Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Leather, a wedding and a skull or two too

One of the last times I wore a leather biker jacket was at a wedding.  My wedding!

It was cough splutter twitch mumble years ago today, and we both dressed in black and leather. I must confess that we hadn't even wanted to do the whole marriage thing in the first place, because it didn't seem very rock'n'roll.  However, it looked as if I might not have a home in the not-too-distant future and that as a married couple we could be offered a place on the council list, so we did it.  We picked the date and I went down to the Registrars to book it. The man behind the desk spent a lot of time explaining that parking was so limited we'd need to tell all our guests to use the car park by the train station please, and he made it very clear that confetti was strictly forbidden, etc. etc.  It all seemed very officious.  I barely acknowledged his instructions and conditions, just nodding vaguely before asking how much these formalities would cost.  If my memory serves me well, it was about £9.50.

So we made it as rock'n'roll as we could, and I'll never forget the Registrar's face when the two of us walked in together dressed like we were just off to a gig.  He was surprised when our two witnesses were the only guests we'd invited as well, and none of us had cars or confetti.  No family, no photos either.   When we finally exchanged our silver skull-and-crossbones rings, the man's expression was priceless.  I don't wear the same ring now, but I did for several years and I'll always remember one day when I was serving a very posh man in the record shop, he caught sight of my third finger left hand.  "That's bloody bizarre" he said in a disapproving Sergeant Major type voice. "Is it?" I replied.  (What did he think I was going to say: "Oh my god, I never noticed! Get it off me, quick!" ?)

Anyway I was talking about leather biker jackets, wasn't I? -  and I was just saying to a friend the other day how something that was once quite a rebellious fashion statement for a female (particularly if you didn't actually ride a motorbike) has become populist now.  So populist that recently Littlewoods advertised it as one of this year's Top Ten 'must haves' for ladies, along with ankle boots, an oversized bag and a skater skirt.  It's in the mainstream... like Ramones Tshirts and doubtless many other items and styles that once meant something special to the wearer, once gave them an edge and set them apart, but not any more.  Funny how that happens, and now that alone is enough reason for me not to want to wear another biker jacket - even though aesthetically I do still like them.  But this is just wrong:

After our £9.50 wedding we pushed the boat out and had a slap-up meal at the local restaurant with our two 'witness' mates, followed by Mars Bars bought tipsily from the local corner shop and then we went home.... separately.  Our plan didn't work and we were never offered a council place.  We lived apart for several months before I managed to get a job and we could pool enough money together for rent in a shabby sub-let concrete flat above a shopping precinct, with a dodgy neighbour whose feral kids used to peer into our back windows and from where we once witnessed the nearby petrol station catching fire and lighting up the sky.  And other stories which I won't bore you with!  Very rock'n'roll, hmm...

Off for a slap-up meal now.  See ya later!

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Es war im Sommer '69

It was the Summer of '69. I got my first real six-string, bought it at the five-and-dime.... no, no, NO! Begone with you, Bryan Adams, aarghh!

Where were we... ? The Summer of '69 and in my case, for three weeks anyway, in Germany. I've written a little here before, about travelling around in the back of a racing green Jaguar MkII and having a wobbly tooth in a thunderstorm. Today I stumbled across an old photo, the only one I have from that trip, of Micha and me reunited for a day. Micha and her family had been next door neighbours for a couple of years before they moved back to Germany. I loved Micha - she was my first, proper, best friend. When she left, she gave me her gold-painted bike 'Dobbin' and a little elasticated bracelet with pictures of alpine flowers on each of the white plastic links.

The lovely Micha on the left

It's funny what you remember, isn't it? For instance I don't remember a thing about the food on that trip, or much about the weather. My recollections are like sparse cuttings from a magazine, as if someone has gone through pages and pages full of detail and imagery but has only snipped round a few sentences and a handful of pictures, then stuck them in a scrapbook and thrown the rest away. Every time I flick through this mental album I see those same snippets, I see them clearly, but I can't fill in the blank spaces between them.

So I remembered about the wobbly tooth and the thunderstorm. I also remember staying in a house which had wooden shutters on the windows and I became briefly obsessed with them, “Mummy, can we put shutters on the windows at home? Can we? Please?” (Of course we never did...) I also loved the fairytale theme park in Ludwigsburg where they had a Rapunzel Tower. Rapunzel was my favourite story of all time, albeit that was only a six year lifetime in my case; still, it was magical. My Ladybird edition certainly was well loved.

Just as the Prince did in the fairytale, we had to call up, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” (“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, lass deinen Zopf herunter!”) and as I waited so excitedly, holding my breath in anticipation, a big plait of flaxen rope hair came down slowly from the one high window. It didn't come down quite far enough for anyone to actually grab it and climb up it, which was a little disappointing, but not so much so that it tainted the experience. I just imagined she'd need to grow her locks a little longer and then maybe I could go back one day and actually touch it when she had.

I remember my big sister getting a mosquito bite that flared up really badly and had everyone worried for days, and I remember feeling worried myself when looking down from the top of the Television Tower in Stuttgart – I really didn't like it at all. “Look at the tiny cars down there!” my sister exclaimed as we peered nervously over the edge. I have a vague memory of a trip to a musty old castle with lots of steps, and another of driving along the Autobahn and my parents arguing because my dad had missed the turn-off and my mum was supposed to be navigating. In a shop where we went to buy some souvenirs there were some toys with the laughable name 'Jobbies' - you always remember that kind of stuff, don't you? I didn't come home with a Jobby; instead I had a little doll with red hair dressed in a dirndl. You also never forget the holiday romances and it's true, I had a brief flirtation in a restaurant with a young German boy who seemed to have the hots for me. Sadly the only thing I was able to say to him, over and over again as I remember, was “Ich spreche kein Deutsch” (carefully taught parrot-fashion by my mum – at least I think that's what she'd helped me to say to him) but I still recall how nice his cheeky smiles made me feel, even then.

There were people, lots of people – friends of my parents who let us stay in their houses, took us to places, gave us presents, like Heidi, and Gudrun & Franz, and Theo and Rudolf.  And Micha. Micha who posted that photo to me in England on our return, with a little note on the back.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Girl Crush Sunday #4

It's time for another instalment of Girl Crush Sunday and I'm in a playful mood.

Today is a double helping and as I'm feeling a little frolicsome let's not play it straight (no pun intended); instead, shall we put a little twist on it?

First up...

I don't even know her name. But, in keeping with recent conversations on here and on other blogs about the beauty and infinite mystique of old photos, I want to offer a place to

  'Secretary at West German Radio Station, Cologne'

as photographed by August Sander in 1931. Her androgyny is striking. To my mind there's a resemblance to Brett Anderson, which is probably why she caught my eye. There's more to this photo than shades of Suede, though... something in her expression and the pose, the loosely held cigarette, the dress, the haircut and of course the knowledge that we have no more knowledge than this. I could hang a name on her: Helga, or Claudia, Uta or Gertrud...? No, not Gertrud.  Maybe Dagmar? Her voice, surely, is deep and smoky, typically Teutonic.  I can smell the cigarette mixed with the faint scent of her fragrance – something like jasmine, dabbed on her neck from a small, dark violet bottle. She is intelligent, artistic, ambitious and self-reliant. Loves fashion, owns a large dog. GSOH. Dirty laugh.  She was perhaps none of those things, but the illusion is mine, and yours, to create.


Anne Hegarty

Dear Anne

Whenever I casually flick through the TV channels with a vacant mind whilst drinking a cup of tea, I always seem to stumble upon an episode of 'The Chase'. And, suddenly, I find myself yearning to see you – you, only you, dear 'Frosty Knickers'. I don't want to see the other 'Chasers', I want to see the mischievous look in your eyes and the way you force your mouth to turn down at the corners to maintain your steely superiority even though I can tell that you secretly long to smile, to laugh, to say something kind. Perhaps you might say something kind to me if I were to blush at the question, "In what sport does Fanny Chmelar compete for Germany?" 

Oh, dear 'Governess', there is something oddly compelling about your schoolmistress demeanour combined with the impressively vast extent of your knowledge that makes me want to stay tuned in to this cheap quiz show forever. Will you be my 'Girl Crush Sunday'? Just for a laugh... that is, if I can make you do so, simply to hear you betray the tight bonds of your public persona with your Mancunian chuckle. I may not share your intellect but I know the Latin name for a wren, the capital of Slovakia and now, thanks to 'The Chase' I know that Fanny Chmelar is an alpine skier. We could have dinner together - do you like Thai? - and discuss the merits of the photography of August Sander...

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


The man on the far right looks very smart.  I don't know what he saw or what he experienced and I never met him - but I did marry his grandson!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A baby zebra in a tyre swing

I love my job, I'm fortunate. Just lately I think I've turned a corner, finding techniques and ideas a little easier, discovering that I can work more confidently and fluently than before. For some reason I've attracted foreign publishers; it feels exotic, romantic even, sending pictures over the oceans and mountains and across the Equator... to be reborn as pages of books which will be read in languages that sound nothing like my own.

However, at the same time it often feels as if these are the only proof of my existence! Whilst I'm whizzing around the world in one dimension, I'm becoming increasingly rooted to my home turf in every other - more and more confined to base. My contacts are just names, in black lines on a white screen. We type hi and best wishes and thank you... we meet deadlines... but we'll never meet each other. My actual world becomes smaller and my physical meetings fewer, the more my pictorial world widens and the further my communications travel.  Such irony.

There are so many imaginary voyages to take so I spend more and more time inside my head. Outside it I too am just a name in black lines on a white screen to someone somewhere. Real and imagined universes mingle as I paddle out to the farthest reaches of my mind to conjure up scenes I'm never going to witness because they don't exist. I try to catch them as they hover up there in the top right of my brain like distant butterflies, often behind some misty ethereal screen, frequently elusive until they choose to reveal themselves. Once caught I must pin them down, sharpen their blurry edges, fix their constantly metamorphosing forms and seal them on paper, make them tangible, black and white and still.

Well really this is just a fanciful way of telling you that my latest brief is to illustrate a baby zebra, wearing a large floppy hat with a feather in it, giggling whilst sitting in a tyre swing being pushed by Grandma. The zebra, that is. There are legs and haunches and hooves and ears to consider... how could a baby zebra sit in a tyre swing?!  How does Grandma Zebra push it? How will baby wear the hat?  Would illegal substances help?

Soberly, I'm still searching up there (brain, top right, behind the misty screen) for the answers. Then I'll have to trap them in black lines on white paper.  Obviously in this case lots of black lines.  In due course paints will flesh them out further and one day, hopefully, they'll be reincarnated in the mind of a child across the Atlantic who will look at the pages and see what I saw, then take their own imaginary voyage...

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Goth revisited

There's been much conversation here in SDS Towers these last few days about so-called goth.  That is, about what should have been shown on last week's 'Goth at the BBC' prog and what was really way off target.  Quite a memory jogger.  We've decided that they really ought to have had some Danse Society, and that they could have picked some different songs by the bands that they did include.  Mr SDS thinks 'Marian' would have been a better choice for the Sisters of Mercy clip.  Well, you know how one thought leads to another - I was at my French class tonight and I had this going through my mind.  Any excuse to post some Nouvelle Vague!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Phantasmagoria / A B Frost

Wonderful illustrations by American artist A B Frost, who was commissioned by Lewis Carroll during a visit to London in the 1870s.  These images from the poem 'Phantasmagoria' were first published in the illustrated version of  'Rhyme? and Reason?' in 1883.

Yes, I should have posted these last night really... but I was too busy reminiscing whilst watching 'Goth At The BBC'!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Happy spider house

Just a quick post as I'm so excited about seeing 'Spider House' this evening (BBC Four, 9pm) - an hour and a half of arachnid love. Reading some blurb about it earlier, I'm sure it's going to be a positive thing for their public image and I'm delighted.

The other night, they even used 'Happy House' in the trailer.  Must be good!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Not a Latin lover

Mrs Bacciarelli had an imposing presence: robust in physique with leathery skin and hair still black in spite of her advancing years, she spoke with an Eastern European accent and rarely smiled. My French teacher was young and benign in comparison, but Mrs Bacciarelli's subject was Latin. It seemed appropriate that she should be as formidable as the language she taught.

Latin seemed to be all about endings. What little I can remember about it now was that just about every word had to change its ending according to its place in a sentence. As far as I can recall these were known as declensions – all dependent on gender and 'nominative' and 'subjective' cases and god knows what else; I no longer know what any of them mean. In the first year of learning it I was a studious little goody-two-shoes who rose to the challenge and Mrs Bacciarelli's firm teaching methods kept me in my place. One or two little things have stuck, so for instance I can confirm that the plural of 'succubus' would be 'succubi'. Always a useful thing to know.

Here's a picture of one just to grab your attention.

Lilith by John Collier (1892)

When Mrs B retired in the third year a mild-mannered, softly spoken Northern man who wore tweed jackets and bicycle clips took her place - and I lost mine. To be honest, I'd had enough of translating sentences that had so little relevance to contemporary life. At least in French lessons we wrote about Philippe and Michelle going to the shop to buy Johnny Halliday records. In Latin, the most stimulating sentences involved centurions, slaves, temples and the occasional dog. That's not as interesting as it suggests, either. I think the only time I laughed in a Latin class was when there was a text which referenced the island of Lesbos. Cue much predictable but surreptitious sniggering.

Anyway, Mr Bicycle Clips couldn't keep my attention and after being caught for copying my friend's homework more than once I was relieved to be able to give up such a difficult language and take up German instead. Before I did, though, my mum did her best to help keep me interested in this ancient subject. She bought me a copy of 'The Tale of Peter Rabbit'!

(I don't think she could find any books in Latin about succubi.)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Whatever happened to Norman Stanley Fletcher?

The other day Mr SDS picked up a DVD of the British TV comedy series 'Going Straight' from a charity shop in town.  We decided to watch one episode of it each evening before passing it on to a new home, and we've just finished all six.

I remember when it was first aired, in 1978, and being interested to see this follow-up to the much-loved 'Porridge', which really was a staple of the British sitcom diet in the '70s.  The now ex-con Fletcher, played by Ronnie Barker, was the star of 'Going Straight' which also featured his young cell-mate Lennie Godber.  This, I have to say, was a bonus for a teenage girl who had the hots for Richard Beckinsale...

In this short-lived series (sadly a second was never to be, due to Beckinsale's early death), both Fletcher and Godber have been released from prison and have vowed to stay away from crime, with the unerring support of Fletcher's sweet, toothy daughter Ingrid (played by Patricia Brake).  Ingrid just happens to be going out with Godber too.  Fletcher's gormless son Raymond also makes an appearance, providing an early role for Nicholas Lyndhurst.  Each episode's storyline is surprisingly heartwarming and relatively simple, but what really works about 'Going Straight', just as with 'Porridge', is the dialogue.

Scriptwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais are such masters in the art of writing dialogue which is not only funny but frequently reflective.  Their characterisations are never one-dimensional, but are full of natural and believable human contradictions, conveyed with intelligence and just the right degree of emotion.  They toy with words in puns and double-entendres, with rich vocabulary and playful turns of phrase.  Whilst gentle in tone, nothing is dumbed down and poignancy and pathos sit happily alongside more obvious comedic and farcical moments.  As in other Clement and La Frenais favourites like '(Whatever Happened To) 'The Likely Lads' and 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet', we feel as if we know the characters through their conversations alone, and we root for them, warts'n'all.

I don't know whether a comedy series like this, 'Porridge', 'The Likely Lads' et al would get commissioned now - they might seem too mild and too wordy... and perhaps a large part of their appeal is that they can't be separated from their respective eras.

Passing references to punk and Margaret Thatcher place 'Going Straight' firmly against its 1978 backdrop and tiny details evoked memories for me that shocked me into realising just how long ago it was.  Ingrid's elasticated belt with little metal clasps (I'd forgotten until now that I had one too), the Probation Officer smoking at her desk and offering Fletcher a Rich Osborne biscuit, the wallpapered kitchen and those net curtains made up of oval-shaped holes...  Looking at the décor and fashions now it really does seem ancient.  Then again, I guess I am too: in 1978 I was going to my first proper gig (Siouxsie & The Banshees) and choosing the subjects I'd be doing for 'O' Levels the following year.

And this was released in '78 too.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


I'm dog-tired and uninspired, no chance to blog, too much slog - the kitchen will be bitchin tho' right now there's no wow, it's just a bitch... that's the sitch.

But I'm not shirking, no, I'm working, like a dog. Dog-tired dog. Perhaps that should be, because I'm a she: bitch-tired bitch?  Is that a bit rich or (natch unlike me) un-PC?!

(Sorry I'm quiet, life's a riot...)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

An ordinary day off in an ordinary life

After a tense week so far, today started well with a conversation about Astronut. Don't know quite how we got onto it, I mean we were still in bed and had only been awake for a few minutes, next thing you know we're talking about Astronut which I haven't thought about for at least a couple of decades, if that. I'd also just stated that I hadn't been a great fan of cartoons as a kid – I was somewhat troubled by the violence in Tom & Jerry, such a sensitive child – but then I added the fateful words, “well, except for...” and found myself listing numerous animations that I'd actively loved.  Astronut was one of them, as was Deputy Dawg (where Astronut  first appeared), all those ones that were shown as part of The Banana Splits (like Arabian Nights, a favourite), The Harlem Globetrotters, Wacky Races, Marine Boy, Scooby Doo, Dangermouse, etc., etc....

As memories of Oscar Mild and his little alien friend continued to return, I got ready to go to the dentists (again) to get a deep clean from the hygienist. This may sound slightly fetishistic but I love the whole hygienist experience. Having my teeth methodically picked at and scraped and made all new and shiny.. mmm... I think it must tap into something primal to do with being groomed, like an animal. (Likewise haircuts and foot tickling. Perhaps it's just the undivided physical attention.)

The only weird thing was being talked to incessantly by a very nice but extremely chatty hygienist whilst completely unable to reply in any coherent form. An odd one-way conversation; she was babbling away about her neighbours' outrageous £34k wedding (£34k??!! - mine cost £9.50 plus two skull-and-crossbones rings and a meal for four at the Italian) and the TV programme she'd watched about the tattooed vigilante paedophile-catcher...  and all I could do was vaguely grunt with my mouth open. I tried to communicate with my eyes – opening them wider on hearing about the happy couple's chocolate fountain and giant Jenga game, and tightening them in a frown at the other tales with the obviously darker theme. All the while the hygienist's stomach rumbled in the background, right behind my reclined head; it was lunchtime. Quite surreal.

When that was over I got into the car, grinned into the rear view mirror to check for bloodstains and vowed never to eat another Mars Bar, let alone go near a chocolate fountain.

From there it was on to B&Q to buy paint and to hear the strange cut-price versions of popular songs piped out into the aisles that make me laugh every time. They always seem to choose songs whose originals have idiosyncratic vocals which just emphasises the ridiculousness of the copies. We often wonder how much they must pay these session singers and musicians to record these covers – is it really cheaper than paying for royalties and PRS licences or whatever it is the originals demand? Today 'Rock The Casbah' got this odd, passionless treatment. Serendipitously, as we got back into the car with a big tin of undercoat and put on the radio, the Clash original came on and all was well again.

Later I walked down to the Co-op to ask if they could spare some old cardboard boxes (we're emptying the kitchen at the weekend in readiness for new units. It'll be like moving house, looking for the bottle-opener and a can of baked beans in the depths of chaos.) I stopped a young lad as he went about his business and gave him my warmest, twinkliest smile. I do believe I was flirting, ever so slightly. It seemed to work and he couldn't do enough for me, running about looking for suitable containers: I'll see if we have anything a bit bigger... and... Will this be OK?... and...Are these enough? “That's brilliant, thank you ever so much” I said as I tucked the flat Doritos boxes under my arms and beamed at him again. Anything to show off my sparkly clean teeth, after all.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Don't know where I want to be

Out all day with lovely friends, eating olives and pasta and tiramisu, washed down with white wine and cappuccino, who could ask for more.  We're nattering away about life and love and the universe, as usual, but my brain is also partly drawn to the music playing in the background.  This is hard for me as I'm no multi-tasker but I'm recognising songs by Jungle and tUnE-yArDs at least. There's so much  too that I don't know... is it my age or is it just that it's a little more eclectic than usual restaurant soundtracks?  Some of it sounds alright... maybe it's the association, I'm happy and with people I love, perhaps like when you hear music on the radio when you're driving in the early hours of the morning and it takes on an ethereal quality that it wouldn't necessarily do if heard on other occasions.    One track, though, I don't know quite why, it takes me momentarily away from the conversation.  Quite simple, yet so bittersweet, a lazy rhythm, a less-is-more song, one of those that touches me in ways I really can't explain, nothing obvious - but I know I want to hear it again. I don't have Shazam... the only way I'm going to be able to track this down later is to catch a part of the lyric and see if I can find its source on the web when I get home.  I write it on the back of my cheque-book:  "I don't know where I want to be..."

I don't think I'll ever find it with as little to go on as that, but I do and here it is.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Well all you've got to do is do it

I've just set myself a new challenge... one picture every day.

Not for others, just for me.  I spend most days making pictures for others, and it's usually all very lovely and frequently challenging plus I like being paid, but when I'm not working I often just stop drawing.  Then I thought: that's mad, I used to draw just for fun when I wasn't doing it for a living, and now I'm not?  So I took a huge piece of paper, cut it into a zillion rectangles about the size of a small business card and I'm going to make one picture every day just for fun (whether working or not).  Anything, in any style, it's only small, and if I have no more than five minutes spare then that's how long it'll take.

Today I had no more than five minutes spare.

A good friend used to be a sea Captain and tomorrow he celebrates fifty years since his first voyage as a young merchant navy cadet, his first day of many at sea.  So that was today's inspiration.

Don't know ahout tomorrow's but must do it.  Probably no surprise that this song's going through my head right now (well, the main bit, not the one-minute intro which frankly I prefer to skip!)

Nice legs 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

This could be some kind of feminist rant

'Miss World' finalists 1969

I absolutely adored Miss World when I was a kid, back in the days when it was a whole night's family viewing. It was one of the most watched programmes in Britain, broadcast into our 1960s/70s brown and mustard living rooms via the BBC before it was deemed too outdated and politically incorrect to show as mainstream entertainment. I loved the array of young women representing exotic countries I'd often never heard of, with their varied hairstyles and their imaginative national costumes. I had no concept of what “36-24-36” meant, no thought as to whether or not a contestant's breasts or legs made her more attractive or more likely to win (nor perhaps to my Dad's embarrassment at seeing curvy 20-year-olds in swimwear strutting their stuff on screen while his wife and daughters ooh'd and aah'd over their personal favourites. Pan's People on ToTP probably made his cheeks redden a little too.) I just loved their pretty faces and outfits, and to my naïve pre-teen self it was equivalent to an exciting, glamorous, gorgeous parade of beautiful dolls.

Like most young girls I'm sure, I wanted to be like one when I grew up. I longed for a mass of shiny, jet black hair and wished I had an olive complexion...well, that was never going to happen... but it was an innocent enough ideal. Then I got used to the fact that I was just the way I was: pale-skinned and fair-haired and, as adolescence foisted its preoccupations with image upon me, I found that experiments with blue eyeshadow, Stablonde and an under-wired bra could at least temporarily enhance the features I was born with.

So now it's all changing. You don't have to stick with what you're born with, do you? You can get it all sorted. Lips and breasts appear to be the most popular things to transform, and you can do it while you're still young, while you're still growing as a person, with pure, fresh skin and a healthy, fully-functioning body.  You can pick your new anatomy as if from a menu: those tits and those lips and how about that buttock augmentation while you're at it. Wow, what a great idea. What a great fucking idea.

I feel myself getting agitated and saddened even just writing this. I'm trying to articulate why the increasing desire for unnecessary cosmetic surgery troubles me as much as it does, and I feel this wave going through me, a jumble of thoughts and words jostling to be expressed, not just from some inner feminist angle, but as a compassionate human being. There are so many layers and strands to it that I must try and be eloquent and understanding if I'm going to say anything, but at the same time it makes me feel some kind of desperation. I felt that the other day when I was directed to a story in the news about a model called Victoria Wild. She has spent £30,000 on plastic surgery to make herself look like a 'sex doll'.  You can read the article and see her pictures here - or just do an image search on her name.  I think you'll find her new look shocking.

Mr SDS says to me, “Why are you worrying about it? Why even think about it? If people are stupid enough to do that to themselves, that's their problem, not yours...” and I know that basically of course he's right – but I suppose it's the bigger picture here that disturbs me, not just the more extreme individual examples of Victoria and a few other young women like her.

The bigger picture brings up so many questions that I struggle to find comfortable answers to. For a start I wonder how this exaggerated look could ever be perceived by anyone as being some kind of zenith for female sexual attractiveness. Then I question the increasing normalisation of cosmetic 'enhancements' and the fact that they are so readily available. And then I consider the underlying motivation – that any young woman can still be led to believe her only value in society is as a sexual object, to the point that she would resort to such lengths to reach such a disproportionately placed goal.

Insecurity is a word that gets liberally banded about when the subject comes up and I don't doubt its presence. I'm sure all women have at some point in their lives felt insecure about their appearance (and no doubt a number of men too). As a teenager it seems that one of the most important things in life is one's sexual attractiveness; that's fair enough, we all know what hormones do. Fair enough too is the naïve assumption at that age that our all-important shagability rating might be based on the most obvious physical attributes. I understand the relevance and desire for beauty – we can't help that some aspects of physicality are more appealing to us than others, and most of us would probably rather be better-looking than we are, it's how we're wired.  But, as well as the infinite variations in personal taste, part of the process of maturity is the understanding that appearance isn't the be-all and end-all. If your inability to grasp that, or your insecurity, or if the pressure on you from society is such that you'd volunteer to have parts of your body cut open, that you'd undergo potentially life-threatening anaesthetic, risk post-operative infection and/or be injected with toxins, then surely those issues should be psychologically addressed, not physically indulged?  (Please note, although I'm sure you already realise, I'm not talking about the need to rectify genuine deformities or disfigurement.)

The woman mentioned above says that, since her plastic surgery, she "has never been happier”. Prior to this she apparently had an inferiority complex.  Her comment obliges me to feel it's not my place therefore to try and contest that or to prevent her from finding a solution. How mean-spirited it would be of me not to want her to be happy in whatever she opts to do. It's her body, her choice, her life, and not mine.  And thus, there's a general expectation that the response of a tolerant, open-minded person must be to support this and not to judge. We're proud of our liberated society and the fact that women in particular, oppressed in so many ways throughout history, can do as we please with our bodies and make our own decisions, whatever they may be and however opposite they may be to another's.  But does that really include this strange obsession for mutilation?  I don't see this as liberated, not properly, healthily liberated - it's too skewed.  How often do you also hear a woman say "I did it for myself, not for anyone else!" . And I do believe that she believes that.... although, when you put it in context, it often boils down to the same thing - it's the hope of endorsement that boosts the ego, the confidence that comes from meeting expectations.   So, cosmetic surgeons continue to advertise their service as just that – a service, to help you feel better about yourself, to be what you've always wanted to be, to be in control. To be sexier - preferably in a way that focuses on ridiculously stereotypical ideals. Although I know it's an extreme example, it doesn't seem too many steps away from helping an anorexic to lose weight because they believe they'll only feel good about themselves when they're thinner.

Of course I know it's also about making money from people's insecurities... which makes it even more desperate.  But at what point did we as a society allow the sinister 'quick fix' of surgery to replace the option of counselling, advice, acceptance? And when did the unnatural become seen as desirable? To compliment a woman on her fake breasts is surely no more meaningful than telling someone with a wig that they have lovely hair.

Oh, I'm exhausting myself... I should be more detached, I know. It's not hurting me personally, nor anyone I know.  I think I'm just feeling it for womankind...   We got so far - I don't want us to fuck it up.

Besides, don't we all know, deep down, that the sexiest part of us all is our mind?

Friday, 19 September 2014

David Bowie and the Spiders from Malaysia

A really crap Photoshop job

You know I love spiders – please bear with me here – I know not everyone does. Seems I've had more than the usual number of close encounters lately; is this telling me something? But what? Yesterday I found the biggest one ever and it seemed particularly, spectacularly, legful. I swear I counted nine. And I counted them twice. But by the time I'd come back with my camera it had, of course, literally legged it. I also found a huge, lifeless one at the bottom of the birdbath this morning, fished it out and left it on a leaf to dry in the sun hoping that it might somehow survive. Five, five, hours later it was up and running about - you have to be patient bringing spiders back from the dead*. Federica (or her successor) is back in residence too.

Anyway, please forgive me the arachnid indulgence; I really just wanted to mention David Bowie. I just found out, whilst researching the possibility of nine-legged beasties (I know) that there is a davidbowie spider. It's large, yellow-haired and endangered.  Say what you like.  When it was newly discovered in Malaysia in 2009 it was named after him to raise awareness of threatened species. There's a neilyoungi too!  Whoever next?

Three posts in four days, what's going on?


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Go, Gogo Penguin, go!

Inspiration comes from the most unexpected places sometimes.  Here is Gogo Penguin and her little sidekick Mammal Hands.  With thanks to The Swede at Unthought Of Though Somehow for his post here (where you can hear the real bands).

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Help the aged

I was at the dentists yesterday, waiting to check in at Reception. The customer in front of me had to fill in some forms and the Receptionist was carefully explaining what she had to do. In a very high voice, one of those voices which contains a pre-recorded smile, she slowly spelled it out: “Now, you need to read this through, yes? - do you have your glasses? - ok, and then you need to write your name in this box here, you see this box at the bottom here, yes? And then you take it with you and give it to ...” etc, etc. and of course I wasn't surprised to see that the person she was speaking to as if they were four years old was more like 80. I shivered, not at the prospect of opening wide and dribbling in front of my lovely Iranian dentist, but at a possible future I – and you, my dear friends! – may face. Being talked to like a baby. Oh no!

The old lady, who seemed perfectly compos mentis, duly toddled off with her form and the Receptionist cast an aww-bless type of glance in my direction. I know she was well-meaning, patient and kind, and I'm sure the same traits will apply to the mere whippersnappers upgrading my new remote-controlled Google hip joints in the years to come, years that are not quite as far away as I'd like. I realise the world will no doubt seem faster and madder and even more confusing but I still don't think that, assuming I'm in sound mind, I'll want to be spoken to in a manner which insinuates that the best things in mine might be playdough and piggy-back rides.  On the other hand, perhaps that's best? Perhaps you just have to act it up a bit, swallow what pride you have (left), leave your hearing aid at home deliberately and let everyone treat you like a toddler on Calpol. Then go home and have the last laugh...?  I don't know.

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