February 2007 Archives

Small child (small) 70x61.jpg Pre-school childcare is generally regarded as expensive. Even with government financial support, it stretches many household budgets. But there are now many more childcare places than hitherto. More places and higher costs, properly handled, may together be a longer-term sign of better status for women in the labour market.

The cost of pre-school childcare, we are constantly reminded, is ‘spiralling’ – highest, as ever, in London, and lowest in the north-west of England. The Daycare Trust tells us that the average cost of a full-time nursery place for under-twos is now (as of January 2007) £152 a week in England, and £131 in Wales. With individual average earnings at £447 a week, this is a hefty chunk out of some household budgets.

Early years support
Few would deny, however, that the government is doing its best to provide quality care for pre-school children. Welcoming recent developments, Alison Garnham, joint Chief Executive of the Daycare Trust called on the Government, as well as other political parties, to deliver the Ten Year Childcare Strategy:

At long last we have a government that is committed to making progress in childcare facilities in this country. When New Labour came to power they faced major challenges in delivering high quality and affordable childcare to all families and we welcome wholeheartedly the improvements that have been made under the Ten Year Strategy.'

Big changes from the past
Long gone is the grim time when finding childcare was an individual (mother)'s nightmare, relying only on a hunch and perhaps a local health visitor – who probably didn't ‘approve’ of working mums - in the exhausting search for someone reliable to care for one’s children whilst the money to feed them was earned.

In 2007, Sure Start is metamorphosing into Children’s Centres, and the tax credit system – to the daily tune of more than £2m for almost 400,000 families - helps many parents, as do tax-relief childcare vouchers (now up to age 12); and three- and four-year olds are entitled to 12.5 hours of free nursery education a week. In London, there is also a Childcare Affordability Programme which subsidises the cost of childcare by up to £30 for eligible parents.

Direct costs are up
Nonetheless, parents in the UK pay about 70% of the costs of childcare, compared to an average of about 30% for other European parents. (Where, of course, childcare patterns are sometimes very different.) And costs have risen more quickly than inflation – almost 6% in 2006, against inflation of less than half this.

Alongside this, there are reports that affordable childcare is difficult to find in many areas.

Not all bad news
I have three takes on this situation:

There is the individual problem for parents who find it hard to fund good childcare; there is the opportunity for business-minded child carers at last to earn a decent living; and there is a shift in the labour market which, longer-term, may well serve everyone well.

Parents’ stretched budgets
First, I have every sympathy with parents who struggle to make ends meet and find the costs of ‘quality’ childcare so difficult. Raising young families is always a challenge and it is crucial that every possible support is given to parents in their efforts to do this responsibly and well.

It’s very important from every perspective that parents – including, but not only, single parents - and their children receive all the help which can be mustered by their communities, employers, and the government.

Childcare entrepreneurs
Second, this situation is by no means bad news for those entrepreneurs – almost all of them women – who see a childcare market opportunity and grasp it.

Childcare providers, at least in Britain, has traditionally been appallingly badly paid. It is about time that this changed. These days many people are concerned about the quality of what they eat. If there is now a public debate also about the quality of care for their children, this can only be to the good.

The market will rise to the opportunity; but, just as with quality food, provision may not always be cheap. (Though expense is not always the issue: sometimes it’s actually organising the right thing which is the problem. Neither home-grown food nor local, small-scale quality childcare need be so very expensive.)

The labour market
Finally, if I were a feminist economist (assuming such persons consciously exist), I would be pleased about the current scenario.

It is likely that most of those who are pushing for higher wages in response to childcare costs will be women. By the logic of the market this demand will have to be addressed and to some extent met.

And a corollary, given only finite amounts of available money, may well be a market shift towards more equality of income between women and men. If women demand more pay, male employees (or indeed their managers / shareholding employers) will have to give way to a degree at least – especially as women are increasingly vital to the workforce, now often taking the field in terms of qualifications (sometimes gained whilst their little ones are receiving childcare) and skills.

Courage in transition
It’s a long, hard struggle, this childcare – equality scenario. But things overall are already better than they were, and the likelihood is that more pressure, higher expectations and political will together really can make a difference.

The Government’s Every Child Matters programme can of course be improved as experience in ‘how to do it’ is gained in communities and by decision-makers. Potential for improvements in childcare is however a positive, never a negative. The Government must keep its nerve.

The debates about affordability and quality in early years provision are welcome signs that every child does indeed ‘matter’, and that, slowly, the economy is adjusting to recognise just that.

Evidence Strategy (small) 75x59.jpg Avian influenza ('bird flu') has again made us aware of the scientific research which underpins government policy. Some have great faith in this science, others have none. Our growing understandings of how scientific research and public policy inter-relate can however help inform both science itself, and how political / policy decisions might be taken in real life.

Avian influenza has provoked quite a debate in The Guardian about how science and politics inter-relate.

Recent contributors to this debate include Erik Millstone and Simon Jenkins, who are right to raise the issue of scientific advice to the Government in respect of avian influenza – just as Ministers are right to take this advice seriously.

But in reality there is no such thing as ‘pure’ scientific research. All research, whether ‘natural’ or ‘social’, is predicated on often taken-for-granted understandings of context.

However inadvertently, therefore, the gap between scientific advice and policy / politic, whether in the case of avian influenza or any other issue, is wide not as Prof Millstone and Mr Jenkins might in different ways seem to suggest.

The questions underpin the research
Scientific advice arises from scientific research questions, and scientific research tends to be structured largely around ‘received’ understandings of the issues involved - including, inevitably, contexts of those issues.

In other words, natural scientists, as non-experts in matters socio-economic, will tend, if unchallenged, towards uncritical acceptance of the status quo or predominant contextual view of the situation in the same way as any other ‘person in the street’.

It is not surprising therefore that science, in selecting which techno-scientific issues to address, has in the past often focused on the interests of the most collectively powerful and visible operators.

Socio-economic impact and policy
This is now changing as questions about socio-economic impact are, rightly, articulated more loudly.

It is encouraging that Government politicians and policy-makers are beginning to recognise the critical importance of framing scientific research, from its inception, around contextual as well as ‘purely’ scientific questions.

Articulating these wider understandings better from the inception of any piece of research is the way to ensure that scientific advice can best inform political decision-making. And doing this certainly does not diminish the robustness of scientific endeavour; rather the converse.

Scientific and poltical responsibility shared
The selection of ways forward in policy is ultimately a political responsibility; but making sure that ‘scientific’ questions acknowledge the whole spectrum of contextual interests is a responsibility which, thankfully, scientists advising decision-makers are themselves increasingly aware that they must share.

A version of this posting was published on The Guardian letters page of 17 February 2007.

Further commentary follows the e-bookshop.

Lips talking (small) 65x79.jpg Today is International Mother Language Day. Celebrated for the first time in the Millennium Year, it is a programme promoted by UNESCO, the 2007 theme being multilingualism.
But why is it important?

The promotion of multilingualism lies at the heart of International Mother Language Day. Introduced in 2000 by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 21 February is the day in the year when we are asked to recognise the uniqueness and significance of the 6,000 languages known to humankind.

In doing this however UNESCO has not set itself against the grain of 'progress', for the other emphasis on this date is acknowledgement of the value of shared language, of the ability to communicate in more than simply one's own mother tongue.

Powerful instruments
UNESCO offers a strong rationale for its promotion of mother languages and multilingualism.

These are, it says, 'the most powerful instruments of preserving and developing our tangible and intangible heritage.... [helping us to develop a] fuller awareness of linguistic traditions across the world and to inspire solidarity based on understanding, tolerance and dialogue.'

A corollary of this approach is the on-going (since 1986) UNESCO Lingupax project, which aims to promote a 'culture of peace' through the promotion of multilingual education and respect for linguistic diversity.

In that respect it seems sensible that people resident in a country learn to speak its main, official language/s, that they are also encouraged to respect and use the language of their immediate culture, and that schools offer those who wish it the opportunity to learn languages which may be culturally and geographically far removed from immediate experience.

Idealistic but important
Idealistic and architypically platitudinous these notions may be..... but who could deny the truths behind them?

The need to talk meaningfully and insightfully with one another has surely never been more pressing.

Innovation (small) 80x101.jpg England's Northern Universities are upset that the Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) of excellence are all in the 'Golden Triangle' of Oxford, Cambridge and London. 'Added value' economic impact has been sidelined. With intimations of southern advantage and selective assessment perspectives, is this a re-run of the 4GLS synchrotron debate on location in the 'north' or 'south'?

Prof Alan Gilbert, Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University, is championing medical science in England's northern universities, after his institution was not selected as a comprehensive biomedical research centre of excellence (BRC). This accolade, worth 8-figure sums to each institution, has been awarded only to universities in Oxford, Cambridge and London.

Once again, the Golden Triangle has triumphed over everywhere else in England.

And once again the southern economy hots up as northern sensitivities are similarly inflamed.

Who decides?
The decision to support only Golden Triangle universities was made by the Department of Health / NHS National Institute for Health Research (NIRH) high command, on the basis of assessment by a panel of experts working outside England of the international excellence of medical science in the competing universities.

This panel does not seem to have laid much emphasis on the impact of macro-investment in the knowledge economy on regional economies as such.

History repeats itself
So here we go again.

More science money is being invested where money has already gone. Comparatively less is made available where investment has historically been more difficult to obtain.

When the big debates about synchrotron investment in the North of England were conducted, the medical science people were hardly to be seen. The Wellcome Trust, a major player in bio-medical research, was widely regarded as unhelpful to those making the northern case, and even some northern university medical scientists did not support it.

Yet investment (usually of government money) in scientific institutions with capacity and established further potential is critical to wider long-term prospects for the UK economy.

Biggest impact, greatest added-value
Prof Gilbert says that universities must not 'ask favours because we have been disadvantaged historically'. But in fighting his case he could look at the Daresbury (4GLS) - Rutherford Appleton (Diamond) synchrotron debates to see that the issues may be slightly different.

It is not 'asking favours' if those of us, the public whose money is being spent, demand equity in terms of investment opportunities for top-level science.

Wider perspectives
The NHS is a very closed institution which has not, historically, been good at acknowledging it is now an important part of the wider knowledge economy.

Patient care is the aspect of this huge organisation which most members of the public experience, but that should be a fundamental 'given'. It cannot provide refuge from the fact that, medically or otherwise, international science knows no silos.

Excellence in context
Nor can a rightful emphasis on patient experience permit us to forget, as collectively holders of the public purse, that any public investment needs to work in as many different ways as possible.

As the growing success of the U.K.'s 'northern' Darebury Laboratories has shown, internationally excellent science, public benefit across the nation and added-value regional development can evolve hand in hand, if enough decision-makers have the vision and courage to ensure that this will happen.

Child's drum &c (small) 80x85.jpgLive-A-Music (Liverpool) is planning a series of Children's Music Workshops at Easter (Thursday 5 April) and over the Summer break. The workshops, run by fully qualified and experienced leaders, are for children aged 7-plus (younger siblings may be accepted) and will be in Mossley Hill Parish Church Hall, Rose Lane, Liverpool 18.

Purpose of the Children's Music Workshops
The workshops will encourage children to enjoy, explore and create music, bringing together stories, music, ideas and imagination in different ways.

Every child will have something individual and personal to bring to this very positive and engaging musical process.

Venue and date/s
The first Children's Workshop will be held on Thursday 5 April , in Mossley Hill Parish Church Hall, Rose Lane, Liverpool L18 8DB.
Further Workshops are planned for the Summer holiday period.

Sessions and times
Each Children's Music Workshop will run for just under two hours, with a dedicated theme for each session. Sessions will be 9 am - 10.45, 11.15 - 1 pm, and 2 pm - 3.45.

Children may attend as few or as many of the sessions as they wish, within the constraints of the maximum number of places available for each workshop.

To register your interest, please click here, or via the link below.

Instruments and themes
The themes of the workshops will be varied and challenging, to engage the participating children fully.

Musical equipment will be provided for the sessions and children who already play musical instruments are encouraged to bring these with them.

Workshop leaders
The workshops will be run by two very experienced professional musicians and animateurs / teachers:

Martin Anthony (Tony) Burrage, LRAM, GRSM, ARAM and
Richard Gordon-Smith, ARCM, GRSM, Cert. Ed.

Additional teaching and professional support will also be available.

Children's ages; parents & other family members
It is expected that most children will be aged seven or over. Parents, Guardians or other previously agreed responsible adults are welcome also to attend the sessions, and younger children may be accepted for the sessions if accompanied at all times by older siblings or an agreed adult.

The fee per child per session is £6.50. (Two sessions: £13; three sessions: £19.50.) Any available combination of sessions is permissible. Accompanying adults and infants may attend at no additional cost.

Each child (except infants with adults) must have a formally booked and paid-for place by the beginning of the session.

Lunchtime supervision responsibilities
Please note that
*** supervision of children can be arranged separately if required between 1 pm and 2 pm ***. (Details on request.)

Refreshment and supervision arrangements for the lunchtime break are the sole responsibility of Parents / Guardians or other previously agreed responsible adults. Children may stay in the venue at lunchtime under direct adult supervision.

Refreshments during sessions
Water and juice will be provided, but children are asked to bring any other suitable refreshment / special preferred drinks for the brief interval which will occur midway in each session. (It will be assumed that children may have the juice provided, or any other refreshments, unless there are clear instructions that this is not the case.)

Parents, Guardians or other agreed responsible adults are, as above, very welcome to accompany children for particular sessions or the entire day, and may also bring their own refreshments. Tea and coffee will be provided.

To register your interest in the Children's Music Workshops on Thursday 5 April or in the Summer break please contact us with full details (name and age of child/ren, address, name of responsible adult contact etc) via this link.

Please click here for a report and pictures of this Live-A-Music (Liverpool) Children's Music Workshop.

Girls & boys learning science (small) 90x140.jpg Recent figures confirm that girls are doing better at school (and university) than boys. Single-sex classes within co-ed schools are not however generally seen as a way to resolve this inequality. But how much do we know about the longer-term impact on men and women of single-sex or mixed gender teaching?

Increasing concern about the higher academic achievement of girls than of boys in the U.K. has again raised the issue of single-sex classes (or even schools) as the norm.

Reasons for this concern are interesting, given the historical lack of concern* when girls under-performed relative to boys (and given also that even highly women still earn much less than their male counterparts). Nonetheless, current concerns are both legitimate and pressing.
[* With honourable exceptions - e.g. the fourth letter by Edward Brotherton in this 1864 Manchester Guardian correspondence.]

There is an uncomfortable feeling, overall, that the underperformance of boys is likely to lead to a larger disaffected 'underclass', than when things were the other way around.
And we can add to that the obvious consequence of underperformance, in restricting the availability of talent to the economy, whether this be a male or female issue.

For these reasons, as well as for reasons of equality of opportunity as such, much debate has recently occurred on the subject of mixed-sex and single-sex classes and schools. The general (but not unanimous) opinion on the basis of available evidence, it seems, is that there is little impact either way.

Frankly, I have my doubts about whether this analysis is adequate.

The evidence over many decades is that women do significantly less well economically and professionally than men, if you look at mature outcomes. And this happens even for people with the same qualifications. In other words, any initial advantage diminishes as time goes on, almost regardless of family, parenthood (men become parents, too) and much else.

Early impacts
But there is one element of background which seems to make a difference, for women if not for men - and that is the 'space' in the secondary years which single-sex classes offer girls, to learn (some) things independently of boys.

It seems, especially in the more mathematically-related curriculum, that this helps girls; and it probably also helps in terms of self-determination and a conviction that it's OK as an independent person to go ahead and do things with one's life.

Certainly, this was a major indicator, in research undertaken quite early on by myself and others looking at how women scientists hold their own.

And perhaps the same applies to boys. If the girls aren't there to talk about all the soft stuff in class, maybe the boys would have to have the courage to talk about it themselves - which could be an important help when 'real life' catches up with them in later adolescence and adulthood.

Balancing different agendas
There is a suspicion that some schools prefer mixed teaching because they see the girls (more mature and less disruptive?) as a stabilising influence on the boys. But this is not an equitable way forward and two wrongs do not make a right.

I'd go for the so-called 'diamond' arrangement - segregated teaching for some core subject in the early years of secondary school - but not, if at all possible, for totally separate schools for girls and boys. There can surely be a middle way.

Even more critically, I'd make sure that analysis of research findings routinely extends beyond formal education to life outcomes, so we begin to understand more fully 'what happens' when individuals receive single-sex or co-ed teaching in their formative years.

Dry big road (small).jpg People who care about the environment do not always have the same priorities. For some the emphasis is on maintaining the habitat of 'natural' flora and fauna. For others the most important objective is sustaining an environment in which human beings can flourish now.
Who is right, and can these two objectives both be achieved?

There is a story going the rounds of a fairly recent environmental conference in southern Europe. The issue under debate was whether or not a large road should be built across the Iberian peninsula, to reduce the economic disadvantage of those who live at the 'far end' of it.

The problem however is that this region is a very significant natural habitat for rare species of animals and other living things - including the endangered Iberian lynx. Many conservationists therefore strongly oppose the idea of economic regeneration in the areas where the lynx is still minimally present. "How do I choose?", demanded one policy maker.

Conflicting priorities
Here is an example of where 'normal' politics - regeneration and increased economic advantage for people with relatively very little in the way of the claimed benefits of modern living - seems to clash fairly directly with the concerns of the environmental conservationists.

Obviously, there is an argument that, without environmental conservation and attention to natural diversity, there is likely to be no life of any kind on earth. But this may be a less immediate or pressing concern for those who have little material advantage, than for those more economically blessed. So what should the politicians and policy makers do?

What's the way forward?
Can these two concerns be brought together in the context of real-time politics?

Would you go for the road or the lynx?

Mersey ship from Old Hall Street Feb 2007 4069a (99x147).jpg There's much emphasis in city centre regeneration on Liverpool's waterfront. Plans for great ship visits are vital to the city's resurgence; as are plans to improve the city's road system. This photograph, taken today (7 February 2007) near St. Nicholas' Church in the business and commercial district, gives a glimpse of what may be to come.

Ship on the Mersey, Liverpool city centre reconstructed 2007 4070 (480x360)a.jpg

Recycling bins (small)  80x96.jpgSelf-sufficiency in energy is an ambition shared by many. Increasingly we are recognising that carbon-neutral living must be for real. Communities in Ashton Hayes, near Chester in the U.K., and Knezice, an hour east of Prague in the Czech Republic, provide different real-life examples of how this might be achieved.

Co-incidence or, perhaps, rather more than that? Perhaps the renewable energy agenda is at last becoming mainstream.

In just one week recently the press in Britain and the Czech Republic alike have reported stories of enterprising villagers who have sought over the past year or so to make their localities carbon-neutral. And suddenly, these tiny communities have found, everyone wants to know about them.

Knezice, Central Bohemia, Czech Republic
The Prague Post of 17 – 23 January 2007 carries a report by Kristina Alda about local mayor Milan Kazda’s use of biomass to make his community in Knezice (population 500) virtually energy self-sufficient.

Mayor Kazda has installed a bio-gas power plant which converts manure, straw and other biological waste, via his concrete fermentation plants, boilers and generators, to heat and electricity for the entire village.

For Milan Kazda important objectives were to revive the tradition of villages being self-sufficient and support local farmers by buying their biological waste. His route to achieving this included successful applications to the European Union for 75% of the $6m cost, plus another 20% from the Czech Environmental State Fund – and a huge amount of paperwork. But, crucially, he also involved his fellow residents, who, he says, see the whole break-even project as an investment for the future.

Ashton Hayes, Cheshire, U.K.
Ashton Hayes, near Chester in North West England, aims to be the first carbon-neutral community in Britain. An article by David Ward in The Guardian (26 January 2007) tells us that the village has engaged many of its population of just 1000 in the project to become energy self-sufficient. They aim with their Going Carbon Neutral Project to show how many different small changes can, together, achieve carbon- neutral living.

Already the school has solar panels (and will soon also have a wind turbine), and the local pub, The Golden Lion, aspires to be the first carbon-neutral pub. Similar ambitions are held by the local football team, and by the parish council chairman, Hugo Deynam, who is building an eco-friendly extension to his cottage in the village – using sheep’s wool insulation, lime mortar and recycled hardcore.

As in the case of Knezice, the project is the brain-child of local leaders – in this case, Garry Charnock (who developed this idea after a visit to a Greenpeace debate at the Hay Festival) and colleagues such as Prof Roy Alexander of the University of Chester. To maintain the eco-momentum there is a project working group of some 28 residents.

Knezice reduces energy dependency
A year or so ago neither village had begun this eco-adventure; now both Knezice and Ashton Hayes now find themselves the centre of attention.

The Czech Republic is significantly dependent on Russia (and the vagaries thereby ensuing) for its energy; 64% of oil and 70% of natural gas in the Republic originates in Russia. Coal, however, still generates 65% of Czech energy, whilst about another 30% is from nuclear sources. Only 4% of Czech energy is produced from renewable sources, although the European Union has committed every member country to make this at least 8% by 2010. Examples of alternative local energy supply are therefore of much official interest.

Ashton Hayes involves the people
In the U.K. the percent of renewables is higher, and the challenge sometimes different. The Czech Republic has a population of about ten million, roughly the same as that of London – leaving another fifty million people in the U.K. who also use significant amounts of energy, in a total geographical area only some three times as large as the Czechs’. [Demographic details here.]

With a population density like the U.K.’s it becomes everyone’s pressing responsibility to conserve resources, as the residents of Ashton Hayes have decided to try to do. Dissemination of this pioneering work is now supported by Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture, and by the University of Chester, which is to hold a conference in April '07 on community-led developments in Ashton Hayes.

Lessons so far?
Knezice’s mayor has taken the corporate approach of installing a single system to produce renewable energy; Ashton Hayes’ community leaders chose a diversity of approaches and engagement. But in both instances there has been consensus and buy-in from the whole community. And in both cases national authorities have encouraged interest in the developments.

Quite possibly, over time, each of these villages will also begin to embrace the approaches to energy conservation of the other. Experience suggests the critical thing is for someone to stand up and be counted at the start. What happens after that is often organic.

People understand that carbon-neutrality cannot be achieved simply through the efforts of local communities. There are also vastly bigger players who must be engaged urgently in the sustainable energy debate. But whilst no single approach to energy saving can ever resolve the issues, the meaningful involvement of ordinary people is one very good way to begin.

Read more articles on Energy and Sustainability As If People Mattered.

Rainbow 4 (small) 85x89.jpg As now fully independent adults, people aged 22, 23, 24 and 25 are positioned to begin to make their mark. It’s the time when mature interests are established and occupational qualifications have hopefully been won. With luck you are strong in body and mind and have the freedom to develop as you wish. Be sure to follow your dreams.

This is a pivotal point in your life, as you plan and savour your future.

Maybe you’re still studying, maybe you’re not. Perhaps you have a partner and / or other personal commitments, or perhaps you don’t. Whether or not you’re footloose and fancy free, with luck some of these ideas will work for you; and if they don’t, with luck they’ll spark other better ideas anyway. Whatever, please remember the Be Happy Rules. Now give these suggestions as try...

Do a marathon
Nobody’s so busy they can’t take time to build up strength and stamina, and especially not in their early twenties. You know it’s true: active investment in your health will keep you on top form now and pay huge dividends later.
So run that marathon; or jog it; or swim it. But just do it. Even better, do it with a friend or team and raise some cash for your favourite cause.

Walk everywhere
Whilst we’re on this topic, get a decent pair of shoes and walk whenever you can. You know it’s much more eco- and convenient than the car, and it will help your training for that marathon. It’s OK to cycle, too.

Collect cities
You probably won’t have time to walk this one (or could you?)..... Try collecting capital and exciting cities. Aim on each visit to travel by foot, train, boat / barge and in one more exotic way (horse? tandem?).
Produce some decent photo blogs and post them on the internet to share your experiences and impressions with others. Who knows what you’ll like best when you try these new places?

Help with a voluntary group
Children’s playgroups and clubs are well run and regulated these days, so why not find out how you can help with one? It’s a great way to keep your feet on the ground and it’s rewarding and fun. No need to worry, as you’ll be properly supervised and, if you want to, you could qualify as a team leader yourself.
Or, if keeping kids happily occupied is not your thing, how about volunteering in some other way? We all have something to give, whether on a regular basis or as an occasional volunteer.

Keep a people diary
Even if it’s just a note of significant others’ birthdays and anniversaries, this is worth a bit of effort. Put these events in your e-notebook and actually act on them in good time. You’ll be making people you care about very happy (how often do you see your parents in the course of your new independent life?) and it will remind you to appreciate them, which can’t be bad, either.

Cycle an island
Maybe most of your experience is of towns and cities; and even if your life is mostly rural, perhaps you’re caught up in the usual day-to day realities. So here’s an opportunity to take a fresh look at things – get yourself organised, perhaps with friends or your partner, to cycle all round an island. (You can probably find somewhere via the internet to hire a bike, or, if cycling’s not your thing, walk instead – but make sure you have sensible shoes and clothing for the terrain.)
If you live in the UK, perhaps the Isle of Wight or Anglesey or Mull might be good places to consider as a start, depending on time available, energy levels and budget Get your gear together and test everything out before you start – easy to carry, comfortable, water / sun-proof? – and get some practice in. Make this adventure as strenuous or relaxed as you like, perhaps choosing Youth Hostels or bed and breakfast for your realistically distanced overnight stops. (Local tourist information centres will advise.) And don’t forget your camera.

Value your vote
The excitement of being old enough to vote may have worn off by now, but that doesn’t make doing it any less important. Make it a source of pride always to use this hard-won entitlement; you can vote in person at a polling station, on-line, or by post, for most elections. And do follow - and if you can join in - the debate about which politicians have the best ideas, before you get to polling day. Please play your part in deciding what happens in your community and country; the future, after all, is yours....

Find some Me time
Whilst we’re in reflective mode, why not make some designated Me time for yourself? Use it to develop the habit of composure and contentment (if you are seriously bothered of course, get yourself to your GP or college / workplace health adviser, or contact NHS Direct, available 24/7). And think a little about your personal future: are you doing the right things to get where you’d like to be? Do you need advice, support or encouragement? And if so, where will you go to get these? (Your local college drop-in centre might be a good first stop.)
But, most of all, use this Me time to relax, with a book, a nice warm aromatic bath, music you enjoy, the breeze in your hair as you walk around the park (or down a lane), or chatting with a trusted family member, partner or friend.
Time for the things we know are good for us personally is as important – though perhaps not always more so! – as the things we know we must do whether we like them or not. Use Me time to put some balance into your life.

Think local and global
How do you shop for your everyday needs (food etc)? Who selects your energy supplier? How do you choose your major purchases (transport, white goods and IT, holidays)? These are issues which affect not only your own well-being but also the future of the planet - your future too, as you enter autonomous adulthood.
Can you buy local produce (supporting the local economy as you simultaneously reduce food miles)? Is your home and the equipment in nit energy-efficient? Can you use sustainable forms of transport?
The choices you make really do make a difference in the longer-term.

Have a party
How do you party? Is it a BBQ in the garden (or even, if you’re lucky, on the beach)? Is it at a festival? A college ball? Perhaps at the BBC Proms, in London or at one of their free civic square screen events? In the pub? Or with your family and friends at home?
Why not plan to try another way, too? Make it whatever you like: fancy dress, or afternoon tea (!?), or somewhere adventurous and really exotic. Enjoy!

And now over to you.... Were any of these suggestions interesting for you? Or do you have other, different things to do? Why not share your ideas below?

Have you read....?
Things To Do When You're 19 - 21
Things To Do When You're 26 - 30

What To Do At Any Age - Be Happy

* Life is not a rehearsal
* Smile when you can
* Do acts of random kindness
* Try no-TV days
* Be cautious sometimes, cynical never
* Use your pedometer
* Treat yourself daily to a 'Went Right' list

And why not share your alternative ideas here, too? You can add your own take on Things To Do When You're 22 - 25 via the Comments box below...

06.11.19 Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral & St James' Gardens The Cathedral Church of Christ, Liverpool, designed by the then-22-year-old (later Sir ) Giles Gilbert Scott’s, is built on St. James’ Mount at the southerly end of Hope Street Quarter. Bishop Francis James Chavasse, second Bishop of Liverpool, decided to build it in 1901 and King Edward VII laid the Foundation Stone on 19 July 1904. The Cathedral was consecrated twenty years to the day later, but not until October 1978 did Queen Elizabeth II attend a service to mark completion of the largest of our Cathedrals in Britain. And now the civic value of St James' Cemetery and Gardens is also recognised.

07.01.04 Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral silhouette at dusk from Everyman Theatre & RC Cathedral on Hope Street

See more photos of Liverpool's Cathedrals and celebrating communities on Hope Street here [Liverpool's Two Cathedrals] and below....

06.03.04 Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral St James Gardens frost , view from lower Hope Street / Gambier Terrace


06.11.19 Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral & St James Gardens

06.11.19  Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral Huskisson Memorial St James' Gardens & Gambier Terrace (lower Hope Street) 06.11.19  Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral St James' Cemetery freshwater spring below Gambier Terrace


06.11.19  Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral St James' Cemetery tombstones (1645)

06.11.19 Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral from St James' Gardens & Cemetery

Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral & Oratory  Tracey Emin  'bird on a stick' 'Roman Standard' sculpture 06.11.19 Liverpool (Anglican) Cathedral Oratory Tracey Emin's 'bird on a stick' 'Roman Standard' sculpture

06.11.19 Liverpool (Anglican, St James') Cathedral from Toxteth

06.11.19 Liverpool (Anglican, St James') Cathedral front lit up, with Elisabeth Frink's 'Risen Christ' sculpture over great door

Read more about:

Hope Street Quarter
Liverpool Cathedral
St. James' Cemetery And Gardens
The Friends of St James'
Liverpool's Two Cathedrals
Dame Elisabeth Frink
(1930-1993; Risen Christ was installed was installed one week before Frink's death)
Tracey Emin (b.1963; Emin's Cathedral work, Roman Standard - or 'bird on a stick' - was her first public art installation; she intends to do another one for the cathedral in 2008)

See also photgraphs at
Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King and
Calendar & Camera

Women (small) 70x54.jpg International Women's Day is coming up on 8 March. It's an event celebrating more than half the human population but it has a perennially low profile - often like the gender it celebrates. What's International Women's Day for, and how 'should' it be celebrated?

International Women's Day is once more almost upon us.

Big events take a lot of organising, but, despite the IWD announcements, as in other years scarcely anyone is talking about how to celebrate this particular event. Of course there will be a scattering of (very welcome) arts happenings, and a conference or two, but... excitement in the air, there is not.

Celebration or frustration?
Perhaps the low-key approach to International Women's Day is because many of us, women increasingly long in the tooth and short on patience, wonder if we will ever have an equitable stakehold in what's on offer. Or else, still young and hopeful, perhaps we don't yet think much about these matters.

Whatever, who wants to invest a lot of time and money in celebrating 'women's issues'?

One day a year is women's notional allocation of celebratory time, and that's not far off the proportion of wealth and top-level influence which women have, either. (I exaggerate and overstate the case a little, but not much.)

For those of us who, as women, value what we are and what we actually do, 'progress' does indeed seem to be very slow.

The dilemma: What does it take?
Our dilemma is this: Intuitively, we seek to celebrate, not stipulate. But celebration could be perceived as a very weak response to the multiple 'challenges' and deprivations which, globally, are still the lot of many more women than men.

Perhaps we should be marching in the streets, not sending out yet another lot of (idealised?) sisterly love, solidarity and affirmation.

Marching on the streets has however been done before, with sometimes important but generally only limited success - and often with fierce downsides for particular individuals.

And if we take just the harsher route of campaign, never celebration, we become very much like those whose behaviour, stereotypically, we may not always wish to emulate.

So is International Women's Day worth celebrating?

I'd say, Yes - both because it focuses on issues which have particular resonance for many women of all ages and statuses, and because it reminds us of women elsewhere (than in the modern, western world) who should not be forgotten.

My 'answer', however, takes us almost nowhere in terms of how we should actually conduct our celebration.

Does anyone have any ideas?

Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store, and share your thoughts on the meaning of International Women's Day, and how it could or should be 'celebrated'.