Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder

I’m writing a new fortnightly column Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder for The Guide in Liverpool, a tie in with the television programme on BayTV presented by Jay Hynd and Ellie Phillips. In the column I’ll be covering popular culture – books and music, with other bits too.

the guide

Presenter Jay Hynd and I go way back, in our days at Liverpool’s City Talk 105.9 we did so many early morning shows. It’s so ace to be working together again.

cath and Jay1

My first column is up now, if you’d like to take a look.


Femme Fatales and Fragile Frails

In Glasgow last weekend, on advice of Mslexia’s Little Ms, I went to Glasgow Women’s Library to see the Femme Fatales and Fragile Frails – Women In Pulp Fiction exhibition. Donna Moore, curator of the exhibition, showed us books and artwork and gave us some background. There’s so much for me to learn about the genre. I had no idea the early books featuring lesbian characters and storylines were marketed at men, for example;  I believe the term “one handed read” might be appropriate.

Fluff magazine - on the cover, "Snappy American  Love Stories"
Fluff magazine – on the cover, “Snappy American Love Stories”
Fluff magazine - open the page, and the stories turn  "Spicy". Interesting censorship.
Fluff magazine – open the page, and the stories turn “Spicy”. Interesting censorship.

We were given tea and biscuits, chatted to Donna and colleague for a while about book themes, how they changed over the decades and how the covers of pulp fiction books are the finest – the drawings are so damn sexy (all the broads have great racks).

pulp women redhead

The best “OMG! I think I follow you on Twitter” moment in the world ever came next, when Donna and I realised we knew each other (virtually, that is). Serendipity at its finest – I’m miles away from home, in another country, and stumble upon a kindred spirit.

Pulp women

The Femme Fatales and Fragile Frails exhibition is on all month, and you can try your hand at writing some pulp fiction while you’re there. Oh, and they make the loveliest tea and serve very nice biscuits; always a plus.


Liverpool Is A Village

Liverpool is a village.

I hear this, all the time. Everyone knows everyone else, and if you don’t, you know their mum. There’s an essential noseyness in the blood. I like that. It means you can walk through town anytime and see a familiar face (or their mum’s).

Amanda Brookes

I went to Liverpool author Amanda Brooke’s launch party for The Missing Husband, her brand new novel, on Thursday last at Waterstones in Liverpool ONE. As ever, because it’s Liverpool, I end up talking to people I know, lots of them.


Hello, you!

Ahh! You’re here too!

None of them writing people, just folk I know. It’s a joy. A grand evening of wine and words.


Brand New, With Tags.

I stumbled onto the wonder that is Fleabay, online classifieds. The working class equivalent of vintage, no recycled or pre-loved monikers to soften the blow, no Saturday morning traipse around the charity shops. Fleabay is second hand – or die trying. It sells everything. A collection of shoes, sizes three to nine (how many people are in your family, exactly? And why so many feet?), drum kit (“played once”), One Direction duvet set (“daughter scared of it”). 

On Fleabay, I see a Superwoman dress. It’s in my size.

Super Woman dress

 A noisy thing, primary colours shouting, Superwoman logo printed on plasticky cloth, belt drawn on, it has a suspicious shine. It’s a second skin, clinging over breasts, hips and bottom, no cute nipping in at the waist, no flared skirt to hide a pot belly. A squeeze-into frock with hem mid-thigh on the shortest of women (a knicker-skimmer on me) – and like Fleabay, irony free. I just know the belt will ride up, printed on belts never stay where they’re meant to, inching northwards with every breath.  I know it will look awful on me, unflattering, and yet…

Vigilante by Shelley Harris

A few months ago I read Shelley Harris’ magnificent novel Vigilante. Harris’ heroine, ignored by her family and husband and the world, fashions herself a superhero costume, goes out at night and fights crime. It’s the best feminist novel I’ve read since Nina De La Mer’s Layla.

While I read it, I was like, “every woman needs to read this”.

“Ok,” said my husband, not listening. “I will, sometime.”

“Hell, that’s an idea! Every MAN needs to read this!”


The idea of a woman gone invisible to the world restoring justice and her sense of self is fucking brilliant. So now, post-Vigilante, I’m looking at this dress on Fleabay and I‘m wondering, dreaming.

The dress is only a fiver. I could hang it in the wardrobe and look at it. I’ll know it’s there, just in case.  In case I need to wear it and sort out the world. I like this, the way I’m thinking now.

But the dress has no cape. Super heroines need a cape. Everybody knows that. A super heroine without a cape won’t fly.

I eye up the curtains in the spare bedroom and wonder what could be.


I have an essay on sisterhood in Walking In The Feminine: A Stepping In Our Shoes Anthology, released this month.

walking in the feminine 1

Free book festivals!

With writing and book festivals getting so pricey, it’s lovely to see free online festivals emerging, so those without cash to splash  or who have other boundaries in their way can be involved.

Coming up later in the month we have BritCrime. It features a mighty array of crime authors, plus giveaways and interactive features.

This week we saw Hayley Webster’s All The Words make its debut; Hayley chats to fab authors like Antonia Honeywell and Amanda Jennings.  Myself and others talk about our writing spaces here.


I’m A Celebrity, Get Me In The Library. **IDEA**

It’s a Saturday morning and I’m in the library. The library of now, it’s like a reverse library from when I was a kid. Instead of dusty old books are nice new ones, loads of them, and in the place of people there’s empty spaces.

The librarians of now chit-chatter from behind the desk about speed reading. It’s not for them, all agree; they have a point.  I don’t like speed reading either, it defeats the object of reading really. I just wish they’d keep the noise down.

SHHHHH! I want to say but won’t, because the sky will come crashing down or so I reckon. Libraries haven’t changed that bloody much. Librarians, they still have the power, no matter how old you are.

Library assistant

A homeless dude is sitting by the magazine rack in the corner, out of the way. He rests his chin on his chest and he’s got copies of the NME and The Lady opened at random pages on the table in front of him. The best effort I’ve ever seen in my life of pretending to read whilst snatching some solid zzzz’s, he’s covering all bases, every audience. There’s no way the librarians will budge him now, if you’re reading The Lady you’re posh, an eccentric millionaire maybe. He’s got them on lock down. Good for him. I like to think every now and then he opens his eyes and checks out an indie band or two, and idles over a recipe for fancy cake.

The night before, I’m talking to a mate in the pub. I say I’m going to the library in the morning, she asks ‘Why?’, and pulls her face.

We go through the whole rigmarole, the same conversation I’ve had with so many people. Yep, I know I can download books for nothing, but I don’t want to.

The library’s minging (it isn’t, it smells of Lemon Pledge and books), I haven’t got time (she has), it’s too far (the house of books is NOT that far), the library is for povs (hmmm), I used to go when the kids were little but..., and I’m so busy

Her list of reasons not to go is endless. It never stops. Seems to me, on paper I have fewer reasons to go than she has not to, and that makes me feel sad.

Les Tucker

I don’t know how to sex up the library for her. I think that’s what she wants. But if it was sexy, homeless dude might not be welcome, and that’s not good; bloody hell, the odds are I wouldn’t fit in either.  Still, if the library was sexed up my mate might go, once in a while. How do you sex up a library? Add some celebrity zing, maybe? Because that’s what we’re all after, yes?

Off the top of my head, I’m thinking:

I’m A Celebrity Get Me In The Library.

The Great British Book Off.

The Library Factor.

Where do I pitch these ideas, please?


The Poor Kid

Dressing up as your favourite character from a book is a tricky business this World Book Day judging by the endless stream of princesses I saw going into my local primary school this morning. I saw princesses, lots of them; but spied no books.

They don't make these in my size. Gutted.
They don’t make these in my size. Gutted.

I started to wonder, what do poor kids do on World Book Day? The ones from families who are skint? Poverty clings to poor kids like a smell, it follows you wherever you go. As a former poor kid, I confirm this is true.  It is obvious to your teachers, the other kids in class, their parents (especially them), all your neighbours; every single curtain twitching one, that you are poor.  As a poor kid, you don’t anything new, or for spare. You live a life of hand me downs and free school dinners.

And everybody knows.

So on World Book Day, what’s the script for the poor kid? She hasn’t got fancy dress left over from Hallowe’en, and the whole wear-a-sheet-and-pretend-to-be-a-ghost thing doesn’t work if you’re poor. A homemade robot made out of a cardboard box is fine if it’s common knowledge your mam and dad have a nice car and you go on hols to Dubai every summer.  If they know you walk to school no matter the density of the pissing rain and a day out in Southport seems exotic to you because it’s so rare, then that fucking robot underlines your poverty; a child may as well have a neon sign above her head saying “I’m a pov”.

My friend the children’s author Trevor Belshaw has a quirky idea. Why, he asks, aren’t kids encouraged  to go to the library, take out a book they really like and bring it to school with them on World Book Day? It’s free to borrow books, anyone can do it and we need to boost activity in libraries, so…

Too radical an idea? Controversial?

Apparently so.

No, let’s not bother with such bookish craziness; we’ll go for the costume angle instead and, y’know, children can bring a book if they really want to. It’s bound to work, and if it makes the poor kids feel even shittier than they usually do, we’re on to a winner.  Well played.