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Team, I have a bit of an internal struggle going on. The result of which is a quiet as quiet blog for the last few weeks. I thought I would share my thought process and crowd source some ideas from y’all because, well, a problem shared is a problem halved or something like that. Partly the blog has been quiet because I have declared 2018 as the ‘Year of Happy’, it’s the year of me doing dumb stupid stuff that makes me happy. So far this has included comedy shows, Disney World (!), dating, the Postal Museum, Netflix binges and of course endless coffee. Essentially I am being a selfish ratbag this year, and if I’m not in the mood to write, I don’t write (this is a distinct difference to last year when I couldn’t write because I was stressed to the gills and working all the hours under the sun, this is a good not writing). But the Year of Happy is not the biggest reason for not posting, the big reason is that I’m worried about the noise.

I have read a few articles recently (like this long read one CLICK HERE) all about our use of social media, and I extend that to how we write and promote blog posts as well. In all my reading about the current state of the internet the thing that most worries me is what algorithms are doing to our brains, aka the noise.

Algorithms are by face value quite nice things, the more you engage with a post the more you will be shown posts like it. The algorithms learn what you like and show you what they think you want to see, by this point all I should have on my walls is dogs wearing sunglasses. With all the content available on the internet a bit of curation is needed to stop us feeling overwhelmed, algorithms should be our friend. The problem is that content makers have cottoned on to this, in order to get content seen on Facebook or any algorithm based network the blog posts, captions and photos they create are black and white. Essentially this means instead of seeing content about Brexit that quietly weighs the pros and cons and lets you find your own opinion, all you get is ITS THE BEST or ITS THE WORST because that is what you will like, share and read.

What this does to your brain (or my brain at the very least) is that it constantly feels like the end of the world. Every time I log online it is us or them. Best or worst. Yes or no. For me (before I cottoned on) it was like living on a knife edge, the algorithms had turned me into a quibbling mess feeling like a punch was coming at any moment.

Side note: I’m not saying we should have centralist/moderate views on everything i.e. for me race and women’s rights are all or nothing topics. It’s more that the relentless stream of information is artificially creating a ‘pick a side’ argument on ALL issues – the truth when it comes to humans is usually grey and somewhere in the middle.

Anyway, back to blogging, it’s not just politics and equality issues that are playing the algorithm game, us bloggers do it to. How many blog posts do you see about ‘the best things to see in Paris’, ‘the cafes in London you can’t miss’, ‘the four things you have to do on a long haul flight’. I am guilty of all of these, because best or worst is what performs well in terms of clicks and views – I am feeding the machine. But what about the audience, you dear readers? When I look at those titles in the cold light of day (I’m actually writing this in a Disney ride queue and it’s warm and dark, but whatever) I think they cause the exact same problem as I talked about before.

The posts may be informative or funny (hopefully both) but they just add to the noise of what you ‘have to do/buy/think’. And if you don’t or can’t or haven’t then what? In an effort to get more readers I have essentially made you feel like a failure for not doing the thing.

No shade on other bloggers here, I know that to appear on google you have to write your posts and titles in a SEO friendly way. And if you are a full time blogger, getting those views can be the difference between paying rent or not. But for me, sitting in the luxury spot where this is a hobby not a job? I need to change the way I approach it. It’s all subtle changes, but I don’t want to trick anyone else’s brain into a ‘have to’, ‘need to’, ‘best or worst’ spiral.

I’m still me, and I will still write whatever takes my fancy, but you may notice I stop with the click bait and that my posts are less aggressively bloggy. Read it or not, it’s up to you. I just want to get back to enjoying writing for writings sake, and not feeling like I’m contributing to the noise.

I killed five succulents last year, yes those ‘impossible to kill’ succulents. I can be accused both of over loving, under loving and accidentally giving one gin…if they were children I would be locked up. But since they are plants I can just ashamedly put them in the bin and head to my local market for more. There is no register for serial succulent killers.

Quite why Lex and Aaron decided to ask me to plant sit while they were in Japan is beyond me. It is possible they didn’t know about the succulent massacre of 2017, but they have been in my flat enough times to see the ever revolving door of small green things, so they must have had an inkling. Despite their possible misgivings they left me in sole charge of Felicity the house plant for almost a month.

It all started off so fine. I watered Felicity the required amount every few days while whispering mantras of empowerment into her spiky leaves. I positioned her as close to the window as possible so that the weak winter sun could bring her joy. I even left audiobooks playing while I was at work, I know Lex and Aaron would want their little plant entertained (she really liked hearing about Stephen Fry’s adventures with cocaine in the 80’s).

But then a week ago, something weird started to happen. One day I bumped into Felicity as I was getting ready in the morning. She had been sitting near the window as per usual, but when I rounded the corner to go and put my makeup on she seemed to be a little further out from the wall than when I left her, causing me to jostle her as I went by. I didn’t think much of it, I put it down to the usual pre-coffee clumsiness. Oh how wrong I was, I wish I had known what was to befall me.

A couple of days later I was sitting at my computer, much as I am now (although I wasn’t shaking, heart racing in panic as I am now). I saw an airplane flying past my window and I started thinking about my upcoming trip to Florida with my parents. I was all excited thinking of the sunshine and laughter, when I glanced to my right and saw Felicity – staring right at me.

She won’t stop. Like a Weeping Angel, Felicity haunts me. Its fine when I’m at work and she can’t get me, but when I am back in my flat I can feel her watching. I never see her move, but she is always in a different spot every time I turn around. Could Felicity know about the succulents? Is she here to get retribution?

I don’t know what to do, I fear there are not many places to hide from a vengeful flamingo in a studio flat. Oh god, I can see her in the hallway now. Felicity is coming for me.

Lex, Aaron, what have you done?

I’m just a girl, standing in front of a panel show, asking where all the god damn women are. Call me crazy but I was under the impression that the earth was made up of 50% women. Actually I just checked the UK Office for National Statistics and the population of the UK is around 51% female. Which makes me beg the question…where the fuck are all the fucking women on the fucktrumpeting panel shows. I know you still have the Christmas wind in your hair, but I have come down from a roast potato and port high to a very cold reality (read, I have binged too much TV over the break). All the comedy panel shows that I know and love? Yeah, no such thing as gender equality where they are concerned.

Y’all know I love a spreadsheet, so I spent an evening hopped up on port transferring the guest listings from my favourite panel shows from Wikipedia to Excel. I know there are websites (like this one) that have already calculated the gender split, but I am a strong independent women and let’s be honest I didn’t think to google that until I was half way through. Besides, I got to use two of my favourite formulas for this (VLOOKUP and COUNTIF if you were wondering).

Anyway, my rules were to look at all shows, excluding Christmas compilations, from 2015 to present season (even when the shows were yet to air). I marked every host, regular and guest as either male or female (I recognise how problematic this is, but given the data I had and how much port I had consumed I had to work with what I was given). I decided to review this over a couple of years to try and give all the shows a fair chance. Statistically speaking if we had true equality then there would be some shows of all men, some of all women and the rest being a mix – however over time this would result in a 50-50 split between male and female. I figured that the longer period of time I could give them, the more likely we would hit on a normalised ratio. The reason I didn’t go back further, well, to be honest given the Weinstein revelations I consider anything pre-2015 the dark ages where all the ‘isms’ ran rampant.

The shows that I looked at (and I am sure you can read a lot into my mind from the shows included on this list) were:

  • Taskmaster
  • 8 out of 10 cats
  • Mock the Week
  • QI
  • Would I lie to you
  • Have I got news for you

Side note: these are the shows I got hooked on in my university semester abroad, and continued to watch through weird YouTube uploads from NZ. In my head they showed the broad minded and witty comedy that the UK was so good at. SPOILER: hence why I am so disappointed in the results.

Which brings me nicely onto the results. I split this in two ways, the first was including everyone that appeared on screen aka including the team captains and hosts. I thought this was possibly the most relevant since a) hosts are people too and b) the shows could always, oh I don’t know, employ people of the female persuasion in positions of power?

It is also interesting because in 2017 two of the shows included took that big step of trusting females with the buzzer and the cue cards; QI gave Sandi Toksvig the job of host (replacing Steven Fry) and 8 out of 10 cats gave Aisling Bea the job of team captain. Yes, you read that right, before 2017 LAST FUCKING YEAR there were no female hosts or team captains in the list. There is a reason my spreadsheet has the file name ‘RAGE’.

Sorry I need to calm down, I’m going to stop for a pastel de nata break (NB: if you learn nothing else from this blog post, try warming up a pastel de nata and throwing some cinnamon on top, it’s a game changer).

Right, tart consumed let me tell you of the second group. Being generous I figured that some hosts and team captains might be on long term contracts, making the gender balance of permanent roles hard to change. To allow for this I did a second take at the numbers but this time only looking at the guest spots, because even if a show has a male host and two male captains they could still have great representation of genders in the guests right? Right? RIGHT? SPOILER: The trash-fire shows are still trash-fires even when you take out the males hosts and captains

To make this easy I have divided the results into three categories:

  1. Mmm ok, but still need to try harder
  2. You will, I am sure, try to explain this away in a press release but we all know what is really going on
  3. Get in the fucking bin you sexist trash-fire

Mmm ok, but still need to try harder

Total people on screen Total guests
8 out of 10 cats Male 82 59% Male 42 52%
Female 58 41% Female 39 48%

 

Total people on screen Total guests
QI Male 154 64% Male 90 63%
Female 86 36% Female 53 37%

 

You will, I am sure, try to explain this away in a press release but we all know what is really going on

Total people on screen Total guests
Would I lie to you Male 151 80% Male 70 65%
Female 38 20% Female 38 35%
               
Total people on screen Total guests
HIGNFY Male 222 78% Male 108 63%
Female 63 22% Female 63 37%

 

Get in the fucking bin you sexist trash-fire

Total people on screen Total guests
Taskmaster Male 28 80% Male 18 72%
Female 7 20% Female 7 28%

 

Total people on screen Total guests
Mock the week Male 195 84% Male 121 77%
Female 36 16% Female 36 23%

Pissed off yet? Worst in this unbelievable line up is Mock the Week with a resounding 84% male presence on the screen in the last two years, only improving fractionally to 77% when you take out the hosts and regulars. To put this in context, in the last two years Mock the Week has had 31 appearances of guys called Ed. 31 Eds and 36 females. Forgive me for thinking equality isn’t high on the agenda for those funny, funny guys.

What I hate more than anything is that what I looked at was one form of representation, male vs female. However if you were to do this same experiment with race or disabilities as factors then the results would be dire (and if you want to do this, I can send you my spreadsheet). The format for representation on panel shows seems to be one white girl and one black guy amongst the sea of white men. This leaves almost no space at all for women of colour, any disabilities or anything else that might veer slightly away from TV ‘norm’. We all deserve to see our faces represented on TV, and it makes for far more interesting content.

It is a bullshit excuse that ‘there are no funny women’ or ‘the list of comedians to pick from is majority men, it’s not our fault’ – if a show named after a fucking cat food advert can get close to 50-50 then so can a topical news show. And if you are really stuck for people then check out this thing called ‘social media’, the music industry has been discovering talent on there for years.

I’m both angry and disappointed in the results of this, and excel usually brings me such joy. I don’t think that equal representation is too much to ask, particularly given the current political climate. I really don’t care how complicated the producers (side note, I would love to do this again but with the producers and writers who make the shows, my guess is they follow similar gender splits) say it is. DO BETTER.

If you have seen me in the last week I will have told you the story of Baileys. More specifically I would have run up to you like an overexcited Pomeranian and forced you to sit as I regaled you with the tale of the Irish cream. This amazing story of tax, Soho and cream has captured my imagination like no other.

It all started when I decided to crack the Baileys out of the cupboard and toast the impending Christmas season. Yes the Baileys was three years old, and yes drinking Baileys by yourself on a Tuesday night might be considered sad, but…actually I don’t have a but here, it is both sad and questionable behaviour. Feel free to stage an intervention any time now. I happened to look at the bottle after a couple of sips and noticed that the ingredients were ‘whiskey and cream’. It really shocked me, I’m not sure what I thought Baileys was made of, but whiskey and cream were not it. I did what any millennial in winter does, I took to Instagram Stories to broadcast my amazement and ask if it could possibly be true. (Side note, to experience such ground-breaking revelations in real time you can follow me here: @therunawaykiwi ).

What I got back was a resounding confirmation, yes Baileys was just whiskey and cream. However the answers started me down a rabbit hole of the origins of Baileys. And boy oh boy it’s a good one. In the late 60’s there was a company that was looking for products that could be exported from Ireland because there was a great tax break in the offing. Two guys in Soho (yes, the London Soho) thought they would have a crack at it. They went down to the corner store and grabbed the products that could be vaguely considered Irish and mixed them together. It tasted questionable at best, so they added sugar and Baileys was born. Not exactly the traditional Irish creation I pictured. As for the name, even that was a uniquely London affair, they named it after Baileys Bistro the restaurant that was underneath their office.

All of which brought me to this blog post. I never thought product creation was so simple, and if two guys in Soho can make their millions from a cream concoction then surely I can do the same. Time for the experiment, if successful I might be onto a multi-million dollar idea, if un-successful then I would be full of curdled cream and various spirits on a Tuesday night…seriously that intervention is welcomed any day now.

Chambord and Cream

Hypothesis: Strawberries and cream is a common combination right? So raspberries (that’s what Chambord is???) and cream must be palatable at the very least.

Result: This is a solid 8/10 winner. It was one of only two that I finished off and didn’t spit take over my carpet. It is super sweet and would taste great over ice cream or for that matter as ice cream – can someone with an ice cream maker please create this for me? For some reason it tastes quite floral, which is going to be excellent when it comes to logo design (I’m thinking getting hipsters tattooed with flowers as part of the launch event). I did write in my notes that “kids would love it”, but given the alcohol content that might not be the best idea. Only an 8/10 because turns out small shots of cream are inherently gross.

Mulled Wine and Cream

Hypothesis: This could be the Christmas hit for 2018, it would be the best parts of Christmas in a single sip. I’m hoping for a rich spicy flavour that will allow you to be buzzed all day.

Result: Oh god 1/10. Mulled wine and cream might be the work of the devil, it tastes curdled even as you’re drinking it. It’s like a child has accidentally dropped an open bottle of mulled wine in the bath and then you had to drink it (PSA: Don’t give children mulled wine in the bath, or any wine for that matter). If you want to get a taste for this horror just add some balsamic vinegar and a cinnamon stick to your morning cup of tea and try not to vomit. In some weird quirk of science, the mulled flavour is completely missing in the shot.

Malibu and Cream

Hypothesis: Coconut is the 2017 opiate of the masses, and apparently you can put it on or in anything and it makes it instantly healthy. I’m sure this one is going to be drinkable at least.

Result: Another 8/10! This is delicious if you like fake coconut flavour in your dessert. It does taste a little like you are drinking a suntan lotion but I can see how this would completely work with a pineapple based dessert. Although as I learned from a close friend, if you had questionable experiences in a club in the early 2000’s then avoid this at all costs, this is your Malibu trigger warning.

Hendrick’s and Cream

Hypothesis: Of all the gins in my collection (its getting rather extensive, I must do a post on it soon) I chose Hendrick’s because I thought the mellow rose and cucumber flavours would complement the cream perfectly, like a fancy panna cotta.

Result: This must never be repeated 1/10. Turns out when you mix cream and alcohol together it enhances the strength of the alcohol flavour, in this case it means all you can taste is pretty much straight vodka (yes I know it is gin, but this combination did weird things to me and all I got was vodka). You do get a token aftertaste of either rose or your grandmother’s perfume, but mostly it just tastes like you are licking an aggressive seal who is Instagram famous. Of all the experiments this is the one that I could still taste years later prickling my tongue, haunting not only me but future generations.

Rum and Cream

Hypothesis: I mean, Waitrose sells Brandy Cream at Christmas, and this is pretty much the same thing right (look I know about gin ok, but the amber spirits go over my head). Regardless there is a lot of rum in desserts so this must be ok.

Result: Not too shabby 6/10. If you like pudding but get weird over carbs then this shot cuts right to the good bits. Highly recommended, quite smoky with hints of caramel, it almost tastes like a pirate you know on Facebook got stuck in a dairy while looking for loot and you ‘liked’ his ironic post about it. I might be quite drunk now.

Sloe gin and Cream

Hypothesis: Sloe gin has the berry rich flavours that worked so well with the Chambord, so this could be the gin redemption tour as part of this experiment.

Result: Gin is going to be banned from all future experiments 1/10. I would say this is the worst, but we were all there for the Hendrick’s rumble. Thankfully it pretty much curdled as soon as the sloe looked at the cream so you don’t have to worry about your stomach doing any of the work. Just like the normal gin the alcohol flavour of this is hugely enhanced which means you get rid of all the richness of the sloe and are left with the devils saliva. Not a fan.

Final comments

Well…I’m now drunk and full of cream. My dreams of being the next Baileys millionaire is literally circling the drain. If I have learned anything from today (and from most of 2017 to be honest) it’s that we should not try to emulate the ideas of the late 60’s. I’m going to have a sleep now.

This year felt like the year I put my life on hold, it moved both at a snails pace and also in the blink of an eye. So I thought it was time to get my planning on for 2018, and since all the cool kids are writing bucket lists I thought I would jump on the bucket-wagon. Without further ado I give you my 2018 bucket list.

Classic red bucket

You can’t go past a classic. This is the bucket of my childhood, perfect for washing clothes on camping trips, throwing up in when sick and of course holding miscellaneous pegs. I was surprised you could still get these to be honest, I thought they would come with wifi now.

Harrods bucket

Sometimes I think we are all equal, then I find Harrods selling a £400 silver plated ice bucket. It’s not that I begrudge anyone a £400 silver plated ice bucket it’s just I can’t help but wonder what it feels like to be the person to receive it as a Christmas present. Surely it would have to be the main present (I question the world if it is a stocking stuffer), but what does it say when your friends/family get you a bucket for Christmas?

Galvanised Pail

This is the one that we think of as an ‘olden days’ bucket, you know the ones you see in the barn weddings on Pinterest. Although by the reviews maybe the olden days weren’t so good “No good whatsoever”, “BEWARE”, “I am annoyed that the bucket is not as described”.

Collapsible buckets

These are the buckets of the future, the buckets we could only dream of: a bucket that collapses! I can only imagine these are for that oft hoped for situation when the local gin distillery explodes and you have seconds to grab your collapsible bucket from your handbag and collect drops of ambrosia from the sky.

Skull ice bucket

If you are a goth being forced into a silver and white Christmas theme by your family then this is the solution you have been looking for. I vote for adding a couple of ice cubes made entirely of red food colouring, so that as it all starts to melt it looks like it’s bleeding. I’m totally normal I swear.