Hope Floats



So if you are in England and watch the news you will probably have noticed that things got a little wet. Over much of the North, Scotland – homes & businesses destroyed, bridges washed away, roads collapsing.

The Calder Valley has been hit hard. Again. Somewhere I wrote (I think on my old blog) about the events of 2012 – when we were hit twice in the space of a month, once from rising river levels, and then from a freak flash storm onto the already saturated moors turning roads into waterfalls and overwhelming the rivers and drains again. People went through hell, but they also banded together and worked hard and most got back on their feet. There were a few casualties among the businesses of the valley which never opened up again, or which didn’t last long – the difficulty of getting insurance or cost of claiming – along with a less than stellar economic climate, makes it really hard. But even in the past six months new enterprises have sprung up from the ashes of old (Moyles hotel /bar/restaurant had stood empty until the new Moyles B&B was opened in one third of it)

But then it happened again. Boxing Day – I was in Leeds myself and watched the horrible events online as the waters rose and my firends were once again innundated. I live in Hebden Bridge, so most of what I see is related to there – but the damage is widespread, Mytholmroyd, Eastwood, Todmorden, Elland, Brighouse, Copley – more. The waters rose higher this time, over 6ft in some places (above floor level, which in itself is much higher than the usual river level). People had in many cases tried to put their belongings / stock high up to save them, high enough that they would have escaped in 2012, but not this time.

As the waters dropped and people surveyed the devastation – mud and sludge and silt covering everything, the valley began to do what it does best.

If you’ve never been here, Calderdale is beautiful. Absolutely stunning.


Stoodley Pike looks down over the bost alluring mix of gentle rolling hills and rugged craggs, man made echoes of industry somehow complementing the wild moors and steep wooded sides. It is beautiful. And a wonderful place to live. I was almost going to say despite the floods. But I also want to say because of the floods. Because the floods show you what is most beautiful, which is not always easy to see. And that is the people. The wonderful people – many of whom do great things in drier times too, as we are a creative, generous place – but so many more who when the need arises, ask no questions except – How can I help?  Thousands of people who flock to volunteer to muck out, to clean, to feed, to clothe, who donate cleaning equipment, clothes, toys, furniture, electrical goods, their time, money, services. Everyone thinking desperately “what can I do?”. People trying to turn their skills so that they can support the effort to put the valley right again.

It is going to be hard. So many people have no insurance, or cannot claim – ridiculous excesses / expense imposed on people who have nothing by companies which make obscene profit every year. Businesses which would often find these coming, post christmas months difficult at the best of times. People who were on zero hours contracts, whose workplaces are out of action for who knows how long. And still the rains fall.

But – with the help of the people of the valley – and the even more amazing people who are travelling from all over the country to help, to bring free food, to restore our faith in humanity and show the meaning of compassion and love (more on which another day) – there will be recovery.

A number of appeals have been put together to raise money – a main one which will help individual residents and be matched by the government – and then lots of crowdfunders for the many businesses which are affected. Celebrities and authors have donated items for auction to support some particular causes, and there are some great ideas like a raffle to win a wedding package with all the different things you might need.

If you are able, please do contribute – if you want to offer more practical support or buy something to support the clean up / refurbishment effort then please check the posts on Calder Valley Flood Support facebook pages to make sure you get what is currently needed, as the situation changes day by day.

Calder Valley Flood Support on Facebook:

Amazon wishlist of items needed – buy from here and it will be delivered direct to the hubs

Calderdale Flood Relief Appeal:

Calderdale’s Big Fat Wedding Raffle: (can you donate a prize? Or watch this space for details of how to buy tickets)

Support for individual businesses / organisations / schools etc.

Ebay auctions to support Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club:

Ebay auctions to support the Book Case, Hebden Bridge

Contributions of Vinyl wanted for record fair to support Muse Music / Love Cafe: Donations to The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge, email: lizktradesclub@gmail.com

Contributions of Art to be auctioned for the flood appeal – or a venue for this auction, contact Caroline Reed on Facebook

Crowdfunding to save 2Tone Comics:

Crowdfunding to save Ribbon Circus Habberdashery:

Crowdfunding for Dark Angel Clothing:

Crowdfunding to replace toys for Riverside Fun Club:

Crowdfunding to save Hiu Man Chinese Takeaway and help them contribute to providing food for volunteers:

Crowdfunding to rebuild Monster Computers:

Crowdfunding for Mytholmroyd Community Centre:

Crowdfunding for Molly and Ginger (clothes shop)

Finally – it obviously wasn’t just my home town affected, here are some other appeals for other affected areas – I know there’s only so much money to go around but as they say – every little helps.




(Please let me know if you know of any more and I will add them / share widely)




The Hebden Bridge Burlesque Festival gals started up the #sodemeaning campain on Twitter / other social media as a response to the suggestion that Burlesque was demeaning to women, which came in the rejection letter to their request to book the Hebden Bridge Picture House. (which I blogged about last time) Lots of people who are involved in Burlesque, and don’t feel in the least “demeaned” have contributed.  But it got my little etymological brain thinking and wondering about this whole demeaning thing.

What does it mean, to demean? (what is de meaning of demeaning…?)Who demeans? Is an action demeaning? Can it be? Who gets to decide?
And also the term “objectifying” – which is also used, and was repeated several times in the town hall meeting the other night. I know it is a commonly used term and concept – I get entirely what it means in the context – but I hate the word. I find it nonsensical.

The dictionary definitions of to demean are interesting.

To demean: cause a severe loss in the dignity of and respect for (someone or something):
To demean oneself: to do something which is beneath ones dignity.

So lets throw in dignity too:

the state or quality of being worthy of honour or respect:
a composed or serious manner or style:
a sense of pride in oneself; self-respect:

So – people are saying that Burlesque causes a severe loss in the state of being worthy of honour or respect of women.

Or, – Burlesque causes a severe loss in the serious manner or style of women.

Or, – Burlesque causes a severe loss of the sense of pride in themselves and self respect of women.

Or. Burlesque is beneath the dignity of women …

I see an awful lot of subjectivity here.
And a horrible concept that anything a woman does can be used as an excuse to deem her un-“worthy of honour or respect”. Doesn’t matter if a woman wobbles naked on a pole with pencils up her nose and a teacosy on her head, she’s a human being, a living creature and so is worthy of honour and respect.  If other people choose not to treat her (or any woman) without honour or respect, it is not her actions which cause it and are at fault, rather their reactions, attitudes, and subsequent behaviours. Ditto if people think less of women because Burlesque exists, – is that Burlesque’s fault? (or – lets face it, we say burlesque, but people don’t seem that bothered by the singing, comedy, dancing – it’s nakedness, or the removal of clothing they don’t like)

Burlesque causes a severe loss of the sense of pride in themselves and self respect of women.  – This is about how a woman feels about herself, and only she can know. If someone performing Burlesque feels such a loss in pride / self respect, then God yes, stop it immediately, put down the feathers, step away from the sequins, it’s not for you. But most performers I have heard comment say the opposite. It has increased their confidence, their pride, their self respect.  Or let us think about if it is the woman watching who loses her pride, etc. Again, many audience members express the feeling that there is something about Burlesque which they find empowering and confidence building. Granted not every woman might feel that way. People’s attitudes to nakedness and sensuality are widely different. Someone might see  a woman joyously bouncing nearly nude with sparkly tassles on her nipples as fun, funny, celebratory – someone else might find it embarrassing and tasteless. Neither is wrong, both are right – for themselves.

And what then for the “Women” in general – not the performers, or the audience – the general category of women. Does it affect their pride in themselves that other women do this? That this exists? And if it does, is that something that can be helped – a valid reason to stop the continuation of an activity which, as has been noted, other women find empowering. Or is it possible that there is more going on in the mind / life of the women who object – that may not be solved even by the disappearance of the Burly crew?

Leaving us with Burlesque is beneath the dignity of women. It is something unfitting for them to do. Who says? Who gets to say what is fitting for women? Presumably not men – but, did we get together and have a vote, to say, this is what x amount of us want to be included in the list of activities fitting for a woman to do – therefore we will all be held to it? Was this the same vote that meant there is a sneer on the face of some professional women who hear of someone choosing to stay home and look after the household and/or children? Which said we should all pursue “equality” with men by pretending to be them in the business sphere?

Oh – I missed one out.

Burlesque causes a severe loss in the serious manner or style of women.

I should hope so too… Maybe they have a point 😉

Equality of opportunity I take to mean that everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, age, political belief etc. – should have equal access to opportunities for education, employment, healthcare, etc etc. Not that we should have access to things we didn’t have before, but no longer do, or take pleasure in anything which may have once figured in a more restrictive scope of woman’s capability.  No one should be forced into any form of work, or feel they have no option but to do a kind of work they don’t want to do – but that could equally be scrubbing floors as it could stripping. Whatever work someone does by choice, they should not be exploited, they should be given fair reward. But if someone enjoys what they do, is well rewarded and in no way coerced, we should respect that choice.

A brief note on objectification too – which we will take to mean that which makes a woman be viewed as a sexual object. I agree there is too much in society which presents women in this way – and only this way. I object to Page 3 and Lads mags – because they objectify, and dehumanise women not just in the imagery but also in the associated text. I don’t object to pictures of naked people. Is a nude portrait objectifying? If not why not?  And – what about those moments you want to be viewed as a sexual object? Not just a sexual object, but you want someone to notice that aspect of you, while accepting there is more to you than that alone. Might be for personal, intimate reasons, or perhaps public, performing reasons. Are women not allowed to choose to be objectified, even for a little while?

Objections to the above (using the word object too much now) – seem to me to not be about the “object” or “action” – not the performance, the body, the picture – but about the behaviour of certain men in response to those stimuli. And yet we seek to place the blame on Burlesque. Cover up we say. And yet in another voice might condemn a culture which requires women to wear a burqa to protect men from sin.  Men are capable of learning self control, and knowing when something is and isn’t appropriate. That men misbehave, are rude, letcherous, and occasionally abusive and criminal – is never the fault of a woman, but the men themselves.

Valley of Lights

A few months ago I wrote about the devastation which was caused by the summer floods in the Calder Valley. As I type there are other villages and towns mopping up and counting the cost of more recent flooding in the South. It might not feel like it to them at the moment – but things will get better. It will take a while, but eventually things will start to return to normal

Things are not completely back to pre-flood status in Calderdale yet. There is still work being done, and sadly some businesses may not return. But the transformation from the mud stained mess that was left behind in June / July is amazing. The community has pulled together in the most remarkable way. Businesses and local government have put in masses of work to repair, rebuild and regenerate, bringing visitors back to the region

Last week saw an amazing celebration of this recovery. An idea put together in an early “Hebden Rising” meeting (of local business owners, citizens and artists,) – for a lantern parade, grew into “Valley of Lights”. This brought together the towns / villages of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd – which were the worst affected by the floods, to tell the story of the deluge and the amazing community spirit which helped get people back on their feet.

2012-11-29 19.18.15

Kicking off with the lighting of the Christmas Lights in the Yorkshire / Lancashire border town of Todmorden, the first lantern parade wound around the streets last Saturday. Sadly the good old Pennine rain decided it wanted a look in again, and the weather was absolutely dreadful. Nonetheless, hundreds of people came to watch the people of Todmorden walk and dance with their hand made willow and wax paper lanterns behind illuminated samba and jazz bands. Eventually they gathered in the town gardens for the finale. Well oiled fire dancers whirled and spun with their torches in the rain, paraffin lamps lined the paths.

Illuminated lanterns showing Todmorden being attacked by a water dragonA moving and evocative soundtrack backed the performance of a lantern play – where the houses, factories and local landmarks were beset by the attentions of lantern clouds with flashing LED rain and lightning, and a magnificent water dragon.

2012-11-24 17.50.48Then, a beautiful shadow puppet performance depicted how people got together to help return the flooded town to normality – hard work, tea and sympathy. Teams of “food angels” cooking and delivering dinners to those whose kitchens were destroyed. Restaurants giving food for free, everyone doing their bit, donating what they could in money or furniture / clothes.

Finally, three fire drawings were ignited, burning off to reveal tableaus of the valley before, during after. All very beautiful and magnificently performed despite the howling wind and rain!

2012-11-24 18.01.21

On top of this, illuminated night markets offered local food and drink, and gave a showcase to local businesses which have made it through to the other side. The canal was taken over by brightly coloured exotic inflatables, and music and street performances went on late into the night.

2012-11-29 20.54.26

2012-11-29 19.08.30

The weather was kinder on Thursday, when Valley of Lights came to Hebden Bridge. The format was the same – though the parade was longer, with more local lanterns (including one of the Packhorse bridge) and the crowds much larger as several thousand people, and TV crews came to see the valley brought back to life.

This time our fire drawing was the water dragon symbol used to advertise the festival.

2012-11-29 19.51.17

Thursday also saw the “Illuminated bike ride” of 200 cyclists riding from Todmorden, through Hebden to Mytholmroyd – to coincide with the re-opening of the Dusty Miller pub.  More markets and glowing canal creatures, and more music and magnificent creations, along with late night opening in most of the shops which have worked so hard to keep going through this difficult year.2012-11-29 19.19.21

And finally Mytholmroyd had its turn on Saturday 1st December. Christmas lights switched on by local paralympian Karen Darke, another parade, markets and canal boats – and another pub open, the Shoulder of Mutton, which had been out of action all year. I’ve never seen Mytholmroyd so full of people, with so many smiles despite the cold.

It’s been a difficult year no doubt. And I still look forward to welcoming back those places whose recovery is not yet complete. But life is back in the place, and the insurance money has given some places a refit or rethink that they might never have been able to manage without it. People are working together on creative and innovative partnerships – pop-up shops, bars and restaurants in otherwise unused spaces while their own premises are repaired. Great use has been made of our new Town Hall to provide a community hub – new events have been added to the calendar which will hopefully make a comeback next year, bringing in more visitors and an even greater vibe to our valley. We can’t help the weather, and people are campaigning hard to try and get the flood defences and infrastructure improvements which might reduce the risk of repeat occurrences – but we have had our faith in our community restored, and the future looks bright in our Valley of Lights.

Disposable income

In an ideal world, we’d all have lots of disposable income, which we would dispose of in lots of ways, supporting the various strands of our economy, local and otherwise.

It would be truely disposable too. We wouldn’t feel any guilt about spending it, because we would have paid all our bills, and debts, and put enough money into savings not to feel like we were being frivolous our postponing some serious money worries by frittering away the little we have.

But it isn’t an ideal world. And I don’t think many people I know can say all of the above about their financial situation. I certainly can’t.

Technically, if you’re in debt, you don’t have any disposable income. Because every bit you spend elsewhere is not being used to repay your debt. Even saving feels difficult because if you end up getting in more debt because you put too much aside in savings one month, what’s the point? Of course, it’s much of a muchness at the moment with 0% credit cards and negligible interest rates. But you have to give yourself some spending money in your budget – even if it’s only a few pounds a day. The question is – what do you spend it on?  Some people can’t do without a newspaper. Some people buy a coffee, or lunch. Some people might be very good, read their news on line, take their home made sarnies and flask to work – but save up to buy themselves an outfit, or a pair of shoes every so often.

I was thinking about it at a meeting the other day about trying to get people back into Hebden Bridge – (visitor numbers have fallen since the recent floods, perhaps through a perception that everything is closed, but I can assure you there are still a good 70% of our fabulous shops and cafes and pubs open and waiting for you).  I regularly do a trawl around the shops in Hebden, but I will admit, I don’t buy much. Bits and bobs. The rest of the time I drool. There are some amazing shops selling beautiful things, but I see them as out of my price range. Having got myself into most of my debt during periods of manic spending (literally, my slightly bipolar side, impulse control failure leading to a conviction that I really need to buy 100cds in a week) – I have gone the other way. I don’t buy “things” very much. Practically speaking, I don’t have room for them. My house is overcluttered, I have piles of books up the stairs threatening to topple over and kill me one of these days. I have (what I consider) lots of shoes, but only one pair of each type (eg. trainers, walking boots, heels, smart shoe). Ok, maybe two, but it’ll be the newer pair and the knackered pair. I buy an item of clothing which isn’t to replace something falling apart maybe once every three months, and usually from a charity shop. There’s something in my head that has clicked, and says that despite how lovely the things might be, I can’t afford them.

But – and this is the interesting thing – I still happily spend money on drinking in pubs, eating in restaurants and getting the occasional takeaway. I can no more afford £40 on a meal for two than I can £40 for a lovely lamp, or bowl, or set of plates that I don’t need. But that bit of my head hasn’t got the memo yet.  Someone who doesn’t drink may spend an equivalent amount on a new dress. We all have our temptations. Whether we can afford to be tempted or not. I shouldn’t be spending any  money on anything really. But I do. And for the time being it is the pubs and restaurants that benefit. Maybe if I finally succeed in controling my drinking, and clear out the house a bit, I might indulge myself. I really really want two of those amazing Magpies in Home-oh. (bad luck to have just the one…)

However, a happy aside is that I am determined to try and ensure plenty of local businesses benefit from our wedding next year. Probably the only chance I’ll have to spend that kind of money – and I can trick myself into thinking I’m really spending on the guests not me. So once I know the colour of my dress fabric (being made in Heptonstall by Nicola Wheeler) I’m off hunting hats. But in the meantime, I’m going to try and do my little bit by telling people about the lovely things on offer in Hebden, so if you need somewhere to get rid of that disposable income, you might decide to come along.

Response to Craig Whittaker MP on gay marriage

Just sent this letter to the Hebden Bridge Times in response to their reporting on his blog entry the other week. Don’t know what it’ll look like if published so here is unedited version.

I was dismayed to see the views of Mr Whittaker re-printed in the Hebden Bridge Times (and supported in a letter last week) – although I suppose it gives the opportunity to comment, which his original blog did not.

It saddens me that Mr Whittaker feels that this how he should represent his constituents – which he cannot be unaware include the higher than average proportion of people defining as gay or bisexual in the area in and around Hebden Bridge.

Marriage – the recognition of a union between two people, has been around longer than the state, longer than the church, longer than the law. It comes from a desire to bond with someone, to seek to pair with them for life. Only later has it been deemed necessary to have the union blessed by God, or recognised by the state. Much of this control coming out of the concept of a transfer of property (the woman) from old to new owner (father to groom).

This is not how we view marriage today. Times have changed and in this respect many of us have reformed to an earlier consideration of marriage. The desire to have our union recognised and celebrated by family, friends, and the society / state in which we live.

The rights and recognition extended to one citizen by the state must be extended to all. Next year, I marry my current partner (a man). But had I remained with one of my previous partners ( a woman) this right would have been denied. It is absurd and unequal. The fudge of Civil Partnership was a cowardly complication of the issue – a welcome step – but if it is not marriage, then it is not equal to marriage. Now we have two unequal institutions, one closed to same-sex partners, one closed to mixed-sex couples.

To say marriage is about children, (as he does in his blog) in this day and age, is nonsense. Not to say that I don’t believe that a preparedness to enter into a commitment with your children’s mother / father is not an admirable thing – but what then of those later in life, past the menopause, or infertile? No marriage for them? Or same sex partners with children (adopted, or conceived) – why do their children not deserve married parents?

Perhaps, there should be a legal compact between parents and children that is separate from marriage / civil partnership, which also constitutes a contract with the child and the state, promising to care for, feed, educate and respect the child to accepted standards. We should recognise there are many kinds of parent – biological, adoptive, familial – people who have a responsibility in bringing a child into the world and / or bringing them safely up into adulthood regardless of whether their own romantic and sexual unions are successful.

The consensus in much of society is that marriage is about two people, these two people should love one another and want to try and stay together as long as they live. Whether they can or do have children together is irrelevant to those vows. They don’t cease to be binding if the woman fails to conceive, or an adoption application falls through.

The bottom line is, Mr Whittaker, if you fail to extend to another person a right that you enjoy yourself, on the basis of some characteristic of theirs that you do not share, that is discriminatory, and it very much is a civil rights issue. If in 50 or a hundred years time, society changes, and other definitions of marriage are proposed, it is up to them to decide what they believe is right. Times change. Slaves are not 3/5th of a free man, women are not property, homosexuals are not outlaws. Be a man and treat others with the respect you hope to be afforded yourself.

The last thing I need…

You might think is another blog….

However, having set up a “Wedsite” as I am assured by various online doobries is the done thing – there is a blog on it too. But I’ll prob cross post here anyhoo. But it’ll be nice to have all my planning thoughts in one place.


Yes, you read it right. SandMAdcock Long.

The question is what will the married name be?  Hmm. Temptation to be very silly is very great. What’s the accent you need to make a long A?

Hebden Blog Club

Monday night saw the 2nd meet up of the new-born Hebden Blog Club at B@rplace. Lively discussion centred around a couple of topics, which could be summarised as how to get more readers and/or how to make fame and fortune from your blog.  Robert has put together some thoughts and ideas on his blog, Society Fabric, which is interesting.

Some of the talk – both on the night, and later, discussing with OH – was about why should you do anything to get readers, or higher Google rankings, or whatever. Is it just vanity, or subverting the medium to want to monetarise or pursue popularity?  A lot of the people in the group seem to make a living from writing, in one way or another, so for them, time spent blogging may necessarily be time spent not writing something which will pay their bills. So if you could have a magic trick to make your little old blog instantly famous and flooded with readers, who would then commission you to do other things, or buy your book, or whatever, then it’s be a good thing.  A lot of the blogs I have listed from hebden are actually attached to businesses – so even if they are not directly selling anything, then hopefully the blog is a useful publicity stream for fabulous products, as well as being an interesting insight into the way things are made, or how the businesses are set up or run.  I hope the people writing them are doing it at least 60% for their own benefit though, as it would be sad for it to be thought of as a chore.

The question is – why are you blogging? Is there a point?  I blog primarily for myself. There’s something about it that I like. It’s not quite diary, not quite website. I can witter away, share things, keep track of interesting stuff, and if someone else out there reads and finds something interesting or useful in what I have said then hooray.  I do like to get comments, but I’ve never got a great many, even on my old blog which was to some extent better “optimised” than this, and gets more hits.  If I would like to get more readers it’s to increase the chance of getting comments, or being interesting to someone. But I have no expectations of fame or fortune, I just don’t write anything that interesting or good.

However. If your answer to “why are you blogging?” is for example “to raise awareness of x” then obviously, the more readers you get, the more awareness you raise.  “To improve may understanding of y” – the more people who comment, the more you may learn. “to get people to use my service / buy my product / like my work” – then there comes the money and the fame.

Whatever you’re writing for, you have to think, who do you want your readers to be – and then provide them with content to suit. Do what it is you do to the best of your abilities, and communicate with people.  Use Twitter to publicise, and find others who are interested in the same things as you. Read other similar blogs or websites, learn from them, and comment on them. Respond to their posts with posts of your own, and be yourself. If you deserve popularity, I’m fairly certain it will find you.  But don’t push too hard. I personally hate the over-use of Twitter for marketing.  If that’s all someone ever tweets about, I’m likely to unfollow.  If someone sells, but also tweets personally, that’s ok – but if I say “I need some new shoes, these ones have a hole in them” @Shoediscountstore yelling “50% off Manolo Blahniks in Minneapolis” at me is not part of any conversation I need to have.

Tagging and SEO and whatnot are all very good – but it’s content that matters. Imagine you’re walking through town and you see adverts everywhere for a new florist. You follow them, and find a beautiful shop front, painted green with beautiful pictures of flowers, and signs detailing “Gladioli, Lilies, Roses, Hyacinths, Bluebells, Agapanthus, Alium, Tulips”, and yet when you go in, all you find are some wilted daffodils and a potted geranium – you’re going to leave and never go back.

Next Blog Club meet: 5th Sept, 8pm, B@rplace