Monthly Archives: September 2015

Feeling under-represented – black people, minority groups and myself as a woman

As a white British person living in Britain I should not feel under-represented in my daily life. But as a white British WOMAN this sometimes happens.

I am sure that our black sons must have often felt “different” as they grew up – perhaps on campsites when we were on holiday? In a forthcoming post I intend to write more about camping abroad, but today I want to talk about “feeling under-represented” generally.

We hear how black British actors frequently find that they have to go to the United States in order to get acting roles. This should not be necessary. We have many talented black actors in Britain. Our films and television programmes should reflect our multicultural society. I remember hearing Malorie Blackman saying how excited she and her black friends were in their childhood when black characters first started appearing on television programmes. They passed the news round to all their friends up and down her street and great was the rejoicing!


I have only once felt animosity against myself as a white person and that was in swimming baths in Singapore. I had taken our two very young daughters swimming while D. was at a meeting. Perhaps white people did not often go to those swimming baths. I do not know. Anyway, we were soon mobbed and splashed by a whole crowd of unfriendly people. The splashing frightened the girls, who were only aged about 5 and 3. I complained to the swimming bath attendants, but they simply smirked. We got out of the water and tried to make our retreat as dignified as possible under the circumstances. This was not particularly traumatic for me and to be honest I wondered whether I had made a mistake in thinking that we could swim there. Perhaps this episode was partly my fault?  But the jeering faces had upset our little  girls and I felt guilty about that.

Feeling underrepresented as a woman is altogether of a different order. As far as I knew, there was parity of salary for male and female members of staff at most of the offices I worked in. Of course I was never privy to salaries, but that is what I imagined. I am so shocked to find that this is often not so in organisations today. How can it be that women are paid less for the same work? This appals me.

When we visited Rome and had a trip to the Vatican, I felt extremely under-represented. Male nudes can be beautiful but I began to wonder why the female body was not equally celebrated. I had this overwhelming feeling again when we visited Florence. I am sure that people who know much more about Art than I do, will be able to cite many famous statues of women. Of course I know of The Three Graces and have enjoyed seeing them at Tate Britain. There are also many famous statues of Diana around the world.

I was very interested recently to hear that a 19th century sculpture of two young women dancing has been saved for the Nation. Individuals and organisations had to raise a large sum of money to prevent it going to the United States of America. I saw a photograph of the statue in the Evening Standard and resolved to go and see it before it goes back to its home in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.

The sixth Duke of Argyll commissioned this sculpture. The work is by Italian artist Lorenzo Bartolini, called “The Campbell Sisters Dancing a Waltz”.   It dates from 1821 and is on view at the Victoria & Albert Museum until 20th November. Here is my photo, together with another beautiful sculpture of a young peasant woman nursing her baby. A photographer would take a better photo, but this reminds me perfectly of the statue. I recommend going to see it in real life.

Lorenzo Bartolini - The Campbell Sisters


nursing mother - peasant girl








I believe this is ‘Peasant woman nursing her baby’, by Jules Dalou 1873.  I think that one day soon I shall have to go back to the V&A to check that I have attributed this delightful sculpture correctly.

Extra note:  As someone who is currently suffering from a painful heel, I so appreciate the V&A’s plentiful supply of  wheelchairs that enable disabled people to get round the  Museum. This is clearly stretching my theme somewhat, but it is a good example of including of all kinds of people. 

Thinking of these two sculptures makes me as a woman  feel better-represented.  It would be good if all kinds of people  could be better-represented. 

Memories of childhood – artefacts continued. . . (2 – Lucy and Anna)

When I asked our four “children” whether there were any unusual or interesting things that reminded them of growing up in our family home, LUCY mentioned night storage heaters. (!!)

storage heater

I remember crouching before the one in our room, trying to get warm enough to dress for the day ahead. Lucy is remembering Gateshead in the days of no central heating in the Manse. Actually, the storage heaters of those days were not slim-line like in the picture. D. said he had to move one once and it was full of heavy bricks and electric wiring.

She also mentioned mosquito nets. We always slept under them in Malaysia


Anna remembered a copper kettle that my grandfather handed on to us.










Also the clock that has stood in all our halls.


It was given to us in our first home by the family of the church organist. Interestingly the organist was a young boy who suffered from Cerebral Palsy but he had a gift for music and enjoyed playing the organ now and again when the regular organist had a Sunday “off”. We, the congregation, were very happy with the arrangement.

The organist’s father said that their house was a bit small for such a fine, large clock. Actually each time we moved house, the next house was smaller until we are now in a pretty small house, but it looks great in the hall.

Anna also mentioned something that I myself had chosen to mention one day.

(See next time I post a “Memory” blogpost)

Recycled shopping list


Camping Holidays at home and abroad. Promoting a world view

.As we near the end of this summer – 2015 – and since D and I have just returned from the North West Highlands of Scotland, I am remembering the many camping holidays we had there as a family. The weather was usually a mixture of sunshine and rain and how we rejoiced when the sky was blue and we could enjoy the sun, the sea and the glorious views!

beside the sea 2          Scotland


beside the sea       IMG_0014

Another time I’ll show pictures of times we spent camping in France and Italy. I have just realised that if we had had more money it might have been a good idea to take the children to a Caribbean island, since they came from Caribbean backgrounds ,  but that would have been entirely impossible for us as a family in the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed, this would have been so financially impossible that it never once occurred to us.

Sam was descended from people who came from Jamaica and Jah from people from Dominica (and England). We just had to do the best we could to tell them about those colourful islands and what we considered far more important – namely to help the children to grow up with a world view and a positive view of themselves as Black British citizens.