us, I don’t know – maybe a dash of middle-aged immaturity is just what the country, nay the world, needs. Because when we think young, we feel young – and who knows where that energy may take us? Just perhaps, first, we’ll let it lead us to the nearest sofa where our slippers are. We do, after all, as we age, quite like our small home comforts…

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

Hoverboarding – the new mid-life crisis solution?


Welcome to Midlife Crisis, a new magazine-style column of a very real account of being over forty and sliding into a midlife mud pool.

Hoverboards. They’re a thing, right, grooving along the high ways, Marty in Back to the Future style. It’s like all my dreams come true – until I try one. It is a blooming nightmare. No one, see tells you when you get older how downright hard it is to, well,move, basically. Hoverboarding, see is like surfing, and yes, I seem to suck at that. Me and my daughter went for a surfing lesson in the Gower last year and we both got on the board and guess who fell off

Hoverboarding - it's a thing
Hoverboarding – it’s a thing. Anyone? Nope.

first and, basically, every time she got on the board (when I did, you know, finally stand up on it, that is…)? And don’t get me started on the wetsuit. Let’s just say when you’ve had two kids, wetsuits aren’t high on your list of ideal fashion items.

Getting older see, is, like bright pink lipstick, a shocker. We creak, we ache, we try to do things that someone twenty years younger can and, yes, while sometimes we do make it, it takes us longer to get there and way longer to recover.

But should that stop us? Should we wave the white flag to our ageing years and give up? Not likely. In a recent poll of 2,000 middle agers, it was revealed a third felt the stereotypical image of a midlife crisis was completely outdated. Indeed, a quarter felt the term was just a cliché, mind you, more than half (56 per cent) of men confessed they are likely to undergo a ‘lifestyle overhaul’ when hitting their mid-forties.

As for me and the mid-life thing, nah – I’m not going down without a fight. I’m only in my early forties – I’ve got some considerable living it up time left and I intend to use it.  I swim, ski, run, complete in triathlons, all be it, well, (a lot) slower. So yeah, middle-age, maybe I’ll give this hoverboard thing I shot – I loved Marty McFly. And, hey, maybe I’ll get to love A&E just as much…

What do you think? Post your thoughts below…

When will newspapers stop reducing #Womeninsport to what they wear on a night out?


I was sifting through the Sunday Times sport section this week being, frankly, highly critical. This is an easy stance to take when it comes to newspapers and sport – there is barely any coverage at all of women in sport on their pages, with females accounting for, on average, anywhere from 0% to 5% of content.

So, you can imagine my surprise when, in The Sunday Times, after the usual pages of sport by men, men, men, there was showcased a specific section on women. Okay, I thought, taken aback. I’d rather women in sport weren’t segregated to a separate area, integrated as female sport truly should be into male domains so the join is seamless, but hey, at least it was something, so I read on.

The paper was celebrating the Sports Woman of the Year Awards and one of the articles was about world taekwondo champion, Bianca Walkden. It talked about her achievements, her successes, a big picture of her in her sport kit adorning the bulk of the page. But then there was another photo of her, a shot of her smiling in a black party dress. Huh, I thought, they don’t do those type of shots with the men’s sport articles, but, ever the optimist, I gave the paper the benefit of the doubt until I got to the byline underneath the main shot. It read, and I quote:

Bianca Walkden - World Taekwondo Champion
Bianca Walkden – World Taekwondo Champion

Wonder Woman: Bianca Walkdean is not to be messed with when it comes to taekwondo, at which she is champion, but she is just as happy to look the part for a night out, inset.”

I almost dropped the paper, I swear. What? I mean, what? I had to read this three times before I could believe it was real and not a seedy line in a red top newspaper or some lads mag. Just as happy to look the part on a night out? What is this? Hey, Sunday Times! The 1950s called an they want their era back. Here we have all these amazing sports women who have achieved so much, and, instead of sticking to celebrating this, the Sunday Times choose to reduce Bianca Walkden’s success to how she’s willing to get dolled up. You never, ever see this with men in sport, so why with women?

Here’s the bottom line: women play sport and it has nothing, NOTHING to do with our looks. What we wear on a night out should have no bearing at all to the coverage these amazing, accomplished sports women receive. So, sports editors, when writing about women in sport, ask yourselves, before you publish a piece: Would we treat the men like this? If the answer’s no, then don’t do it. It’s a question the Sunday Times Sports section should have asked itself. It’s a question all media outlets should ask themselves. And maybe then will desperately needed progress finally be made.

Got an opinion? Post your comment below.

#Piggate has forced Cameron to show his true colours


I’m sitting, right now, in a cafe in Stroud and there’s one thing everyone’s talking about: Pig Gate. Everyone’s having a right old laugh. ‘Have you seen this?” one weary old chap says, holding aloft a newspaper. There’s a huge grin on his face. ‘This is the Cameron thing I was telling you about.”

Okay, so Stroud is a bit leftie, well, a LOT, leftie, but here’s the thing: Cameron is showing his true colours. In the week that has brought us revelations from Lord Ashcroft about his former mate’s past (alleged ‘situations’  with pigs, fox-hunting to name but two ‘events’)

UK Prime MInister David Cameron
UK Prime MInister David Cameron 

it has become apparent – like we needed it pointing out – that David Cameron’s facade is an utter lie. Man of the people? Well, it depends what people we are talking about here, and that’s always been the point. Sure, him and Osborne try to depict themselves as ‘one of us’ but no amount of public pasty eating or meeting refugees on the back foot or smiling with babies is going to convince us folk at the coal face that this Tory government has the foggiest about what it’s like to live life where you have to watch what you spend or, heaven forbid, have consideration – true consideration – for others.

Ironic that all this has come to light right after the down to earth Corbyn became Labour leader last week in what was a true breath of fresh air for UK political life. Look, I’m not saying that those of money and traditional privilege don’t or can’t fathom what life is like for others – there are truly amazing people out there from all walks of life. Yet, David Cameron, it seems, has done little to truly empathise with those from different socio economic groups. Sure, he’s been elected again, but on what grounds? It’s just a matter of time before his facade entire washes out, and the old, life-weary bloke at the table in a Stroud cafe starts smirking again to himself  before dropping off some provisions to the local Foodbank.

Got an opinion? Post your comment below.

Parents – don’t let your kids have their phones in their rooms at night!

sbSome things are not rocket science. How to tie shoe laces, for example – easy when you know how, obvious, in fact.  So why, oh diddly why in a recent report, have we discovered that pupils are just too tired to work at school because they have been up half the night on social media?

A study of more than 800 school children in Wales from the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research Data (WISERD) found that one in five between the ages of 12 and 15 wake up on school nights to check social media. And it gets worse. 58% of the 12-13 year olds surveyed said they were too tired for school the next day because they had been checking their devices in the night.

Now, look, I have kids, two girls of 11 and 13 and, naturally, they have phones, and yes, they use them to keep in touch with friends. But – and this is the cruncher – a) they are not allowed yet on social media and crucially, CRUCIALLY, they are not, repeat NOT allowed any devices in their rooms overnight. End of. Because, see,  give a kid a phone, and they’ll look at it. Heck, you give an adult their phone and they’re on it every two sneaky

3 out of 5 children have used a social network by the age of 10, in a survey of 8-10 year olds
3 out of 5 children have used a social network by the age of 10, in a survey of 8-10 year olds

seconds – I am, you are, we all are. That’s why we have to have rules. No phones in the room at night for our children means they won’t look at them – it really is that easy.

So parents, listen up  – you are in charge, you have the veto card here – play it. No phones in the room at night. You know, like a comfy pair of shoes for that long walk home, it makes sense. This ain’t rocket science. It’s just simple, essential parenting.

Got an opinion? Post your comment below.

Why Corbyn needs no spin doctors

sbIntroducing Soundbite – a quick column to-go on the daily news and issues.


The thing about Jeremy Corbyn is that he’s not a media man. If he were Pepsi he’d be Pepsi lite. Nope, scratch that he’d be an organic, pressed elderflower juice with no added sugars. And, see, that’s what I like about Corbyn, that’s what we all seem to like, those on the red side of the political zone – the fact that this man thinks the meaning of ‘spin doctor’ is someone who cures ailments by twizzing you around until you feel sick.

Jeremy Corbyn – new UK Labour Party leader. A man who needs no media.

So why this morning are the politicos calling for Corbyn to ‘get a media team around him.’ Why? That, like wearing a fleece with heels,  would be a catastrophic error, because it is the sheer fact that he has no media spin team, that Corbyn says what he thinks, is a conviction politician, a man of his word, that he won the Labour leadership in the first place. Tony Benn once said there are weather cocks and sign posts for politicians – Jeremy Corbyn is a solid sign post.

Look, if  you’re one of the doubters, if you don’t believe me, if you think Corbyn is having no effect on the masses at all, then listen to this. I was walking through my home town of Stroud yesterday and overheard a group of 17-year-old lads discussing just why they like Corbyn. They said he was ‘a breath of fresh air’ and that he was worth listening to. Now how often do your hear a bunch of young lads discussing politics on the street? Quite.

Corbyn is no spin doctor. He’s just human, a man of his word, a true political sign post. After all the expense scandals and lip service and downright lies of the past, his fresh approach is  just what we need. He’s a normal bloke – and that’s why we damn well like him.

Got an opinion? Post your comment below.

Imagine if your education was taken away

UnknownHands up if you liked school? What’s that? Not many hands? If you didn’t fancy school that much, chances are you’re from a comfortable westernised country where school is taken for granted and hating it is the norm. And why not? Go ahead, fill your boots – hating school as a kid is like a right of passage.

But, just for a second, imagine this: what if school was taken away? What if you, as a female, for example, were told that, because of your gender, school was not an option? Or imagine if  your country were thrown into a brutal war and for your children, say, school was impossible to attend, in fact, even day to day normal living was nearly impossible and the only option you are left with is to flee your homeland to search for the safety of another. Only to be told to go away.

Today is International Literacy Day and in the wake of the European refugee crisis, the poignancy of literacy and the opportunity it provides has never seemed more relevant. Literacy, see, comes through schooling, but not all children have the chance to attend school. Syria’s oppressive regime, war and economic sanctions, have meant many children are denied what we here see as a right: the right to education. And take Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen just for going to school. 

We owe it to these children to have a better outlook, here in the west, on education, to regard the opportunities we have with respect and truly understand that, what we take as regular, normal – boring even – others see as the pinnacle of what life is about: ambition, learning, literacy. A chance, basically, at a good and full life.

So today on International Literacy Day let’s all pause to think about those children – boys & girls- who through violent war, oppression and economic strain cannot attend school. And how different it is to our own lives. And how damn lucky we are.

What do you think? Join in and comment below.

Zumba alone will not help girls into sport

Shopping basket filled with sports related items on white background

Have you seen a boy playing netball recently? When I was at school, there was a clear distinction between the girls and the boys when it came to sport. The lads did football and the girls netball. That was it, no joint games, no change in tradition – you were expected to know where the gender line was drawn.

Fast-forward 15 (okay, 25…) years and it seems nothing has changed. Today, in the Independent Newspaper, Judy Murray, tennis coach and mother to Andy, said that, “Schools could encourage more girls to take up sport by being more sympathetic to the image conscious world that young women grow up in.”

Now, look, I agree with that statement – to a point. Yes, there’s a lot more that could be done to encourage girls into sport, and with real reason. In a survey carried out just last year, for example, it was found that a worrying 40 per cent of 16-year-old girls do no vigorous physical activity at all. But the question is, does providing girls with activities that bow to an image conscious society, help? Isn’t that just like putting a plug in the hole without fixing the hole itself?

Natasha Devon, author and broadcaster, said activities such as Zumba and Yoga should be considered in schools to encourage girls into sport. Now, yes, without doubt, more choice is a good thing, but what would be damaging would be for schools to introduce Zumba but only for the girls, effectively turning Zumba into the new netball, and so would start the whole inactivity, inequality cycle again.

I have two girls and I wouldn’t dream of turning round to them and saying, my dears, girls are expected to not sweat, so best do Zumba. In fact, they tried it once a few years back when they were at Brownies and hated it. But, whether they liked or not is beside the point, because what’s interesting is that the boys in Cub Scouts, boys the same age as my girls, were not offered Zumba at all, and instead played football and running games, activities which were never offered to the girls.

What should be happening is a sea change in how we view young woman and woman in general when it comes to sport. We can get dirty, sweat, stink, play rugby, football, cricket or do Zumba or dance, but we should do it because we want to, not because it fits a pre-defined gender role.

But of course, they only way girls are going to want to do any of these sports is if society gives them a huge, bloody break and gets off their case. The answer? To encourage girls to just be. Be themselves, be strong, be smart, whether that involves getting muddy on a rugby pitch or dancing hip swinging moves to Latin tunes.

Break down the gender demands and not only will we see more girls get involved in sport, but we’ll see more of a change, more of an openness across the genders, too. And then maybe boys can finally start playing netball.