Friday, December 31, 2010

Caron's Women of 2010

I thought I'd better check out what predictions I'd made for this year, and was slightly relieved to discover that I hadn't made any. A shame, really, because I hadn't done badly with the ones I'd made for 2009.  Anyway, who could have predicted a Government with Lib Dems actually doing proper Lib Demmy things in it? I'm hoping that future generations will reap the benefits of what we've managed to achieve, that success will be there for the taking for all based on ability, with their postcode of origin completely irrelevant.

So, I can't do my crystal ball check, so I shall move on to the next end of year offering for your entertainment. I wanted to put together a list of fantastic women who deserved acknowledgement for their bravery, work or wise words this year. This list isn't exhaustive and it's in no particular order as they say on all the best reality shows.

I don't think any list would be complete without Linda Norgrove on it. Linda is the Scottish aid worker who was killed in Afghanistan, not by her kidnappers, but accidentally, by a grenade thrown by one of her American rescuers. It takes exceptional, unimaginable bravery to take yourself to the other side of the World, into the middle of a war zone, to make other people's lives better. Few of us would have the gumption to do it. I certainly couldn't. It takes passionate commitment to your cause, an ability to live with the dangers you're stepping into and a huge amount of self sacrifice. Her parents have set up a foundation in her memory, putting their and her life savings into it. I have written a fair bit on this blog about the plight of women in Afghanistan. The Linda Norgrove Foundation will provide money for things like scholarships for Afghan women to go to university, education, health and childcare. It's definitely worth a New Year donation.

Talking of making a difference for women, in a different way, I think the single most sensible appointment in the Government was that of Lynne Featherstone as Equalities Minister. The next generation of girls is going to be much better off for the work she's doing on the Campaign for Body Confidence. You would never have had a minister who understands and has a real passion for all equalities issues if the Tories were governing alone.

Talking of the ideas kids grow up with, I read a book, appropriately on Hallowe'en, which both delighted and scared the living daylights out of me. Delighted because it gave a really positive account of first love, the sort of experience I want my daughter to expect that she can have, and scary because it means I have to face up to the fact that in five years' time my precious wee girl could be going to parties where there's drinking, smoking and snogging going on. That book is Della says OMG ,  Keris Stainton's debut novel.  I've been meaning to write a proper review of it - and I will do at some point - but it is one of the best books I've read this year and should be compulsory reading for teenage girls.  I love her straightforward writing style and excellent characterisation - the guy who works in the deli is a very funny character. I also respect the fact that she's written a book about first love without magic, or immortal or supernatural characters in it. She has a new book coming out in July, Jessie 3> NYC, which I ordered on the strength of reading Della, so I'm sure that'll be one of the treats of 2011.

I'm not sure whether lying on a tea tray and travelling at speed down steep, sheet ice is incredibly sensible. In fact, I know it isn't. But one night in February, Amy Williams won a gold medal at the Vancouver Winter Olympics for doing just that. And it was the only medal we won, which makes her achievement all the more spectacular. We don't really appreciate the amount of time, self sacrifice and effort it takes to reach that level of international competitiveness. A classmate of Anna's, at 11, who is already competing and doing well in swimming, has to train every single day, at anti-social hours.  The dedication she and her whole family give to it is admirable. So this Hogmanay I want to celebrate both Amy, who has won gold and hope that she'll be an inspiration to Sarah and other girls to follow in her footsteps.

In terms of inspirations for me, this year confirmed for me what I've known for many years, that I really want to be Pamela Stephenson when I grow up. I love the way she completely threw herself into Strictly Come Dancing. She is the polar opposite of me in many ways. I like things to be safe, and am scared of everything. She will happily take risks and embraces all sorts of new experiences with enthusiasm and relish. And she's very, very funny. I mean, this is someone who just took off and went sailing for a year in the South Pacific. You have to admire someone who stumbles mid dance and looks like she's going to hit the floor, but who is smiling and shimmying on her way down, as this video shows. I want to have some of her adventurous spirit and courage. Just a little bit would do.

Kylie Minogue showed she's still at the top of her game with her summer album Aphrodite. All the Lovers is one song you just can't get out of your head (sorry.). She's still one of my favourite recording artists and she knows how to put on a show.

Of all the things Miriam Gonzalez  Durantez has had to put up with this year, being photographed by the Daily Mail coming out of a lingerie shop was, while intrusive and irritating, probably not the worst. I admired the way she dealt with the election campaign, though, saying, quite straightforwardly:

“I don’t have a job I can abandon for five weeks and I imagine that’s true for most people,”

It's time we got rid of the idea that politician's wives are public property and stopped defining them in terms of their usefulness to their husbands. It's none of our business. I like the way that Miriam has, with flair and charm, been herself and got on with her life. I also like that she's called out the media for printing their customary sexist claptrap - most memorably when newspapers suggested that the reason for a Spanish World Cup defeat was that their goalie was distracted by having his girlfriend, a reporter, on the touchline.

The woman who's inspired me most in politics, Shirley Williams, celebrated her 80th birthday this year. She spoke to Iain Dale for an edition of Total Politics magazine (which, much though it pains me to say, is one of the best reads around for the politics junkie). I trust her judgements and her instincts. She talks about how she has rebuffed all offers to go back to the Labour Party she left in 1981 because "they were bad about civil liberties". She also spoke about how it hasn't got that much easier for women in politics since her day. The problems are different, but it's still hard. I also like the way that she finds good things to say about her political opponents - have a look at her comments on Brown and Cameron.

A new face appeared in the upper echelons of the tv political reporting scene this year. Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC News Channel's Chief Political Correspondent has shown that she is capable of a greater understanding than many of the dynamics of coalition and a political system with more than 2 parties in it. Her reports from College Green as the coalition negotiations were going on were very informative. She didn't seem to have any need to sleep, either as she was always there, no matter what time of day you turned the tv on. I think her less combative manner actually gets more out of the politicians she's interviewing. That's not to say she doesn't challenge them, but she knows where the boundaries are between robust questioning and being unpleasant.

And, finally, I don't think there is anyone on earth who can make me laugh quite as much as Claudia Winkleman. I'm going through separation anxiety now as she was on tv every day bar Saturday during Strictly Come Dancing. The saving grace is that we have Film 2011 to look forward to. This is a programme which entirely suits her slightly random, slightly bonkers, presenting style and also shows off her intellect and knowledge in a way we've not seen before in her TV presenting career. I'm not a huge film fan by any measure of means, and I never watched the Film programme before when Jonathan Ross was presenting. Partly that's because it was just on too late for me, but I now record it just to see Claudia. I just find her reviews funny and thought provoking and worth watching and I find her enthusiasm infectious.

So, there are my famous women of the year. There are, of course, many other wonderful women who aren't famous, who make my life fantastic, from sister, nieces, aunts and cousins to my fabulous friends. Thank you all, and I hope you have a brilliant 2011.

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