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Are you feeling Januhairy?

I discovered yesterday that this month is not only ‘Veganuary‘, ‘Dry January‘ and ‘Tryanuary‘ it’s also ‘Januhairy‘. Being claimed by women who want to challenge expectations that they should be hairless from the neck down, it reminded me of a dilemma that many of us women face and how our brothers don’t seem to come under quite the same scrutiny – something I captured in a poem called ‘Bush Issues’.

Wear yours however you like, I won’t judge. Just don’t tell me how to wear mine….

Bush Issues

You know how it is when you want to go for a swim

You look down below….and the bush, well it needs a trim

You think to yourself, would this look ok?

If I stuffed it all in, or would hair start to stray

From the minute I set a foot into the pool

If I put on some board shorts, do you think I could fool

People into thinking I was a surf chick?

I could have a quick shave, but then I might nick

That delicate skin and come out in a rash

And I’d rather have hair than spots round my gash

If I pulled down the front, do you think it might hide

My topiary? But if I go down the slide

It might ride up and show, I’m too busy relaxing

Than to spend my time plucking and tweezering and waxing

And then I see blokes with big hairy guts

All covered in pubes from their throats to their nuts

Who don’t need to be shaved, but when it comes to my bits

They must be so carefully managed and it’s….

Very unfair and a little bit weird

That my foof must be manicured, but not a man’s beard

The filter gets clogged up with the hair from their backs

The pool would be cleaner if men all got waxed.

Featured in my book – ‘I Need a Wife’, I performed Bush Issues at the ARISE2020 Summit and would like to thank the audience and fellow presenters for their good humour – especially the gentleman who went on after me who said, “As a bearded man, I’m not sure how I can follow that.”

Want to inject some humour into your next summit or kick off? Book me to perform by emailing me at toni@tonikent.co.uk.

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Honesty Performing poetry Uncategorized

Why I Need a Wife

A few years ago I sat down and wrote a poem that reflected the frustration I was feeling with combining a career with parenthood. Before I share it with you, I should state that Mr Kent does his fair share of heavy lifting when it comes to family life – I definitely don’t have to go it alone.

But….but. There are just some things that seem to fall to a woman to do. And I’ll be honest, there are some things that I quite like to do. When it suits me. Having worked as a cleaner between the ages of 14 and 16, there are times when I love a bit of hoovering or scrubbing the grouting on our floor tiles. However, show me a toilet seat that has piss on it for the fifteenth time that week (par for the course with a boy in the house) and I am going to get very angry indeed.

And given that I’m self-employed, and work from home, it makes sense that I am the one who is there when the children are ill. Part of my reason for leaving corporate life was to be more available for the kids but it doesn’t mean that I always want to do it. When the children were much younger, it seemed like they were ill every other week – our nursery seemed to have a policy of checking the children’s temperature at the door. How I longed for the slap-dash parenting approach of my childhood where digital thermometers didn’t exist.

There was also the small matter of nursery and school assuming that everything should come to me first – why do I get top billing? Then there’s organising play dates which in my experience is almost exclusively a mum-to-mum conversation. Same goes for taking them to parties (oh the horror of having to hang around in a hot soft play), completing permission slips and sewing on badges.

It’s small stuff, I know, but bloody hell it’s wearing. Parenting is relentless, marriage is compromise and maintaining a sense of yourself without being a selfish arsehole can be a tricky tightrope to walk.

So I wrote the poem. And it opened up doors for me. It led to the publication of my book and dozens of paid stand up performances. My initial print run of 500 copies is almost sold out and the tally of people I’ve performed to now runs into the thousands. Not bad for something that was designed to help me let off steam.

You’ll find the poem below. If you want to book me to speak, perform or would like to buy a copy of the book, drop me a line at toni@tonikent.co.uk

I Need a Wife

I need a wife

Someone to organise my life

To do the shopping, pay the bills too

Someone to clean around the loo


Someone who remembers when term ends

When homework’s due. Someone who sends

Completed forms, and makes dates to play

Who never forgets an inset day


Someone who remembers all the clubs

Gymnastics….beavers…..judo….cubs

Who does the washing, the drying, the washing again

Who sorts darks from delicates, whites and then


Someone who can magically find

The one sock that got left behind


Someone to stem the tide of mess

Sew on badges, hem a dress

Insure the house and tax the car

Someone who knows where my bloody keys are


I look around my life and see

It’s chaos if you’re married to me

The kids’ shoes are missing

Disorder is rife

I’ve just got to face it

I need a wife

Review of I Need a Wife by June Sarpong
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Why freelancers and homeworkers need to get out more

I’ve been a freelancer and a homeworker for nine years now. It has saved my sanity, whisked me away from a corporate life gone sour and significantly improved my health and family life.

If you’re a freelancer or homeworker, you’ll recognise the kind of benefits that come with this lifestyle:

  • Less time travelling (saving time, money and earning you eco brownie points!)
  • Incredible flexibility – work when it works for you!
  • More time to get on with the task in hand. No queuing for coffee, meetings about meetings or time thieves hanging about your desk.

And if you’re running your own business, there’s the sense of accomplishment that comes with earning a living that isn’t dependent on you fitting a performance bell curve or a compensation system that has been created by a data wizard. A data wizard that hates people.

Why you need to get out

There is plenty that can go wrong in the life of a freelancer. You can spend waaay too much time on your own. And when you spend too much time on your own. Stuff like this happens:

You will live in your dog walking clothes

This look is fine for walking the dog in wet weather. It’s not fine 10 days on the trot. You don’t want your only change of clothes to be out of a wet set of ‘leggings and a hoodie’ into a dry set.

You will get distracted by housework

Distracted by washing

How many conference calls have you been on where you can hear a washing machine whirring away in the background? I rest my case.

You’ll get bored

And we all know what happens when people get bored. They start wearing elf hats. Or even worse, trying on the dog’s ‘cone of shame’ to see what it’s like….

Yes I did do it. Told you.

The benefits of getting out more

Having realised that I’d reached peak ‘working from home’ I made a conscious decision to get out more and what a REVELATION it has been! Here’s what you can look forward to:

Wearing decent clothes

I took this photo in a service station car park – so thrilled was I to wear clothes that were neither waterproof or incorporated a hood.

Wearing impractical clothes

These shoes are Gucci – I bought them second hand from Vanilla Essence Lodge. My son says these make me “a Flexer” I say they make me a fabulous sustainable fashion eco-warrior.

Time spent with interesting people

In the past two weeks I’ve participated in two workshops in beautiful shiny offices where the coffee is great and the people are engaging and nobody has dog hair or mud on their clothes. I’ve talked tech with men and women who are twenty years younger than me and fresh in their corporate journeys – so vibrant, so free of cynicism! We ate mince pies from West London and I learned that cropped jeans and ankle boots are now ‘a thing’. When you live in the sticks there is NO FASHION. Unless you count Jack Wolfskin and Dubarry as fashion.

Time spent showing off your skills

As well as feeling like I made a proper in-person contribution to the the clients I met, I also got to perform for a fantastic WI group. They plied me with Christmas cake and proved to be especially well-educated on gangsta rap. One lady told me how her brother was ‘born in the same month and the same year as Dr Dre.”

Inspiration!

I love ‘the deal’ I have – but noticed a real boost in my creativity and energy levels from having spent more time than usual outside of my four walls. This led to finding an excellent webinar hosted by Ginger Public Speaking, securing a preliminary conversation with a speaker’s bureau and a call with a very interesting organisation that I hope to work with in the future.

How to get out more

When I started as a freelancer, my children were very young and needed a huge amount from me at the end of the school day. In the past nine years this has changed and yet I hadn’t rethought my working pattern. Something that I now realise was a little bit nuts!

If, like me, you’ve been doing the homeworking thing for a while, I’d recommend taking a fresh look at where you’re spending your time. And if you’re almost always indoors, perhaps it’s time you got out more.


Like my writing? Check out my books.

Want to help me get out more? Book me to perform or come along to one of my upcoming performances.

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You want to live like common people?

When the Welfare Reform Act was introduced, Iain Duncan Smith was famously quoted as saying, “I could live on £53 a week if I had to“.  A petition was set up to see if he would like to prove it but of course he could live on £53 a week ‘if he had to’.  We all could, because in a situation where you have no choice, where you have little income and are reliant on the state to support you to some extent, or totally, then you just get on with it.  Many families already do.

This is not about to become a tirade against people who rely on benefits, nor a lengthy defence.  It is simply requesting a little more understanding of how bloody hard it can be to work your way out of that situation.

When I was growing up, both of my parents had low-income jobs.  Dad got home from work in the late afternoon and immediately took the parenting baton from mum so she could go to her evening job at a shampoo factory.  Our family was ‘dual income’ but we had bugger all to show for it.  No holidays, just hand-me-downs and great smelling hair – thanks Alberto Balsam! 

We did, however, have an appreciation of the importance of work because during the periods when my dad didn’t have a job (it was the 80s, redundancy was ‘a thing’) it massively impacted our household budget.  This was to become permanent due to his ill-health and subsequent death – without the benefits system I have no idea how my family would have survived. 

Now, when you are poor and a teenager, and wishing that your dad wasn’t dead, and that you had enough money to get the bus instead of walking to town, and that you didn’t have to wash your clothes in the sink because the washing machine is broken, and that your clothes didn’t smell because you try drying out a pair of jeans that haven’t been through a proper spin cycle, and that you didn’t have to keep asking the neighbours for bread and sugar, and all the other stuff that goes along with living on almost nothing and everybody knowing about it, you are in quite a precarious position.  You really are only a couple of choices away from being reliant on benefits for the rest of your life. 

But, if you can see through the grief and the shame and the sick and tired feeling that comes from relying on hand-outs, it might light a fire underneath you that makes you work like crazy to get out.  Which is what I did.

And because of that I know how hard it is to leave home at eighteen with no safety net. To decide that you cannot afford to go to university despite the college telling you that you’d earn a place. To leave behind friends, family and siblings that need you and to spend 90% of your wages on rent and train fare which means you have to live off Marmite sandwiches. 

I understand the difficulty in making friends when you’ve moved to a place where you don’t know anybody, of feeling out of place, lacking confidence, not having the right social skills and struggling to shut away the part of you that thinks you don’t belong. 

I know what it’s like to rent a room in a house that seems fine then the landlord starts telling you that you are, “not permitted to bring boyfriends round” and invites his friends from work over who knock on your bedroom door and ask if you’re naked, so you don’t feel safe and end up jamming your bedroom door shut by putting a chair under the handle. 

It is far, far easier to not do this stuff, to ‘stay put’ where you feel more comfortable and are among the people you grew up with. 

But I’m so glad I didn’t go back because every minute of effort was worth it. Not just for the incredible achievements that I have made in my professional and personal life but also for the evening when I was introduced to the man that is now my husband. I cannot overstate the value and importance of having a partner who has truly ‘got your back’ when you don’t have the benefit of the family safety net that many of us think is a given.

So far, so heart-warming. See kids – getting ‘on your bike’ works! But my point is this. Finding the strength to invest that kind of effort and cope with the moments of loneliness, being broke, and generally feeling like you’re dragging the weight of the world uphill on a sledge is just about do-able when you’re young, single, healthy, positive to the point of naivety and have a couple of A-levels. But to find yourself in that position in your forties, with a family, or because your partner has died, or because you are ill, or if for whatever reason you came out of school without an armful of qualifications. How much harder is it then?

The Government wants people less reliant on benefits and more inclined to work and of course I agree. There is pride and fulfilment in going to work, bringing home a wage and feeling that you have made a contribution. It gives you confidence when you have your own money and feel in control of your circumstances. It feels incredible to achieve the goals we set for ourselves but what if something happens that takes those things away or knocks you so far back that you wonder how you’ll recover? Could you just ‘snap out of it’ then?

To our MPs I say yes, help people to make changes, find a way to bring more work into families and make more choices available to young people who aren’t starting out from a solid foundation. But do it with a little more understanding and perspective and don’t think that platitudes like those once offered by Iain Duncan Smith work when delivered by someone with a basic salary of close to £80,000 a year. 

We could all live off £53 a week if we had to, but we sure as hell wouldn’t choose to. 


The original version of this post is featured in my book, Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One. You can order a copy in paperback or as an eBook via Amazon.

Want to get your pupils or employees thinking about social mobility? I regularly deliver talks about my experiences in schools and as part of diversity programmes. Drop me a line at toni@tonikent.co.uk to find out more.

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Black Friday – a poem

For some, Black Friday is a shopping idyll
Where you can buy everything that you ‘need’
When the whole world turns into a Lidl
And we follow like dogs on a lead

Every advert tells us: “slashed prices”
Every promise: “save 80 percent”
You can go get an asbo in ASDA
Queues form early – you may need a tent

You can fight over TVs in Tesco
Maraud for mascara in Boots
Or if you’re a bit more upmarket
Go to Harrods and fight over suits

You can head out to Next as the dawn breaks
Shout at strangers “that tank top is MINE!”
Park your car like it’s just been abandoned
Say a prayer that you don’t get a fine

Or give all your money to Amazon
And have the stuff sent your house
You can shed your entire month’s salary
With one little click of a mouse

These bargains won’t be there tomorrow
These deals, they will not exist
These items, they won’t buy themselves you know
But this shopping tale comes with a twist

You know when Black Friday is over
When your cupboards are bulging with stuff
When you think “yep, that’s Christmas sorted
I’m certain that I’ve bought enough”

There’ll be an email in your inbox
A pop-up that will make you wail
And an ad on the TV announcing
“Good news people – we’re having a sale!


Like this? Why not book me to perform. Or you can order a hard copy of my poetry book ‘I Need a Wife’ by emailing me at toni@tonikent.co.uk . Or, if you want to get digital, download a copy from Amazon.

Check out my next performances here.

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Why Our Girls Need a Break from Inspirational Quotes

Sometimes we need to give our kids a break from inspirational quotes and just let them have a laugh. My 13 y/o daughter in particular is bombarded with ‘you can be/do anything’ messages:

Are you on your period? Why not ride a bike in tiny shorts! (Here’s an old favourite featuring a soundtrack by Dr Alban. He’s not a proper doctor).

Are you a girl? Declare yourself a goddess! And a scientist. And a philanthropist. And a footballer. All while demonstrating heightened levels of wokeness and self-care and an ability to raise up your fellow goddesses.

I will admit to being complicit in this. I keep an especially watchful eye out for my daughter and ensure she has a ready supply of kick-ass role models whether it’s in print or repeatedly pointing out to her that there are women we know who are scientists and sensei’s and generally all-round awesome human beings.

The worry I have is that by constantly pointing out to our girls “they can be/do anything” and that they must accept themselves fully, we’re building in a sense that the world at large doesn’t accept them in the first place. And then there’s the question of being even-handed with our boys… My son doesn’t have a book of inspirational ‘man quotes’.

As a family, we point out inequality, call people out when they make generalised statements and demonstrate to our children how fortunate they are to have the number of opportunities they enjoy. They understand the lottery of where you are born and under what circumstances you come into the world. But it can get a bit well, you know, earnest. And it leads me to believe that sometimes we need to take a break from all the #inspo and let our kids have a bloody good laugh.

This need was beautifully illustrated today when my daughter presented me with her art homework.

The brief: Use words that are meaningful to you to create a typography portrait of yourself.

Her response: “Hello all” – the catchphrase of the marvellous, misguided, bewilderingly off-kilter Jim in Friday Night Dinner 😀

Picture of Hello All homework

I regularly perform stand up about family life (much to my children’s horror). Want to book me? Get in touch at toni@tonikent.co.uk.


Update! Having tweeted my daughter’s work, the creator of Friday Night Dinner, Robert Popper, retweeted it to his 50k+ followers. In doing so, he absolutely made my daughter’s day. Something that wouldn’t have been achieved had she used an inspirational quote for her homework 😉

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poetry Stand up Uncategorized

Showing the Love for Local Radio

Thanks to BBC Radio Berkshire I had the very exciting experience that was performing on stage at the After Dark Club in Reading (previously graced by the likes of Supergrass and Manic Street Preachers and leapt off by me in a bout of drunken excitement decades before). The event was the War of the Words competition – part of the Reading Fringe Festival and open to poets, rappers, spoken word artists and comedians.

The brief? Three minutes to impress the assembled crowd and judges on the topic of ‘My Environment’.

The prize? A GOLDEN MICROPHONE THAT ACTUALLY WORKED!

The judges. Smiley, not scary!

Three minute life stories

I used my three minutes to take the audience on a whistle-stop tour of my life from sitting at the breakfast table with a copy of The Sun open at Page 3, to the death of my father which prompted some pretty off-the-rails behaviour and the eventual settling into what is essentially a rural bubble. This I topped off with a shortened performance of Middle Class Gangsta. If you want to watch the full performance, it’s below!

Others used their three minutes to talk of life in a hostel, the threat to our environment, marginalised communities and how Wokingham really isn’t “going to the dogs” when compared with life in Syria.

TK and Bill Buckley

My destiny wasn’t to win (that was for the excellent Sarah Smith) but what I have received the benefit of is a concerted effort by BBC Radio Berks to support local performers. Some of us have been invited to perform by phone-in and in the studio which gave me the pleasure of reciting some poems for Bill Buckley’s listeners. Serendipitously the studio is less than a mile from the Microsoft building where I used to work – it was good to return to Thames Valley Park for creative rather than commercial reasons.

Bank Holiday Special

But that’s not all – oh no! There’s been plenty of support on social media and today I learned that on Bank Holiday Monday, BBC Radio Berks will be broadcasting a special on the event including extracts from all of the performances – something that will be a real boost for everyone who participated. One of the big challenges that performers face is capturing their work – having BBC-quality audio and production is a big deal when what you’re used to is mobile phone captures.

Turn on, tune in

So thank you to the entire BBC Radio Berkshire team – and everyone at the Reading Fringe Festival who made the event happen – I love what they’re doing for local performers. If you want to listen in to the special, it will be broadcast on Monday 25th August at 9am and available here shortly afterwards: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07jz9l4

Want to find out more about my upcoming performances? Click here.