kay scorah.

If you're being yourself, you can't be an imposter..

Getting some work done.

I recently posted on social media that I’d been advised by a recruiter to “get some work done”. This was not, as far as I know, meant as a criticism of my work ethic or performance. No. They were advising me that, if I wanted to be considered for a particular role, I would need to invest in Botox, fillers or even facial cosmetic surgery.

To be clear, I’m not looking for a job, but I am open to non-exec directorships, and this recruiter had messaged me wanting to have an initial conversation about such a role. When we took the step from message to video, they were clearly rather surprised, nay, shocked to see my face.

(*I know how they felt. Whenever I look in the mirror on the morning after one too many glasses of red wine, I wince and reach, without delay, for the tequila.)

I reacted to their suggestion with my customary aggressive politeness, and informed them that, whatever the role, I wasn’t interested in continuing the conversation. Wishing them “a very nice day”, I clicked emphatically on “leave this meeting”. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I knew immediately that I didn’t want to be a member of a club that will have me only if I conformed to their warped aesthetic.

I found it hard to put words to my reaction, so simply posted this image which summed up how I felt, and stepped back to see if the response from my friends and associates would help me to match that feeling with some kind of logic or reason.   

I grouped the responses into 3 categories (of COURSE I did – after all, I was a researcher for about a hundred years, as is evident by my brain wrinkles) and then drew my conclusions.

Response type 1. “REALLY?!?!? Are you fucking kidding me!!??”

Those who made their responses public tended to share my rage, disappointment and exhaustion that older women still have to play male or play young to be seen. It’s acceptable to be angry about this, hence these replies tended to feed the conversation, rather than popping into my private inbox.

Many of you wanted me to out the recruiter. But I won’t. I won’t because I don’t believe that removing the symptom will change the system. The ageism and sexism may be pushed a little further underground if we silence one or 2 culprits, but the problem won’t be solved that way. The cosmetic surgery and filler industry (much of which is not regulated) is worth an estimated £6bn a year in the UK alone, so I’m pretty confident that there are people out there able to pay whatever it takes to persuade our legislators to protect this expression of ageism.  

Response type 2: “Get real, girlfriend!”

Several private messages were from well-meaning friends who agreed that this shouldn’t be a thing, but nonetheless told me that the recruiter was right; if I ever want to be seen in public again, and taken seriously in the business world, said work has to be done. Some of these friends are themselves filler addicts or have had some kind of cosmetic surgery (in case you don’t know, once you start down the filler route you can expect to need top-up injections every 6 months or so – it’s a very profitable business model). I should also add that most of them have had such subtle work done that you might not even notice until they start to cry when you thought they were smiling. Some of them had already told me that I should join the movement (or lack of movement). They find some interesting ways to express their support for me, “You have such lovely, expressive eyes. It’s a shame to have them hidden by all those wrinkles.”  

Response type 3: “U OK hun?”

The response that surprised me the most, and that really made me think, was the pity response. Variations on; “You poor thing”, “That must be so hurtful”, “Are you OK?”.

You see, it never crossed my mind to be hurt or offended by this. In my (wrinkle shrouded) eyes, this is not about me. It’s about a sexist, ageist society that doesn’t want to know about your skills, talents and ideas unless you pass the looks test. It’s about a world where some people can’t concentrate on what I have to say because they are too distracted by my lines and wrinkles. (In the same way that, when I was a young woman, some people couldn’t be expected to concentrate on what I had to say because I have breasts – even though those were, and still are, barely noticeable.) That’s not my problem, it’s theirs.

In closing, I have a confession to make. I’m a hypocrite. I too am sometimes guilty of allowing someone’s appearance to affect my opinion of them, or to undermine my faith in their expertise. For example, when a privileged, obese, white male looks to camera and tells me how to look after my finances and my health, I admit that I find it hard to take him seriously. So maybe I should get that work done after all.

(*For those of you who don’t know me, I’m kidding. Those of you who do know me know I’m not kidding)

The chef, the vulnerability box and the elder microbiome

Another type of diversity conversation. And a call to action.

Alongside the wonderful Paul Loper, I’ll be heading back this time next year to the beautiful Mexican Pacific coast as guest faculty at the Modern Elder Academy. I’m looking forward to learning more than I teach (as always) and in particular to enjoying the work of the most important faculty member at MEA, the person whose contribution has the potential to make the greatest difference in the lives of those attending…yes, I’m talking about this guy: Tony Peralta. Chef.


But for now, I’m still in London Covid world, with stern warnings everywhere I turn that elders like me are more at risk than younger people of serious illness and even death if we become infected by the virus. The message is one designed to evoke passivity and fear; I’m being told what to avoid and what not to do.

It seems to me to be dangerously superficial as well as offensively ageist to throw all elders into the same box. I’m not alone. A paper in the international journal of the British Geriatrics Society states:

  • The public discourse during COVID-19 misrepresents and devalues older adults.
  • The ageist attitudes circulating during COVID-19 make some people think that the pandemic is an older person problem. (Ageist attitudes include the belief that ill health is inevitable, intervention ineffective, and improved outcomes inherently not valuable to society).

The same paper goes on to say that it doesn’t have to be this way; that there is substantial untapped potential to modify the relationship between chronological age and health, and to relieve the so-called burden of ageing on individuals, families and society.

One of the fundamental reasons why some older people can be badly affected by Covid is a lack of diversity in the gut microbiome. In case you didn’t know, your microbiome is made up of more bacteria and fungi than you have cells, and diversity in its composition protects us from disease, affects our metabolism and weight, our inflammatory response, cognition, appetite, mood….

Over the age of 40, the diversity of these bacteria in our gut tends to decline. The reasons for this are many and include diet (many people slide into habitual and unhealthy eating patterns), hormone levels, diabetes, use of antibiotics, painkillers, antidepressants, and drugs such as statins which are used to manage blood lipids.

At a time when we are being advised to wash our hands and stay away from other people, the risk of reducing the diversity of our gut bacteria is even greater – cutting down on opportunities for the virus to enter our system also means that we’re preventing bacteria getting in, so we need more than ever to protect and boost the ones already in there. In this necessarily disinfected environment, we need to do even more to sustain the diversity of our microbiome and thus protect ourselves from those dangerous inflammatory infections caused by Covid.

This is where our hero, Tony, comes in. One way to slow the age-related decline in microbiome diversity is by changing our eating habits to something more like a Mediterranean (or what I tend to think of as a Pacific Mexican) diet of the type served up by Tony and his team – plenty of colourful fruit and vegetables, grains, fresh fish, some fermented foods (and, yes, the occasional glass of excellent Baja California wine). It helps also to snack less, taking long pauses between meals to give your gut a break. Exercise has also been shown to support microbiome diversity.

To learn more about this, Prof. Tim Spector is definitely worth a follow, and this article of his on how to boost your gut microbiome is very helpful. I’m looking forward to his upcoming book, Spoonfed, on diet myths which I’ll feature here when it comes out in a couple of months time.

I’d love us to turn Covid19 from a reason to hide away into a reason to act. To take this opportunity to do 2 things:

  • as individuals, rather than allow ourselves to be wholly dominated by the vulnerability narrative, take action and start to re-build the diversity of our microbiome so that we improve our resistance. In short, “Cook like Tony.”
  • as a movement, start to draw attention to the fact that the medicine business and pharmaceutical trials have historically and shamefully under-represented older people, black people and women.[1] A paper by multiple academics from London, Shanghai and Mexico written in 2014 decried the under-representation of older people in research and healthcare thus, “effective (healthcare) intervention in older people is complicated by ageism, complex multimorbidity, and poor access to age-appropriate care…older people tend to be excluded from clinical trials that would generate specific evidence to inform their treatment, even for drugs that are mainly prescribed in older age.”

Worth reading:

[1] The burden of disease in older people and implications for health policy and practice
Martin J Prince, Fan Wu, Yanfei Guo, Luis M Gutierrez Robledo, Martin O’Donnell, Richard Sullivan, Salim Yusuf

Missing Microbes. How the overuse of antibiotics is fueling our modern plagues. Martin J. Blaser.



I’ve been gender stereowiping nursery rhymes. You’re welcome.

Please feel free to add your own in the comments below.

In case you are not familiar with ye olde nursery rhymes of the British Isles, the titles in bold are almost identical to the originals, so you can look them up

Jill and Jack,
just for the craic,
went off to climb a mountain.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
and Jill called 911 before administering essential first aid.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
The queen and all her ladies in waiting spent the afternoon rebuilding him,
kintsugi style,
and when they’d finished he looked absolutely beautiful.

Sally Ann Grundy,
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Drank plenty of fluids on Friday,
Felt better on Saturday,
Went clubbing on Sunday,
That was the end,
Of Sally Ann Grundy’s mild throat infection.

Ride a fine mare to Banbury cross,
to see a cute guy upon a white horse….
…in spite of his 6-pack and fine biceps,
he has no sense of humour.
So, I’ll just turn this mare around and head back to the pub with my mates.

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly,
this was just the beginning of her PhD in nutritional biology

Doctor Foster went to Gloucester
In a shower of rain;
She stepped in a puddle,
Right up to her middle,
And yet continued to make her way through the flood waters to rescue drowning residents.

Little Ms Muffet
sat on her tuffet,
eating her curds and whey,
when down came a spider,
who sat down beside her,
so she ate him; because she, too, was a nutritional biologist.

Elle MacDonald had a farm,
Ee i ee i o,
And on that farm she grew some weed,
Eei eei o
With a toke toke here and a toke toke there,
Here a toke there a toke everywhere a toke toke…
….What was I saying?

Mary had a little lamb,
its fleece was white as snow
and everywhere that Mary went
she sold unique handmade organic wool sweaters at an enormous profit.

“Baa baa blacksheep,
have you any wool?”
“Yes ma’am, yes ma’am, 3 bags full!
One for the master and one for the dame and one for the little boy who lives down the lane.”
So the dame, Mary, bought the bags intended for the males,
and invested them in her high-end organic wool sweater business.

“Mary, Mary quite contrary,
how does your garden grow?”
“With silver bells and gold bullion and bitcoin all in a row.
All purchased with the profits from my designer woollens business.”

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe.
She had so many architectural awards for designing this unique structure that she found it quite difficult to find space for them all.

“Bobby Shafto’s gone to sea,
Silver buckles at her knee:
She’ll come back and marry me –
Bonny Bobby Shafto!
Bobby Shafto’s bright and fair,
Panning out her yellow hair….”
…..”Forget it mate, she’s not giving up a life of travel for a loser like you!”

“It’s raining, it’s pouring.
Me old man was snoring.
He bumped his head and went to bed
And he couldn’t get up in the morning.
I swear that’s exactly what happened, Your Honour.”

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And can`t tell where to find them…
I’m fairly sure that bitch Mary has nicked them.

Little Jackie Horner sat in the corner eating her Christmas pie,
Having been told that the pie contained plums, she was not in the least surprised to find one therein, nor did she expect praise for happening upon the obvious.

Old Queen Cole was a merry old soul.
And a merry old soul was she,
She called for her pipe, and she called for her bowl
And she called for her fiddlers three.
All of which explains why she was so merry.

What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
A complex combination of elements,
forming compounds and sub cellular structures.
That’s what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
A complex combination of elements,
forming compounds and sub cellular structures.
That’s what little girls are made of.

Not sure if you’re an immigrant or an expat? Take our simple test to find out.

If you’re one of the *232 million people living in a country that you were not born in, then you’re probably wondering where to draw the line between “ex-pat” and “immigrant”. (Unless you are a British person living anywhere overseas, or a French person living in South Kensington, in which case you have never even considered yourself to be anything other than an ex-pat). So we’ve developed a simple 2-minute quiz to help you out.

First, find photographs of the people running the country you’re currently living in. By this we mean politicians, business leaders and media owners. In reverse order.


Now, take a look at our handy skin colour chart, and find **your skin colour.


If you are the same colour as, or paler than, the ruling elite in the country you are in, CONGRATULATIONS!! You are an ex-pat.

If your skin is darker than that of the ruling elite then you’re an immigrant.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. If your skin is the same colour as or lighter than the ruling elite, AND you speak or attempt to speak the language of the country you are living in, then I’m afraid you’re an immigrant. Ex-pats know that they do not need to learn other languages because they only ever hold conversations with other expats, and don’t all the locals speak English/French/Dutch/Spanish anyway? (It has come to our attention that some expats do make the mistake of learning how to instruct the staff in the local language. This really isn’t necessary, and in our view is a rather vulgar show of sycophancy or condescension.)

There are also some rare instances (for example if you are an Irish person living in England) where you don’t need to decide whether you are an immigrant or an ex-pat, because most people in the country in which you reside don’t realise that the country you come from doesn’t belong to them.

Next week: Not sure if you’re racist or xenophobic? Maybe you are one of those lucky people who are both! Take our simple test to find out.

(*Daily Mail stat., so who knows what the real figure is.)

(** If you are Donald Trump or a member of the Simpson family, we’re sorry but your skin colour does not appear on this chart. We’re still working on the section for fictional characters.)

What not to wear over 60. The ranteuse returns.

It has come to my attention that there are internexperts out there keen to help me to save myself from the utter humiliation of dressing in a manner inappropriate to my advanced years.

According to one of these, “Your main aims are to create stylish, smooth, lines using contemporary clothing styles that flatter your body shape and coloring..”

Strange as it may seem, dear, my main aim is NOT to “create stylish smooth lines using contemporary clothing styles that flatter my body shape and coloring”. Rather, my main aims, in no particular order are a) to smash patriarchy, b) to help develop an alternative to corporate capitalism that enables peace and equality and c) to have witty and charming people enjoy good food and conversation around my dinner table. And, by the way, I believe that the word you were looking for is “colouring”.

Let’s move on to this gem: “Looking at a full-length mirror after 60 is like running a gauntlet filled with emotional traps, irrational comparisons and destructive media messages.”

A gauntlet cannot be “filled”, you twit. The word “gauntlet” used in this context refers to 2 lines of soldiers, not a bloody glove. Poor literacy aside, looking at a full-length mirror after 60 is like, well, looking in a full-length mirror. If you once looked in a full length mirror aged 19 and then didn’t look again until you reached 60, I can imagine that your reflection might come as a bit of a shock. But then I suspect if you’d spent the last 41 years in a place that doesn’t have mirrors you’d have other things on your mind.

Now to these 2 examples, from completely different sources, which give us some insight into the type of person so selflessly giving of their valuable time in order to help those of us who are in real and present danger of committing serious style faux pas:

“(Over 60) ..there is one person in the fashion industry that should be your best friend. ..I’m talking about your tailor.“ and

“The most important thing in my ­wardrobe is my seamstress”.

The latter commentator presumably goes on to say that the most important thing in her kitchen is her cook, and that she has had her carpenter build a simply perfect bijou residence under the sink for her maid.

Unfortunately, my tailor and seamstress appear to have eloped to Narnia through the back of my wardrobe, and thus I find myself pitifully reduced to breaking some of the most fundamental rules of how to dress over 60 (my italics).

La Ranteuse.

WEAR ANKLE BOOTS ONLY WITH TROUSERS. This will ensure that your legs are protected from any unsightly blood splashes resulting from using said ankle boots to kick 7 kinds of shit through anyone who tries to tell you what to wear.

KEEP LEGGINGS FOR THE GYM, and even then, please wear them pulled way down over your head so that the rest of us don’t have to look at your hideous face and neck. We all know that NO-ONE wants to look at the neck of a woman over 60.

STEER CLEAR OF MINI SKIRTS even when worn by other people. In particular, try not to sit next to anyone on the 38 bus who is wearing a mini-skirt.

STICK TO SKINNY BELTS. It doesn’t really matter who is wearing them, but stick to them at all costs. Superglue can be helpful in this regard.

DON’T WEAR T-SHIRTS WITH ANYTHING WRITTEN ON THEM unless the t-shirt says, “don’t you dare fucking tell me what to wear, you supercilious motherfucker.”

DON’T WEAR LEATHER JACKETS unless you are also wearing a motorbike crash helmet so no-one can see your hideous, wrinkled over 60-year-old face and neck. Or wear leggings as advised in point 2.

AVOID BIG JEWELLERY, if tempted to wear your big jewellery, make it easier on yourself by placing it well out of reach, perhaps in a safety deposit box in Hatton Garden. Or not

P.S. There will be an award to the first person to correctly name the chap that should not be illustrating my t-shirt.

A letter of thanks to young Kay

Hi, Kay

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately, and then I read a letter that my friend Paul G wrote to young Paul G, and that has prompted me to write to you today.

I want you to know how much I love that you didn’t ever allow your concerns about what others might think make you hit the pause button. I know that you did have your concerns: you were never oblivious and you were rather self-conscious in many ways, especially about your looks, but you never let the real or imagined opinion of others stop you.

The most obvious example, and my favourite thing about you, was the way that you were always the first to hit the dance floor at the first chord of Rebel Rebel, Radar Love, Killer Queen… You let the music vibration enter your body and soul, and no judgment – not your own or anyone else’s – stopped you from moving in response to that. It was cute when you started crazy dancing as a small child to La Bamba and Tutti Frutti, but when you kept on doing it in your self-conscious teenage years and early twenties (at the Marquis of Granby, the bar at Manresa Road campus, Heaven, The Fridge, Hammersmith Palais and many more) well, that was really something. You didn’t care how you looked and you didn’t plan your moves, neither did you aim to be the centre of attention or take the space away from the others. You got your ideas from watching and dancing with them as much as from the music and from inside yourself.

Your manic (or was that maniac) dancefloor persona epitomised your approach to life; diving in, soaking up information and ideas like a sponge, bouncing from one career, job, exercise routine and (let’s be honest!) lover to another.  Same with the way you dressed; do you remember that time you went to a fancy wedding in fluorescent skintight trousers and a psychedelic print satin tailcoat? Then there was the David Bowie hairstyle – short and bright orange with a blonde streak down the centre. And as for your opinions, well, you never could keep them to yourself, could you?

Most people think that I stayed you, that I never changed; but, of course, I’ve known us for a long time now, (can you believe that I am, we are, about to be 69 years old?) and I know that I stopped being fully you. I dialled everything down to stay safe, well paid, socially acceptable. I settled down. Except “safe” was the last thing that I felt when I was settled. Unless safe and trapped are the same thing? Perhaps they were for me, but they never would have been for you.

Some of us are just not designed to settle down, in the same way as some of us are not made to digest gluten. Bouncing around is our superpower; you always knew that but I made the mistake of thinking that the world of so-called grownups and business knew better than we did. I only needed to really look around me and see the truth to become aware that settling down and putting up only supports everything that is wrong with the world. But I had stopped looking out across the dance floor and only looked at those next to me. The ones that I was supposed to copy, whose steps I was supposed to follow. All the time I was so far away from you, apparently settled and successful, I was an unsatisfactory and dissatisfied mess.

I want you to know that I’m giving up on the world that only served to have me lose you. I’m back now. Back to being led from within and looking at the horizon. Back to bouncing from one thing to another. Making no decisions about my future but letting it happen. I’m the dancer not the DJ. Whatever the rhythm of the next track, I’ll dance to it. I don’t need to wait for anyone else to show me the steps. We’ll move to fit our body, the music, the others, the ocean and the trees.

Thank you for waiting for me, Kay. Now, come on, let’s dance. And where’s that psychedelic satin tailcoat?

Many thanks also to dear and supportive Kate Smith who encouraged me to write this, and has written her own version. Perhaps you’d like to do yours?

The campaign for treequality starts here: a seriously silly rhyme written for “People and Places” at Sunday Assembly. April 16th 2023

We all say hello to Custard the cat

Who belongs to the neighbour and sits on the mat

There was Lisa’s dog, Louis, we all knew him by name

And we cried when he died. Such a shame.

Louis was barky and liked to chase cars

Custard brings mice home and licks his own arse

Vets bills in the thousands, a great deal of poo

(If your pet is so clever, can it not use the loo?)

In Victoria Park, I’ve a favourite tree

That is home to the squirrels, to blossom and bees

It shades me in summer, has my back when I’m leaning

Is constant and beautiful, makes the air that I’m breathing

But if I walk through the park and say “hi” to that oak

If I give it a name and a cuddle and stroke it

I’d soon become known as the crazy old crone

I’d be sent to the Priory or locked in a home.

So who made the rule that says that it’s fine

To converse with a cat, but not a scots pine?

That dog petting is good but tree hugging is mental?

When did we become so species-ist and judgmental?



Choros is the queen. Lexis is her servant.

Many thanks to the appreciative audience for my Nerdnite talk at Backyard Comedy Club last night. A few people kindly asked me to share my poem. So, with apologies to Saint John and sincere thanks to my supportive friends and colleagues at Move Beyond Words and Nerdnite… here it is:

In the beginning was not the word. 

I did not thus define the sounds I heard

nor did I elevate sound and speech 

over sight, smell or movement, recoil or reach.

In my unlimited early learning times

I did not differentiate between screams and rhymes.

There was no hierarchy of my many senses.

Top marks not given to your verbal responses.

Words are not my power to survive 

If I speak to the ocean, will I stay alive? 

No. My response to the waves is to swim not to shout. 

If I fall in the pit, I can’t talk myself out

I must climb, reach and pull, not argue or reason.

Can I talk myself warm in this inclement season?

No. Faced with this storm, I must lean, turn, take cover,

seek secure, solid shelter. Perhaps the arms of another.

I feel safe in embrace more than chatter or discourse.

Sense, motion, emotion… and then… the word, forced

In from the outside. This uninvited, dictatorial invader, 

It occupies my supple frame, this movement violator… 

These words that dominate our world are not the answer

they have become weapons in the war against the dancers

the ones who choose through supple, subtle moves

to tell their vital, move-beyond-words truths. 

Now in these urgent elder years I seek 

to fulfil that potential I have not yet reached

to return to my newborn, boundless creativity

I will use first movement, feeling, sensitivity

Let words come last. And when even loved ones’ names 

escape me, (as they will) as long as movement remains, 

I am still me. But when my sense, response and dance are gone, 

When Choros leaves me, then my time is done. 

(The irony that I have expressed this in words is not lost on me.)

Living my quest life with Sunday Assembly

The lovely folk at Sunday Assembly London invited me to be the support act for super-quester Sam Furness today. We had a few technical problems so no video and not great sound, but you can almost hear me here from 5 minutes 50 seconds in to 12 minutes in.

The topic was “Quest”, which led me first to the most dreadful science nerd pun. In my scientist days I studied the movement of positively charged ions across the erythrocyte membrane. We sent ions on a quest across the membrane. So, in a way, they were “quest ions”. Geddit?

…I’ll get my coat…..

As I began to write on the subject I noticed that “quest” has an exceptional number of rhyming words, and so I came up with an improv game that I hope you’ll enjoy. I call it the alphabetical questathon. All you do is write a poem by working your way through the alphabet ending each line with a word that rhymes with quest. My attempt follows (to be read in the style of a scene from a Shakespeare play. Guard with posh accent, commoner with, well, commoner accent.)

The guard thus spoke, “you are under arrest,

For although of all the commoners you are the best

With your handsome face and muscled chest

You are most improperly dressed

To be here at the summit of Everest

For this the royal October Fest.

You dare to come here as a guest

To the king’s celebration of harvest?

You were expected to invest

At least a little in your costume. I do not jest.

And do not fake not-knowingness

With me, you impudent knave, lest

I grab and cruelly molest

You then return you to your plebeian nest.

The pleb replied, “I will not be oppressed

By you, you deferential pest

But rather, I’ll pursue my quest

To lay the monarchy to rest

and we the common folk, no more suppressed

Will rise, and passing mother Nature’s every test

(she is by royalty and riches unimpressed)

we shall reclaim the right to wear a vest

should we desire, and we’ll head West

to make up words that begin with X

forsake your duty now and march with us – say yes?

The guard, overwhelmed by passion, joined with zest.

My other offering was more heartfelt. I have been helped by the wisdom of my dear friend Rohan Candappa in being real in my writing and, following a conversation with him a few months ago, I now read whatever I have written out loud to myself, and if in reading I am not genuinely moved to some kind of emotion, then I go back and re-write until I am.

Love, war and daffodils

What am I doing here? What is there left to say?

Ten thousand gifted poets, more talented than I

Have written verse so lovely, 

So elegantly crafted as to make us laugh and cry

What can I give you? Every subject has been taken

Love, justice, oceans, war, daffodils and trees

Everything worthy and beautiful has already been written.

What right have I to add my small voice to these?

I sat with this uncertainty, then looked within myself

To find a soul so vast, a self that no-one else can see or claim

A kintsugi heart so often broken, so skilfully repaired 

A woman fragile yet invincible, though no one knows her name.

I won’t wait for blue skies to make good days. Come with me

Let’s find beauty in the grey skies and the clouds

Find inspiration in the infinite imperfection that makes us “us”

Be grateful for the scars that help us stand out in the crowds.

So what is mine to write about?  Who do I think I am?

I’m me; with all my love, my joy, my anger and my pain,

My quest takes me not out but in, where I can find everything

That matters, if only I allow myself to be me once again.

The joy of being a nobody.

I recently attended a NerdNite London event where, in the bar before the gig (where else would you expect to find me?) I was mistaken for one of the presenters. It’s easily done. After all, we elder white ladies all look the same, right? On this occasion, I admit I fell into something of a panic as I have presented at Nerdnite a couple of times in the past and thought that perhaps I WAS on the bill and had forgotten. After all, we elder ladies tend to forget.

I have been mistaken for famous people in the past, most notably back in the 1980s when a police officer was so convinced that I was the actress Maureen Lipman that he insisted on an autograph before he would let me collect my impounded car (therein lies another story). After a few moments of protest I gave in and forged her signature in his notebook.   

REALLY, officer??

Now, where was I? Oh yes….

This unremarkable incident the other evening had me reflect on the blessings of being a nobody. I’ve known and worked with a few celebs and high profile politicians and business people, and been struck by how hard that life can be, not only on them but on their families, especially their children. One of those children came home from school one day while I was at their house. They looked pretty miserable and waited until we were alone together to say to me, “Nobody really likes me, they only pretend to like me because of who my dad is.”  I doubt that anyone would bother to pretend to like me. What a gift.

Being a nobody means that others have low or no expectations of me. I can really be alone in public places and spaces unlike poor Greta Garbo.  Free from others expectations I can say what I feel, wear what I like, be as weird as I am inclined to be. Of course, I do have moments of imposter syndrome when about to speak in public (a feeling so eloquently described in this post by the wonderful Paul Gilbert) but mainly I find it pretty easy to be the real me, rather than try to live up to what I imagine others might expect. As I once said concisely and very much to my own surprise, “If you’re being yourself, you can’t be an imposter.”

The life of a nobody means freedom to be anybody. I can re-invent myself at will; writer, performer, facilitator, difficilitator, marketeer, researcher, nerd, cook, yogi, dancer….

Being a nobody really helps me to imagine myself in the world of others, not only in stories but in real life. When I’m really enjoying theatre, dance or cinema, I am (and always have been), blissfully alone even when with friends. I can remember going to the cinema with my grandmother as a child and, when the lights came up, being surprised to find myself in a room with others when just moments before I had been Pongo the dalmation or a member of the Von Trapp family. Watching Moonage Daydream the other evening, I WAS David Bowie. Transported into his world by the music and the mind-altering visual effects of Brett Morgen’s masterpiece, the cinema audience did not exist. I was not in my seat but in a pleasurably altered state. I’d wanted to be Bowie since Space Oddity was released in 1969, and finally here I was. I wonder, if I were a star in my own right, would I experience the joy and pain of imagining myself as another? It can’t be easy to become someone else when everyone is staring at the version of you that they think they know.

My contentment with being a nobody does not mean that I have no ambition, but that my ambition is to be the compassionate lens through which people see others, rather than person that they look at.

I confess that there was a period in my life when I did want to be somebody. Now I ask myself how much more me might I have been if, instead of trying to be somebody, I had always aspired to be a nobody?

Ironic that I hope a lot of people read this.

Exciting announcement!

Yay! I have a new role!!…

….Well, that’s not quite true. I have the same job, I have simply changed my job title to make it a more accurate description of the “work” that I do.

You see, I’ve been calling myself a “facilitator” for over 40 years. But I’m not a facilitator. I’m a difficilitator. (Merci, langue Français).

To “facilitate” means to make things easier. I don’t do that. I don’t even want to do that.

Looking back over all these years I’ve noticed that I, and those I work with, find breakthroughs and solutions in the difficult, not in the easy.

I’m not afraid to encourage myself and others to step into the difficult, because I believe that we all learn more there. And I know that I’ll have more fun there. Even if that “fun” might not be of the cheesy teambuilding, icebreaker kind. The fun might be uncomfortable. I’m OK with that. I want to work and play with people who want to be in the stretch zone.

Let’s face it, the comfortable isn’t working. We’re not moving on, learning or changing when we’re in the comfort zone.

Which is why I’m not interested in comfort or ease, not interested in “facility”. Not for me, not for others. I’m interested in discomfort (or diffcomfort), in stretching, in finding new ways of moving, thinking, expressing and relating.

I’m done with pretending to make it easy. I believe that we all need to embrace and thrive on difficulty. Because life, the world, other people, our problems are not easy. I’m not going to pretend that they are. Nor, I believe, should you.

That’s it. The end of this short message from your newly appointed CDO (Chief Difficilitation Officer).

“Excited Kay” photo courtesy of the phenomenal Kath Chapman

Inspiration from, amongst many others, Elizabeth and Charlotte at Move Beyond Words

Love, gratitude and grief. For Nicky and Shabby.

In the past few weeks, 2 friends have died suddenly and unexpectedly. And they have given me the courage not to ask myself what is appropriate for me to publish on here, but simply to go ahead and put it out there. So here you go. This is how I feel. No apology. No filter.


I sit alone on the beach.

Two butterflies play on the ocean breeze.

For a moment I shift my gaze above the waves to the distant horizon

And then look back.

Which butterfly is which?

I go to pick up my phone

Call you to rant about some dickhead on Question Time

Which movie we’re going to this week, what time to meet in the William.

And then I remember

Your number is still there in “favourites”, but you are gone.

I enter the space outside the chapel

All these faces that I only ever saw with you

That part of me that refuses to accept this sudden dark plot twist

Scans the crowd

Looking for your smile, listening for your laugh.

I see, hear, feel your presence now

More clearly than I ever did when you were really here.

And now that we no longer plan the movies and the boozies

You appear at my side so often. Unexpectedly.

You are always welcome, my dear.   

I sit alone on the beach.

Trying to feel the love and not the loss

For a moment I shift my attention to memories of you, my friend

And then I realise

That love and loss are one and the same.

As beautiful as butterflies.

Kevin aka Shabby.

To the inappropriate yet honourable Shabby.

Simultaneously a cad and a gentleman,

The one who took the piss mercilessly, and supported me wholeheartedly.

(You were the exception that proved the rule that men can’t multi-task!)

In so many ways you represented everything that I regret and against which I rage;

Years wasted in an industry I despise. 

Yet you embodied all the reasons that I stayed; wit, warmth and wickedness.

I’m grateful for the part you played in my shameful past, Shabby

Remembering you helps me forgive myself.

Thanks for all the laughs, mate.

The 8th of the 8th 2016. 88 years and 8 days.

in 2015

Last week, we should have been celebrating our dad’s 94th birthday. Instead, today, we mark 6 years since his death. He died on this day, the 8th day of the 8th month, in 2016, aged 88 years and 8 days. (This strange collection of 8s never ceases to make me wonder..)  

You may say that 88 is a good innings. And it is. But he should have lived longer, like his big brother Dennis who died last year aged 100. This lovely man should still be enjoying time with mum bowling and walking and taking cruises, visits from me, my brother, his grandchildren…

For most of his life a fit, active and healthy man, our lovely dad died of mesothelioma (a lung cancer caused by exposure to asbestos) contracted when he worked in the construction industry from the 1940s through to the 1980s. It’s a disease which takes a long time to manifest after the damage is done. Once diagnosed the patient can only be expected to live, at most, 12 months. The link between asbestos exposure and this type of lung cancer was first suggested by British pathologist Steven R. Gloyne in 1935. Further research in 1943 by German researcher H.W. Wedler, showed a connection between asbestosis and pleural mesothelioma, and then in 1960 J. Christopher Wagner published a study which confirmed the causal relationship beyond reasonable doubt. And yet, it was not until November 1999 that the use of asbestos was fully banned in the UK. In developing countries, it is still being used. And the UK public service trade union Unison is still campaigning for a deadline for the removal of asbestos from all buildings.

Why? Because we live in a world where profit matters more than people. I truly believe that it’s as simple and as sad as that. The asbestos industry lobbied[1] to cover up the research findings and silenced dissenting voices from within their own workforce, in the same way as the Grenfell enquiry has shown that manufacturers ignored and even silenced those in the building trade who warned about the use of their dangerous cladding on high rise buildings.   

Time and again, businesses have proved to us that they cannot be trusted to put the lives and safety of their workforce and the general public ahead of profit. The lobbying industry that supports them in this is estimated to be worth over £2bn. We hear of in-house legal teams being forced to defend the indefensible, sometimes resulting in devastating impact on their mental health, and the resignation of some of the very best legal professionals at times when they are most needed.    

My dad’s painful death is one of the reasons why I will continue to support trades unions and those who back them. They may not be perfect (what institution is?) but, at their best, they safeguard the health and safety of their employees and the public, they stand up for fair pay and conditions and can support those who see and wish to expose corruption, but whose voices are drowned out by the clink of champagne glasses at lobbyists’ cocktail parties in Westminster.

We miss you dad. Thanks for leaving me a tiny fraction of your boundless energy. I promise to try to put it to good use.

In 1954

[1] The Asbestos Lie. The Past and Present of an Industrial Catastrophe. Maria Roselli et al. ETUI 2014. “None of those responsible at the time can therefore seriously maintain that they knew nothing of the health risks. In fact, what did happen was that the asbestos industry tried for decades to refute these research results with counter-studies. And continues to do so in many countries to this day – miserable result that another hundred thousand men and women will suffer and die of an asbestos- related disease.

Stop gurusplaining to me!!

Yesterday I attended one of Teddi’s yoga classes here at MEA in BCS, Mexico. Except that “class” really isn’t the right word; “class” sounds dull and formulaic. This was playtime (recess for you US folk!).

For me, yoga with Teddi is an hour or so of playful exploration with him and the others in the room of how my mind and body are feeling, and what they need.

In the language of transactional analysis, it’s a child-child interaction. We explore and learn together starting from a place of curiosity.

Contrast this with the increasing number of times in recent years that I’ve been infuriated by people throwing their advice at me. “Have you thought of….?” “You should always…” “You should never..” “Here are 6 ways to…..” It happens all the time on LinkedIn of course, as well as in yoga classes, in many of those leadership, self-help and management books, and even in real life. (Most “self-help” books seem to me to be the very opposite, rather they are “I’ll tell you what to do” books.)

Yes, of course I’ve got a lot still to learn. And I’m learning all the time; through playful interaction, silent reflection, pushing myself outside my comfort zone, co-creating solutions to big and small problems with colleagues and friends.

But when some self-appointed guru starts to advise and criticise me, to become my critical teacher or parent, it has the opposite effect to learning – I become the rebellious child and I stop listening.  

Particularly now. My memory might not be great but my experience bank account is rich. Believe it or not, guru, yes, I have thought of, heard before and even tried most of the things you gurusplain to me. What I’m looking for now is the kind of learning I did in my very early years, when I learned the most. I’m looking for people to play with. People like my “work” buddy Paul Loper.

And if you’d like to see what my response to gurusplaining is, this photo from 40 years ago says it all.

My future is bigger than my past – second edition

Those lovely folk at Sunday Assembly, London asked me to be the support act for David Wood of London Futurists today, July 3rd. I was going to read out my original post, but as so often happens, the reading aloud revealed that it was nowhere near good enough for my worst critic; a certain Kay Scorah.

So, allow me to present the revised version, the live delivery of which is here. (I’m about an hour in but I suggest you watch David Wood too!)

My future is bigger than my past. (Which does not necessarily mean that I will live for more than another 68 years. Although let’s not rule that out, after all, I am a vampire and the only way to get rid of me may well be to drive a stake through my heart.)

In 2018, I developed a serious addiction. To running. I hadn’t really enjoyed running since school days, but at 64 barely a day went by when I didn’t get out there. By 2019, slowly but surely, I ran a half-marathon.

I pounded the streets and pathways of this my beloved city and ran barefoot in the soft sand of my favourite beach – my unsatisfactory past becoming smaller in my psychological rear view mirror.

The significance of my new obsession was not lost on me; it was all about what I was leaving behind. I was on the run from shame, regret, and from a me that felt unloved, rejected.

As I jogged along the tree-lined path that runs up the centre of Petherton Road, I paused to take a picture of the stunning canopy of trees above me.

Right there and then, I realised I was giving all the power to the past that I was running from, that I was lacking a vision of a future that I was running to. Running to leave behind relationships that did not serve me and the “1lather, rinse, deplete” advertising phase of my career that had only fueled the flames of dissatisfaction and consumption, and made the planet unfit for human habitation.

Just like those trees, the mistakes and missed opportunities that I had been running away from were deep rooted and heavy.

Yes, it felt good to leave that weight behind. But leaving behind wasn’t enough. Mistakes and regrets may have been further behind me, but still they dominated my consciousness. I couldn’t see a “future me” that was anything but less; diminished, frail, and insecure. She was so much less powerful than the version of her that I had been running from.

I was looking at the ground, at the shadows of the leaves, instead of looking at the light above that gives those shadows life. The very light that forms those dancing, dappled shadows.

And then, I found this child again, the one in the photograph.

The one who ran towards. An image of me, no more than six years old, a runner and already a bookworm; inspired by Dickens, she dreamed of creating a just and equal future for the world. She saw the shadows, and yet looked beyond them to the light that makes them.

I am still her, she is still me. I run through the shadows now towards the open space that waits ahead. A space, like my breath, with no limits, and there I meet her, 2face to face. Together our only ambition is revolution, a revolution that started within us. And now, it’s time now for us, me and her, to run hand in hand towards our big future. Yes, regret and bad choices will still haunt me, but they are behind me and now serve to fuel my progress.

To leave behind is good, but not enough. It is the light that makes the shadow that I seek, and together with my young brothers and sisters I’ll run towards it. The superpower of 68 year old invisibility fueled by the passion of the 6-year-old which still burns within me, replacing accumulated insecurity with innate “nothing-to-fucking-lose-ery”, we, she and me, we know no limits.  

1 refers to the climate-destroying shameless marketing bs that has us all washing everything too often and using way too much product.

2refers to the wonderful Kathryn Chapman whose work inspired the original piece.

That Change.

Many thanks to the lovely folks at Sunday Assembly London for inviting me to contribute to their event Periods of Change on Sunday 15th May 2022. And thanks to Steve Chapman for the introduction. The poem that I delivered follows (with the sweary bits put back in!). Or you can watch it here (I’m on about 14 minutes in).

That Change

“You’re just the same, you haven’t changed a bit”,

Oh yes I have, you lying, condescending git.

You think you’re being charming and flirtatious…

You do know it was 1978 when we last dated?

I haven’t changed a bit? Oh yes I have, mate.

In ways you can’t even begin to contemplate.

That Change, that gift from my female biology

Frees me up to behave in ways that you label pathology.

That Change was liberation from the discrimination

that forced me to fulfil YOUR expectation

of what makes a woman. Now I and I alone decide

how I look and speak, and now I give no fucks, my voice is amplified

The real me was bubbling under long ago; repressed, denied, frustrated;

That Change was the one that left me truly liberated.

And now I have erupted, not constrained by patriarchal expectations,

This woman you hear now is my very own creation.

Free to load and detonate the fiery weapons until now concealed within me

against those oppressors and aggressors who would subjugate the real me.

No. I will not “calm down”, “get work done” or “reverse those visible signs of ageing”,

It’s time for you to pay attention to the reasons that I’m raging.

When I look in the mirror now, it is the world looks back at me.

The change that I must make for others is the image that I see.

My job is not reducing wrinkles, tummy tucking, covering the grey,

but, rather, liberating my young sisters from outside forces so that one day….

…soon they will stop looking for their “imperfections” and start looking at a system

Which has them silence the flawed warrior woman in favour of the botoxed victim

For what is the point of perfect skin

in this imperfect world we’re living in?

Don’t change the way you look, the way you act, the way you speak,

Rather act to bring about the change that we all truly seek.

Those changes they would have you make to you are but more bars to your cage.

Don’t wait for the freedom that The Change brings; make freedom yours at any age.

Drop the ball. Please.

A few minutes into the joyful, spellbinding hour of “Life” (no, not my life – Gandini Juggling’s homage to Merce Cunningham in the London Mime Festival), one of the performers dropped a ball. Already captivated, this pulled me to the edge of my seat; I was totally absorbed in what was happening on stage, paying close attention to every move and every character.

Why was that first drop so important? First, it reminded me that this is difficult stuff. Really difficult. The performers are expert. They make it look easy, and, in a strange way, that can be a problem. After all, where’s the drama in “easy”? The drop made me realise that the jugglers are stretching their considerable skills to the limit. This player’s response to their own mistake was an eye-roll, a little grunt, then pick up and carry on. Various other slips during the show allowed the performers to reveal more of their personality, often they took the opportunity to make us smile. Sometimes, other members of the company would step in, pick up the ball, the ring or the club and create a way to get it back into the flow, introducing an improvised path back to the script. All this left me thinking that if I were to go to every other performance in the run (and believe me, I would!) each one would be different. For me this is the joy of live, physical performance; it is in the unexpected, the mistakes, the close escapes.

It’s hardly necessary for me to explain the leadership metaphor here, but bear with me. When leaders have the courage to step outside their habitual patterns and comfort zone and allow themselves to make a mistake, people pay attention. I’m not talking about shoddy, neglectful behaviour on the part of the leader (mentioning no names), but real conscious effort to grow and learn for the benefit of their colleagues and the “show” or organisation. It can be an opportunity for a senior person to bring more of themselves to work, to reveal their humanity and personality. Dropping the ball allows other team members to step in to help, to show their varied strengths and talents, to create new ways to solve problems, and to show the leader that they too can ask for support and it will be given.

Show you’re still learning. Reveal the real you. Allow your team-mates to step up. Keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

One word of warning though. Yes, stretch yourself outside your comfort zone so that there is the possibility that you might drop the ball, but don’t fake it; don’t pretend to drop the ball just for effect… your audience will soon catch on.  

P.S if you’d really like to discover how to juggle or tightwire walk or trapeze, and how to apply circus skills to the workplace, take a look at the corporate workshops run by my lovely associates at the National Centre for Circus Arts.

A new kind of love

Between “I love you” and “I am in love with you”

there was no overlap.

Sometimes, rarely, travellers would cross from “I am in love with you” to “I love you”.

(You know; those exes and flings that remain beloved friends…)

But now, I have found a 3rd place

and what a beautiful place it is.

How grateful I am to have found it, so late in life –

this place where love just is.

When we are together,

at the table, on our walks,  

I feel that love is here with us.

Holding us.  

I talk and listen, you talk and listen.

The usual.

Until something in me shifted,

the nature of my attention changed

and I was really listening, really seeing you.

I softened, relaxed, opened.

Absorbing you.

Suddenly I saw little boy you,

teased by other boys in the playground you,

anxious son you,

loving brother you.  

You were about to cross the friend boundary into the beloved friend space

and then the possibility of “I love you” presented itself

in an entirely new way.

And there you are,

between “I love you” and “I am in love with you”.

I feel at home in this place which has no name.

With you.

And now that I have found this place,

who knows who else might join me here.

Who else might join us here?

(P.S. It took some courage to post this. It’s not my usual stuff. Not ranting, not raging, not taking the piss or trying to be clever. Just, well, something I’ve discovered..)

Stick or carrot?

If you are undecided as to whether to use the carrot (reward) or stick (punishment) approach to get your staff, family or suppliers to do something, here’s my thought for the day:

You can give a donkey a little tap on the nose or the rump with a carrot and then use the same carrot to feed it. However, it’s difficult to get a donkey to eat a stick.

That’s it. Today’s blog. Done. Please feel free to discuss this metaphor among yourselves. Or with me.

What I learned from 67 minutes of non-stop hula-hooping.

This morning, my 67th birthday, at 6:07 a.m. I hula-hooped for 67 minutes. The intention was to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust. The outcome was so much more. Here’s what I learned:

Movement is meditation. When I’m engaged in a physical activity that requires focus, I’m not thinking, I’m doing and being.

If I pay attention there is always something new to notice, both within me and around me. On the inside, I’m scanning my body, trying tiny changes to my body movements and bigger ones like dancing with my arms. I change my breathing, the tension level in my arms, my torso… And as I turn around or change the direction of my gaze there is always something new to notice in the room and outside.

Time flies when you’re having fun. That 67 minutes whizzed by! No wine, no conversation, no entertainment, no coffee required. (Although the coffee at 7.15 was most welcome!)

Sometimes I need to wait for ideas. For the first 50 minutes or so, I didn’t do much with my arms. Then I started to explore different arm movements and now I can’t wait to try even more and create “hula arm choreography”. 

I’m just fine, thanks. For me, being alone is freedom. Being me is enough. My only goal is to need less, not to acquire more.

P.S. If you’d like to donate to my fundraiser for Teenage Cancer Trust, you can do that here, or give directly through their website.