I’m wearing my Mum’s coat today; it’s older than I am. An old-skool classic Burberry mac, a size too big and the hem hanging somewhere down by my ankles. My friends say I look like Inspector Gadget, but I love the coat. I love it because my Mum bought it with her first ever paycheck from writing. I love it because as soon as she bought it she found a perfect copy for 50p in a scouts’ jumble sale. So the real one went into storage 30 years ago, and she wore the thrifty ersatz version with as much joy and wear-and-tear as a young, fierce writer from Toxteth, starting her life and her family in London, could give it.
Earlier this year, my Mum gave the coat to me. There was no reason for it – no important birthday, unexpected news or life-changing event. It was simply that one rainy day in February she took the coat out of its zipped up bag and thought to pass it on. The idea of deliberate and legacy lasting objet has always felt far removed from my kind of life. I’m the kind of person who cringes at those Patek Philippe watch adverts, the ones featuring the leonine-haired fake Father and Son revelling in being custodians of a watch which costs more than a terrace of houses in Liverpool. The contents of my parents’ lives have always been as intrinsic to mine – the ramshackle house, the creaking furniture, the drawings, the books, the bears, the vast array of battered props and costumes, from papier-mâché helmets to venetian puppets, which having two storytellers as parents bring. If they have passed on anything to me, it has been their gentle guidance.
So the coat was a surprise, and perhaps for that reason I love it even more. As a young woman increasingly defining my life, putting that coat on reminds me of the opportunities available to women and the choices they have to make. That coat speaks of the otherwise unsaid and the unwritten. It tells me about the daughter of Irish immigrants living in a sink-estate in the 1950s, and the hard path from nothing to something. That coat is something. I do not wear it lightly.
It is in that spirit that last year I started something with my brilliant old friend, Jenny White. Tired of meeting every Friday after a hard week at work and complaining about the lack of opportunities to move ahead, we knew the answer lay in better networks. Not the arch corporate kind populated by the stale, pale and male brigade; or the arch feminist kind populated by the smug third wave. No, it would be something real, something relevant. As small as a glass of wine and a laugh, and as big as a new job offer. We started Big Blonde, and last year we achieved both of those things and more in between.
In 2013, we’re growing Big Blonde into something even bigger. We have created a modern enlightenment salon for ambitious, intelligent and creative young women to make contacts in all manner of industries – from politics to pole dancing, and every persuasion in between. We have big ideas – and we want to share them with you.
If you would like to get involved in Big Blonde, have a look at our (home-made) website or drop us a line, here. If, like Jenny and I, you believe that individuals can and do make a difference, then you sound like just the woman we’d love to meet.
And in the meantime, should you see someone dodging puddles in Soho who looks a little like Inspector Gadget, then it’ll probably be me wearing my Mum’s coat with as much joy and wear-and-tear as I can give it.
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