Friday, 15 March 2019

Princess Offpitch

HRH The Duchess of Sussex. Bling a ding ding...
Kensington Palace has issued a stern warning on their Twitter page as to how Her Majesty’s subjects may interact on their social media pages. It is thought that, shall we say, less than fawning references to HRH the Duchess of Sussex may have given rise to this move.

For those unused to hearing her official title, that’s former television actress, Meghan Markle. She of the steaming simulated sex-romps in stationery cupboards, and come-and-get-me-boys underwear shoots.

The netizens of Britain are advised, on pain of exile – or at least of a permanent block - not to “Promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age.”

Of course, all the above really should go without saying, but (your Royal Highness), whilst some may have stooped to base name-calling, it’s not your skin tone that an increasing number of people find distasteful; no, it is the obscenity of your out of control, grotesque cash-splashing on clothes and ‘accoutrements’ when a record number of people in this country are living hand-to-mouth. Not yet a year ago, you sat by and allowed the homeless to be shovelled off the streets for your wedding so as not to spoil the chocolate box scene of you tiptoeing, Disney Princess-like, up the steps of St George's Chapel in a Givenchy gown that cost the price of a 3-bedroomed house in the area you later visited to scratch crashingly cringey ‘affirmations’ on bananas in food parcels being prepared for street-walking sex-workers.

You decided to wear a £1,500 Oscar de la Renta silk chiffon number for that outing.

Then there was the £500,000k New York ‘baby shower’ you attended, thrown for you by your chums, with the “most expensive hotel suite in America” given over to you for your stay.

Correct me if I am wrong, but generally speaking, aren’t baby showers (only recently beginning to catch on over here) usually thrown for expectant mothers who are likely to struggle to find the cash to buy what they need for their new arrival?

That’s clearly not the case for you, is it?

Oh yes, we know. Mrs Clooney paid for you to fly over in an executive jet. We’re all aware you didn’t pay for any of it yourself, which, by extension, means we didn’t. I am sure we’re all grateful for small mercies. Your friends, no doubt, have the same “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” mindset you appear to have, so they probably wouldn’t have understood if you had said: “thanks guys, that’s so sweet, but the optics wouldn’t be good right now” - but you could have soothed any hurt feelings by inviting them all over for the christening party in a few weeks.

You may even have been advised that such a trip at such a time might be ‘imprudent’, perhaps even by Amy Pickerill, who has since resigned her post as your assistant. But you didn’t care. Bottom line is you wanted to go, and “what Meghan wants, Meghan gets” right?

For an actress, your tone-deaf inability to read an audience is staggering. It’s probably a good thing you decided to cut your career short in favour of an advantageous marriage, because with that level of disconnect, I can’t imagine we would have seen your Shirley Valentine at the National any time soon.

You decided to change horses and move on to a different job before you slid into your forties and the sexy ingénue parts dried up. Good for you. Trouble is, the job was to be a member of the British Royal Family. It’s a highly privileged position with luxurious offices in central London, but it’s a 24/7 job and it comes with responsibilities. Perhaps you haven’t much experience of job-seeking, but when reading through the spec for a new role, it’s usually a good idea to familiarise yourself with the ‘requirements’ before skipping ahead to the ‘benefits’.

Harry should have told you. We’re not big on flashy displays of wealth over here. We find it a bit “oh dear” and vulgar. It’s just not the “done thing”. If he didn’t, then he’s failed in his duty of care to you as his wife, and as someone with a clearly different upbringing when it comes to money.

We don’t like the smell of hypocrisy either, and someone sporting a $350,000 Botswana diamond, and wearing £thousands worth of clothes, shoes, and handbags, hand-wringing about women, the homeless, and the disadvantaged is definitely a bit whiffy.

Take a leaf out of your Grandmother-in-Law’s book. Look, we all know she’s probably the wealthiest woman in the world, but she’s definitely worn her Barbour more than once.

We sort of like her for that.

HMQ at the Kennel Club's Cocker Spaniel Championship - 2018


© Emmeline Wyndham - 2019

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Of cat women and dog men

I’ll never forget the taxi driver who, after apparently enjoying a half hour conversation with me (and taking half the fee I had earned singing in the West End all evening in an extortionate fare back to Hackney), snidely enquired as to how many cats I had.

He hit me with it as I was standing by his window, shuffling money to give him. It was a deliberate and hurtful put-down, and it did what it was designed to do. It chagrined me. In that instant, I realised that the interesting conversation I’d thought I had been having with this chap had all been a farce. He’d been humouring me. Waiting to pick his moment to slap me down. I’d been enjoying chatting and winding down after a show. He’d been judging and marking me down.

In that instant, I realised that on the comedown from the gig, I had probably talked too much. For a woman anyway. Women aren’t supposed to talk too much about too many things. I had an opinion on a variety of topics from politics to plants. I had to be single. I must have cats. Possibly 7 or more of them. Despite my sleek performance attire, my flat probably stank of cat piss.

He was a dog man.

I am a cat woman.

I believe that half the human race are cat people, and half are dogs. I mean that literally. I’m not referring just to furry beast preference. What I mean is that half the world behave like cats, and the other half dog their way through life.

We all know that person who’s up with the lark, always busy, always up for fun times, park, picnics, games, going out. They like cuddling on the sofa with you too, and kissing and holding hands, and big bear hugs when they see you, and they get quite hurt if you wriggle within their clutches. They’ll make a moo-moo face if you don’t return their emails or their ‘phone calls straightaway too.

Then there are people who are happy to see you when they see you, but they get on with their lives just fine when you’re not there. They’ll give great advice if you’re worried about stuff. They’ll take you to the doctor if you need a ride, and they’re great company on the rare occasions they find the time to see you, but the rest of the time, you can be forgiven for wondering if they’ve died.

It’s nothing personal.

Any more than it is with cats.

Thing is, though, what sneering men like my cab driver don’t seem to realise is that a cat woman is very possibly a woman who isn’t going to be a clinging vine. She won’t expect him until she sees him coming, she won’t hang on to his coat tails when he wants to leave, and she’s unlikely to hack into his ‘phone records or snoop through his credit card receipts either. A cat woman isn’t likely to be needy. She may love, but she’ll give space, too.

Men who sneer at the concept of ‘cat women’ inevitably also
seem to like to bang on about their damned independence. They fight marriage and babies and all the things they think women want from them, but they run a mile from women who choose companionship with a species of animal that one has to be pretty adjusted to live with.

When people extol the virtues of dogs (and usually juxtaposed with the 'negatives' of cats), one tends to hear the same list again and again:

A dog is a pal.”
A dog is a companion.”
Dogs give unconditional love.”

That's a lot of responsibility for a human to place on the shoulders of an innocent creature.

A woman who doesn’t need all that, a woman who can go without docility, devotion, dependence, face-licking, jumping up, and someone running after her, probably won’t need it from you, either.

Maybe that’s the problem though. Maybe that’s actually what men who sneer at, jeer and fear 'cat' women are actually worried about. That they won’t be needed. That if a woman loves, but doesn’t need them, that she might stray, and move on to not needing someone else.

For my part, I have to admit that it’s a complete and utter deal breaker if a man says he “hates” cats. It worries me if someone cannot appreciate an independent creature that doesn’t do what they want it to do.

As far as I am concerned, it bodes ill for their expectations of me, and I worry that I am only going to let them down and disappoint them. 
 
"Unhand me, woman..." Me and Tigs, Regent's Park, c.1982
(Pic: Gerald Blake)

So ‘ow many cats you got, then?” (arf arf).

Pause.

Actually none right now. £32.50 wasn’t it? Here you go.”

Wot, no tip...?”

Not unless you sit up and beg for it, Rover…

Night night.

© Emmeline Wyndham - 2018


Monday, 23 July 2018

"Dogs, dogs, and more dogs, and far too many rooms..."

('Orlando', Virginia Woolf, 1928, Hogarth Press)
 
Here. Pick one.” Said my gentleman friend, flicking a card over the desk at me.

I had arrived for my regular weekend fix of coffee, cats, and newspapers. His house reminds me of the Ambassadorial London flat in which I grew up. I feel ‘at home’ with the cracks in the ceilings, the occasional dodgy floorboard, the wallpaper peeling a bit here and there. I’m even strangely fond of the Crittall windows that let in howling draughts. My home though, built in 1880, had massive wooden sash windows with huge weights inside the frames. When the rope in one of them broke, I remember rescuing the weight and dragging it around after me pretending it was a dachshund. I called it ‘Bozo’. We were inseparable. The window never did get fixed. We wedged it open with a brick.

I picked up the card and turned it over. He had apparently ‘won’ a subscription to one of a selection of four magazines, but didn’t fancy any of them. Thought he’d leave it to me to choose.

The choice was depressing. Fashion or Gardening. Nothing on aeroplanes or archaeology that would have delighted us both. Sighing, I picked one of those monthly glossies that was all about how to live in the English countryside.

Yes” he agreed. “It’s probably going to be the least offensive.”

Famous last words.

When the first edition arrived, he had left it in its wrapper for me so I could have the excitement of being the first to view what we assumed were going to be articles on dry stone walling, coppicing, conservation, rural political issues, and the best footwear for staying upright in mud. What we found were page after page of adverts for weird granite-topped kitchen ‘island’ units (“What’s that even FOR? Not as if you can sit at the damned thing...”), obscenely priced copper ‘farm worker’ bath tubs stuck in the middle of bathrooms with billowing muslin curtains in the background, and article after article featuring the ‘work’ of yummy mummies making dollies and doylies, pottery, whimsical paintings, and carving ‘decorative’ wooden things in converted milking sheds.

All this industry went on, we noted, while the children were away at boarding school, and hubby was away all week in London, working to pay for it all.

It was a powerful emetic, but the thing that struck me most overall however, was the fashion for grey. 50 Shades of. Everywhere. Walls, floors, carpets. To top it all off, there was usually an arrangement of large stones featured in the middle of a table or something. The smarter the country residence, the more likely it had been painted to resemble the interior of a 19th century institution.

As masochism took hold, I started snooping on Zoopla for houses in my area for around the £2million mark. The sellers had all been reading the mag too, it seemed. No matter how elegant the exterior, how noble, Georgian, or ‘character’, the interiors all looked exactly the same. Viciously ‘clean’ lines, savagely smooth surfaces, chrome, glass, skylights, brushed metal floor lamps, ceiling spot lighting. I found myself wondering why, if someone wanted a modern home, they didn’t just buy one, or have one built. I also found myself dreaming of a massive Lottery win so I could buy just one of these beautiful properties, rip everything out, and return it to its former gracious glory.

So inviting on a cold winter's day...


Yet, for a few months, I’ll admit we did continue to enjoy jeering at this magazine together. It was a bonding experience. I would find it in its wrapper every time. I liked to think my marvellously indulgent gentleman friend was indulging what he realised was my fondness for rending and tearing (first witnessed when he handed me a knife to pierce the film on a microwave meal). The reality was of course, that he just wasn’t interested. I made sure I read bits out to him though. I wasn’t going to keep the experience all to myself. Especially the icky, fake, ‘romance’ column.

This was a monthly glimpse into the world of a fictional country widow, looking for love among the hay bales. It was suitably ‘ditsy’, and frightfully middle class. One somehow couldn’t imagine our heroine copping off with a terrier man or a poacher. Game-Keeper or MFH, maybe.

At one point, this fictional Country Calamity Kate fixated on a new neighbour. Her stalking antics were terrifying. I rewrote the piece from his point of view and sent it to the editor. It was not favoured with publication.

Not even an acknowledgement come to think of it. Whoever was writing these giggly 1000 words every month was undoubtedly one of the Ed’s chums. They probably made jam together.

Nothing if not loyal, these ‘country’ folk…

© Emmeline Wyndham - 2018

Sunday, 29 April 2018

Let there be (dipped) light...

I don’t know who it was who came up with the idea of ‘aggressive styling’ for motor cars, but whoever it was, I can only assume that they had very small private parts.

Slanted ever-blazing headlamps made to look like angry ‘eyes’, and vicious ‘bared teeth’ grilles may now be seen in rear-view mirrors roaring up back-bumpers world-wide, and frankly, these vehicles make me want to put on my hazards, stop my car, get out, and punch them right in their grim grilles with a brick. ‘Aggressive styling’ certainly produces aggression in me.

Has anyone in the motor industry, and indeed, in Parliament, stopped to think how much unnecessary stress these modern cars produce in other drivers when they’re being tail-gated by one? How these cars seem to produce in their drivers a sense of righteous invincibility that may, quite possibly, make a significant contribution to the exponential rise of road-rage and frankly atrocious modern driving? I know I feel a mounting sense of danger, panic, and fear when I am observing the speed limit and one of these things roars up behind to ‘challenge’ me. It angers me because under unnecessary stress, people can make mistakes, and I don’t want to be pushed into errors in my driving because someone with poor taste and money to burn has bought a death machine with which to intimidate anyone who crosses their path. 
 
Beastly. The Lexus LC 500

With their headlamps blazing up your bum, you can’t see the human behind the wheel; just this angry monster trying to push you off the road. That’s the kind of stress nobody needs, and certainly not when they’re operating dangerous machinery.

These cars seem to tell their owners “you don’t need to observe the speed limit – that’s for pussies like the woman in front”. I live in the English countryside. The countryside is different. There are different factors involved than those seen in car adverts with their long, straight, empty roads. Here, you get tractors with heavy muck loads bumbling and swaying along at 35mph on 60mph roads. It’s not up for debate. You pass when it’s safe to do so, or if they obligingly pull over for you. End of. Driving your vicious-looking car up my arse isn’t going to make the vehicle in front of me go any faster.

On the industrial estate where I work there are high, unavoidable speed humps in the road. Due to financial constraints, I have an older car, so I go very slowly over them. I am not going to destroy my suspension just because someone in some indestructible tank less than 2 years old wants to steeplechase over them. Only last week, I was negotiating one of these when I realised that the boy in the car behind me was literally an inch from my bumper and not even looking ahead as he very nearly rammed right into me. He was gazing out of his side window, bored, impatient. When he finally looked around, I had to mouth “BACK. OFF” in my rear-view mirror at him. He gave me the finger. Well, he could. He was in a shiny big new car. As far as he was concerned, I had no right to be on the road in a ten year old Ford.

New car discrimination against older car is a thing. Older car driven by middle-aged woman and the needle is in the red.

And yet, there I was only the other day, gently and steadily steering my old girl through a raging flooded forest ford, only to meet a man in a 4x4 the other side, chewing his fingernails, and nervously trying to judge the situation to see if he could do the same. As I drew up level with him, I rolled down my window and smiled: “Slow and steady. You’ll be fine.” He seemed grateful, if a tad chagrined to be guided by a small woman in a granny wagon. Presumably, his shiny, angry car’s computer wasn’t offering any solutions as to how he could negotiate this one.

I recently heard that headlamps are about to come under government scrutiny. Something to do with the trend for unregulated over-brightness in headlamps. I do hope so. For some time now, car manufacturers seem to have been pushing the ‘necessity’ to be able to see 2 miles down the road ahead of you, and blind oncoming traffic into the ditch.

I hope MPs will also debate ‘aggressive styling’, and its psychological effects, but I suspect that would fall under ‘freedom of choice’. Not just for the consumer, but for motor trade gamer generation designers addicted to anime war comics.

Motoring should be about getting from point A to point B as safely, comfortably, and calmly as possible. For all their labour-saving features, gadgetry, aggressive styling and marketing, modern cars do not promote safety. Quite the opposite, in fact. Steadily rising RTA figures would certainly seem to bear this out.

Slow down, and get a grip. Unless you’re driving an ambulance, no journey is worth anyone’s life.

© Emmeline Wyndham - 2018



Wednesday, 15 November 2017

"I like to be disgusted..."

That was what the late, and very northern comedian and variety star, Billy Russell, offered by way of an explanation as to why he watched Leslie Crowther’s shows. I am willing to bet it’s why a lot of people watch ‘The Real Housewives of Cheshire’.

I don't doubt they'd all hate me for saying it, but for all their wealth and the purchases they make with it, I find myself feeling a bit sorry for the women on this show. Not one of them would look out of place puking up on the kerb outside a Chester disco, but because they’ve acquired the sort of dosh most people can only dream about, cameras now follow them shopping, holidaying, and making scenes in expensive restaurants.

They probably think it’s great to be rich and (relatively) famous. They probably wanted nothing more when they were little girls, dressing up in mummy’s heels and singing into their hairbrushes, and the attention they now have in the glossy mags and gutter rags probably feels like the real deal, but the only ‘reality’ is that every Monday night of every season, people up and down the land switch on their televisions to eavesdrop on their every belch, f-bomb, and catfight.

Dawn, Rachel, Leanne, Lauren, Seema, Stacey, Nermina, Ester, Tanya, and the much missed Ampika and Magali present a perfect opportunity to despise a pantheon of stereotypes: women, working-class-with-brass, ex-strippers, lap-dancers, WAGs, northerners, and foreigners. It’s all there. 
 
Jubblies and bubbly - the irrepressible Ampika Pickston
The most frequent comment on the social media pages for this show is “just proves money can’t buy you class.” Every time some disapproving member of the public tweets this out, the programme makers probably high-five each other in the production office.

On the series 6 ‘reunion’ show, they were asked to put their hands up if they had had a ‘boob job’. All but one honestly and naïvely complied. You could hear the derision up and down the land at their superficiality, their tackiness, their 'Page 3' values, but these are women who have used the tools they had to hand to climb out of the bucket, and somewhere within all of them, I bet there’s a tiny, wistful wish they hadn’t had to.

Unlike the kids on 'Made in Chelsea', these women did not enter the world with much in the way of advantages, so whilst I personally wouldn’t want the sort of things they buy with their money, I can’t begrudge it to them. Especially when it’s obvious they’re pretty generous with it, giving to charity and treating their mates.

If the show didn’t goad them into ‘entertaining’ situations, it’s also pretty obvious that these are the sort of women who make the most loyal and generous friends – as long as you don’t flirt with their blokes or slag off their kids. Back when they had less money, I can easily see Tanya, or Dawn, or Lauren, or Leanne making a poorly friend a stew and taking it over to their house with a cheery: “bring the bowl back when you’re feeling better” - even if it was the only one they had.

Now of course, they pay someone to cook it and send their driver over with it, but some things never change, and the base material is still there. Daffy, funny little Tanya particularly.

But of course, that doesn’t make good television.

The Real Housewives of Cheshire’ is demonisation of the working class with diamonds, and frankly, it stinks.


© Emmeline Wyndham - 2017

Sunday, 1 October 2017

The working poor - Britain 2017

Wow...” my friend sighed admiringly as I approached the table with our tray. “How do you do it? How on earth can you drink massive soya mochas and stay so slim?”

Briefly, I wondered how I could answer without embarrassing her - and myself. I had actually been dreaming about this great big warm chocolatey drink ever since we had made this arrangement. The truth was, this ‘massive soya mocha’ was to be both my breakfast and my lunch in one. What I was going to do about dinner was a bridge I would cross when I came to it. It was in all likelihood going to be a mug of packet soup with a couple of dry Ryvita, or a 65p pouch of microwave rice – maybe with a splash of soy sauce for a bit of excitement.

Well...” I finally laughed. “I guess because I don’t do it every day...”

This was in fact, only the second time I had done it in as many years. The last time had been with this same friend - in this same Salisbury coffee shop - two years before. That’s why I had been looking forward to it so much.

I didn’t really feel I could say so though. Today was about catching up on what we had been up to since last we had met. Furthermore, I had been brought up to believe that not only is it the height of vulgarity to moan about money, but that ‘a poor friend is a bore friend’.

Most people in my circle are perfectly sweet, but they simply cannot relate. Most of my friends seem to find it hard to believe that I could possibly be in any ‘real’ difficulty. After all, I work, I run a car (I have to – no public transport to take me to work), and I am middle class. As everyone knows, middle class people always have reserves tucked away somewhere – don’t they?

Strangely enough though, not this one. In fact, I can’t remember a time in my life when money wasn’t an issue. As a kid, I remember noticing stuff going missing from my home most months as my mother sold things to make the rent. Nothing was ever said.

As an adult, economies I now employ to make my own rent include not running the fridge-freezer my landlord has thoughtfully provided, and making sure I don’t buy any food that might require cooling. The heating will not be going on this winter either, no matter how cold it gets. I am already too far in hock to the Electricity board for that. The one luxury I will allow myself per day will be an hour’s worth of hot water for a bath to warm myself up before bed.

So how does ‘someone like me’ manage to make a shit cake like this? The ingredients are actually very simple. Take two parents dying off before you can get established leaving you nothing but their debts, mix in a couple of well-timed redundancies, add two or three heaped spoonfuls of lengthy unemployment, and serve.

Another ingredient is to fall into the trap of thinking that moving to an area where the cost of living is apparently ‘lower’ (well, lower than London) will allow your finances to recover. When, following another lay-off, I moved from Oxford down to Hampshire, I stupidly believed that given my formidable office skills, I would be able to temp-to-perm quickly, and get sorted.

However, as I soon discovered, if rents seem comparatively ‘reasonable’ somewhere, it means that jobs in the locale probably pay way below the national average – with the competition for them way above. Where I live, if you see a job advertised offering more than £17,000 a year, you’ll be fighting at least 100 other people for it, and in the main, they’ll be younger - and cheaper. I recently lost out to a college leaver prepared to work for half the advertised salary. My agency were so shattered on my behalf, they did a bit of digging. They told me she lived at home with her parents. They also told me the company adjusted the job spec to accommodate the fact she actually had no office experience at all. To their credit, my agency didn’t rest until they found me something.

Two months ago, they finally managed to parachute me into a job that had suddenly become available. It’s a lovely company, and I consider myself very lucky, but like a lot of local businesses, they can only afford me part-time. Provided I don’t fall ill and lose a day, I net just over £950 a month, but my outgoings amount to over £300 more than that. 
 

A selection of the monthly demands on my battered bank account include Scottish and Southern Electricity who suck £70 a month out of me because I dared put on the heating in my dark, damp, one-bedroom flat last winter, and spent most of my days running my computer looking for work (they tried to make it £115). My landlord scores £600, the council want another £70 a month to light the estate and take away the rubbish I put out every three weeks (I don’t generate enough to put out a sack every 7 days), and my telephone bill is over £60 a month, less than £5 of which is calls - the rest is line-rental and the privilege of being connected to the internet.

Then there are the credit cards containing ancient debts that date back to my early 20s. Both of which are now out of their 0% interest periods and getting fat each month on fees so that even though I have never bought so much as a bar of soap with either of them, the minimum payment actually manages to climb a few more quid each month. Santander is the worst. Minimum payment started off at £40. It is now £57 and rises every month – even though I haven’t so much as touched it since I transferred a balance to it. It rests in pieces in a drawer.

Oh, I shall ‘go compare’ as soon as I possibly can. I am hoping to 'go permanent' in my job, but for as long as I am an hourly paid agency worker, no financial organisation is going to take me seriously as a credit risk.

So that's how I stay so slim. I am virtually starving. Even though I am in work, in England, in 2017. What’s more, I am not alone in this. I can’t even join a list for social housing because according to my local authority, I do not constitute a priority. People like me never do.

Brexit, Schmexit. As Monty says in ‘Withnail and I’: “Shat on by Tories, shovelled up by Labour...” Single, childless, working people have always been ineligible for meaningful support, and I don’t see that changing - no matter who is in Number 10.

So next time you see a thin person eating or drinking what looks like a lot, try not to be envious. That may be all they’re having for the next three days.


© Emmeline Wyndham – 2017.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Grow up, Miley. You're not a victim


Miley Cyrus apparently "felt sexualised" when she was twerking with her tongue hanging out, grinding her arse into Robin Thicke's crotch at the MTV awards. 

Imagine my shock. 

Yeah, you know, you make choices in this life. When I had my 15 mins of fame, I was encouraged to continue with my acting, but I was suspicious of some of the roles offered to me - one of which was a child prostitute and would have involved nudity and simulated drug use. I didn't want to go down that road, so I said "no". It's not a difficult word, and I said it all by myself, at the age of just 14. 

So no, I am not going to take the "all women are blameless, helpless victims of the patriarchy" stance that modern feminism demands, and I am not going to give MC a pass for presenting an image that was and remains thoroughly unhelpful to every woman working hard to be taken seriously in a pornified world while she made $millions - just because she's a woman. 

It's precisely because she's a woman that she should have known better. 

I'm glad she's settled down a bit, and I'm glad she's going back to her country roots. She was good at that stuff, but she collected a great deal of money, fame and notoriety acting the slut and throwing her young fans under the bus, and as a former child 'star' myself who grew up in 'the business' too, I don't buy for a minute that she didn't know exactly what she was doing. 

So put your hands up, Miley. Own what you did, and move on.