Less than a hundred years ago, a few women got a say
in how the country was run, but it wasn’t an easy way.
Some didn’t like other people voting, because that would affect the status quo,
And if that became unbalanced, that might mean they would have to go.
We are the Clitterati, descendants of the Suffragettes,
All we want is equality, but we haven’t got there yet.
Equal Pay and Sex Discrimination Acts required all genders treated the same,
Although they were on the statute book, the difference was still plain.
Women have the babies, so they are often overlooked,
If you have a career and a baby, either way, I’m afraid, you’re fucked.
We are the Clitterati, we are half the population,
We work and pay our taxes, and yet are still the poor relation.
And onto the Equality Act, as close as 2010,
reiterating the requirement to pay women the same as men.
Large companies have been forced to show their figures and the facts are clear:
If you have a penis you are paid more; year on year on year.
We are the Clitterati, hello, yes, not gone away.
You want the fruits of our labours, but you do not want to pay?
In 2018 the Press reported the extent of intimidating sexual behaviour,
This was news to decent men – but not women – that’s the flavour.
None of it was a surprise to us, the advent of metoo:
Women don’t like being bussed to dinners to be felt up by men- who knew?
We are the Clitterati, (that’s not really a thing),
But not any less ridiculous than being favoured for your ding.
Politicians who happen to be female have their legs front page news,
Confusing with their womanly wiles – politics just a cunning ruse.
Too hot, too pushy, too clever, too fat, or worst of all, not hot enough,
Bikini bods, body hair – but we have to like it rough.
We are the Clitterati, all colours and shapes and sizes,
We’ll look how we like, thank you. But we will now meet you at your rises.
Kittens, ponies, lots of pink, and books with lots of pictures,
Don’t worry our pretty little heads, our brains are not permanent fixtures.
The girl exams? Yes, we did those. The easy ones for females?
Please feel free to congratulate our breasts, they’re the ones that write the emails.
We are the Clitterati, we are more than half of humankind,
We think we should be treated equally and you really shouldn’t mind.
Some of our hands rock a cradle, some of us wanted to but couldn’t,
Some never wanted either – it shouldn’t matter – and it doesn’t.
Our children will inherit this precious Earth, and as phenomenal Maya once said,
I am a Phenomenal Woman, and for that, I will not bow my head.
We are the Clitterati, we don’t really exist, but we’re strong.
We’re everywhere, yet nowhere – and poof – like that – we’re gone.
From ancient grudge against shopping to new mutiny,
Where credit cards make bank accounts unclean.
A few weeks ago, after I had told Man of the House that he was going to take some time off work he announced that on one of these days that he “wanted to go clothes shopping.” I can count on the fingers on one hand when Man of the House has wanted to go clothes shopping in the last eighteen years and three of them were when we first started going out. I could only assume that the situation in his wardrobe was desperate if he was making such an announcement. On the allotted day, having divested ourselves of the Childerbeasts, we made our way to a local shopping village.
We arrived, found a parking space and I was rather hoping for a coffee and a muffin of some sort. Not a chance. I could almost hear Sir Stirling Moss saying “aaaaannnnndddd they’re off” as I was frog-marched to the first shop. A shirt shop. Asking me what his shirt size was, Man of the House began rifling through the rails. He identified a few garments he liked, spurned some others and then made his way to the till to pay. Bag collected, thanked for his custom and we were out. Onto the next one.
In the next shop we were looking for trousers. He advised the sales assistant of his size who very kindly brought him various pairs, some of which were roundly rejected and others he deigned to try on. No sooner had I parked myself on a pouffe that the changing room curtain was flung back, rings jangling, and he emerged. He was Making A Purchase. And no he didn’t need to try the same style on in navy, he would just take a pair of them as well. Geez.
Out. Into a shoe shop. Tried a pair on. They didn’t fit. Didn’t want to try any others on. Back out.
By this point I insisted on going to the loo, even if it was just for a quick sit down and to get my head straight.
In the next shop we didn’t get any further than the doorway, Man of the House stood in the entrance and stated that he couldn’t see a single thing he wanted to buy and stalked off.
I gratefully accepted when he enquired as to whether I would like a coffee. Coffee was purchased. Coffee was drunk. A pastry was consumed. And the route march resumed. Two hours after we had arrived, Man of the House announced that he had seen all that he wanted to and asked if there was there anywhere that I would like to go.
Amongst other places I wanted to go to was a shoe shop. Jimmy Choo to be precise. I don’t like clothes shopping for myself. I find it quite stressful. But I do love shoes. Not that I have anywhere to wear them, or a bank account that can afford them. But a girl’s got to dream. So we went to see Mr Choos shoes. They are sparkly and glittery and beautiful. I coo-ed. I admired. I’m not ashamed to say that I stroked. I picked up the most beautiful pair of shoes in the whole world and with a smile rather like the one that must have graced Judy Garland’s beautiful face when someone pointed to her ruby slippers and said “you have to wear those all of the time” showed them to Man of the House. He announced in a loud voice that if that was what I wanted for Christmas, he could simply buy a plain pair of shoes and let the Childerbeasts loose with a glue stick and glitter. The security guard looked even less impressed than I was. It was time to go home.
Due to a diary nightmare, I had a longstanding date to return to said shopping venue with two girlfriends precisely one week hence. Therefore a week later, Blonde Friend, Brunette Friend and I made our way to the same destination. On arrival, without even asking, we all knew that none of us had eaten because in spite of being up at stupid o’clock, we had been sorting everyone else out with their requirements for the day. In a leisurely manner we made our way to a catering venue and purchased something to eat and drink. We sat and discussed what the target purchases were, and which establishments each of us would like to visit. After finishing our breakfast, we meandered down the street. Blonde Friend pointed out a clothing shop that I had never heard of, nor seen before. Brunette Friend advised that they sold lovely clothes at reasonable prices. So we went in. We browsed. Probably for fifteen minutes. Even twenty. Blonde Friend tried a couple of dresses on. She bought one. We then moved on.
In another shop, whilst Brunette Friend was under a pile of bedding (as in choosing, she wasn’t having a little sleep), I was minding my own business in the children’s pyjama section when Blonde Friend rushed over to me and grabbed my arm “Natalie, Natalie, they have some lovely dresses here that I think would look lovely on you. Come and have a look.” I took three dresses into the changing room. I tried them all on. One looked so awful I refused to emerge. But the other two required the opinion of both friends, a shop assistant and another woman waiting in the queue. They all thought I should purchase. I bought two dresses that I didn’t even know I needed.
Our third shop seemed to involve locating Christmas presents for each other’s families. I bought my eldest Childerbeast a book titled ‘How to Swear’, a bright yellow tome which Brunette Friend had ostentatiously waved at me from across the other side of the establishment. Since they have started secondary school, the language from Childerbeast Number One has been so bad I am now at a loss as to what else to do other than to get him to swear properly. I made it very clear to the assistant that the book was not for me. I know how to swear properly thank you very much. It is my Childerbeast that needs the guidance. Yes, that makes it so much better. Yes, Social Services are welcome any time.
Ambling from one shop to another, admiring shoes in windows without any hilarious comments about glitter and glue sticks, we started to flag a little and determined that we ought to have lunch. And probably a cake. There we re-assessed our purchases and also where we hadn’t been that each of us wanted to go. One couple complimented us on the number of bags, and therefore our shopping success. In turn, I berated them for having only one small bag, and suggested that after lunch they go back out there and try harder. We left. Tired but content, and with time for another cup of tea when we got home.
My what a week so far! Put away the fake tan for the weekend – King Don is allowing us to bask in his orange glow from today; yesterday my British friend who works in Croatia was put in the most compromising diplomatic position since the PM had an involuntary Spring Clean of her Cabinet on Monday; and that particular Spring Clean, I suspect caused more excitement in the Strictly recruitment team than when someone said “why don’t we put Ann in a harness, attach her to a wire and propel her onto the stage?”
Whilst the people who are supposed to be governing us are more interested in power than governing, some proper people who live in the real world have been doing some actual work. The young boys and their coach trapped in a cave have been saved by a team of people the majority of whose names will probably never be known to us, except that of the man who sacrificed his life; Saman Gunan. The English men’s football team and their manager have excelled themselves in both skill and spirit, to the nation’s pride and delight. And my eldest Childerbeast, in preparing for their last week of Primary School and born to a mother who would rather hide under a duvet than even draw a raffle in public, was in the school play; they were pirates.
If you’re a parent you’ll know the drill : the audience filed into the hall and sat, sweating in a confined space on a hot day, just as they have done every year for the past seven years. They admired the programmes made by the children, spotted their own child’s name, spotted the names of their child’s friends and then proceeded to fan themselves with the programme. The Head was legally obliged to tell us that should there be a fire (she’s a one for Cuban cigars in the school veg patch when she thinks no one’s looking) that we were all to run like hell towards the door…..Forty plus children then came onto the stage and burst into song. I love primary school children singing. It’s about the only time in life that people are not self-conscious about themselves or their voices, and they just sing. And it always sounds lovely.
The children had learnt all of the songs and their lines by heart. They all had different costumes, which I can attest, had driven each and every one of their parents’ completely mad in their creation. They enjoyed the fight scenes far too much, particularly the child who had got someone in a fake head lock and was pretending to punch their wriggling captive in the stomach. I think that it tells you everything you need to know about the school that out of everyone encumbered by wooden legs, parrots, beards, scarves, hats, mouse ears (yes, there were mice), whiskers and pieces of eight, that it was their teacher who had the most flamboyant costume of all; thigh high boots, puffball skirt and the most elaborate red hat I may have ever seen – Man of the House said it was worth the donation to school funds alone.
Now you might not consider a school play to be important work compared to the rescue of the young boys in Thailand. I agree. There are degrees of importance and thankfully no one’s life was at risk on Treasure Island last night. But children who may find reading difficult had read the script and learnt all of their lines and all of their songs – all of them. It taught all of the children about words, and music, and tone and timing and about a million other things that they didn’t know they were learning about. And when someone forgot their line, a friend quietly prompted them. Children who find it hard to stand up in front of people, stood up in front of people. Children who don’t find it so hard stood next to those who did and supported them. And finally, red-faced and sweaty, they all gathered for a group photograph to go in their year book.
Not that the last seven years have been plain sailing. There has been a lot of angst. Friendships move and change. Refusal to do homework. General cursing of the homework. Stropping. Growing. Dear lord above there has been so much growing. Eating. Never ending amounts of eating. And I am well aware that the door slamming is only going to get worse. But I know that fundamentally, my Childerbeast is at school with good people and there is a security in that which is about to be taken away.
Because this is the end. Probably of childhood, and inevitably of innocence. And I, and the other mothers are closing our eyes and counting to ten. Or twenty. Because it only seems like five minutes since they were babes in arms and the time has gone too quickly. We don’t want to send them into the world just yet…….Ever. We know that the world is governed by people more interested in promoting themselves and their own interests and run on a day to day basis by those doing proper, necessary and often unglamorous (pirate costumes aside) work and it seems that never the twain shall meet. So do we teach our children to beat the first lot or join them? Beat them, I say. Kill them with kindness. A cannon from Treasure Island could be swiftly relocated to the Strictly studios. So when they and their disgraceful self-interested behaviour are finally vanquished, instead of waterboarding which some of them seem inexplicably fond of, we and our kind shall dress them in sequins, stick them into a cannon and in a poof of glitter, fire them onto a dancefloor.
Every month I am relieved of nearly sixty pounds. Depending on the number of children that they have, other parents who go to the same leisure centre as me are also relieved of upwards of twenty pounds a month per child. For this I and they get the exceedingly dubious pleasure of escorting their Chillderbeasts to their swimming lessons each and every week.
I have been taking my Childerbeasts swimming since they were tiny, with me actually having to go into the pool with them at that time because four month old babies going swimming themselves is apparently not recommended For those of you who remain blissfully unaware, getting ready to take a baby swimming is another job in itself before you even get near the pool if you are a woman (see The Thigh’s the Limit if you are in any doubt as to what I am referring). I was usually sweating and stressed out before I even got to the front door.
Now when you take your children swimming when they are very small, it is a double-edged sword. You are getting them used to the water so they will never remember they were frightened when they start actual lessons, if they ever were; tick. The water is usually freezing cold; cross. And causes their little lips to go blue; cross. So you leap about even more enthusiastically to try and warm them up; tick. But when you eventually give in and get out they throw a tantrum and kick their little legs up and down because they were having a lovely time; cross. But they are also now starving; cross. And their swim nappy needs some attention; cross. Then you have to stand sopping wet and rather cold whilst you dry an upset and wriggly child. Once they are dry, the changing rooms are usually so disgusting that you don’t want your child to touch anything, let alone put their hands in their mouths and everything, absolutely everything has a pointy edge just asking for a head to be bumped on it . We all know how much children listen to being told not to do things, so the only thing to do is to put your dry clothes on your cold and wet body, pick up your child, and leave. Remember, you are paying for this.
When they get bigger, it’s a whole new circle of hell. First, assuming that you have got into the changing rooms past the ridiculous turnstiles (who would infiltrate the local leisure centre? Who?) you have to get the recalcitrant child into their swimming attire. That’s like trying to nail jelly to the wall. Then, in spite of you having asked them before they got undressed if they needed to go, and they catageorically denied it, they need a wee. So they take it all off again. In the festering and disgusting pit that is the changing room toilet. It is never any different in any leisure centre I have ever been in. Why is the person who uses the loo before you in a swimming pool changing room utterly incapable of a) getting their urine into the toilet b) getting the toilet paper into the toilet and c) flushing it? It’s not difficult. I assume that they do it at home. Once I had to report a used tampon on the floor of said toilet to a very distressed looking member of staff. I had not specified what horror they were likely to find because I could not bring myself to utter the words, so utterly incredulous was I that someone would be so monstrous. I had merely suggested that the toilet might need some attention and that was sufficient to strike the fear of God into them. After somehow controlling an almost uncontrollable desire to disinfect everything, you note that the changing rooms now seem to be at a temperature that is hotter than the surface of the sun, and the swimming hat has yet to go on.
For reasons not even known to myself, last year, I volunteered to go swimming with the school. I picked up a top tip from one of the children for putting on a swimming hat during that time and I pass it onto you. The adult holds the hat open. Hold it firmly and face the open part towards the child. The child, with hair up if necessary, then runs full pelt and head-first at the open hat. In one swift movement, as the child’s head goes into the hat, the adult releases the hat, steps to one side and the child has to either stop running or hit the wall. Either way, they are now wearing a swimming hat.
Just when you thought you were ready to advance on the pool, you have to tackle the damned goggles. Goggles are viewed by children like food; what was acceptable last week, or even the day before, could cause great offence this week. So the goggles fitted and did not let the water in last week. Today is quite the opposite. The goggles are re-adjusted and put on. You then gratefully release your child into the care of their swimming teacher for twenty five minutes or until they decide they need another wee, whichever comes first.
You make you way to the viewing area where, in spite of the cacophony, you will note that your child is listening, that’s right, I said listening, to their teacher. And not only are they listening, they are showing all of the signs of doing as they have been asked. As you sit there, gently perspiring, sporting your shoe covers and the unpleasant feeling of damp around your ankles from the bottom of your jeans getting wet, you think of all of the places you’d rather be; a yacht, a beach, the dentist…and you remember that you’re actually paying for this.
At the end of the lesson, you collect your child and join the queue for the showers. Now, builders of leisure centres, I want to talk to you so listen up. In my extensive experience, it is generally mothers who take their children swimming. Now we could get into a very long and detailed discussion as to why mothers generally take their children swimming, which I am more than happy to do. But we both know that it ain’t going to change anytime soon. When our children are small they come into the changing rooms with us. Trust me, we do not enjoy the experience; we accompany our children because we are their mothers and that is our job. So what you could do is provide more showers. They’re not that expensive and it sure as hell would make a difference to us. Thank you for your attention.
When you eventually get your child into the shower, you then have the very thorny issue of getting the little bugger out. You will stand there telling them to rub the shampoo in. You will insist that they put their head under the stream rather than standing with their bum poking in the water and their head poking out. You will, in very clipped tones, invite them to stop filling their swimming hat with water. Every week you will eventually make a plea to their better nature and point out that there are other children still waiting so could they please speed up. Eventually, you bring the big guns out and tell them that if they don’t get out of the shower you will cancel computer time/not let them have some chocolate/never feed them again.
They won’t dry their legs before they put their pants on. You will ask. You will ask every week. You’re wasting your breath. Every other mother in the changing area knows it because they were standing in the shower with you when their child was also filling up their swimming hat with water instead of having a wash. They won’t dry their hair off either because what would a Childerbeast have to complain about if it wasn’t for wet hair dripping down their back? Oh that’s right – they’re hungry again. Eventually, in a timespan that feels geological, you leave. Safe in the knowledge that you will go through the very same ordeal in precisely seven day’s time.
In some years from now you will be on that beach. Slathered in factor fifty you will look up from your book to see your Childerbeast sploshing about in the sea. Before you sat down you assessed the distance between your sunlounger and the sea and you already know that the distance is such that if you had to run to get there, you could. The distance is now one hundred metres rather than one hundred millimetres. So for now you can watch them from where you are. They will marvel at the fish they can see whilst snorkelling. They will shout “Mummy, look at me” as they leap in for the millionth time. You may even hire a boat or go on a trip which involves everyone throwing themselves overboard and swimming to the beach for a visit to a local taverna. And as you sip on your cool drink, you will lean back, sigh and think to yourself “I have most certainly, most definitely, and without a shadow of a doubt, paid for this”
I read a very interesting piece the other week about women being the ones who bear the mental load of a family with children; the assemblies, the playdates, who doesn’t like bananas, the whereabouts of “that shirt I wanted to wear”, dishwasher salt levels, fridge supplies. I could go on for pretty much forever and most men probably won’t have a clue what I am talking about but I guarantee that most women, regardless of whether they are in paid or unpaid employment, will.
I think that the bearing of the mental load is particularly evident when considering the Summer Holiday. With the warmer weather you could be forgiven for starting to think about getting away. That is, if you can get through all the emails about GDPR to consider it. Whilst I am thrilled that anyone I have ever shopped with and people with whom I have never shopped are deeply concerned for my privacy and are exceedingly tearful at the prospect of us parting company, I am delighted that my inbox will no longer be filled with rubbish. I have therefore done what everyone else has done and that is to gleefully delete every single email begging me to stay in touch. I digress. We are planning on having a holiday in the Summer. I have booked a week in the Lake District as we have not been there before and Man of the House wants to go on a looooonnngggg walk with The Eldest Childerbeast. I booked and advised Man of the House of the dates. Now given that I bear the mental load in our house, I guarantee that it will not really be discussed in detail again until much nearer the time, save for requests for items of clothing to be bought or to check that general administration of said holiday is on schedule.
When we get to the date of the holiday, Man of the House will get up, shower and enquire as to whether we are all packed. He will then announce that he needs a clear run (i.e to be child free) so that he can Load the Car. Loading the car seems to be a big event in the male holidaying calendar. And I suspect it is because packing for the holiday is not. The planning involved in getting five people and a dog ready for a week away is a daunting task indeed. Not only do I need to get clothes for five people for a week, packing for all weathers, I also need to consider their potential ailments and how to deal with them, whether including a particular t-shirt/jumper is likely to cause offence to the wearer, whether we have sufficient numbers of pants and socks, how far we are likely to be able to travel before someone will need feeding/to be sick/a wee, and of course, there is the Hound.
Now I have no objection to being the one of the two of us to do this – Man of the House is not exactly sitting and contemplating his navel whilst I stockpile suncream. However, ’twas ever thus. Even when I worked full time for pounds sterling. And that seems to be the case for most of my female friends. For example, I have a friend who I hope is currently enjoying a holiday with her family. She and her partner both work for money. And yet it was she who was doing the washing to get ready for holiday and she who packed. I can’t think of one of my female friends who wouldn’t.. There must be one, but I am not sure who it is. Slightly off tangent, but same point – one male friend announced that he had just cleaned the whole house for his wife. I queried as to why it was for his partner (both partners work for money), as presumably, he also resides at the family home. He didn’t really have a answer. I know I didn’t.
Of course one of the things about packing for holiday with children is that you end up taking very little for yourself. If you’re going to have to do all of the packing and end up taking bugger all to wear, you might as well take one nice item. So I think, girls, it is time to treat ourselves and I have found just the thing. Pre GDPR and popping up in my timeline the other day was an item of clothing that was termed “a swimming costume”. I believe that these are two too many words for the item concerned as you can see for yourself here: https://www.wolfandbadger.com/uk/veronica-swimsuit-with-open-back-nude-mesh/. If unclear from the photograph, it is crafted in nude mesh so it would appear to give the illusion of the wearer being completely starkers. But don’t worry, there is a modesty panel to cover a tiny portion of your lady parts to save your blushes. Everything else, I’m afraid, is very much on display. But that’s okay because it is a swimming costume. Honest.
Before you poo-poo my suggestion, claiming that you neither have the figure of the model in the advert, nor the ego of someone who I have heard on the grapevine this week tells everyone that they don’t have a profile picture because they’re so attractive that they want to be known for their work rather than what they look like, I think you should re-consider. Once all of the running and screaming has piped down, picture the deserted beach. A mere snip at one hundred and twenty five pounds for a week. And takes up no room at all in a suitcase. Have a think about it.
The other week my daughter (who is the length and build of a racing snake) commented that her thighs were fat and they should be covered up. She’s eight. And she’s not overweight. Still coming back from the stratosphere after last week’s Cartastrophe, I explained to all three of my children that hips, thighs and bottoms are very important, as not only do they hold your entire body up to permit you to move about, they also help to keep all of your internal organs in the right place. I spoke at length about how important it is that these parts of your body are strong, and looked after, and in order to be strong and looked after, they need to have a food source and also some muscle to them which involves exercising, because they have the weight of whole body resting on them. Who knows if they were listening to me? They probably weren’t given that they kept asking me to move out of the way. However, I spoke to Sister B earlier today and she said that Niece (also the height and build of a racing snake and aged eight) had made a similar comment whilst poking her thighs. This displeases me intensely.
In an entirely unrelated conversation, a couple of weeks ago a friend revealed to me that at the age of forty she was “going to get the legs out.” Rather than it being her issuing me with a warning to run for cover as she was about to strip off, she meant that she was wearing (woo-hoo) a dress with a short skirt. Now when I say a short skirt, I don’t mean a bum-skimmer. Just a perfectly decent and acceptable skirt above the knee. She had decided that she was not going to hide her legs away anymore. So after forty years of keeping them under wraps she has unleashed them. And they are perfectly lovely legs, which I am given to understand carry her about without any difficulties and have been known to run occasionally.
Inspired by the latter conversation and enraged by the former, last week, I purchased a pair of shorts. I can hear you wolf whistling now. And I don’t mind telling you that partly because I wanted to show my daughters that thighs without that ridiculous gap are normal and nothing to be ashamed of, and also because I too have spent forty years covering my legs up, I had all good intentions of wearing them. They’re not short shorts. Whilst I strongly believe that you should wear whatever the hell you like, as far as I am concerned, no matter how good my legs may or may not be, short shorts are only for anyone under the age of thirty and Kylie Minogue. It is to my (and that of Man of the House’s) eternal chagrin that I do not fall into either of those categories. Plus my legs are quite fair indeed; unlike Kylie’s, they are translucent rather than transcendent.
Of course, just by making a purchase, it is not as easy as all that for a woman to wear a pair of shorts. Men buy shorts, put shorts on, and they’re good to go. It’s like swimming. Men think to themselves “oh I fancy a swim, I shall take my shorts, a towel and a pair of goggles and make my way to the local swimming pool.” It should be that easy for women, but it isn’t. Women think “oh I would like a swim. But do I want to go through at least an hour of hair removal before I am fit to be seen in public? And where I am going to find this hour undisturbed so that I may gather my array of tools in order to shave, pluck and wax so that people will not gasp in horror or faint when I disrobe?” So I had to commence on the task that is not dissimilar to painting the Forth Bridge. Ladies of diminutive stature be grateful because whilst those of us on the taller side may be able to reach some things on the high shelves, not only do we continually bang our heads on the cooker hood, it also takes us bloody hours to shave our legs. Deary me you don’t know how lucky you are. So after a geological age, my leg hair was dealt with for at least twenty four hours. I could have got the shorts on and the legs out there and then. But I felt that it would be unkind to everyone, and especially unkind to the Hound who can only see in monochrome, not to do something about the glare.
I decided to set about dealing with this issue with some fake tan. I first had a fake tan only a few years ago. Man of the House had said “why don’t you have a fake tan before we go away?” Thinking to myself “Blimey, if he thinks I need to have a fake tan, I really do need to have a fake tan” I immediately booked myself in to a beauty salon. Someone stood me in a shower cubicle stark naked apart from the tiniest disposable pants in the world (me in the pants, they were professionally and appropriately attired for the task) and advanced on me with a spray gun. If I hadn’t have given birth to three children when I couldn’t have cared less if a brass band had been in the room, I might have felt a tinge of embarrassment. As it was, I barely flinched when I was asked to put myself in all number of ridiculous poses, which the therapist confidently assured me was to achieve the much-vaunted all over glow.
This year I thought that I could probably manage my legs myself. I had been advised by a friend that one should moisturise one’s legs prior to application of the fake tan to ensure even cover and no streaks. I placed a towel on the bed, myself on the towel, moisturiser on my legs and then the fake tan. I lay down to let it dry and closed my eyes. That was a mistake. I woke up to a little face next to me at the side of the bed, for whom a promising career in the diplomatic service awaits: “Mummy why are your legs orange?” She should have looked more carefully. They were orange at the front and stripey at the back. A wash did not improve them. So I am afraid that the shorts, and my not very subtle point about thighs are going to have to wait for a few days until the legs aren’t streaky and I can spend another eon shaving them. By which time Summer will be over and I can retreat to the comfort of my jeans. Thank God.
I have been absent for the past few weeks for no other reason that I have been struggling to get my shit together in order to be able to write. I read an article about dispensing with the idea that you will have the time to sit and write for any period when you have children, and that you just need to write in the inbetween. So here I am in the inbetween. This morning you find me inbetween the Walking of the Hound and the Hoarding of the Food. By the time I finish writing this I will probably be inbetween the Duvet and the Pillow.
Solicitors or rather, attorneys, are in the news again this week. Turns out that President Fart’s lawyer did not pay over an enormous wadge of cash to the other side without his client’s instructions to do so. What an huge surprise that was. It has made me think once again about the rules by which solicitors are (quite rightly) governed, those in other professions who are not, and those to whom it would probably not make a difference either way.
For the past four months I have been attempting to buy a new car. I contracted to purchase a new car in January to be delivered at the end of March. I agreed a price, I signed a contract and paid a deposit. My first red flag should have been having to ask for a copy of the order form a fortnight after they had taken the deposit because it had not been sent to me. Red flag number two was that the order form was dated the day that it was sent to me and not the date that the order was placed and the colour (very important) was wrong. Red flag number three, hearing absolutely nothing at all between receipt of this form in January until I chased at the end of March to ask where the car was, that being when it was meant to arrive. The email response I got at the end of March was a red flag to a bull.
Apparently the dealer had some good news. After speaking to Head Office they could confirm that my car was going to be built in a fortnight. It should be ready for the end of April or early May. I was unsure as to why this was good news in that it was being built two weeks after it was meant to have been delivered. Some email to-ing and fro-ing went on, but essentially the position was that I could either like it or lump it and my distinct impression was that they didn’t really care which.
A fortnight later I received another email. In summary; the car should be with the dealer within a few days, it needed to be registered before the end of April or the price might go up, and could I send the money over? I asked for information such as the date the car was expected to be with the dealer, why the price would increase when I had contracted to buy a product at a price, and the requirement for me to send the money now when they did not have possession of the car and I had not seen it. I did not consider any of these requests unreasonable, but that is not how they seemed to have been received. I said to Man of the House that I expected that if a man had been having the same conversation they would have thought of him as a firm but fair negotiator. As a woman, I expect that they just thought of me as a bitch.
So bearing the above and my own profession in mind, I wonder if I may put a hypothetical conversation to you. For the avoidance of doubt, I would never treat or ever speak to anyone, not even the world’s most ghastly person (if a solicitor refers to someone as ghastly or beastly, they are really very horrible indeed) like this.
Imagine I am acting for you on your property purchase of Buckingham Palace, upon which you instructed me in January, with all parties aiming for completion by the end of March. This timescale fits with you getting started on the double-glazing over the Summer so it is all done and dusted ready for the Autumn. This also suits Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as she has a couple of family weddings coming up and she wants to be settled in her new abode before it all kicks off in May. After hearing nothing from me since January, this conversation is taking place at the end of March.
Me: Good news, I think with a bit of luck and a following wind I might be able to complete in a fortnight. Can you send over the money ready for completion? It’s probably peanuts to you so you don’t mind do you?
You: Completion was to be for the end of this month. You haven’t been in touch since contracts were wrong in January when I asked to see a copy of the contract, parts of which were incorrect.
Me: [hands over ears]: Lah-di-dah…… so could you send the money anyway on the off-chance I’ll do it? And can you send me my costs as well because it’s really important for me that I get my bill in for the end of this month even if I haven’t completed. And by the way, if you don’t send the money before the end of this month the purchase price and my fees are likely to go up.
I was opining as to how the conversations would go for solicitors in other areas:
Client: Wasn’t there a deadline for submitting that to the Court?
Solicitor: Deadline, schmedline. I’ll work to my own timetable, thank you.
Client: (4am). I really need you here to advise me.
Solicitor: I’ll see you at 9am and not before. Sweet dreams.
Client: Is my Will ready to sign?
Solicitor: It’ll be ready when I’m ready to draft it. If you die, you die.
If any of these were true I am sure that the SRA would be on it faster than me on a box of unattended After Eights. And there are bad solicitors as in any other profession, otherwise the SRA would have had no need to strike off a solicitor who head-butted the other side (both litigants in person for the purposes of that matter) or investigate a firm where one solicitor sent what the judge investigating referred to as “breathtakingly rude correspondence” which included a letter saying “You will get nothing then. Goodbye.” . Of course some people do act out of character (the barrister acting for the solicitor struck off for administering a Glasgow kiss said that the stress of the case caused his client to behave in such a manner). But it strikes me that rather like my Flybe debacle last year (see Fly Maybe blog) some people either just don’t get it, or worse still they get it and just don’t care.
So what do I do? Headbutting would seem to be rather over the top. I was going to write to their CEO and explain so they can try and put it right for the next customer, but that could cause someone to directly lose their job, or at least have a very unpleasant meeting with management; I don’t want to do that to anyone, particularly when the failings seem to be both systemic and endemic. And why should I care about their business when to all intents and purposes they do not care about mine? When I mentioned where I was getting a car from to a neighbour this morning, entirely unprompted, they guffawed loudly and voiced an entirely uncomplimentary opinion. A complete stranger asked me in the showroom if I thought they were any good and when I said not she said that she had found it to be so awful that she was never going there ever again. Perhaps I don’t need to do anything. I think I’ll just never go back.
Time stands still
Beauty in all she is
I will be brave
I will not let anything, take away
What’s standing in front of me
Every breath, every hour has come to this
One step closer
I have died everyday, waiting for you
Darling don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more.
Christina Perri, A Thousand Years
I seem to have a problem with my eyes this week. It all started when, after admiring my lovely new hair do, I happened upon a video that has been made for World DS Day 2018, which is today. I sat and watched it and discovered that something was in my eyes. Both of them. It was a most unsettling experience, given that I had not been near an onion. It seems that I was not alone, the problem being specifically brought about when watching this video in particular. It is of fifty mums with fifty four year olds whose children share one extra chromosome; it has gone viral. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here and see how your eyes react.
I need to declare my hand here. My nephew has DS. If you are a follower of my blog you will probably already know this.
Abortion is illegal in this country after twenty four weeks except for certain circumstances. One of these circumstances is where there is a substantial risk that if the child is born that they will suffer mental or physical abnormalities; this includes Down Syndrome. A blood test during one of my pregnancies raised the possibility (only the possibility) that my child may be born with a disability. I asked what the options were in such circumstances and the only one presented to me, the only one, was a termination. After some very direct and specific questioning I managed to extract some facts. Me and Man of the House decided that termination was not a viable option for us, whatever abilities or disabilities that child I was carrying may or may not turn out to have. Other couples may have made a different decision. However, it cannot be that the only option offered is to terminate the pregnancy. What do less stroppy people do when presented with that by a medical professional as the only choice? The statistics bear out the answer. In the UK, ninety per cent of women who know that their child has Down Syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy. In 2015 that amounted to 689 terminations and rose to 706 in 2016. Under current laws our parliament, our government, those who have been elected to represent us, have legislation in place that gives the message out very loud and very clear that a a child with DS is less worthy of life than one without. I wonder if we will ever have the technology to screen murderers and thieves in utero and if we do, will we use it. Sally Phillips had a point when she used the word ‘eugenics’.
Sister B (jumper stealer of Sister A – see While You Were Out) is the mother of Nephew. Nephew is four. Sister B declined being in that video because (and I paraphrase) she hates her face. First, this is something of an insult to me because we do look quite similar. So similar in fact that when he was a baby, I used to be able to hold Nephew so he would think he was being held by his mummy whilst she got on with doing something else. It was only when he got older that he was sitting on my lap and he looked at me, then over to Sister B, and then back to me, and was clearly wondering how she was doing that trick that all parents wish they could do of being in two places at one time. Whilst I do not consider myself to be a stunning beauty, I hadn’t ever thought that I, and consequently, Sister B, was so unattractive that it would cause people to turn away if they saw either of us in a video. And secondly, as I pointed out to Sister B, the video isn’t about her. Or any of the other mothers. It’s about the spaces between them and their children. The spaces between all of us. And how very small and very special they are.
On reflection I felt bad about saying this. It may support Sister B’s seemingly expressed view that she shouldn’t be seen, is best hidden away and only exists to help her children grow and thrive. Whilst most mothers feel like this a lot of the time, I suspect that mothers with children who have disabilities, and in this case, DS, feel this more keenly than most. Particularly in a country that has laws in place to screen their children out. So what I want to say to Sister B on World Down Syndrome Day 2018 is this: I see you. When you have had a bad night and you are not at your most effervescent, I see you. When you insist on Nephew being referred to another doctor because the one in front of you doesn’t see the point in helping children with DS to hear properly, I see you. Nasty looks from other people, I see you. Nasty looks followed by nudging, pointing and whispers that are anything but from other people, I see you. When you read with Niece because you desperately don’t want her to miss out, I see you. Even when I am not with you, I see you. And when the day comes that I am not here to see you with my own eyes, I will still see you. I have loved you for a thousand years, and I will love you for a thousand more.
I hope that you have all had a great couple of weeks of being fabulous and gorgeous. I know I have. I can’t tell you how wonderful and brilliant and not forgetting incredibly talented I have been. And if it were possible to be even more alluring than I already am (pretty difficult, I know) I have also been to the hairdressers.
A woman’s relationship with their hairdresser is a mystery to most heterosexual men – they don’t seem to understand two things. The first is how having their hair done is a recreational activity for a woman. And the second is why it takes so very long.
The second one is easier to explain so I shall take that first. Look boys, we generally have a lot more hair than you, even if it is just longer, and it therefore takes a lot more time to deal with. We tend to have more complicated cuts, colours and blow drying which tends to increase with age. Whereas boys tend to have less hair and less interesting things done to it – if you ever were attentive towards your hair, then that is more likely to decrease with age. I have a lot of hair even for a woman. And when I say a lot of hair, a lot of hairdressers have not really believed me until they have witnessed it for themselves. I am now familiar with the crestfallen look on the poor trainee’s face when they are presented with my barnet and told that it is their task to put the colour on it.
The first one is more difficult – the recreational aspect. You know when you go to buy a new pair of shoes and you go into the shop with your old, grotty pair on your feet and you feel ashamed that you’ve been walking around with such awful shoes on that up until that point you didn’t think were that bad? Then, after talking yourself out of the sparkly high heels (it’s not as if you go anywhere to wear them now) you leave the shop with a new pair of shoes that do not look as if they have been chewed and you feel like you’re dancing on air? Well that’s how I feel when I go to the hairdressers. Or to be more specific, that’s how I feel when I leave the hairdressers. When I arrive, I usually look like the wreck of the Hesper. A few hours later I leave looking like I imagine the Hesper did when she first began to founder (they’re hairdressers, not Hogwarts), but nevertheless a miraculous improvement on what fell through the door first thing.
Every woman reading this will be familiar with arriving at the hairdressers. After what feels like two hours of shouting at someone to put their shoes on, and searching for a lost cardigan, we are all welcomed warmly by the receptionist or our stylist. Our coat is taken and we are offered a drink. As it is probably the first opportunity that we have had to have a drink, we gladly accept. We are shown to a chair and given some magazines. Man of the House goes to a barbers where if you are five minutes late they not only disapprove and make their disapproval known to you, they refuse to do your hair, make you re-book and send you away with a flea in your ear. Probably an actual flea if the cleanliness of their salon is anything to go by. Meanwhile, I am being sat in front of an exceedingly unflattering mirror. Then my hairdresser wafts into the room, places both hands on the back of the chair and asks me “what are we doing with your hair today, Natalie?”
Every single time I say “Whatever you like as long as it’s not awful.” I then gesture to the mangled creature that resides on my head. It has an entire life of its own. Over the years I have tried to curl it, straighten it, get it to go a particular way, stay up in a style, stay in a clip even, and it won’t. So I no longer bother. I would say that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but my hairdresser can. My hairdresser rifles through my hair and then talks a lot of numbers at a trainee standing next to her which I am given to understand relates to the colour. I am put in a gown and a towel, then some plastic around my neck and the poor trainee takes a deep breath and sets to work. It would be difficult to describe how stunning I look with a colour on my hair and crocodile clips helping it stick up in every direction, but I am sure that you can all picture it.
Across town, if Man of the House has managed to beg an appointment, probably on his hands and knees, his hair cut is almost done. Which is just as well because if he needed the loo he is probably risking dysentery given that they never ever clean the toilet there. His barber starts huffing on a mirror and rubbing it with his sleeve to try and create a space so he can show him the back. Man of the House steadfastly refuses – he doesn’t need a reminder of what once was.
As he’s paying with one note, and possibly having the door slammed behind him as he leaves, I am just settling into reading ‘Cosmopolitan’ for the first time since the last time I was there. As usual it’s full of adverts of impossibly thin women holding handbags that look as if they might snap their twig-like arms and wearing sunglasses that really could do with a nose to sit on. Oh, and lots of articles about impossible sex lives. Nothing like filling our young girls’ heads with ridiculous notions of what they can expect from being a grown woman in 2018. As I flick through on the one hand thinking “This is an outrage, these women haven’t eaten properly for years” and on the other “oooooohhhh, nice shoes…..” the trainee is still painting colour on. And then s/he puts me under a heater that looks like it ought to be on the Starship Enterprise. I imagine Hollywood stars whom the tabloids would describe as “age-defying” being sat under these with a head full of foils. I am then taken over to the basins and the colour is washed out and I am given a lovely head massage. On one occasion, the lady at the basin next to me was so relaxed that she fell asleep and started snoring. When she snorted herself awake, someone appeared at her side with a cup of tea.
My hair cut takes another hour. Yes, an hour. But in that time my hairdresser updates me on her love life and tells me how lovely the colour looks on my hair. She makes my hair look beautiful. And as she gets a mirror to show me the back of my head without the need to clean it first, I confirm that the colour does indeed look lovely, I have lots of hair, and there is no way I will be able to make it look that nice myself. I then look in the unflattering mirror and ask if there is anything that she can do with my face. She always laughs as if I am joking.
I hand over many more notes than Man of the House did. My coat is held for me as I put it on, the door is held open for me with wishes for a lovely rest of the day, and I leave. Straight back into the real world. And as usual I’m on a tight schedule. I have three children to pick up from school and three swimming kits to get ready before that as well as a load of washing to get out of the machine and on the airer and another one in. Did I mention that everyone will also be starving hungry the minute they emerge from school? The Childerbeasts hand me their coats, their school bags and then run off. Laden, I follow them.
Last week a man who has avoided being drafted into the military five times claimed that he would have run, unarmed, into a classroom where people were being murdered by a person armed with an assault rifle. Of course no one believes him. But he doesn’t care. Like he doesn’t care that the entire world pokes fun at his hairstyle. He doesn’t care that The Establishment are permanently frothing at the mouth that he is doing exactly what he said he would. He doesn’t care that a recording of him talking about grabbing women’s genitals was heard all over the entire world. He simply does not give a monkies. He thinks he’s brilliant and gorgeous and nothing, absolutely nothing, is going to change his mind. He’s right and anyone with a different opinion is just plain wrong. There seems to be a lot of people like this in the world – people loaded with self-confidence, the skin of a rhino, and not a lot of anything else. And then there’s the rest of us.
I must admit that I have a grudging respect for The Deluded Narcissists because it doesn’t seem to hold them back any – they think that they are both very good at their job and incredibly attractive. What a brilliant way to go through life. A friend was sat in a team meeting at work the other week. I say, sat because that was all they and their colleagues, bar one, did. The meeting was meant to be collaborative, hence the word ‘team’. As we all know, there is not meant to be any ‘i’ in team. However, the person who assumed the mantle of leading the meeting presumably got a different memo advising that they were the ‘I’ in team. They treated everyone else to an inspiring monologue about how attractive and talented the speaker was and how everyone should be more like them. I am given to understand that a bewildered audience sat and listened to this speech, steadfastly refusing to make eye contact with each other in order to not give the game away, not that the speaker would have noticed. Being British they didn’t want to call the person out and say “oh do shut up, you’re an insecure arse, none of us are interested and we’d like to do something useful” but I bet that’s what they were all thinking. So they sat politely until this person decided to stop speaking. I gather that it was some time. Maybe they just ran out of superlatives.
Another friend has a colleague who is hopeless. Lovely person. But genuinely hopeless at their role. It would seem that everyone except them knows it. Believing themselves to be the best thing since sliced bread, the colleague has been muttering loudly about wanting to “talk money” to the boss. Everyone else has been trying to think of ways to stop this excruciating conversation taking place to save their much-liked colleague from themselves. The colleague is adamant that the conversation must, indeed, needs to take place and cannot be dissuaded. Some people just can’t be helped.
All of us have been treated to the social media post. I don’t mean other people telling each other about their lives: children growing up, holidays, landmarks of life – none of those things. I mean two things specifically. First, the selfie and secondly, the nauseating boasting posting. As far as selfies are concerned, I am referring to the duck face selfie or the selfie of someone if not in a state of undress, then some article of clothing clinging on for grim death, the only purpose of which can be to show off how attractive they think they are to invite affirming comments. I read something yesterday about someone taking 200 selfies a day and the point, just in case we had missed it, was hammered home by an accompanying picture of the self-confessed narcissist pulling the duck face. Write the article by all means, but don’t post the photo – you’re feeding the beast. We look at those Victorian photos when everyone had a very serious expression and we know it was because photography was in its infancy and there was only one shot to take. But the duck face selfie? What are our grandchildren going to think of that? That everyone was poised to snog someone else at a moment’s notice? There was an unexplained penchant for sucking lemons? Or maybe everyone will be too busy admiring themselves to actually meet anyone to make babies with and there will be no grandchildren.
Moving on to the passive-aggressive boasting post. Usually, but not always, on a professional website, so to be viewed by people that the writer doesn’t know all that well and along the lines of: “Forgive the self-congratulatory post, but I am so thrilled to have been nominated as one of the people most likely to go to the opening of a crisp packet.” I am afraid that we won’t forgive you. Not unless you have come through the other side of a rough personal struggle, won an Olympic Medal, broken a world record, or done something significant to contribute to the peace, safety and security of our planet. Sir David Attenborough, Knight of the Realm and a man who has probably contributed more to our understanding of the natural world than anyone else in history of the world ever would never do such a thing. And if David’s not doing it, you definitely shouldn’t be. If you have to tell people that you are something, you aren’t. Tell us something useful or informative, or tell us nothing at all.
As for the being attractive thing, I truly believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Why do people insist on foisting their supposed attractiveness on everyone? These are usually the same people as those who like to tell you how wonderful they are at their job. A friend of mine goes weak at the knees if you mention a certain racing driver to her. I wouldn’t know who he was if I tripped over him. And he’s quite short, so I could easily trip over him. Similarly, mention the words ‘Kylie Minogue’ to the Man of the House and he will get a glazed and faraway look come over his face – he’s gone to a place that is very warm and friendly. I know someone who genuinely thinks that if a man smiles at them, they want to sleep with them. They also think that if someone asks them the time that it is actually a secret code they are asking them if they have time for sex, not any desire to know what the actual time is. I’d love to live in that world for a day, I really would. That must be a day when you get out of the shower and after blow-drying your orange bouffant into a comb-over-cum-quiff, you look in the mirror and instead of thinking “oh my, what the hell is that?” you nod approvingly and say to yourself, or even out loud “not bad, not bad. Still got it” and sashay out of the bathroom. Naked. Because why wouldn’t anyone want to look at you in the buff?
And then there’s the rest of us. Do you think that any of these people wake up in the night in a cold sweat? It is very much a thing in the legal profession to sit bolt upright in bed at four in the morning and think “oh Christ, did I remember to do that?” and either have to logon to double-check or stay awake worrying about it until you can get up to go into the office early to make sure. I still remember how it feels to have that rush of horror when you think you might have missed something on a file. I bet we’re not the only ones. Are these people racked with worry? After I went on a safeguarding course when I was a trustee of the Pre-School and was told the statistics of at-risk children I rushed back to the manager in a blind panic (because statistically speaking we had at-risk children) and said “what have we missed? Who have we missed?”I worried about it for all of the six years I was a trustee. Do those people do that? Something tells me they don’t.
If a man smiles at me, I assume that he’s either lost, has wind, or maybe he’s just trying to be pleasant and non-threatening. If I am asked what time it is I believe that the person asking just wants to know what time it is so they can continue to plan their day. Irresistible as I may be, don’t assume that they are trying to squeeze a shag with me into their hectic schedule.
So The Rest of Us, I have a proposal. There is not a cat in hell’s chance that we can beat people who are as mad as a box of frogs – the sky in their world must be either pink or mirrored. Even if they’re reading this they’re just thinking “Well I am brilliant and gorgeous, what’s your point?” So as we can’t beat them, we are going to join them. Every morning for a week, when you peer at yourself in the mirror, even if you don’t believe it and even though you’ll feel a complete fool doing it you are going to repeat, three times, after me: “Goodness me I’m brilliant and gorgeous.” No one has to hear you. You can say it under your breath, or in your head. But do it and see if it makes a difference in how you tackle the day ahead. If someone congratulates you, even if it is just for getting out of bed, invite people to forgive the self-congratulatory nature of your post, and then tell people how amazing you are for getting your pants on the right way round/turning your computer on/making a colleague a cup of tea. And finally, if someone says “good morning” do not assume that they are merely wishing you a good start to your day, they’re not. You’re hot. And everyone, simply everyone, is just desperately trying to find a way of letting you know it. But you already know it because for the next seven days you’re brilliant and gorgeous. Good luck.