Pasties, folk, dogs, and rain: What I learned in Cornwall

In honour of my friend Jenny, who is from Durham and Devon, who I first met years ago at Cambridge, and who has randomly but rather happily ended up living in Cornwall, and who gave me an exceptionally cosy and beautiful place to stay this weekend. 🙂

1. Dogs are awesome. Guys, meet Jimbo

Jimbo!

Jimbo (and sneaky decorative cello)!

OK, so I already knew this. But when you’ve played, walked, fussed over – and shared your bed with (HAPPY FACE) ‒ a straggly, lazy, docile dog, who is there every day, needs attention every day, runs, plays, sleeps, sighs and watches your every move, you can’t stay too depressed.

Even if it’s raining and horrible, you will leave the house with this dog, because seeing his excitement when he hears the word “walk” is worth any amount of rainfall. You will love bed even more than normal (rather than seeing it as a dark place in which to hide from the world) because there is a dog on the duvet, warming it up, waiting for you to get in so he can snuggle (albeit disinterestedly, and only if you’re warmer than the sofa, but still).

Jimbo is a fabulous, wonderful, cute, quiet, non-smelly, clean, happy and watchful Greyhound-Lurcher cross. With the hair of Bob Dylan in his wilder years, he has neither the looks nor the intelligence of say, a golden Labrador, but he makes up for this a million times’ over for his genuinely patient temper, total house-friendliness, ability to entertain himself for a few hours while you’re out of the house, and complete and utter gorgeous ridiculousness.

Playing with Jimbo :)

Playing with Jimbo by the sea, casual 🙂

He can’t eat a snack without taking it to his rug across the room. His neck is seemingly double-jointed, resulting in hilarious angles. He takes rain in his stride but secretly longs for his favourite, quilted coat. He only barks and jumps up when the word “walk” is mentioned, he sleeps like a human, and has eyes for which the description “puppy-dog” was invented.

Although I adore Jimbo, I also hate him, because he proved to me even more than I already knew just how much I’d love to have a dog, and highlighted how much that isn’t possible for me right now. One day, one day…

2. A folk night will make you throw out your fake nails. Yes, really

You can’t sit for too long in a cosy pub behind a door made from an actual barrel, among a group of random but ridiculously talented people playing folk songs and sea shanties, without thinking that maybe, your excuse that you “can’t really play a D chord on the guitar” because of the length of your false nails, might be a tad dumb.

I’ve been trying to learn the guitar – intermittently ‒ for months, and always get frustrated because I struggle with holding the strings down enough to get a clear sound.

Although I’m told this is a normal complaint for beginners, it doesn’t help that for over seven years, I’ve perennially had little bits of plastic stuck to my nails, in the pursuit of beautiful talons where otherwise I have unappealing stubs, ruined by years of biting and false nail glue.

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Look! Accordions! And guitars! And mini pasties!


In that pub – The Famous Barrel in Penryn ‒ where the men and women were unashamedly, ridiculously talented, able to join in to a song together (on the pipe, guitar, mandola, and even accordion) at a moment’s notice, I realised that my desire to learn guitar was stronger than my desire to have perfect nails. I KNOW. Finally.

Even though it’s making me genuinely anxious, today starts Operation Grow My Nails, to the point where they’re long enough to be acceptable in public, and short enough so I can hold down four strings at a time. Let’s see how long I last.

3. You can unlearn months of healthy eating habits within days

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Espressini’s finest (click to go to Espressini’s website) 🙂

I have lost over half a stone in a month and a half (a good amount, given my track record).

I have counted calories, kept a journal, exercised nearly every day, learned about nutrition, which brand of coffee place I can grab a healthy lunch in, where does good low-calorie snacks, and which drinks to have without screwing up my diet. I have restricted my carbs, fat and sugar intake, and learned how to eat this way without feeling horribly unsatisfied.

And yet. In the space of three days in Cornwall, I ate a packet of cookies, a packet of chocolate buttons, a whole pizza with chorizo on it, a big salad covered in dressing, a massive steak pasty with potatoes in it, two roast potatoes in a pub, a massive box of fish, chips and a battered sausage, a bagel with full-fat cream cheese and salmon, two milky cappuccinos, a hot chocolate, a bowl of Shreddies, one cocktail, and more than a few gin and full-fat tonics.

These are all things I generally never eat or drink. And I didn’t even feel that full, or bad for it.

SO. Today, I’ve gone back on the usual diet, because, between you and me, I’m a bit scared of what I’d eat next if I didn’t. Just goes to show, the carb monster in me isn’t dead. It’s only sleeping…

(Meanwhile – let me just reassure you, in case you didn’t know: proper Cornish pasties are EXCELLENT.)

4. London rain has nothing on Cornwall, jeez

It isn't raining here. This was rare :P

It isn’t raining here. This was rare 😛

Of course, it rains in London. A lot compared to some places. But wow. Here, it rains for maybe half an hour, an hour, and then stops. It can stay grey and miserable, and shower on and off, but generally perks up in between. Not so in Cornwall.

One day, it rained for literally hours and hours on end. One day, it was so rainy – and, down the windtunnel-like streets, so gusty ‒ that I actually gave up on the umbrella, and decided to resort to the coat hood, surrendering with stoic acceptance to whatever fate befell such a decision.

In fact, even though I felt damp for days, I saw hardly any umbrellas in Cornwall – everyone’s got sensible coats with hoods and waterproof bits. Clearly, umbrellas are for pansy Londoners. Having said that, it is pissing it down here at the moment, so maybe I’m just in denial. (Update, 10 minutes’ later: it’s now quite sunny here. So nuh.)

5. I don’t mind people – but I do mind when they’re taking up all the space

The Stable - one of my favourite non-London restaurant groups, and one of the places we ate at

The Stable – one of my favourite non-London restaurant groups, and one of the places we ate at (photo from The Stable website)

The most obvious contrast in Falmouth was that going out was SO MUCH LESS EFFORT.

I am not someone who normally complains about crowds in London (like, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – or you, know, out of my way), but in Falmouth, we went to the pub; restaurants; out for dinner; into shops; cafes – and not once did we have to book ahead, struggle to get a table, worry if there would be space and if we should check out somewhere less good as backup.

We never had to queue, wait, hover around a door, yell over the noise, decide on somewhere and then un-decide ten minutes later when it’s clear we’ll be lucky to even get a hello out of a waiter, let alone a seat.

When we wanted a taxi, there was one, and it cost less than a tenner. None of this bartering, trying different companies, being charged extra because you wanted a cab at the same time as everyone else. It was, in many ways, bliss.

And yet, although it was amazing, it also felt strangely weird. A little like being in a pub on a Tuesday afternoon. A little reckless, a little eerie. Although it was so much easier, it was also so much emptier. The Londoner in me distrusts places without crowds; the lazy git in me adores the calm, the seating, and the space. I can’t decide which I prefer.

[Photo by Luke Gattuso/DogWelder on Flickr.com]

Admittedly, it also made me feel a bit sad about London. This city sometimes feels like the world’s best Christmas tree sat behind thick glass; you can see it, it has presents and lights and wonders and discoveries galore, but you can’t access any of it, because you’ll have to smash something in the process – namely your time, money, elbow space, and, most probably, entire vats’ worth of patience.

I don’t think I’ll ever feel that shutting an entire high-street at 5.30pm is acceptable, though.

Some of us have office jobs, and also like to walk through the street at 6pm without feeling like a character in a murder mystery novel. Long live shops being open till 10pm!

6. My desire to get my own place mainly boils down to having colourful bits of crockery and French-inspired posters on the walls

I have very little desire to get a mortgage – it sounds boring, scary, too-adult, the financial equivalent of straitjacketing myself, and what’s more, bloody expensive (plus, as a single person living in London, I may as well try to launch myself into space, for how attainable it is).

I do, however, desperately want my own space and place, simply so that I can fill it with beautiful things like colourful coffee cups, vintage travel and advertising posters, gorgeous textures, paintings, and fabrics. (The other reason is this place.)

Jenny taught me that happiness lies this way at University, when her room was a design-led, Art Nouveau, blue and white, coffee-drinking haven (compared to my room, which was very lovely and cosy, yet completely Aladdin-meets-Turkish-Indian-French-bazaar-slash-explosion in a junk shop).

Colourful coffee cups make me happy

Although she doesn’t yet own her place, when I finally get the chance to put my mark on more than just a postage stamp bedroom somewhere more permanent than either my parents’ house or a random flatshare, it will be inspired by Jenny, and her colourful coffee cups, posters, multiple coffee machines, exposed brickwork, and…random cello in the corner. Because, why the heck not?

Here’s to Cornwall. Have a pasty and a cider on me.

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The New York street harassment video: Your handy myth-busting guide

Confused as to why the New York Street Harassment Video is such a big deal? Read on

Anyone who spends any time on internet news sites is unlikely to have missed this week’s latest street harassment exposé.

Working with agency Rob Bliss Creative, Shoshana Roberts, an actor, walked for ten hours, just behind a hidden camera through the streets of New York, dressed in a tight-but-sedate pair of black jeans and simple black T-shirt, to highlight just how many instances of unsolicited male attention she would receive on any given day.

And lo and behold, the video shows her getting cat-called, randomly propositioned, followed, stared at, told repeatedly (for no apparent reason) that she should have a nice day, that someone was “just acknowledging her beauty”, “god bless her”, “damn”, and that she looks pretty “beautiful”. One guy even asks “why don’t you want to talk to me, is it cause I’m ugly?” For most young women, this wasn’t a surprise.

Predictably however, lots of people seem to have a problem with her even posting the video (not to mention a bunch of other people coming out with the usual “alternative” responses and dissecting it a billion other ways. PLUS, Roberts has already received rape threats because of it). Alas, the internet isn’t known for its sensitivity towards sexism.

In less than 24 hours, Roberts has had to defend her actions, and even in my relatively-open, left-wing, well-educated, understanding and supportive corner of social media, I’ve seen instances of people questioning how “bad” the video is, suggesting that the men in it are just being friendly, and that women who have a problem with such behaviour need to let go and not get so offended.

I get it – if you’ve never experienced street harassment, or you’re a man, or both, you might not quite see what the big damn deal is. And that’s fair enough, if you’ve never felt it yourself.

So here’s a handy myth-busting guide for anyone struggling to understand why this video is so important, and why street harassment isn’t the compliment-strewn cakewalk some think it is.

Myth 1. The men are just being nice, lighten up!

Nope, this isn’t about compliments. These guys aren’t talking to everybody in the same way, or doing it because their hearts are just full to bursting of the world’s wonder, and they’re just genuinely all about sharing the love. Aww.

They are saying it to her because she is a young, attractive woman, who they feel is OBVIOUSLY inviting comments, stares and sexual invitations simply because she has the TEMERITY to walk down the street (sarcasm, yes).

This woman hasn’t spoken to those people in any way, or shown that she is interested in speaking to them, or even has time to do so. There is no reason for them to talk to her at all – most of the men aren’t talking to anyone else. If they were genuinely asking her a question, such as asking for directions, that would be different.

The men here aren’t speaking to her because they genuinely want to get to know her or legitimately flirt with her – this isn’t an appropriate space for that (a bar, or a date, for example).

These men are invading her personal space and making it clear that they believe she SHOULD respond to them, simply because they have decided that THEY want to speak to her. She has no choice in the matter – some of them chide her, telling her that she SHOULD acknowledge them, if she doesn’t respond. Even though she never wanted to speak to them in the first place.

Roberts herself has said that if people have a reason to say “hi”, and she’s showing outward signs that she’s up for conversation, she’s totally happy to chat back.

But we’re not just talking about people saying “hi” or being friendly over buying coffee, or apologising in a polite manner when they accidentally bump into her turning a corner.

Nope. One guy just randomly walked next to her for 5 minutes. Weird. Also, creepy.

And while many of these guys probably ARE harmless, she doesn’t know that.

Some of these guys seem friendly. But what happens if they turn nasty, or follow her? (As Roberts said in this follow up video: “It can escalate so quickly.”) It is a potentially threatening situation; at the very least it’s unpleasant, and she has done nothing to attract it in any way.

I know from personal experience that having someone walk or drive past you, yelling or laughing something about your looks, completely out of the blue, without invitation and perhaps even in an angry or threatening manner, is a disorienting experience.

Couple that with alcohol and a dark night, and it can turn from something mildly annoying to downright terrifying.

Even someone telling you to “smile” is an invasion, to be honest. I mean, who the hell asked you? I might have been deep in thought (Roberts herself said that it “disrupts her train of thought”), but you felt the need to let me know that I forgot to ensure my face looks attractive to you? Ha, fuck off. Do I tell you how to arrange your face? No.

Just because men (or whoever) think they’re being nice, and have historically behaved in this way for generations, doesn’t mean that their comments will be received in that way, especially by someone who is just going about their business, and doesn’t know that guy from Adam.

Imagine if someone randomly just came at you in the street when you were minding your own business, and called out something about your body, facial expression or supposed sexual abilities, or worse, whispered it, out of nowhere, in your ear. Seriously, imagine it.

You wouldn’t be very happy, would you?

Myth 2. She shouldn’t expect privacy, she’s in a public space.  

I do think that often people (and it is mainly men, sorry, but it is) don’t appreciate how their comments can make a space seem threatening. A girl shouldn’t have to think about attracting sexual comments and attention simply because she’s walking in the street.

Just because it’s a public space, it shouldn’t become a problem. If we said that everything was permitted, just because it’s a “public space”, we’d soon get a situation where women were afraid to go outside, because they can “only expect respect and non-objectification in a “private” space. We don’t want that (it often already happens – who has ever decided not to walk home from an evening out because they’re afraid?).

This video is highlighting how many women cannot just walk down a road – even in broad daylight – without attracting comment on their appearance. Why should I, or any woman, have to feel objectified, reminded of my apparent “sexual attractiveness” and even maybe threatened or followed, by random guys in the street, just because they feel like it?

Often, people use the analogy that if you leave your door unlocked, you can expect to have your laptop stolen. But this woman isn’t inviting this behaviour in any way – how is walking down the street an invitation, please? AND, even if she WAS wearing a short skirt, or whatever, the unlocked door analogy isn’t the same, because she is A PERSON with feelings, not an inanimate object ready to be taken at any point.

And anyway, this particular woman is totally sober, and almost completely covered. Her clothing and mindset isn’t the issue. it makes no difference.

That’s why someone’s behaviour, drunken state or clothing isn’t a serious factor when it comes to gendered violence. It happens anyway. It originates with the attacker/cat-caller. Not the other way round.

Similarly, there is more to a woman walking down the street than her attractiveness to random men ‒ but catcalling reduces her to that, and nothing more. It’s objectifying, reductive, and unoriginal.

What’s more, it makes the man look like a leering creep who can only see women as sex objects and little else. I expect more from my men, and I’d like to think they expect more from themselves.

shoshanaMyth 3. Street harassment and comments happen to men too.

Ok, so this isn’t a myth – it DOES happen to men too (I’m reliably informed, although I’ve never seen it happen myself).

A major reason highlighted for why such behaviour isn’t acceptable is because the men speaking to her wouldn’t do the same thing if she was a man. That’s generally because they don’t feel that men are “trying” to be sexually attractive to them, and they don’t feel that they have “a right” to demand attention from a man.

BUT, if and when the same thing does happen to men, it would be equally wrong.

And yet, it’s undeniable that it happens far less. On top of this, there isn’t the historical and social context of seeing men as vulnerable, in comparison to the context of men-on-women violence and harassment that does exist.

Women are socially raised to be afraid of random men in the street – taught by their mothers to cross over the road if they’re walking home and someone approaches you on the street; told to carry attack alarms; told to not get too drunk; told to “wait” to have sex; told to generally behave like attack or violence might be imminent at any time. Women are “supposed” to be deferential to men’s ever-present superior force and/or judgement.

But this is victim-blaming, and it puts all the onus on the victim to not be attacked, rather than the attacker NOT to attack. The same is true of street harassment – it’s the harasser’s responsibility not to threaten, not the victim’s responsibility to avoid (or shrug off) the threat.

This isn’t a difficult concept. Without the harassment, there would be no issue.

Similarly, women are far, far more likely to be victims of domestic violence than men are (that’s not to discount men’s experience), and far more likely to be afraid of men, as they tend to be taller, stronger and louder than they are. It’s an inescapable fact, and any man worth his salt should realise this and act accordingly – i.e. NOT like a dick.

It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine how a cat-call could get physical, and when we’re talking about completely random people in the street, it’s easy to see how even one comment could feel like a potential threat.

Would you like to feel threatened just walking down the road in your jeans? Thought not.

Myth 4. Street sellers and other people on the street speak to you in public too, and that’s not harassment, so why is this?

Minor point: street vendors and similar are selling something – they have a legitimate reason to talk to people who they think could be potential clients. They aren’t making a judgement on your sexual proclivity, even if they are thinking that you might be a potential customer because you look young/rich/poor/busy/educated/interested. People who have a genuine reason to talk to you aren’t threatening, or choosing you simply because they’re objectifying you based on your supposedly attractive looks. It isn’t the same.

Myth 5. This happens to me too, and I just ignore it, so what’s your problem?

Good for you. But behaviour like this is symptomatic of a society that still disproportionately judges women on their looks, compared to men, and makes women feel threatened when they have no reason to feel that way.

Ignoring the behaviour doesn’t fight the root cause, and still suggests that men “can’t help themselves”. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to think I can respect men, and see them as rational human beings capable of changing their behaviour to their surrounding circumstances.

Just because one person doesn’t feel affected by something, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem. If you don’t get harassed, then you’re lucky. But for those of us who do, it’s unsettling, and just downright fucking creepy.

A certain kind of bloke – one who thinks it’s totally OK to yell at women in the street ‒ is ruining it for the rest of them (note – SOME of the men in the video manage to walk past the woman WITHOUT saying anything! IT CAN BE DONE, PEOPLE!). And, just because something’s been OK or acceptable for years, doesn’t make it OK now, or forever.

It’s videos like this that highlight the problem, and, as we all know, only with acceptance of a problem, can we finally figure out how to finally make it stop.

Life in lyrics: Giving Monday the Elbow

New-York-MorningSo it’s Monday. *YAY*

It was a beautiful weekend in London (I basically did nothing but lie in, sunbathe, read, paint, watch TV, do a bit of a workout, and eat good food. No, there were no Instagram photos of daffodils or pub lunches or rousing countryside walks (I don’t even use Instagram, I KNOW. OMIGOSH) but it was good all the same.)

But on Monday? GRR. Like pretty much everyone else in the city, you have to get up about three hours before your body naturally feels like it, and get on to a pretty slow, expensive tin can (some people call them trains) packed in with other people’s shuffling and eating and perspiring and sodding breathing. Yes, it’s the morning commute. Gotta love it.
But for the past week or so, I’ve not been struck down with quite the same level of dread as has happened on other days, because (apart from the quiet arrival of spring, which is completely FABULOUS) I’ve been listening to this song by Elbow as soon as I get on the train.

Headphones in ear, I play it first, before anything else, and just breathe and listen.

And so far, it makes me extraordinarily calm and optimistic, even when it’s Monday and I’m tired and running late and some anti-social twazzock is sitting next to me rustling and twitching and eating and drinking and sighing FAR BEYOND what is necessary to get comfy. SIGH.

Also, the pedant in me is also disproportionately pleased by the quiet symmetry held within the idea that, as the bloke next to me elbows me in the side, I am also giving him the Elbow – in the form of beautiful harmonies and mental PEACE. So nuh.

Now, I realise the song is about New York, but the quivering notes and the uplifting lyrics about people coming together to build and lifting their heads towards the sky and being in a city – WELL, I reckon that applies to London just as much as the Big Apple (but also I like the idea of living in NY one day, and I know people who live there, so hey, it’s all good).

Also I love the lyrics. The ones above seem particularly creative and optimistic, even if it’s sadly not quite true that everybody owns the great ideas (otherwise hey, we’d all be quids in on the iPod). HOWEVER I also love

  • The first to put a simple truth in words, binds the world in a feeling all familiar (this is so true)
  • Reaching up into the sky….Why? Because they can… (they CAN, dammit, they CAN!)
  • The desire in the patchwork symphony (just a beautiful line, with a beautiful melody)

I read somewhere [edit: HERE, in the Independent] that the lead singer of Elbow, Guy Garvey, fled to New York after a particularly painful break-up, and just sat and people-watched and felt the spirit of the city nourish his smashed-up heart, and it transformed his song-writing forever.

Now, some of us, sadly, have neither the means nor the time to dash off to wherever whenever anyone decides to be a total dick, and are also (sob) apparently unable to create original and wonderful music from our personal tragedies.

Some of us have to be content with mediocre blogposts. C’est la vie, huh?

BUT TAKE COMFORT. Because here, I’m passing on my morning optimism solution. Yes, I may get sick of the song before too long, but so far, so good. Listen and love. It’s unabashed anthem-writing at its best, confectionery in musical form, but it’s also perfectly created, with echoes and soothing riffs and Garvey’s soulful voice, and it just sounds like something that some cheesy romantic movie director would set to the background of a sunrise when it’s going to be A REALLY GREAT DAY.

And it makes everything feel like it might be OK even when it’s not. Even on Monday. Amazing.

Infographic: Coffee drinking in LDN vs NYC

Like, a LOT. (From the fabulous cardboardlove.com)

I love coffee. I mean, this is the minor (yet verbose) emotional breakdown I suffered when I realised some time ago that I was regularly drinking instant rather than filter or espresso coffee due to a lack of options at my then-work. I pay stupid sums of money to Pret a Manger pretty much every morning for my caffeine fix, yet consider my habits among the more restrained of many.

I also harbour dreams of one day going to work and live in New York for a bit – when I was lucky enough to go a couple of years ago, it seemed like a city that would be fairly exhilarating to get to know…similar to London in many ways (frantic, bustling, public transport, shops, restaurants, bars, late-night cafes) but different in so many others (all-night pie shops, huge chemists selling all manner of random foodstuffs, yellow cabs, wide boulevards, hot-dog and pretzel street vans, fire escapes, numbered streets, skyscrapers…oh and also Diet Snapple, which I HAVE NEVER SEEN in the UK but loved when I was in NY).

Cue, infographic uniting these two life joys. Lovely.

Things that do not surprise me:

  • 80% of Londoners drink coffee daily
  • I drink about the same as the average (2.3)
  • London’s most expensive cup is a *lot* more than New York’s (SIGH)

From Now. Here. This – TimeOut London

Stand Up To Sexism and No More Page 3: How one night of comedy proved sexism is still no laughing matter

Review: A hilarious comedy evening event featuring male and female comedians, organised by some of the loudest and most-relevant voices in feminism today ‒ plus, Sabrina Mahfouz and one of the most powerful anti-sexism poems I’ve ever been lucky enough to hear

No More Page 3 Stand up to sexism

Stand Up To Sexism: a taste of the line-up

Women in comedy. Three words always guaranteed to provoke at best defensive naming sessions of women that yes, actually, we do find funny; at worst a tired editorial on whether men are just better at laugh-making than women – and worse still, a general agreement from your immediate companions that women just don’t cut it compared to the men.

By way of example, allow me to wheel out that seemingly-ancient yet still-valid observation about the numbers of women on panel shows; as much as I love QI, Mock The Week et al, it has to be said, again and again, that female appearances, women-majority or, heaven, women-only line-ups seem as rare as a bag of purple Skittles (sigh).

But tonight, laughter rang to the rooftops of the beautiful Harold Pinter Theatre as woman after woman, mixed in with the odd brave bloke, prompted peals of amusement (as well as the odd overwhelmed tear) in the name of the online campaign feminist powerhouses that are Everyday Sexism and No More Page 3.

The Stand Up To Sexism event, which I found out about via social media (where else?!), was as hilarious as it promised ‒ presenting a solid line up of male and female comedians and poets, most of whom I’d never before heard of (save the wonderful compere Lucy Porter, whose repartee sparkled with biting yet reassuring joy), exploring everything from Page 3 models to the perils of Bikram yoga, via yummy mummies and how not to hate your body (yay).

Special mention must go to the absolutely glorious Tiffany Stevenson, who I’d never heard of before this evening but whose insights into body image, iPad apps for cats and aging was easily one of the comedic highlights of the night (basically guys, when you think flesh-coloured popsocks are a great idea and biscuits fall out of your bra when you take it off, which in no way stops you from eating them, it’s all over. Frankly though, I can think of worse ways to go, and when it comes to biscuits, I’m basically halfway there already).

John-Luke Roberts, another comedian I hadn’t heard of before (I know, sorry!), almost stole the show with his ‘burlesque’ act involving paper slogans taped to various layers of clothing, including such gems as ‘Stop asking if women are funny: Some are, some aren’t’ and ‘100% of rape cases are the fault of the rapist’ (since I have the memory of a distracted goldfish, these are paraphrased, but I hope you get the gist!). Kudos also go to the pleasingly dishevelled Joel Dommett, who should be applauded not only for being the first bloke on stage at a feminist gig, but also for his ability to hold a yoga position without dropping the microphone at the same time as talking enigmatically, inoffensively and bloody hilariously about the balancing power of an escaped cock (seriously). Genius.

The deadpan and sharp-mouthed Suzi Ruffell was also truly incomparable, while Kate Smurthwaite was both erudite and uncomfortably accurate in her side-splitting take-down of the Daily Mail’s consistently-disappointing, face-palmingly awful columnists, as well as one local newspaper’s charmingly barmy letters page on the subject of women and shoes.

Viv Groskop’s feminist-Wollstonecraft-Emily Davidson-referencing rap (along with her white-streaked hair and amazingly sparkly dress that said, in her own words, “Cruella De Vil from the neck up, Liza Minnelli, the Wilderness Years, from the neck down”) also gets a mention for sheer, bizarre, entertainment value.

Women and men alike whooped and clapped from a crowd that was as intelligent as it was friendly. Jokes about grammar, middle-class shopping and Muswell Hill revealed the audience’s predictably London, largely middle-class, lefty credentials, making my mind flit slightly wincingly over to the recent Twitter debate on intersectionality (for want of a better word, the discussion over the idea that feminism today appeals only to a certain class/kind of woman, and that feminism cannot/should not be considered in isolation to other forms of oppression) and yet I was in no doubt that here were my people – a set of fantastic individuals who share my sense of humour, my values, my notions that these issues and problems are still relevant and still not won. A quick scan of my Twitter afterwards revealed that loads of the feminists, journalists and bloggers who I admire were also in the audience, such as @VagendaMagazine  and @WeekWoman. It really was like my inspiring Twitter timeline made life, and holy shit, I loved it.

One small caveat, which I almost hate myself for writing, and yet, feel I must admit in order to give a full picture of the night: I am always left unbelievably frustrated by the fact that, despite all these wonderful people standing up against sexism, proclaiming the need to break free of fucked-up societal norms about what is and isn’t beautiful or clever, and all these women and men, of all shapes and sizes, shining on-stage with confidence and wit, I still leave the theatre irked by the usual self-hating bollocks that my thighs are too fat, my skin is too blemished, my stomach is more barrel than beautiful and my style is more drab than diva.

It’s pretty appalling that I simultaneously and sincerely believe these things about myself at the same time as knowing that there’s SO MUCH MORE TO LIFE. I guess old habits die hard, and when your culture has been pumping harmful images and messages at you as long as you can remember, it takes more than one night of feminist comedy to exorcise that panoply of body-image demons. But the fact that these people exist, that they are trying, and that they are symbolic of a wave of others, gives me hope and strength that I’m not alone. And that in itself is empowering.

To see people throwing such brilliant and funny lampoons into the issues that are so often shunned, attacked or marginalised as ‘wimmin complaining’ by utter, useless twatmonkeys who refuse to acknowledge that despite feminism having achieved lots already, there’s still more to do, was absolutely fantastic, and frankly one of the best ways I’ve found to spend a Sunday night (well, until the next series of Downton comes on, in any case).

But it wasn’t all fun. While I must acknowledge the comedians who entertained for hours on end, and the fantastic women who organised the whole thing (Lucy-Anne Holmes from No More Page 3 and the impassioned Laura Bates from Everyday Sexism, who have done so much to bring these discussions into the mainstream where they so dearly belong), the most powerful and poignant bit of the night has to be the poem by Sabrina Mahfouz (and here on Twitter), who nearly caused a riot with her incredible beat poem on why Page 3 exists.

I truly hope she won’t mind that I recorded it for future reference, and have transcribed the whole thing here (unbeknownst to me at the time, it can also be found here, on her website, which also reveals her to be a seriously big deal – I love how true it is that you really do learn something new every day). It was powerful, meaningful, and bloody well written, and, as I replayed it over and over, caused me to walk a little taller on my trip back home (which for me, standing all of five foot tall, is a pretty significant achievement).

Good on you Sabrina, and good on you all the comedians and behind-the-scenes wranglers. I hope you succeed. Here’s to No More Page 3, and all it represents. Gloriously, fabulously, hilariously good on you.

Sign the No More Page 3 petition here

Everyday Sexism

No More Page 3

Stand Up to Sexism

Video and transcription – entirely, 100% copyright of the absolutely fantastic Sabrina Mahfouz, website here.

No More Page 3 Campaign Poem

It’s like walking home late from raving

Hearing the drunks shuffle, scuffing the paving

Behind you, like just to remind you, that by the way,

You’re a girl

And that means danger towards your world,

And so shouldn’t you be curled up safe in bed with crumbly biscuits and a magazine

Filling your pretty head with thoughts of who you’d rather be

Instead? Cos I read

That 92% of girls under 22 hate their bodies, and yet,

63% of them want to be

Not Hilary, not JK, not MP, not Professor, Doctor, Lawyer, not mother, or even Beyoncé,

But a glamour model. A model of glamour. G-g-g-g-glamour.

I stammer over the word, ‘cause when I first heard it back in the day, I was like

Yeah, I’ll take some of that

You can breathe your hot breath on to my neck

As between my breasts beaded with sweat in preparation

For being an Internet sensation

But I had a mad moment of realisation

At the meaning of forever and I didn’t do it

The modelling thing

The how deep can you sink in thing

The pink, brown, black, flesh, flash for cash thing

I didn’t – but I nearly did

Cos I was so caught up in the hype of papers, magazines, film, TV,

That even though I’d gone to grammar school not glamour school

And I was at university

It seemed to me that the only way that I could see to the top

Was through desirability

‘Cause that’s what I saw in the papers, magazines, films and on TV

Now fast-forward ten years later

And I hear of this thing

No More Page 3

And it makes me so happy

That finally

Eight-four years after winning the right to vote through protest and death, yes

Papers might actually

Start to fill pages

With the sagest

Almost outrageous

Words of powerful women, everyday women, whose faces don’t need to be pleasing

And stomachs don’t need to be thin and boobs don’t need to be bared

So a four-year-old son can see the family paper when painting at the dinner table

And he doesn’t grow up to think

All girls are fair game

And little daughters grow up to know that they will be valued for their brain

So the training is worth it

There’s no more excuses

We’ve got to stop it, the lot of it

On top of this, I’d just like to add

That I am all for free speech and keeping liberties

But these pictures are taking liberties

And they’re not speaking, except the word ‘pornography’

So do what you wanna do on your type-the-pincode-TV, but

NEWSpapers are made of paper that’s supposed to print the news

And boobs are not news so excuse me if I do more than just

Not buy it

I’ll scream it’s not right as it shines an airbrushed light

On the fact that this society sees women as bodies

That are commodities

But only at their peak of conceivability

After which please go away and don’t say anything

Not that you ever had anything to say anyway

Strange, you may say, that I’m a woman saying that

Given a mic and a stage from which to say it

But trust me

For every girl behind a mic

There’s ten thousand behind a phone screen

Keen to take pictures to send to men who’ve told them that

They can live the dream of Page 3

And maybe

They will

And maybe that is really their dream they want to fulfill

But if so then that’s a crying shame

‘Cause they’ll never get to know who they really could have been

So, to help let that 65% of under 22s find a different dream

Please sign the petition

No More Page 3

Sign the No More Page 3 petition here

Everyday Sexism

No More Page 3

Stand Up to Sexism

For the love of cake: The old Matthaie Café

Like any respectable middle-class food snob, I was initially aghast at the sight of a new Tesco’s taking over a beautiful 1920s former bakery building near my road. But a loving restoration, coupled with a foray into the bakery’s past, shows me that this new supermarket need not signal the end of all things  

The Old Matthaie Cafe

The Old Matthaie Cafe…now the 1,500th Tesco Express [my own image]

The appearance of a new supermarket near you is perhaps not the most obvious prompt for a trip down memory lane, but when building work started, at an alarming rate, on a new Tesco Express nearby, I had to find out more.

Aren’t such supermarkets the epitome of everything that lovers of good food, history and community don’t like? Surely, this would mark the death knell of the clearly-old premises?

Because this isn’t just any old building. This is the old premises of Café Matthaie, a beautiful 1920s-style shop near Richmond in Surrey, whose twinkling blue glass façade, original silver lettering and gloriously geometric clock hint at a faded age of glamour, community and seriously good cake ‒ even as the front was boarded up amid the promise of new, ‘luxury apartments‘.

Walking past the building every day, I’d always wondered at the art deco shapes, and the wonderful blue signs suggesting that at some point in the past, this was the home of ‘Confectioners’ and ‘Pastry Cooks’, rather than faceless clapboard. But the appearance of a worrying new sign outside – ‘Your new Tesco Express, Coming soon’ ‒ finally prompted me to find out more before the beautiful building was gone forever.

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