Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Friday, December 26, 2008
Oooh, that was luvverly - the most traditional happy Christmas I've had in years. And now I'm about to set off for Liverpool to do it all again with family and friends up there - hoorah! While I'm away, please have fun unwrapping this (below); your comments, as always, would be most appreciated. And hey! Enjoy the last drags of 2008 (yup, every pun intended), woncha?
Panto season is upon us. Across the land, middle aged men are dressing up as women for the delight and titillation of families who love to see one of our Great British Traditions dragged out of the closet - drag, of course, being the operative word. Okay, Aladdin’s Widow Twankey may be a very distant (and rather less salubrious) relative of Brighton’s beloved Christmas cabaret star Wanda Wankey, but they more or less share the same wardrobe. Whichever way you look at is, there really is nothing like a Dame.
“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” asked Professor Higgins as he crooned his way through ‘A Hymn to Him’ in the 1964 musical ‘My Fair Lady’, bemoaning the dirth of plain-talking, practical, emotion-free women. But 44 years on, his dreams have come true. Many women have learned that you can’t smash the glass ceiling wearing heels, a puffball skirt and a feather boa. But many also believe that attaining the illusive size zero while maintaining a surgically-enhanced 48G rack is worth risking their lives for, even though any initial acclaim for their hard work is swiftly replaced by the confused disdain of the men who suddenly see them, ironically, as unobtainable sluts. Similarly, those who don the leopard print T-shirt/mini skirt/teetering thigh boot combo much vaunted as ‘The December Must-Have Outfit’ in the current issue of Vogue soon discover that, away from those glossy pages, the term ‘party girl’ has a very different meaning. Put simply, the politics that surround being an authentic, womanly woman (glamour and brains – such a heady combination!) have become very, very confused. Consequently, men handle it far better.
Shirley Bassey, Liza Minnelli, Barbara Streisand: if you want to see the classic divas – women who don’t give a flying frou-frou about how threatened they make men feel - at their very best, go and see a drag act (as much as we love the originals, a holiday in Vegas is a lot to pay for an hour in their company). While you’re there, you’ll probably also discover exactly why the current crop of young pretenders just don’t have what it takes - once you’ve seen Clarissa Hole give us her Cheryl Cole, you’ll wish Girls Aloud would shut up and let the pros take over. As for Kylie, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Leona Lewis and even Sarah Palin (vile, but in this context, irresistible): you know they’re true contemporary icons because the nation’s top female impersonators impersonate them. And, in true post-modern zeitgeist style, our favourite preening popsicles pay public homage in return; if the thought of Kylie dressed as a man dressed as a woman confuses you, you clearly weren’t in the audience on her last tour. But such a crossover is hardly a new twist. Coronation Street, the nation’s favourite soap, is a veritable hotbed of drag-bag inspiration. Who did Rita Fairclough base her original sense of style on if not cross-dressing veteran Danny LaRue? Where would Lily Savage have been without Bet Lynch as a role model? And if Alec Gilroy’s close connection to Ada Shufflebotham doesn’t ultimately prove my point, the Hailey Cropper storyline will.
So, if female impersonators are a Great British Tradition, this is one institution I want full membership to. I want all the false eyelashes, fake fur and fishnet stockings I can get my hands on. I want to spend my evenings belting out ‘I Will Survive’ in front of a sequined curtain, surrounded by dry ice. I want to be the ‘exasperating, irritating, vacillating, calculating, agitating, maddening, infuriating hag!’ that so riled Professor Higgins, not the neat, sweet, unchallenging dullard that magazines like ‘Woman’s Own’ wants all women to be. But these days, only gentlemen seem to have what it takes to be real ladies. This year, I recommend that you watch the Queen’s Christmas speech very closely; it’s my bet that she’s handed the crown over to Paul O’Grady.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
And so it came to pass that the family came to visit (which was wonderful) and Doc (Marc Crewe - Venue's Food and Drink editor) died in his sleep while they were here. Swings and roundabouts, eh? No, not really - I am of course being inappropriately flippant. By the time we set off for Luxembourg on Wednesday morning (at least, I think it was last Wednesday), I was seriously wondering how much emotion a girl can take.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The Animal Disco has gone to Luxembourg until Sunday. Please come back when I do! And have fun while I'm away.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I went out with the girls I don’t see very often last night (yes, real, actual women; not the other type of ‘girls’ that I’m prone to hanging out with) – and what a joy it was too! One of the gaggle couldn’t make it (and was duly sadly missed); the rest of us – well, we did what girls do best: gossiped, giggled, and generally looked gorgeous. When it came to home time, I went to get a cab at the taxi rank by the Abbey.
The driver was monosyllabic, but that suited me fine – I’d done my fair share of yakking. When we stopped outside my house, the fare on the meter read £4.70. “That’ll be £5.30”, mumbled the driver, suddenly finding his voice. “£5.30?”, I queried. “It’s gone midnight”, he replied. It hadn’t. The clock on his dashboard read 11.52pm. “That clock is slow”, he said, anticipating my next question; “either pay the fare or I’ll drive you to the police station”. Charming! But what did I do? Wimped out, and handed £5.50 over. “Thanks for the tip”, he said. “I’m not giving you a tip”, I said. “I’m not scrabbling around in the dark for 20p”, he replied. Yuk!
So off I ran, like the frightened little girl that I’m most definitely not, mumbling something in my own head about karma etc (his: bad; mine: good) and thinking, oh for goodness sake, if he’s so desperate for an extra 90p, let him have it. But I climbed the stairs to my flat thinking, why oh why oh why do so many men so casually abuse their status, thinking to themselves, “here’s a woman on her own who I can bully into giving me what I want”? In this case – thank God – all he wanted was money that he’d neither earned or deserved. Let’s hope for everybody’s sake that that’s as far as his desperation ever gets him.
Me fella went mildly ballistic when I told him the story, pointing out that he’d offered to drive into town and pick me up (which he had), and begging me to report the cab driver to the relevant authorities. But I didn’t report anybody to anyone – except myself, to bed – fully confident that karma thing would work against the cab driver. And guess what happened next…
I was listening to local radio this morning – not something I usually do, ever, but the radio remote control was covered in toffee sauce (don’t ask!) and the station was stuck on Bath FM. Apparently, a taxi driver turned out of (insert name of my road here) and onto the Wellsway last night (the road that leads down the hill into town), slid on a patch of black ice and crashed headlong into the bus stop. The driver wasn’t badly hurt, but the car was mashed. It happened around midnight. Some clocks keep time perfectly.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Seeing as I can't run off and join the Foreign Legion (okay, I probably could if I really wanted to, but things ain't that bad), I thought I'd move things along here a bit - I've bored even myself with my whingeing about old news. Hope youze all had a good weekend, kids!
Being a softie liberal who believes that ‘awareness’ can make a difference to an horrific situation (hence someone who considers herself to be reasonably well-informed when it comes to global politics), I force myself to watch endless news footage highlighting the carnage and misery caused by man’s endless thirst for world domination. Apart from that, the nearest I’ve ever been to anything like a warzone was living in a flat in Toxteth, Liverpool when the riots took place, while the closest I’ve ever been to someone actively involved with the Armed Forces was when I gave 50p to a veteran in exchange for a poppy in the lead-up to Memorial Sunday. Until now.
Someone close enough to me to be called family – let’s call him Soldier X - has joined the Territorial Army and gone off to Afghanistan. Prior to the announcement of his departure, whatever debates about the current global, political climate have been brought to – and, on occasion, fought over – my dinner table have rarely involved an element absolutely intrinsic to the whole issue: were it not for the thousands of service men and women (all of whom, let’s not forget, today sign up for such a career entirely of their own free will), would any of us be in the luxurious position of being able to philosophise and pontificate so freely today?
While it’s an indisputable fact that many atrocities and wrongdoings have been committed by the west in the name of ‘democracy’ in recent years, it’s also true that, no matter how strong our allegiance to organisations such as Amnesty International and womenforwomen.org may be, most of us are far, far removed, in so many ways, from the people we so passionately want justice for. But I’ve sat and listened to armchair philanthropists - who claim to be diehard pacifists, natch - drone on about how al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban (who harbour and protect them) “fight to make a valid point”. Try telling that to the father of the waitress who burnt to death in the World Trade Tower, the daughter of the social worker blown up in a bus on Tavistock Square, the Afghani woman who last week had her back broken by a leather whip for uncovering her face in a public place, or the family of the Christian Aid worker gunned down in Kabul. Indeed, try telling that to anybody with a friend or loved one currently fighting for peace on the front lines.
The base salary of a private soldier in the UK army is less than that of a bus driver in Bath. Much of the equipment the British Armed Forces have to work with is older than the buses they drive. No matter how bad traffic gets around the Abbey, I doubt that 14% of drivers are likely to suffer the dire effects of post traumatic stress after a 13-month stint on the job - and to my knowledge, not many of them risk losing limbs during an average shift, either. Now you may call my comparisons ‘trite’, but I call them an awareness raising exercise. Prior to my current personal experience, I’d have probably been writing a very different piece today, perhaps being cynical about the X Factor charity single currently residing at the top of the UK charts (the profits of which are shared between the Help For Heroes charity and the Royal British Legion appeal) or blithely accusing those who join the Armed Forces of being part of a problem rather than a solution and disputing their national status as ‘heroes’. As it is, I now believe we have people like Soldier X – and all those who went before him - to thank for all kinds of freedoms that I used to take for granted ... not least of all the luxury of dinner table debates.
Friday, December 5, 2008
And so it came to pass that the week rolled along, as weeks tend to do.
So how am I doing inside? Frustrated, sad, angry; confused, enraged, calm. One part of me wishes I’d never written ‘it’ in the first place; the other part of me – larger, I think? –wishes I could be understood for doing what I did. I wish just one family member – niece, mum’s husband? – would pop in here every so often; then perhaps they would understand what my job – indeed, my compulsion to write – is actually all about. I understand and accept their hurt and feelings of betrayal. The sad thing is, I thought that perhaps they might understand me a little bit better as a result of ‘it’. Okay, my words ended up a bit twisted on the published page (a fact that I know they’ll never, ever accept or even want to hear anything more about), but I’m still me, and they’re still them, and I really love them, and none of that has changed. Except it has - and I don’t know when – or if – they’ll ever change back to where we were before last Saturday.
Last year (Sunday November 18th, according to my friendly archivist) I published a post here labeled ‘This Functional Family’. It’s just one of many, many posts – and indeed, very publicly published features – that totally sum up what my family mean to me. It’s a great shame that the only one we’ll probably ever discuss is the one that I’ll now forever refer to as ‘it’, and feel nothing but horribleness when I even think about what happened as a result.