JUST as we are all seriously flagging and wondering if we will ever feel hopeful again, along comes a good- news story to inject some optimism into our lives.
I am talking about Francesca Jones, the British tennis player from Bradford, who this week headed Down Under to compete at the Australian Open, aged 20.
The dedication involved in getting this far as a tennis player is unimaginable to most of us.
But when you consider that Francesca qualified for her first Grand Slam event despite having just three fingers and a thumb on each hand and a total of only seven toes, her achievement is remarkable.
It is all the more impressive when you realise that, at the age of eight, Francesca, who was born with the rare genetic condition ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia, was told by a doctor that a career as a tennis player simply would not be possible.
But as anyone involved with professional sport can attest, success is a lot to do with mindset.
If someone tells you something is impossible, it’s highly likely you will tell yourself it’s impossible too. In which case, it WILL be impossible.
Determination, dedication and tenacity are 90 per cent of what makes success.
Most people in a similar situation would probably have believed doctors and given up.
Any young person hoping to become a professional athlete needs absolute dedication — extreme sacrifice and hours of every day sworn over to intense, often solitary, practice.
And for every Grand Slam winner there are hundreds, if not thousands, of hopefuls who were not quite good enough.
No matter what happens in Australia, Francesca’s presence there is a victory by any standard. She is a winner and a champion already.
Francesca says she is on a mission to inspire others trying to overcome physical difficulties in pursuit of their goals.
But it is not just people with physical difficulties who will be inspired by her. All of us will be.
One of the reasons I love her story is because it is such a timely reminder that when things seem very bleak and very hopeless, attitude is important.
The phrase, “Where there’s a will there is a way” springs to mind. And Francesca is a living embodiment of the power of doing our very best to be our very best, whatever that involves.
I know we are all locked down at the moment. Some of us might be despairing about that.
But let’s remember the darkest hour is before the dawn.
In the meantime, let’s think ahead to when dawn has broken and lockdown has ended.
Now is the time to start plotting and planning, to look at the limitations that have been imposed by others or ourselves, to dream a bit about our next chapters and never, ever to take no for an answer.
If you feel defeated, channel the spirit of Francesca Jones, who is such a champ and fabulous role model.
And someone who, I really hope, is currently feeling seriously proud of herself and very satisfied she proved doctors so wrong.
Sex And The City needs a rewrite, not a reboot
I AM not quite sure how I feel about the news that Sex And The City is coming back.
It’s not that when it first launched I was in my 20s and now, like the cast, I am in my 50s, so it’s a reminder we have all got OLD!
But more the feeling that the show was very much a product of the ’90s and things have moved on since then – thank God.
Watching the old series you have to wonder if Carrie Bradshaw would actually exist in 2021.
Some of the storylines would never pass modern tastes. The stereotyping, language and beliefs would raise eyebrows now, to say the least.
Whether it be Carrie’s desire for “ghetto gold” jewellery, Samantha wearing an Afro wig, the attitude to a bisexual man (bisexuality is just a “layover on the way to Gay Town”) or the fact that Samantha is able to charm a group of transgender prostitutes outside her apartment “because, after all, they’re men”.
Or the casual attitude to sexual consent. Carrie quietly, uncomfortably endures sex with a man she obviously isn’t into which leaves her physically injured – which is no more than a sexual assault.
Truth is that SATC as it was has not stood the test of time and is going to need a significant rewrite.
But to stop it completely changing its appeal, Carrie Bradshaw should focus on the main point of the show, which was that women are stronger together.
And that friendship is key to a happy life. Friendship makes you laugh more and cry less. And good friends are hard to find and impossible to forget.
I’ll drink a Cosmopolitan to that.
Field wide open for British
THIS pandemic has been ruinous for many people and my heart goes out to everyone who has lost their job as a result of lockdown.
The most recent unemployment figures, according to the Office for National Statistics, are nearly five per cent, which is a whopping 1.69million people who are out of work.
So does anyone else think it is a bit mad that farmers in Jersey are having to fly workers over from the Philippines because there are no Romanians left here after Brexit?
What am I missing here? Why won’t any British people apply for the jobs?
Not for me, JLo
THE latest photos of J-Lo on the beach have left me, not for the first time, wondering what it would be like to look like she does at the age of 51.
But then I read about her regime, which includes regular workouts with her various personal trainers and vegan detoxes.
The personal trainer bit I could get behind, I suppose.
But every time I read that she survives on 1,400 calories a day – plus no caffeine or alcohol – I’m afraid I just drift off and think about what I’m going to have for dinner.
Good to see Lily so happy
I WAS pleased when I read Lily Allen no longer prizes being thin over happiness.
She recently revealed how she debated taking heroin when she “hit rock bottom” in 2014 during her stint supporting Miley Cyrus on her Bangerz tour.
After her weight rose to 14st, she started taking a drug similar to speed to lose weight, which then led to her debating taking heroin.
Any young woman who thinks she needs to take speed to stay thin needs help, and it is great that Lily has got the support she needs.
She is sober now and has found happiness with her new husband, Stranger Things actor David Harbour, which is wonderful.
But the real issue is how much pressure there STILL is on women to be thin. It is the most pointless life goal a person can have, given how much energy is spent trying to achieve it – often at far too high a cost.
Burden's on mums yet again
I HARDLY need explain to any working parent how the stresses of home-schooling while also holding down a job from home can be a bridge too far for some.
So it is fantastic that, since April last year, the Government’s job-retention scheme has allowed bosses to furlough parents who cannot work due to lack of childcare.
But new research from the TUC reveals that more than 70 per cent of working mums who have applied for furlough following the latest school closures have had their requests turned down.
While the TUC marketed its survey to all parents, just seven per cent of the respondents were men – suggesting what some of us have suspected since last March, that the majority of childcare is falling to women, rather than men.
What I want to know is, firstly, why are mothers bearing the brunt of schools being shut?
And secondly, why are they being refused furlough?
This pandemic is in danger of setting us back 50 years.
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