I cannot wait for Monday to arrive. Probably a generally odd thing to say unless I suppose it falls on Christmas (and you don’t have to prepare the dinner) or your birthday (for me the latter actually being the case). I am genuinely reduced to something that most closely resembles an excitable waggy-tailed puppy dog with its tongue hanging out in anticipation of fun or food. Yes, this is how I feel about starting at Northumbria University.
Where, on Monday and on my 42nd birthday, I’ll magically transform into PhD student researching cycling infrastructure, the built environment and their inclusive use.
Maybe naïvely or over-excitedly, or both, I believe I will be largely my own boss – self-motivated and expertly steered by my supervisors (who will have to be prepared to function as puppy dog trainers too for a little while). A nice change, getting the little greys working again. Especially as this has not always been entirely true in my old job at the Environment Agency where opportunities were very limited (it’s a long story that starts with “Once upon a time a CEng woman engineer…” and doesn’t end the usual way).
Apart from wrapping up with my old place which really sucked (my energy this week), it’s actually been extremely energising:
We had a fully productive forward-looking planning and plotting newcycling Management Committee meeting, at Bar Loco in the city centre. Please excuse, folks, I couldn’t stay for too long at the members meet seamlessly following the formal Committee meeting – but let me say again, the energy in the room of twenty newcycling members – people who want to see (sea) change, sweepingly – was an amazing feeling. Power to everyone’s elbow (particularly Claire’s as hers has been injured in a black ice cycling incident).
This week I also caught up with Sally on Jesmond matters at Saints on Brentwood Avenue. We were talking amongst other things about space fairness on Tankerville Terrace: a residential neighbourhood street with a few schools on it. It is characteristically plagued by car dominance during the school ‘run’. We chatted about how the authority’s absence of care is so astonishing. It’s clear to me the council in its current form can only talk ‘walking and cycling, active travel and getting out of your car’ but its structure and thinking renders it incapable to turn human scale and physically deliver on the promise on their highways.
I attended the first UrbanistasNE event. A get-together of women-led leaderless conglomeration of people. There was an excellent buzz in the room (and I don’t mean the ice-making machine that kept coming on periodically). So much good energy I hadn’t felt for a long time. Liane, Urbanistas’ founder, who came up from London especially, was so inspiring by talking about turning frustration into action. Let’s do it!
After that gathering, I am now more than certain that change will come from women. From women spelling out their frustration, hopes and needs. Spelling out our vision – for the city and its public space and use. Imagining the environment to be in tune with women’s values and aspirations. And turning that into (street) action, like Playing Out! as Carol described to us.
I tried to pitch something to the crowd that evening. Well, I didn’t prepare for it, it was rather my grasp-the-spirit-do-something self who spoke, as usual. I pitched for women’s voices to be heard and become louder to overcome the stale rusty droning all-too-often deafening background noise of an old city elite, holding up the out-dated status-quo banner. Phew. There. Heads nodding, smiles and laughter – I think I did okay. Start by starting.
This week was – on the whole – coming up roses.