Monday, 26 June 2017

Oh God. The Pressure... of a Blog...

20th Century eyes! I am so old I
went to school in the last millennium.
When my class was studying The Merchant of Venice for GSCE in 1994, Mrs McCormack, the English teacher, would regularly implore us to ‘stop seeing the play through 20th Century eyes’. Apparently the anti-semitism was all fine and dandy as long as you remembered it had been written when racial abuse and a fear of difference were all part of happy old-skool Venetian life. Or something like that. Since then, the concept of '20th Century eyes' regularly pops into my head. At least the concept of remembering a play/book/song is from a different time, does anyway.

Nah. You're alright Rich, love.
I'm fine where I am.
And so it was last week. Pretty Woman was on the telly. It's not a great film to watch as an adult. Cosy prostitution? 'Sexy' Richard Gere who wants to pay, not only for sex, but for a woman to be at his beck and call because he doesn't want the complications of a real life girlfriend whilst he does his important man business? All a bit yuck. Viewing with enlightened feminist eyes means it is a problematic film. But oh how I devoured it as a youth.

To be fair, this is a good message. 
It came out when I was twelve. It was 1990 and back then I loved it. I first saw it at my friend Anne's house on video. I wasn't allowed to watch cosy prostitution films round mine so I had to be discreet. Later, my best friend at high school, Joanna, invited me to her house where we watched it repeatedly. Every time I was there, we put it on. We also quoted it. Every day at school. Key lines became our bread and butter. You're on my fax’. ‘Well that's one I've haven't been on before’. Standard. Like breathing. ‘Well colour me happy there's a sofa in here for two.’ And then of course there's the classic. The line that makes me bite the insides of my cheeks to stop saying aloud, at times. When you see a particularly po-faced woman in Marksies, shopping for granny pants with her long suffering husband. I have to force closed my mouth to stop shouting'Fifty bucks Grandpa! For seventy-five the wife can watch'. I know. I am a bad person. 

'Work it, work it baby'.
Films like Pretty Woman play a big part in our lives. Films that arrive when everything is being shaped and considered. As well as PW, I have about three films* that I can quote verbatim from my teenage years. They pop into my head in any number of scenarios and remind me of being the Starter Nicky. Nicky #1. Nicky Open to Influence. Pretty Woman is probably the most famous. The most global. The one everyone else can quote as well. It, and they, are a uniting force, creating cultural communities amongst the generations that share them.

It was four years ago that I heard Joanna had died. It was in the local paper, despite her having moved away. We'd long since lost touch but losing a fight against breast cancer at 34 seems particularly shite. When Pretty Woman came on TV the other night I almost kept scrolling. But the early scene I'd chanced upon happened to feature one of our quotes. 'Can I call you Eddie? Not if you expect me to answer.' Not only is this a great answer to that question, one that can be adapted to any number of similarly phrased enquiries, but it also took me straight back to the early 90s, to High School and to Joanna. Sometimes it is necessary to stop looking at everything through feminist eyes and just enjoy the memories and nostalgia of stuff before you knew what you thought. Of revisiting the formation of who you became. And the good news is, as formative as my years were when I devoured it, Pretty Woman didn't make me become a prostitute. Not so far, anyway. Nor did it make me need a prince in a white limousine to rescue me right back. Even less likely. It just gave me the usual teen stuff of sharing a film with friends, being silly at school as well as a bunch of funny memories. When I read her obituary, Joanna's legal career sounded pretty damn impressive. Quoting Pretty Woman lines in RE, however, is the way I choose to remember her.

Have a lovely week, folks.

*Thank you for asking. When Harry Met Sally, Shirley Valentine, and Much Ado About Nothing. No, it's fine, you're welcome.

Monday, 19 June 2017

I've Seen Wonder Woman Three Times in Ten Days Because...

Blending into the background.
Incognito. Anonymous.
Despite the impression I sometimes give, I don’t like standing out in a crowd. I am full of loud-mouth opinions (all of them correct!) once you get me started, and I hope I will always have the courage to challenge fundamentally wrong statements when I hear them, but I don’t seek the limelight. I’ve never wanted to be a performer, do anything on a stage, or have a milestone birthday bash with lots of people looking at me. It's just not me. I like wearing glasses because they're a prop to keep myself partially private, (as well as enabling me to see, obvs) I walk through life keeping myself to myself, hoping no one at a bus stop starts polite conversation, always happier to blend into the background and be anonymous rather than making a scene.

So it was quite a surprise to me how much I wanted to run out of the cinema cheering aloud and shrieking with glee after watching Wonder Woman, last week. Not only that, but I felt about seven foot tall as I strode back to my car. I understood what it was like to have supreme confidence in myself, rather than keep my eyes down and avoid people in case they were going to make me uncomfortable by talking at me. I was full of the joys of seeing female power, strength and purpose depicted so blatantly and so beautifully onscreen. I was empowered!

I have been deflecting metaphorical
bullets with this ease, all week.
The movie itself was fun but this is not going to be a review. I am not your usual superhero movie fan, ostensibly because I don’t like superhero movies. Other than Captain America - watched in a South Australian drive-in in the early hours of the morning in 2011 (clearly, the only way films should be watched) - this is my only other experience of the genre. Get your Wonder Woman reviews here, or maybe here, if you prefer, but not from me. This is not a review. This is instead, an appreciation of how important and rare it is to watch a film that depicts female power from a female perspective.  

My own life is lived from a female perspective. I know, mad isn’t it. I see everything in the world that same way. And whilst I can empathise with others’ situations, my default perspective will always be that of female. (For example, I can’t get through an episode of The Good Wife without wondering how Alicia is able to run from court to court in the heels she wears - the wardrobe person has got to be a guy, right?) But here’s the thing. Many of the books I read, the TV programmes I watch and the films I see, are created from a male perspective. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Men’s perspectives can be just as interesting and valid too. The novel I am currently reading is by Andrew Cartmel with a male first-person narrative by the hero. I love the TV series Sherlock – written by clever men about a clever man. I also read Lee Child's books about Jack Reacher – a egalitarian badass who sorts out the bad guys in the midst of getting regularly laid. All these things are great escapist fun but none of them are from a female perspective. And that is fine. It just needs to be recognised as such. It also needs to be recognised that the male perspective isn’t just another person’s view. It’s the predominant view.

The mens can be entertaining too! 
And when something comes along showing the non-predominant view once in a while – in this case, a big budget, female superhero movie with a female director – it is the most wonderful feeling ever. It’s a confidence boost. It’s a view of the world that comes from the same place as my own, but has taken me beyond my own experience. It eggs me on. It makes me want to try harder because I’ve been shown someone (in this case a fictional comic book character, granted) who is on some level a version of myself, but then is timesed by a million to be souped-up and exceptional. 

This bad boy cost £15. A bargain!
When I go and watch a Liverpool Ladies FC match I feel a similar sense of satisfaction. Watching twenty-two women be stronger, faster and fitter than me is inspiring. I have no desire to join them on the pitch, but I’m often motivated to get on the treadmill after getting home from a game. That has literally never happened after any male football match I’ve watched. Seeing the essence of yourself reflected in excellence, is transformative. And should not be so unusual as to be worthy of a blog post.

And of course, my perspective isn’t the only one out there. It isn’t as simple as dividing everything into a Male or Female viewpoint. The valuable stories that belong to people of colour, gay men and women, the trans community, the poor or the disabled, all do two jobs. They represent and depict the lives of people that are out there, needing role models as much as everyone else. And then they inform. They educate and spread the word to people with differing experiences. There are lots of perspectives of which we could all benefit to see more, alongside the predominant perspectives already out there. Stories told by the people involved, not about the people involved. That distinction is important.

Just working out what
my super power should be.
For now though, I’m happy about Wonder Woman. I’m happy that along with the introduction of characters like Rey in Star Wars, little kids see gender equality more than used to be visible. I'm happy that the BBC has started to show women's football. I’m happy that amongst the Disney Princesses for those that want them, there are choices for the kids who aren’t into the overt prettification of their toys. Because if watching Wonder Woman at 39 gives me a massive confidence shot in the arm, imagine what it would have been like if I’d have had that when all my views of the world were forming. I'd be super human now!

Monday, 12 June 2017

I Vote For Sleep...

Blimey, I'm tired. As you read this, cast your mind back three days and picture what you were doing on Friday morning at 11am. For it is Friday morning at 11am that I type this and what I have been doing is watching the UK election results - as Lionel Ritchie so memorably sang - all night long. 

Jinkx Monsoon, yawning for both of us.
I need to go to sleep. Badly. But you see, Friday is officially Blog Writing Day. I have to write something, anything, and yet my mind is blank. Not properly blank, obvs, but all I can think of is this election. It's all I've thought about for the past twenty-four hours and I'm too knackered to switch it off and come up with something witty about the weather. (See last week's incisive and impassioned post as an example of my usual fare.) And I do try to be non-political online. Except when I have to be. Except when I can't not be. I keep it light. Frothy banality is how I described my style, last week on Twitter. In real life, however, I am politically engaged, hence the no-sleep-on-election-night scenario in which I currently find myself.

Evidence of my keen
Even if I wanted to, there is no point commenting on the current political situation on this forum. Fast forward three days to Monday Blog Day and the speculations and guesswork the pundits are currently making on my TV will feel like the oldest of news. It's happening fast and changing constantly. Case in point: I've just been to answer the door to Keith who is going to replace my broken fence. I've come back to the TV and one of the party leaders has resigned. Not a main party. A completely pointless, irrelevant party to be honest, but still. I imagine that won't be the last breaking news alert that pings across my phone today.

Ain't that the truth.
So as I sit here, struggling to keep my eyes open, working out what to write, I'm reminded how much I have missed this feeling of cautious optimism after an election. Actually, optimism is too strong a word - there are potential deals currently being discussed that make me shudder. Maybe I should say I have missed feeling anything other than crushing anxiety. The landslide win that was predicted for a party I cannot bear, did not happen. Everything is up in the air. No one knows what the immediate political future will be - something that may not be fully clear for a while, especially if it results in another General Election. Unlike the results of the EU referendum, Clinton/Trump and the 2015 GE, this feels a lot less stomach-churning and dispiriting. It's a feeling I remember from 2010, when the potential of a coalition seemed something to pin hopes on. Infinitely preferable than the feelings I assumed I'd be experiencing, based on the majority of polls over the past weeks. Or maybe, this feeling will be short lived. Maybe within the next hours all hopes will be dashed. Either way, I will relish this rare moment while I can.

Reading Jess Phillips' book was 
like taking an empowerment pill. 
Oh, but now then, you pesky rascals. Look what you made me do. I went and got political after all. I just can't help myself! It must be because I'm so tired. But whilst I've gone all biased and partisan, I'll also add how chuffed I am to see Jess Phillips, Stella Creasy, Alison McGovern and Luciana Berger have been re-elected as MPs. Plus, there's been a massive boost for the number of women in parliament. In fact, the election results have been marvellous for diversity, in general. That feels like progress, if nothing else. Perhaps I'm clinging on to a silver lining if my original optimism becomes unfounded. Or maybe this is the most positive election result for years. Who knows? Not me, and I'd bet not the experts to whom I'm currently listening. No one knows anything. I wonder if we will have more of a clue come Monday morning when this gets uploaded. Somehow I'm not holding my breath.

This is what I look like when I try
to keep it all in. Except I'm not blonde.
OK, I think that's all. I think I've vented a few of my political views in a safe and controlled manner. I'll stop now. Unless you see me in person where I'll bang on at length without pausing for breath. You've been warned.

So now, in these uncertain yet interesting times, I need to get on with my day. First of all I'll be having a sleep. Then a bath. Then a cup of tea. After that, the world is my oyster. 

Have a lovely week, folks. 


Monday, 5 June 2017

Tether This Goat in the Shade...

Folks, brace yourselves for my first rant since Black Friday.

I am an easy going sort most of the time. I am polite to strangers, I make sure I buy my round, and I work hard at not bad-mouthing anyone (much) online. And yet, AND YET, my dial is currently stuck at Exasperated and Irritable right now. 'Why is this?' you ask. 'What could have happened to make mild-mannered Nicky's goat get so got?' Well pull up a chair and I will tell you.

I cannot STAND this weather.

According to this it's
not even sunny. But it is!
As I type it is 11am in the morning and my weather app tells me it is 19℃ for yet another day. This is set to continue for the next week, although the beautiful shimmery mirage of a rain cloud icon is promised too. Oh that it proves to be so. I cannot handle this heat. In a country that has little need for air conditioners for the majority of the year, when it comes to the few weeks of sunshine we are allocated, it seems it's expected of us to not only melt sweatily in silence, but also enjoy the experience. It's as if we should be grateful for the weather regardless of how uncomfortable we feel. I am getting more than irritated with well-meaning types telling me to go outside because it is 'so nice'. It is not 'so nice'. It is 'shit'. 

For the sun-worshippers amongst you that can't understand my stance, I'll break it down for you. Here are the Bad Things about the Summer.

'Cooling sun mist' my arse.
The Outside
Going outside in sunny weather takes more planning and preparation than taking a new-born baby for a day trip on public transport. Instead of a nappy bag, multiple changes of clothes and a bottle of Milton's sterilising fluid, you swap them with sunscreen, sunglasses, hay fever medication, shaved legs and a hat. Venturing outside is not as simple or instantaneous as sun-worshippers have you believe. The shaved legs thing definitely needs forethought. At least a day in advance - I can't be the only one reliving the excruciating sting of slapping factor 50 on rash-covered milky pins right now? We've all been there. As for everything else, lubing up the rest of me in gunky lotion just so I can sit on a hard whicker seat, squinting as the sweat runs into my eyes and my itchy allergic throat tightens, is not a fun way to pass the time. Ever. Give me a chilly day, a warm coat and if possible, the need for scarf and gloves. Anything less than that is hell.

Too. Much. Hassle.
Hay Fever
I have alluded to this already. Hay fever is perhaps the most cruel of all the fevers. How unfair to have a seasonal affliction during school exam time? Considering how stingy eyes can get, extra time for eye drop application is only fair. Hay fever sufferers are treated as if they should get over it. And not only get over it, go outside for all the outside fun as well. Sorry but no. Hay fever means staying away from the outside. It means keeping windows shut and it means sending your class back outdoors to remove all the grass from their uniforms when they return after lunch having had a grass fight on the field. That last point may be a little niche but it is still relevant. 

A surprisingly colourful ensemble
for me, but not a pastel in sight.
God, I hate Summer clothes. I hate floaty fabrics, flowery patterns, pastel colours and bare skin. I cannot bear them. Since ditching the work clothes, my daily uniform is pretty uniform. It's PJ bottoms and a T-shirt til mid-morning. Then jeans, black T-shirt and a cardy for the rest of the day. Sometimes I throw a vest top under there too. I like layers. I like dark colours. I like black. I like wearing clothes to keep warm and I utterly despair of anyone that embraces the changeover from Autumn/Winter fashions to Spring/Summer. Utterly despair. 

At the end of the day, mash potato rules. It just does. Mash potato, casseroles, curries, roasts and huge pans of chilli. What does not rule is salad. There is nothing appetising about hot weather food. 

Sunday roast in 
a pub.Yum!
Take-away roast at 
home. Double yum!
Lettuce. Not yum 
in any way.

Now I've ranted I feel a lot better. It's good to share. And the upside is, there are plenty of world climates that suit my needs. I spent three weeks in a wintery Australia once. The daytime temperatures were similar to today but there was widespread air con. Plus, having no central heating to turn on when the sun went down, meant chilly nights with an electric blanket! It was the ideal balance. Likewise, the holidays I've had in Copenhagen, Oslo, Krakow and a snowy New York were all spot on. Perfectly relaxing, lots of fun, but no stifling weather.

All myself and fellow heat-haters can do is grin and bear it till September comes. It feels a million years away now as I sweat in my kitchen but if I believe hard enough it will come. 

Have a lovely week, folks.