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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

The joys of being positive even in an unfair world

This blog is going to change slightly - now I'm exploring the UK so much I can't always find an obvious "other country" link. This post is inspired by the need to hear other people's voices far more. Words by Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my books and blogs).

Imagine - snowy scene with my daughters.
Like most teenagers I was a bit confused about how to be me. I could see that for me there was a choice about the face I presented to the world. I could go down the dark route from knock knock jokes to sarcasm, and then on to irony. I could be bitter and cynical (cool and funny). I could play life as a tumbler, laughing at my mishaps and sharing them. Or I could be a cross between Pollyanna and Mary Poppins always looking on the bright side of life. That's the one I've chosen. Yes I get it wrong sometimes, but mostly I cross out my negative rants and look for a positive spin. And it definitely makes life seem a friendlier, more delightful place.

As a result I've been transfixed by constructive journalism.

This is a newish approach to news which asks the usual Ws - who, what, where, when, why - and then adds a sixth, what next? When you write like this you can find out what happened after the crash, divorce, death. This click through stops the news being a catalogue of misery. You might still use the thinking of "if it bleeds it leads" but with the constructive journalism approach you also follow up. A car crash might end up being a story of five people being given donated organs, going on to lead their lives.

There are all sorts of reasons people like constructive journalism as an alternative to our 24/7 bad news world. Recently I shadowed Giselle Green from NCVO, who is editor of Constructive Voices. She was speaking to first year journalism students at London Metropolitan University about the way news organisations have seen a huge decrease in circulation and media switch off. Simultaneously research shows that the endless cycle of depressing news (gangs, knife crime, drought, wars, terrorism, unscrupulous politicians) doesn't just disempower people it is leading to a disconnect with society and mental health problems.  Here's an interview with Giselle Green on Islington Faces.

In summer 2014 the blog Islington Faces was born out of a frustration that the media wouldn't publish ordinary people's extraordinary stories. It now has close to 270 interviews with people who live or work in Islington, one very small patch of the world. Do go and have a look, it's https://www.islingtonfacesblog.com 

Obviously sharing a life story is not an original idea.

Go to any funeral and you often hear a summing up of someone's life, starting from the very beginning. There are highlights to the story but often the lives best lived aren't full of high drama; although they might be notable for the resilience that person has shown during their lifetime.

Scott Waide in Papua New Guinea using his journalism skills
to interview locals doing positive things is having a democratically
empowering impact in this South Pacific nation. See facebook
inspirational papua new guineans
And as for blogs. Well there's the amazing Humans of New York and here in London Spitalifeldslife.com.  The trend has even gripped Papua New Guinea! A friend has just sent this amazing link, see here http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-03/one-mans-mission-to-shine-light-on-ordinary-papua-new-guineans/9477894,  about Scott Waide who runs the Facebook site Inspirational Papua New Guineans with more than 5,000 followers. His interviews are fab.

By sharing stories of people in Papua New Guinea who've overcome all sorts of odds, or are doing amazing things to help their family and community, Scott Waide has realised something else - he's strengthening democracy.  In a newspaper interview he says:

"If you put out the positive and you put that out in public, people will connect the dots and then start demanding better services, start demanding those in power are held accountable for their actions." Scott Waide (PNG blogger).

I'm so impressed by Scott Waide.

Shared world

"If you're surprised, it means you don't see enough black people
in major roles," says Legally Black. Good point.
Today I also saw a fascinating news story about some BME teenagers who'd got so fed up with seeing themselves reflected in TV and films as gangsters, maids and drug dealers that they re-created some famous films using black models. In fact they used their friends and family. The story is in the Guardian, see here, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/03/young-brixton-activists-recreate-film-posters-with-black-leads created by @legallyblackuk

If you haven't understood how frustrating the male/female pay divide is (being revealed spring 2018); or the ethnic pay divide then keep it simple. If you are pale-skinned, try finding someone who looks a different colour to you in the lead role of a famous film. For me it was a wake up moment to see a young black woman depicted playing Bridget Jones.... Bridget is a white woman, about my size, and certainly on my clumsiness level. When the film came out I knew it was "for me", and in some ways sort of "about me".   But when I noticed the poster brilliantly re-done with a young black woman my first thought - a flashing drift through my head, and not said (at least I thought not) with prejudice - oh that's not a film for me, then I realised just how stupid I've been.

Their campaign has so worked for me. As Legally Black's catchphrase points out: "If our posters shock you, you're not seeing enough black faces in leading roles."

Life lessons
As a baby boomer it's perhaps no surprise that I've lived through several waves of feminism and yet  am still acclimatised to seeing men in the best jobs/situations/statues etc receiving the best pay.  I totally understand the structural reasons for this and why it must and should change.

But I hadn't quite cottoned on to the power that structural norms have - even if they are just as simple as images - in maintaining a racist (or racially prejudiced if you prefer) status quo.

Yesterday a friend told me she was reading the hugely influential book, Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. And my thought. Oh, I don't need to read that. I know that stuff.*

It's quite clear that I'm wrong.

We don't just need institutional change to create a more fair society, we also need to hear a far wider cross-section of voices talking about life as it is, and how it could be.

So let's keep hearing it from people living their lives and sharing their ordinary - to them - but extraordinary and powerful stories. The craze to share story telling is a wonderful part of this 21st century, long may it last. And let its potential to offer fair chances to us all, whatever our gender or ethnicity. There's an added plus, and that's this feeling of positive stuff happening which perhaps offers anyone the opportunity to see that if they can do this, then I can too, whatever that I can is.

*Clarification: I have actually seen the book and had a 30 minute look through it back in the summer. Clearly I need to revisit.

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