I was called Bossy too…

The UN has launched a new campaign for feminism, called HeForShe, to try and inspire men to level the playing field. At least, I think that’s what it’s for. The coverage has focused rather more on Emma Watson, what she wore, and what she said at the launch of this campaign as its Goodwill Ambassador.

Apparently, she faced sex-discrimination aged 8 because she wanted to direct the school play. She was called bossy. I know.

Except. I remember being told I was bossy (or rather ‘bosy’), aged about ten. The person saying so was, indeed, a boy in my class. He was two years younger than I was. The teacher, naturally perhaps, took exception to this. He (probably) meant it as an insult: it was an exercise in being nice to one another and we had to write down one nice thing about everyone else in the class.

I’d like to say that this devastated me and I thereafter did my best to conform or that it turned me into an avenging feminist. But apart from sneering at the spelling, I actually took it as a compliment, even though I knew it wasn’t supposed to be. It certainly never crossed my mind that I was being branded bossy because I was a girl. I equated it with being in charge, and that being a good thing, even if the other kids didn’t see it like that.

Anyway, according to the HeForShe website, it’s a campaign to commit all men to “take action against all forms of violence and discrimination faced by women and girls”. An admiral campaign, one might think.

But men face violence and discrimination, too. Where is the campaign to end that?

There is talk of quotas, to get more women into certain jobs. All you women out there, do you want to be a box-tick, or chosen because you deserve the job and can do it not only well, but better than the men available? And how is it fair to the men if there happens to be a better-qualified or more capable man available, but he can’t have the job based solely on the fact of his gender? Is that not discrimination? Something which us women are fighting so hard to get rid of that we’re enlisting our menfolk to help.

How about (radical idea coming up here) instead of ending violence and discrimination towards women, we just end violence and discrimination? It doesn’t matter who is experiencing it, it is simply Not Nice Behaviour (in one’s best Lady Catherine-from-the-BBC voice). It is not something which any civilised society should condone, even so-called ‘positive discrimination’.

And let the best person have the job. Because if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, and why would you want to employ the second-best person, just because of their gender?

The Last of the Mitfords

I had planned to write something “proper” today. But I was knocked for six by the news that Deborah Cavendish, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, has died, aged 94. The youngest Mitford, she was the last of her generation.

I didn’t know the Dowager Duchess, but I feel kind of like I do. I adore her sister Nancy’s books and have been fascinated by the Mitford sisters’ exploits since I was young, as a result of reading those novels.

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I read Deborah’s memoir Wait for Me a few years ago; it’s clear that Nancy was not the only wit in that family.

I’m not going to write an obituary – I’ll leave that to the people who knew her best. All I will say is: Rest in Peace.

Needles, Earrings, and Colourful Threads

It’s funny how ideas catch hold. I’ve been planning this little spat of creativity for a while – a month or two, actually – and have only just got around to making it, which has also taken longer than it should have done. I did think, before I made it, that if it went well, that’s what all the girls I know would be getting for Christmas, but oof! The effort! So maybe, maybe not.

Anyway, this little idea was an earring book – but I find I haven’t much to say, except: Look! Sure it could be better, but still! Look! And isn’t the hedgehog cute?

I got the idea from Amazon, wDSCN0201hich sells polka dot ones for about £20, and I thought I could make one for less, given the vast amount of fabric I have sitting around. I missed the fact that I then decided I ought to stiffen the pages with aida. And, having discovered a company called Mouseloft which makes tiddly cross-stitch sets (perfect for those of us who aren’t so good at maintaining the interest to do a big one; they only take an evening), I chose to get one for the cover. But it still all cost less than the Amazon one. Well, apart from my time.

DSCN0202I thought it would take up less space than all my boxes of earrings. A nice idea, in theory. Except it turns out most of my earrings weren’t in boxes anyway, and I need to make another one for my necklaces, which are. Oh well!

Then I might do a travel one, with a page for earrings and pages with little pouches for necklaces and bracelets and rings.

And goodness, suddenly I have stuff to say about it!

And Repeat

One of the worst things about working in a shop is having to listen, over and over again, to music which someone else has chosen. And rarely is it good music.

Now, I’m usually fortunate in that I actually don’t listen closely to music. If it’s on, it’s on in the background and I largely ignore it. This means that every so often I’ll hear a snatch of the song and wonder if the CD’s been changed because I don’t remember hearing it before. It’ll still be the CD we’ve had all year.

But, I have learned several new songs. And they annoy me (well, that’s not really the right term: too strong; mildly irritate, maybe). For different reasons and not because I can’t stand the singer or because I know a better version. I have no idea if better versions exist. I don’t know if they’re the originals or covers.

The first which annoys me is that song about Jolene. Possibly that’s the title, but apparently the singer is worried that Jolene will steal her man. I’m sure it’s a valid concern. I don’t think singing about it will help. That’s not what annoys me. What annoys me is that it makes me think of pathetic Kathy from The Archers. (I know, I know, what am I thinking, revealing that I listen to/used to listen to The Archers? I’m only in my twenties. I listen to the Shipping Forecast too…) But anyway. The song makes me think of Kathy because her husband Sid and then later her partner Kenton both end up with the landlady, Jolene. See – singing about it didn’t help.

The other song which annoys me is that wretched one about a girl being on fire. It’s wonderfully Eurovision-y – and I’m most disappointed that it wasn’t – and catchy, but all I think is, “Wasn’t she taught to Stop, Drop and Roll?” Or is that no longer taught and I’m just showing my (I didn’t think it was that advanced!) age?

But I think the really worst part about these songs is this: I now know them. I go into other shops – not other Clinton’s stores, just other shops generally – and I recognise the songs playing. I was happy in my previous blissful ignorance.

The Long and the Short of It

Yesterday, on Radio 4’s Today Programme, and on the PR tour of his new book (there! Got that out the way early on), novelist Ian McEwan said that he likes the ‘short novel’ form, of which he is a master, and that when it comes to the weightier tomes of current popular literature, his fingers are “twitching for a blue pencil”.

I have since seen various articles defending these weightier tomes, and writing of McEwan’s own work in tones of some derision for being an average length of about two hundred pages. This equates to about 50-60K words. A NaNoWriMo project, in fact. Before I go any further, I feel I should make my general comments about McEwan and his writing. I have only read Atonement, and it is one of the few books which I feel has been vastly improved upon by the film. I may think differently if I reread it now.

But, I agree with him. I, too, like a novel I can read in one sitting and run out of patience for what I call ‘doorstoppers’. I find that, frequently, if I put a book down, it is not inevitable that I will return to it, even if I was enjoying the read, and I struggle with long series, especially of weighty tomes. Even with the wonderfully well-written, and the same goes for TV series, but unless I can ‘binge-read’, there is a very high chance that I will have lost interest and found a more captivating one by the time the next instalment is released, unless, of course, it’s a series of standalone stories, like Discworld.

I like a book which I can start when I go to bed, at a reasonable hour, and have finished it at an equally reasonable hour – when Radio 4 becomes the World Service, if I’m not listening to the run of programmes to that point, so I can fall asleep to Sailing Away – so that I can have a sensible amount of sleep.

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy doorstoppers or series. I adore The Count of Monte Cristo, and have fond memories of reading it in an English class while my classmates read aloud, paragraph by paragraph, our class book of Coram Boy. I just about managed to keep pace, with one ear to the class and an eye to my book, for when it was my turn to read aloud. I grew up with Harry and longed to go to Hogwarts – but I fully understand McEwan’s desire for the blue pen when it comes to the later books, and particularly the Fifth: many of Harry’s temper-tantrums could have done with a decent edit – and by the last one, I will confess I read the end first, so I wasn’t sat there for four or five hours reading to an ultimately disappointing conclusion. I don’t count the epilogue as the end.

While I do not ignore the lengthy books currently on offer, I do, very carefully, have to weigh up the amount of time it will take me to read it against the availability of stealing anything up to an entire day in which to do so. And more often than not, I don’t have the time. I already have plenty of sensibly-sized novels in my To-Be-Read pile.

For me, the ideal length of novel is approximately three hundred pages. Anything over about four hundred pages has to be interesting, and over five hundred, compelling. I dislike authors writing for the sake of writing, be they literary or popular: I loved Eragon, but struggled with the second and haven’t read the third or fourth. And that’s another thing which annoys me about epic tales: when a planned part becomes “too long” to be a single novel, and the series grows from a trilogy to, for example, a tetralogy. At that point, it feels like that rule about showing not telling has been, not abandoned, but left in the dust and is now no longer even a speck on the horizon.

 

PS: McEwan’s new book is The Children Act.