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February 10, 2019 / catherinebwrites


Is Liam Neeson a racist? I don’t know the man so, I don’t know. But he’s Irish and we have long been on the receiving end of racism. We have some sense of how insulting, ridiculous, demeaning, undermining, ignorant and horrible it can be. But, we are white, so we also know that our experience is a pale shadow of what people with brown, black or yellow skin experience.

The problem is that most of us grow up with levels of racism. My childhood was spiked with references to the Jews who murdered Jesus, pennies for the poor Black Babies, Africans cooking missionaries in pots, the evils of the Yellow Peril, Russians who killed priests and nuns, the savage Red Indians attacking wagons full of nice white people. All of them, I learned, behaved that way because they were unfortunate pagans who needed Irish Missionaries to guide them on the true path of civility and righteousness!

As an adult I realised that these ideas were not just wrong, but stupid as well. I demonstrated against racism, I refused to buy the produce of racist regimes, I argued against racist comments, attitudes and prejudices. I consciously made friends with anyone I met who was not white. I believed myself to be unprejudiced, anti-racist, open-minded, liberal and generally a very good egg.

And then I went to Trinidad.

One day I found myself in downtown Port of Spain. Looking about me I realised that I was the only white person on the street – and I wasn’t freaked out! That just proved how cool and non-racist I was – totally unaware that this notion was, of itself, racist! I went into a shop. The assistant ignored me. She served several people who had come in after me. Initially I wasn’t bothered but, by the time she’d served the sixth person, while continuing to ignore me, I was getting hot under the collar. Suddenly from the depths of my psyche a thought flashed into my head.

How dare she ignore me… I’m white!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Did I think that? Did I really think that? I was so shocked that I had to leave the shop and rest against a tree. And there, for the first time, I realised that the racism I’d grown up with still lurked deep inside. For the very first time I understood how unaware of our own racism we can be. How it will rise to the surface when we’re put under pressure. It was a sharp slap in the face for my liberal self.

Liam Neeson’s experience was much more distressing than mine. His response at the time was both racist and savage. He recognises that now and regrets it. So here’s my question.

When you realise that your behaviour was racist, when you regret it, learn from it and strive to change , is it racist to recount the incident?

January 15, 2019 / catherinebwrites



It’s top of the list of human fears and yet, Public Speaking is something we have to do as part of our job. So we write the stuff down with the butterflies in our stomach fluttering through entire life cycles. We go to the microphone, the butterflies start to throw up. We grip our script like it will save us from drowning. We read our words aloud and…. we bore the pants off everyone.

Is that what you want?

I’ve been to many, many conferences like that and there’s only speaker I still remember. The audience was very mixed audience in age,education and levels of interest. And yet, every one of us was riveted. Afterwards I asked what her secret was.

“If you really know your subject,” she replied, “you should be able to explain it to an intelligent five year old.”

So that’s the first rule. Know your stuff.

The moment you step onto a stage you can feel the energy. It’s the audience. They’re hoping you’re going to be fabulous, hoping you will engage them, inform them, entertain them. For who in their sane senses would pack a case, arrange travel, stay in a hotel and attend a conference in the fervent hope of being bored to tears? Who would dress up and go out to a show, a lecture, an event in the fervent hope that their time would be wasted?

So, the moment you step in the stage the audience energy comes at you like a wave. And there are there three ways of approaching that wave.

  1. “EEEK – they’re all looking at me.” Freeze, make a dogs dinner of your speech and embarrass your audience. Not great.

2. Put an imaginary barrier between you and the audience. E.G. Imagine them naked. This is the most common approach. It works… sort of. You’ll get through your speech but, your audience will be bored witless.

3. Look your audience in the eye. Feel the wave coming at you, step on to it and surf it. Now you’re communicating. Now your audience is engaged. Even if they disagree they’ll enjoy listening. Even if you make mistakes they’ll forgive you and love you for being, not just a good speaker but human as well.

So that’s the second rule. Nobody’s there in the hopes of being bored.

On top of that you’ll get the buzz, you’ll love it, you’ll come off stage high as a kite. And you won’t be able to wait for another chance to speak in public again.



February 14, 2018 / catherinebwrites


What will happen if Theresa May loses her seat in parliament?

Dear Mrs May,

You’re in a pickle.   We all know you’re in a pickle.   And it is painful to watch.   All of Europe finds it painful to watch.   The whole world finds it painful to watch.   And we know that you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.   No matter what solution you come up with, it will cause conniptions all round.

So here’s my suggestion.   You’re the Prime Minister of Britain, you’ve  achieved your life’s ambition.    And even if wasn’t, it’s a great addition for your C.V.   So, don’t let them push you out.  Quit while you’re ahead.  Resign… for health reasons… to spend more time with your family… blah, blah…  You know the score.


Let the Brexiteers deal with Europe.   Let them find the way to bring the  peace, plenty and self determination they promise.


Let them discover those profitable trade deals with the rest of the world.   Let them resolve the Irish Border question.   Let them deal with the DUP.   Let them sort out the customs union and the electronic border at Dover.

Sit back and watch.   Well, for a bit, while you recover from being everyone’s punch-ball.  Then get up.   Do a real job of leadership.  Save your country from ruin. Gather a coalition of reason and sanity.  Tour the country.   Tell people what Brexit will really be like.   Explain the benefits of staying in the E.U.   Remind them of all the past benefits.  Demand another referendum.

And when they howl,

“Denying the democratic will of the people!”

Remind them that they misled the people.   Inform them that, in countries where referendums are a regular thing, the Government  has a LEGAL obligation to explain BOTH sides of the issue.   That every household gets a leaflet with the information.   This never happened in Britain.   Insist that this be done for the next Referendum.

And if, after that, Britain is still in the E.U.  Take on the E.U.   Work out how it should be improved.  Focus on the basic necessities, decent housing, health care and education for all.   Lobby for it .  Gather support.   Keep your eye on the ball.    Keep at it.

Do that and you WILL be remembered.

October 30, 2017 / catherinebwrites



I  can hear certain men now,  they’re bewildered,

“I don’t know what I’m allowed say around women these days!”

“Have they no sense of humour?”

“What’s wrong with a bit of flirting?”

Here are the answers.

Flirting: There’s nothing wrong with a bit of flirting, we enjoy it as much as you do.   And, like you, some of us do it just for the craic and some of us hope it leads somewhere.

Humour: Yes, we do have a sense of humour.   But, just like men, some of us have a better sense of humour than others.   Some of us have less of a sense of humour than others.    Some of us are hilarious.   Some of us are dull as ditch water.   We run the gamut – exactly like men.

What can you say?:   Well….. this is where you have to check in with yourselves.   Do you really, truly see women as your equal?   Really?   Now double check that one.

If your answer is “Yes” there there’s no problem.  You can say what you like because, if you do really and truly, see us as your equal,  you won’t say anything demeaning.  You’ll speak to us as equals.

Women instantly KNOW the men who respect us and see us as equals.  It takes only a couple of seconds to suss you out.   We see it in your body language, your tone of voice, how you address us, if you address us, the subjects on which you choose to address us. When we know that you see us as equals you can flirt, joke, pull our legs, ask our opinion, pick our brains…. whatever.

“But,” I hear you wail, “I LOVE women”

And there’s the give away!  Every sensible woman who hears that phase thinks, step away from this idiot.   The men who protest how much they love women really mean

A. that they find a wide range of women sexually attractive

B. they love having lots of women around them because that makes them look good.

“But,” I hear you wail, “I think women are FAR superior to men.”

Yikes O’ Reilly will you listen to yourself.   Women come in exactly the same range of morally good, bad and indifferent as men.   And frankly, if you insist on putting us on unrealistic pedestals  how do you see us when we don’t reach your impossible standards?   That’s right, you’re one of those guys with the Madonna/whore problem. Please get real.

What on earth is it that women want? you howl.

Simple.   We want equality.

October 22, 2017 / catherinebwrites


Women come in to adulthood knowing the following,

  • Boys stick together
  • Boys never rat on each other.
  • They wear t-shirts like this

So…. when someone makes a lurch for her body parts, when someone at the photocopier whispers obscenities in her ear, why does she not complain?   After all, she’s been moaning on about equality for long enough.

Here’s why.   She fears that,

  1. She won’t be believed.
  2. She’ll be accused of making it up
  3. She’ll be told that she was “asking for it”
  4. She’ll lose her job
  5. She’ll lose a job opportunity
  6. She’ll be barred from promotion
  7. She’ll be labelled “trouble”, “hysterical” “mad cow”
  8. This reputation will follow her for the rest of her life
  9. She’ll be labelled “bitch” “frigid” “cock tease” etc….. fill the rest in yourselves
  10. The office Lotharios will see her as a challenge to “melt the iceberg”

We’ve all been brainwashed with the story of Eve and the apple… it was all her fault!  That Adam took no responsibility for his action is neither here nor there.

As Daughters of Eve, they tell us, we, by our very nature, provoke sexual offences.  Therefore, it’s up to us to prevent them.   So a woman does not report a sexual offence because

11. She feels that, somehow, it must be her fault

12. She is ashamed that it has happened

If she gets as far as talking to another woman she gets this advice

  • Let it go
  • You’ll only give yourself more trouble
  • Pay no attention
  • Men are like that
  • Get used to it.
  • Ignore them
  • Don’t rock the boat.
  • Find a way to deal with it.

So…… we find a way to deal with it… eventually.

Speaking up takes maturity, self-confidence and courage.   

Which of us have that in our youth?



September 1, 2017 / catherinebwrites

Accidental Cohabitation


Jeff Gephart


As most of you know, my girlfriend and I now live together in an apartment. Undertaking this was the most adult thing I’ve done since I started wearing shoes that fasten with something other than Velcro. (Which happened in 2011.) What people don’t realize is that we share a 2-bedroom apartment, with each of us having our own bedroom. Of course we still have sleepovers occasionally, but most nights we each retire to a different room. When this comes up in conversation with others their reaction is generally split along age categories. People our age and younger are aghast–why would we do such a thing? That’s not REALLY living together! Older folks, however, usually brighten and congratulate us on our foresight. You’ll dodge a lot of problems, they say, that other couples sometimes can’t get past. After all, a lot of successful older couples have separate bedrooms, and that can’t be a coincidence.

Why did we make this decision? Well for one, where else would I exhibit my absurdly large collection of Pittsburgh sports memorabilia? She’s a Cowboys fan, and she wouldn’t allow it to be displayed in the common areas of the apartment. Incidentally, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, I knew she was a Dallas fan right off the bat, yet I agreed to cohabitate with her anyway, which I think shows an almost superhuman tolerance for another’s faults that speaks for itself. But seriously, a major reason for the independent bedroom situation is that I suffer from chronic insomnia. Medication helps a little, but when a leaf hits the side of the apartment at night, I jump up combat-ready wondering what kind of armored vehicle has plowed into the building. Sleep frustratingly eludes me the way Bigfoot dodges those losers on Animal Planet. And by the way, instead of “Finding Bigfoot” shouldn’t that show be called “Searching for Bigfoot” or even “Wasting Time in the Woods With Other Smelly Dudes”? Because they’re not actually finding anything except pathetic viewers that haven’t had a date since the Clinton administration. But I digress. The point is, we all know sharing a bed isn’t conducive to actual sleep. There’s the constant tossing and turning, the disagreements about room temperature, the not-having-enough-space in the bed–all of which still happen even when I sleep alone.

Ultimately, having our own bedrooms comes down to our basic personality types. She’s fiercely independent and likes having her alone time. And me, well I have an overall shitty disposition. Yeah. I make that rancor monster in Jabba the Hutt’s basement look like Jimmy Fallon. No, but seriously, I’m also dependent on a significant amount of solitude from time to time to keep me sane. I need my own space to retreat to when she’s watching yet another episode of Sex and the City. So, while having separate bedrooms at our age might be unconventional, it works for us. And if what I do seems weird and off-putting to you, hey, get in line behind the hundreds of my Facebook friends who don’t buy my books. I’m past the point of caring what people think. I’m too busy every night chasing that elusive butterfly called slumber.


August 29, 2017 / catherinebwrites



It was a balmy evening in Berlin.   We were all set to go to the Kino Moviemento <>_to see the documentary Mr Gaga which is about Ohad Naharin and his Batsheva Dance Company

<> and hear the producer Heymann Barak talk about the making of it.   But first we had to eat. Culture is so much more uplifting when you’ve had a good meal!

K. knew about a new Japanese restaurant nearby called  Show Me Tepanyake, Schoenleinstrasse 11, 10967 Berlin.   We traipsed about  failing to find it and eventually discovered it, right beside where we’d started, no more than a minute’s  amble from the front door of the cinema.


The chef was Chinese but had spent five years training in Japan and boy, did he put on a performance for us!    Teppanyaki  is when the chef cooks in front of you, on a flat hot- plate.  Knives flipped, ingredients made patterns on the grill, flames shot to the ceiling and on top of all that, the food was delicious, and the wine…positively melodious.  Now we were ready for Culture.

Photo of Show Me - Teppanyaki - Berlin, Germany


The film was a documentary on the life of Ohad Naharin, a choreographical genius.   Take a look.<; and see for yourself.  Afterwards, Heymann Barak, the producertalked about the long journey making the film turned out to be…. but worth every year it consumed!

Now, suitably high on quality dancing, we returned to the restaurant for a drink and and a chat.   The night was warm so we sat outside sipping our glasses of Reisling.   Next thing, a startlingly beautiful tenor voice,  floated out from the restaurant singing Nessun Dorma, a capella.   People  gathered on the street to listen.   The Voice charmed us with four operatic arias, all unaccompanied.  We all strained to see who was singing. It turned out to be a very young Chinese man, probably no more than 20 years of age with a wonderful tenor voice.

Dyane Neiman, the organiser for The Bear Storytelling in Berlin was with us.  She always invites a musician to perform at the storytelling sessions, so, she approached him to ask if he’d be willing to perform at a session this coming autumn.   He blushed bright red, grinned from ear to ear, and, with his very proud mammy urging him on, he agreed. It will be a night to remember.    If you’re in Berlin, Google: The Bear Stories and find out when it will happen.   And even if you can’t make it the night he is singing, go to The Bear anyway, you’ll have a great night.

June 28, 2017 / catherinebwrites


Mount Ararat from Yerevan

Mount Ararat is, they say the place where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the flood.   You can even see a piece of wood which,  they say, is part of the ark in a museum in Yerevan.   Yerevan is the capital of Armenia and Mount Ararat the national symbol.  You can see the mountain from all over the city.  But, after a genocide in 1915, the border shifted and now the mountain is in Turkey. This is a great sorrow to all Armenians.

Noah’s Ark setting out.

I was there recently, observing the election.   The area I had to cover included eleven  villages between Yerevan and the border.   The villages are poor with houses built out of rough concrete blocks and, from time to time, in this impoverished community, you will see a pillared mansion with a high fence around it.   The contrast between the few “haves” and the many “have-nots” could not be starker.

On our first day we had to visit all the polling stations to check that they were properly set up.  Most of them were in schools.   The schools were bleak, concrete buildings with crumbling steps, uneven floors and caretakers doing their best to keep them clean and functional.

Waiting to vote

In one village, the caretaker greeted us at the door.   She was a solid, dark-haired woman, middle-aged and exuding an air of formidable competence.   She showed us the polling station and then insisted that we view the classrooms.   “Her” classrooms.   As she was not  the kind of woman to brook disobedience, we followed her into a classroom.   It was, like the building, pretty bleak, with worn tables and chairs and an obvious lack of equipment.   But, it was spotless, there was a vase of plastic flowers, some hand-painted pictures on the walls and lace curtains on the windows.  We remarked on this.

“I like to make the classroom pretty,” the woman said, “because I believe that children learn better when the classroom is nice.”

Then she offered us coffee and brought us to a kitchen and a refectory.

“I am the best cook in the village, ” she announced, “Everyone in our village knows this is true, so I cook a good meal for the children every day.   Because children cannot learn when they’re hungry and some of our pupils come from very poor families and they are hungry.”

Checking the register

As she was making the coffee she drew our attention to the pictures decorating the walls throughout the school.   They  had clearly been painted by an amateur artist and ranged from cartoon figures to vases of flowers and village scenes.

“My daughter-in-law is a very good artist,” our friend announced, “so I told her to make pictures for the school so that the children have something nice to look at.”

Got the ballot papers

As we drank our coffee, my partner asked what the exam success rate for the school was.

“Last year,” she announced, “Only two children in my school failed the State examination.”

“You must have very good teachers.” I suggested.

“Of course,” she replied, “I will never allow bad teachers in my school!”

Counting the vote

Next day when we returned to observe the voting in that polling station our friend was standing in at the school door, all dickied up in her Sunday best, surrounded by neighbours and friends.   She greeted me like a long-lost friend, hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks.   Her neighbours were astonished.   How could this ordinary village woman know these exotic foreigners who’d come from afar to view the elections?  Then she took me by the hand to meet the Chairman of the election committee.

It was only when I got home that it struck me that, this ordinary village woman was affecting the lives of every pupil who passed through that school and every teacher and thus, every one in that village.   I just hope that they recognise what a treasure they have in their midst.






April 30, 2017 / catherinebwrites

Things You Didn’t Know About Dating Men in Their 30s

The following is a guest blog post from American humor novelist Jeff Gephart, whose new novel is called ‘Accidental Adulthood: One Man’s Adventures With Dating and Other Friggin’ Nonsense.’  Learn more about Jeff and his work at


5 Things You Didn’t Know About Dating Men in Their 30s



    Many women feel their 30s are their “do or die” time to find that special someone. Whether it’s their biological clock ticking, or whether it’s just their family and friends (or society, indeed, in general) applying intentional or unintentional peer pressure. Becoming half of a couple, settling down–these are the “normal” things to do at this point in your life. Men are not immune to this pressure. In Accidental Adulthood, the main character Mick feels like everyone around him views him as a “fraction,” or an incomplete entity, because he doesn’t have a wife and kids, not even a girlfriend. This causes him, and most men in his situation, to do some peculiar things. They try to project an image of confidence, supreme masculinity, laissez-faire, but most of that is just insecurity causing them to mimic movie characters that seem desirable to women. I’ve heard women say most of the messages they get on online dating sites are bland, vague, and they don’t make the person sound as if he’s even read their profile. What they may not realize is that a man who sends that kind of message is just copying-and-pasting the same message to lots of women. Why? Casting a wider net. Why? Because they’ve probably already been ignored or turned down by so many women on the site that their fragile egos are telling them it’s probably not going to work, so don’t put much effort into it, but cast a wide net and you may get lucky. Mick tries this very tactic in the book. I’ve been there too, and I daresay I’m far from alone.


    Ladies, most men are physically attracted to younger, fit women because society has made that our ideal. Or perhaps it’s an extremely common personal preference. As Mick explains in Chapter 11, “If the average man didn’t find young women desirable, Playboy would’ve stopped publishing college issues a long time ago.” The thing is, the kind of man women in their 30s want is someone whose maturity actually matches their age. And there are plenty of us. The problem with those young, nubile women, is that they’re on a completely different wavelength than a thirtysomething man. They’re by and large too immature or self-absorbed to hold a man’s interest in conversation for very long. They’re boring. Admittedly, there are legions of men in their thirties that have not progressed mentally past horny teenager, and younger women fulfill their one and only use for them. But ladies, if you want a man that doesn’t solely think with his penis, then you have to attract them first with your mind. Your intellect, your sense of humor, your ability to talk about big ideas, whatever. If you whet his appetite with a good conversation (or an entertaining online profile) chances are you won’t have to look like an ill-fed swimsuit model to get and hold his attention.


    Bring home your free soup and gather around the radio for one of FDR’s “Fireside Chats” while….oh wait, nevermind. This one is from my blog about Dating Men in the ‘30s.


    And that’s why they’re as paranoid and crazy as they seem. I’ve heard lots of young women deploring all the “creeps” they run into, especially when dating online, but it goes both ways. In Accidental Adulthood, Mick experiences some surreal moments while dating: getting patted down in public like a drug suspect, being invited to do a Sears portrait on the first date, being shown dozens of pictures of the “slut” who stole her man from her, receiving a marriage proposal on a first date. Let me tell you, not all of these events sprung from my imagination. So if a guy seems to have trouble letting his guard down, or being distant, or putting up some kind of front, it’s just self-preservation mode. Don’t read too much into it. Don’t dismiss him from your mind right away, simply because he didn’t do everything right on the first date. He needs time to get comfortable too, and to assure himself you’re not just another girl who’s going to end up another bizarre story to tell his buddies at the bar.


    If you want to be treated like a princess and have every date feel like a magical prom night, you have to ask yourself what level of seriousness you’re truly trying to achieve through dating. There is nothing wrong with romantic gestures and grand adventures that seem like they’re out of the movies, but not every guy has that in them. Men get just as lonely as women. If a man is divorced, he’s facing a level of isolation that he’s not used to. If he’s still single in his thirties, he’s used to it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Be prepared for–and even suggest–a date now and then that just involves hanging out. Watching TV, just getting coffee and going somewhere to simply people watch, making dinner together. Sometimes a guy just wants someone to share his space, someone who “gets him” and makes him feel wanted. Let me tell you from experience, it sucks when a cool event is happening in town, but it doesn’t sound cool to any of your friends and then you face the prospect of attending alone. Don’t come into a new relationship with grandiose expectations; you’re just going to feel let down. Look for someone whose company you genuinely enjoy, even if you’re not actually “doing” anything.


    Men who have stayed single into their thirties haven’t gotten there by falling in love too easily. Men who married and are now back on the market in their thirties are most likely aren’t in a hurry to declare their love as quickly as they did the first time around. In Chapter 5, Mick has a memorable first date with a woman who proclaims her love for him and even hints at having children with him. It’s a funny scene, and I’m not saying it happened to me in real life (But, it did.), but the message is clear: Too much, too soon. Some men can’t wait to settle down and start a family, but I gotta say most of those types are not still online dating in their thirties. The majority are still single because nothing has worked out so far, so naturally they’re a bit wary. If a man says he loves you too early in your acquaintanceship, take that as a GIGANTIC RED FLAG. By the same notion, if he starts too soon with the pet names–babe, bae, boo–and it seems like he’s trying to progress things strangely fast, he’s probably one of those one-track mind guys that we spoke about before. Steer clear. If you’ve been dating for a year and he still hasn’t said any of these things, well, that’s a problem for a different article somewhere down the line.



March 17, 2017 / catherinebwrites


Read any magazine, Sunday supplement, newspaper features, relationship websites and it seems like the whole world wants to know what is it that makes a relationship work?

Men agonize over it.

Women agonize over it.

Is it me is it?   Is it him?   Is it her?

Here’s the answer.

G R O W  U P !

That’s right.   It really is that simple.   Grow up.

A grown up takes responsibility for their actions…  .if only everyone did that we’d have World Peace

Knows how to listen

Knows when to give support

Does the chores that need to be done.

Asks for what they need

Asks for help.

Can say “no”

Can take “no” for an answer.

Doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

And, if there’s only one grown up in the relationship, they can say.  “Enough is enough” and take the necessary action!

Read more…