Monday, 31 August 2009

Things I hear in the pub: #2, Arguments about Feminism

I bet they'd just say the tits are better on the bird behind the KP peanuts.

Saturday night, and the second of my twice-weekly shifts behind the bar in my local. Again, the German men were in, trying out every type of ever-changing local ale, which prompted yet another discussion of their origin. At risk of repeating the last post, I'll keep it to a quotation, 'well, I suppose they can't be Dutch, their shoes aren't made of wood'.

Eventually the group of slightly entertaining middle-aged men dwindles to one increasingly drunk old man who repeated everything he's already said in the past four hours. I would have thought little about his incomprehensible ranting had I not come home to an email with the subject heading 'a woman is worth half of a man'. This was clearly some kind of begging charity email that I guiltily discarded to my junk mail, attempting to lure in money with a shocker of a subject. However, it chimed in with Mr. Drunky's last rant before popping round to the rival Shire pub for Karaoke.

Claiming himself the epitome of chivalric behaviour - which is obviously why he was staring at my chest on a Saturday evening rather than spending quality time with his wife and son - he was bemoaning the lack of gentlemen in my generation. Although I agreed with him that holding doors open and being polite were admirable qualities in a man, there was a point of contention when he said he refused to accept drinks from women. Clearly plenty offer to buy him them ALL the time.

In short, I found myself getting onto a metaphorical feminist soapbox, arguing that if he deems women equal why are they not worthy to buy a man, and especially such a questionable specimen as himself, a pint with their career-woman money?

I'm no raving feminist. Indeed, having sat through half an hour of a woman shouting 'I AM A WOMAN. I HAVE A VAGINA, I MENSTRUATE, AND HELL, I EVEN MASTURBATE SOMETIMES' in between Simone De Beauvoir quotations during a first year Feminist Literary Theory lecture, I'm yet to work out my view on this broad and quite frankly, dangerous, territory. I'm quite scared of feminists and I'm a girl. Yet, I found myself embodying that same lecturer on Saturday night, banging my fist on the bar with the same ferocity she hit the lectern.

I'm clearly never going to be cut out to be the giggly, bosomy bar maid, but there just aren't many girl-friendly pubs round here. Maybe I'll leave a copy of The Female Eunuch hidden amongst The Daily Mail next time I'm working.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Things I hear in the pub: #1, Casual Racism

Ebony and Ivory...

Somehow, casual racism has worked its way into the family sense of humour. That sounds bad, I know. We're not actually racists. We don't even read the Daily Mail or anything.

However, a small, unbelievably Caucasian village in middle England is the type that breeds, 'I'm not a racist, but...' friendly xenophobia.

It's the kind of ignorant friendly xenophobia that arises when there are so few non-white, English people that they become a kind of weird novelty when they do arrive. Although, in the 'Shire a new dog or increased villager body mass becomes a major talking point. Over the last three shifts I've worked in my local I've spent approximately thirty-four minutes discussing how many wasps there are this year, and another twelve minutes regarding the different spray deterrents available and their comparative benefits.

So, earlier on, in reference to the news headline of a population increase, Daddy Bowlface made the hilarious (it did eek a snort out of me, actually) joke of, 'I bet they're all forin' [sic]. Yes, this is obviously hugely politically incorrect, but funny because it's not from an origin of real racism, and because most funny jokes are politically incorrect. I clearly don't laugh when Geordie taxi drivers have a go at Polish 'spring rolls' - where that slang came from I've no idea - or decide to generate a National Front rally in the middle of the city.

Returning to the novelty of non-Shire folk, and pub conversations, we had a couple of guys drinking outside who, OMG, weren't English. Thus ensued a hushed narrative from the landlady:
'Now, there's a couple of...gentlemen sitting outside, and they want to eat, and I had to tell them that we don't start serving until six thirty. But they're not English, you see, I think they're German, or maybe Dutch. So I don't think they understand.'

They understood perfectly well. They were also Norwegian, despite another hushed, heavily accented conversation regarding the differences and similarities between Dutch and German accents. I don't think any of the over-sixties taking part had ever really met a Dutchman or a German before, however, I'm sure this conversation was repeated to everyone they met for the next two days, a la wasp.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Student Life: something a broadsheet guide can never prepare you for

Oh god, I know, I know, all my posts these days seem entirely initiated by what I've previously read in the paper. Thing is, at this current moment in time, occupation and location, the broadsheet is my only source of intellectual wisdom. Sad, but true.

Anyway, A level results come out today. Right now teenagers will be rushing up to school gates, trying not to look like they care that this is what they've been built up for the entirety of their non-compulsory educational lives and they're on the brink of filling their pants.

The mere two years ago that I went through a similar experience seems like an age ago. Mainly because two years in university teaches you a hell of a lot more than the normal eight seasons. I'm not pretending I'm all wise and philosophically rounded now - how bloody boring - but I know enough that the Times' student supplement clearly hasn't been written by anybody who's graduated in the last three years.

Yeah, yeah, so they've got a whole page on Twitter and all that, but seriously, when do people drink 'half pints' on Freshers' Bar Crawls? Half pints? Half pints are pathetic, almost cute little things that I serve to the elderly in my village local. They even come in patronisingly miniature pint glasses to demonstrate the lack of intoxication. All good students know that Freshers' Bar Crawls are done once, and very rarely again, because they are the most restless and expensive way of having organised fun, and because the hangover you get from incessant shots of sugary forms of some kind of fermented animal is truly ungodly. Especially to those who've spent the whole summer choosing what kind of laptop to buy.

The feature on the £230 day-long pre-university cookery course also took me aback. Not least when one of the attendees thought of the potential to 'start up a supper club' was a brilliant idea, with menu inclusions being a salad of figs, goats' cheese and walnuts and homemade lamb-burgers. Apparently, it'll make 'everyone want to share', which translates to 'people robbing your food'. An average £15 per week student food budget goes on Shreddies, 3 kilo bags of penne and tinned tomatoes et al. Creative cooking comes in the form of mustard mash. Even if you do fancy trying some culinary talent, Fresher kitchens are invariably so disgusting that dinner becomes whatever you can create fastest and get the hell out of there. Never mind, they'll soon realise the delights of cheese on toast and angel delight, and Jamie O will get stashed to the back of the cupboard, or maybe used in an inventive drinking game.

However, the icing on the cake was found in a little column called 'The Knowledge' - apparently the Bible to getting though Freshers'. Some, very true: 'Girls who wear pink pashminas study history of art' - although in Newcastle that's practically everyone, and even up there I think the Pash may have died out by next year. 'You will be showered with freebies, all of which will be worthless' - again, very true. I think it was only the flatmate with the smallest chance of getting laid that used the Players Bar, 'Do Not Disturb - got lucky at Players' door sign. But then, again with the cringe, 'Retro is cool in clothes, children's television programmes and gadgets such as SodaStream'. Firstly, wrong. Anyone who likes 'Retro' also likes Flares, the 70s nightclub. Secondly, my almost-entirely vintage wardrobe is only admired by my flatmates for fancy dress purposes, my vintage record player marked me as a pretentious loser and anyone who still wears teeshirts with Zippy or other Rainbow characters on is clearly a mature student having a midlife crisis.

Enough rant. No doubt my 3rd year self will be just as sceptical of my 2nd year self should I get round to graduating. My advice? Never forget the trackies. I may not leave the house in mine, but they get nearly every student through hangovers/overeating/all-nighters.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Banana Guards: one of the more unusual teenage embarassments

I shuddered when I opened the paper on the culture pull-out today. In fact, I stared, shuddered, and then swiftly turned over the brightly coloured image of a Lakeland Plastics Banana Guard, below, so the builder wouldn't see me looking at it.

Thing is, in yellow, and as someone happily beyond adolescence, Banana Guards, "designed to accommodate virtually every shape and size", almost make sense. They also only look slightly obscene, in the kind of way that people desperate to make weak phallic jokes may pick up on.
However, when I whipped out a pink Banana Guard, aged 14, at school during morning break, I was the victim of much dildo-related accusation for a week; which feels very long when acne is the closest thing you've got to boobs, and you're still not entirely sure what a dildo is.

After such an incident, my stocking filler got thrown to the back of the Tupperware cupboard where I believe it still gathers dust. By this morning's reaction, I don't think I'll be taking it out any time soon.
However, the following double-page spread regarding Lakeland Plastics was something that brought a far greater warmth to the heart. I am the grateful spawn of a Lakeland Plastics fan. In fact, I swear our kitchen and the amazing foody treats that come out of it are in part built by Lakeland Plastics.

Whenever Mummy Bowlface comes home wielding a new Lakeland item, I am invariably hugely sceptical. Take, for example, the banana bag. It's pictured in its natural habitat - our fridge - below. Known affectionately as the 'banana sleeping bag', one of Family Bowlface's staple foods, the banana, is kept to perfect conditions in this contraption, and doesn't send off any bad banana fumes to the other fruit. Apparently.

That's pie it's squishing, by the way. Not meat, as it may appear to be.

Initially I accused the purchaser of wasting money on ridiculous novelty kitchen items, but, if used in the proper way, rather than being forgotten about - I won't eat stuff if I can't see it - it is quite good.

Clearly, had I not experienced such aversion to it so young in life, I would be one of the thousands of Banana Guard fans. Or even taken it as far as, G Harper, who commented online, "wish I had invented the banana guard!"

Having just caught myself getting all interested over silicone cupcake moulds I think the Lakeland-lover gene will inevitably out. Just think what they will have invented in ten years' time...!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Abercrombie and Itch

It's a bit wrong how nine of her would weigh the same as two of them.


As shopping goes, I'm pretty tolerant of stressful situations. I can tackle a stinky charity shop without shame, delve into dubious boxes at car boot sale with delight, and even rummage through sale rails with relish. Arguably, working in a vintage shop prepares you pretty well for most gross selling situations, but even so, I'm no retail wuss.

Or so I thought. Abercrombie and Fitch, for the blissfully unaware, is a hugely overpriced preppy American brand which exploits rich parents of demanding prepubescents by selling 70 different colours of four identical garments: the hoodie, the polo, the vest, and the jogger. Every now and then they might go a little crazy and chuck a skinny jean in there, or, as my recent visit demonstrated, a plaid shirt, but essentially that is what they create.

As the above image would suggest, the target market is not really for those who wear many clothes, or indeed, are prepubescent. However, judging by the size of the female sales assistants and the fact my size 6-8 sister snugly wears an Abercrombie M (medium), the waist of an 11 year old is a prerequisite. Unless you are male, in which case I imagine the sizing is similar, as despite a six pack, every polo must be worn nipple-protruding tight. For an early noughties cultural reference, see LFO's 'Summer Girls' video here.

The irony of the seemingly wholesome image Abercrombie likes to throw out there is that the shop itself is a LIVING HELL HOLE. They've taken a beautiful, rococo ceiling-ed mansion hidden away off Regent Street, painted the entire interior black, pumped it full of seriously cheesy yet unrecognisable dance music and A&F scent and waited for the hoards of people with more money than sense to flock on in.

I nearly asphyxiated upon entry. Initially I was gagged by the choking scent of 'youth' - intriguingly not cigarettes, cider, 'So Kiss Me' body spray and the hamster smell of teenage boy, but something with far more patchouli - then matters were made worse by a flabbergasted reaction to the naked, hairless bodybuilder in the doorway, with whom I'm supposed to want a Polaroid photograph taken; the final nail in the coffin being my uncontrollable laughter at the sales assistants who are made to dance on a balcony, just, you know, 'cos it's so fly in there.

Once I'd regained the ability to respire, I was able to reflect on the most awkward dancing I've seen outside of school discos. Not that it was inexplicable - the music was the type that's only played in bad Majorcan cocktail bars, the 'dancers' were presumably sober, and wearing plaid. You can't dance to cheese in plaid. Especially not on a balcony, for no apparent reason, when you are, by contract, a sales assistant.

After being led around the labyrinthine set-up of rooms and corridors, all the while being constantly greeted by smugly attractive identikit teenagers, the dancing made a little sense. It was, after all, strongly reminiscent of a Berlin club, minus the graffiti, what with the constant shoving and pushing of shoppers eager to get their hands on overpriced jersey.

Upon discovering that every dingy room was essentially full of the same thing, failing to find a changing room and then establishing that a lot more could be done with fifty quid than buy a polo shirt, I was happy to leave the most stressful shopping experience I've ever encountered and take a big breath of polluted central London air. It tasted a damn sight more realistic.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Notes my Mum leaves me.

Evidence I'm getting old too young, added to by Mummy Bowlface.
Just in case, cha know?

Kirsty Golightly and I MUST have identical brains. Just as I notice her recent post is about her turning into her Dad, I'm posting photographic evidence of my Mum's cuteness whilst simultaneously realising I am turning into her, as I leave near-identical notes for flatmates, friends, and, indeed, myself.
Hello 2053, Kirsty Old Geordie Man Golightly and Super Organised To Cover Every Eventuality Bowlface, living together, and constantly bemused by the activities of youth.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Charter Fair Times

There are but two days in the year when the small village of my upbringing experiences regular screaming, noise pollution and 90s dance hits on repeat.

Those two days being the second Monday and Tuesday of August, when the Charter Fair/Fayre/Fay-er (depending on who writes the ever-entertaining signage) comes to Great Horwood in accordance to a 400ish year-old contract.

It's one of the few traditions the village actually maintains, as such Ambridge-esque activities as Produce Shows and beating a puffed up pig bladder no longer remain. As a result, it always warms my cockles a little bit. You can imagine the excitement it causes by watching this, especially when the comment beneath is taken into consideration.

Our house is placed nicely within view of the goings-on, which essentially include a dodgems circuit, an increasingly decrepit hammer ride, which somebody claims to 'nearly fall out' of every year, a mini-carousel and a few games. Year in, year out, and always the same attractions. Needless to say, should there be some dramatic change in ride set-up serious angry mumblings would rumble around the village for at least three weeks.

I did try to photograph the aforementioned setup, but I really just couldn't capture the magic, and I was scared the chavs may attack after drunkenly awakening to the incessant camera flash. In short, it's a lot of flashing lights, a few similarly-luminous white tracksuits and a lot of villagers sat about surrounded by red brick and thatched houses dating back to, on average, 1742. No wonder my workmate said her American friend was bemused.

To the townies of local Buckingham, the notion of Great Horwood fair is a joke. Yet, it still drags in punters from the surrounding towns and villages, despite their ever-failing attempts to get served in the pub. Even if they were of drinking age, the onslaught of cleavage both front and rear and demands for WKDs in a place normally full of tweed and real ale requests is always going to cause suspicion.

Unlike in my younger years, from when I'd go home chuffed to bits with my fake Spice Girls poster, to when I'd stand around with my teenage mates eating candyfloss, (note the relative lack of difference in activities - it's a village, remember, everyone knows who your Mum is) I didn't try my luck on the dodgems tonight. It's a bit cringe worthy to start trying to beat the people you once babysat.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Bicester Village: giant creche for the unnannied middle classes

The perfect Bicester family: beautiful when frozen in time, horrendous
when simultaneously throwing lattes at you and feeding organic carrots to the offspring.

So I stumbled across this in the paper last week...Bicester Village being the place I slave my summer away in serving the aforementioned rich tourists and middle class folk.
What the article fails to mention, however, is the huge abundance of small children that people decide to bring shopping in designer boutiques.

Because, you know, and I've always thought this too, that people who love sticky fingers, screaming, and running in and out of changing rooms are totally the best kind to appreciate cashmere and labels that say £300.

I've developed a very low intolerance to small human beings in places where I can't be bothered to have fun with them since they decided to plague our means of transport in Eastern Europe. Although pretty much every sticky, hot, bumpy and seemingly never ending train ride had noisy things on it, being woken up on a night train by a fang-toothed, whooping, large pupil-ed mini-person really did convince me temporarily that self-sterilisation was a good idea.

Thankfully, as the toilets in Serbian trains don't even have a flush, let alone any kind of surgical equipment, it wasn't the time nor the place.

However, the sentiment still returns when placed in similarly stressful situations. For example, when a three year old thought it immensely amusing to tip over her buggy, again, and again, taking most of the display I'd lovingly created with it. This is a pretty common occurrence, which makes me wonder why, when the brats are large enough to destroy their own personal transport, are they still being accompanied by it?

Similar rhetorical questions arise when designer toddler, complete with mini designer carrier bag, is cooed at by her designer parents for trampling on the designer stock. Are those Gucci sunglasses just completely black inside, or is love really that blind?

When these giant, grand-and-a-half buggies aren't being knocked over, they're taking up shitloads of room in Pret a Manger, which in Bicester Village may as well be a creche. The idea of having a quiet coffee over a pretentious novel is certainly not part of that branch's marketing strategy.

I'm sure once I've spawned my own tiny humans I'll be just as crap at disciplining them, but in the meantime, I'm allowed to be bitter to the point of my Father questioning the whereabouts of my maternal instinct. My secret love of the abundance of Pret Kids cheese baguettes is entirely unrelated...

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Gammy Eyes and Gannies

Making, waiting for, and attending a doctor's appointment is one of my most hated things. Sometimes it gets so bad that I sit there, thinking I'd rather lose the hour of my life lost in the surgery waiting room to the illness I'm developing instead of in there.

However, there is one slight perk of visiting the 'Shire surgery and that comes in the form of O.A.Ps To Aspire To.

There was once two consequetive visits when an O.A.P.T.A.T and her headscarf kept me entertained throughout that interminable waiting. The accessory in question was cream silk, with a fetching red golf tee pattern on - fit. First time, worn around the neck, second, she pulls out the big guns and does what I like to call "The Queenie". A full on, under the chin affair adored by Burberry et al last A/W.

This kind of experience has formed itself into massive expectation everytime I'm to visit the place. Therefore, I was not disappointed when, twenty minutes into yet another hour of my life I will never get back, the CYCLING GRANDAD OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE rocks on up.
This man is a living legend. In fact, I'm ashamed he doesn't have his very own label on Bowlface...

In short, he is an octogenarian, long-bearded Dumbledore-like creature who I drive past regularly on country roads as he is cycling buy in full-on 80s fluro exercise garb. Like Mr. Motivator, but more wrinkly, and less of a terrifying sexual predator. I'm yet to speak to him, but one day, there will be an interview, Bowlfans.

Anyway, contrary to expectation, this visage in green and pink (Wednesday's choice, natch) did not pain my equally "florid" - cheers Dr. Fairfield - conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis being easily the most disgusting of minor optical illnesses. As my dear friend tactfully put it, "ew, you look horrible."

It's a shame I'm not an 11 year old boy, for whom eyes representative of those in Dawn of the Dead would be immensely cool. As it is, I'm a 20 year old girl who, with the current hair-growth situation, feels rough enough as it is, thanks. Alas, the NHS Granny Specials glasses have been tucked away in favour of professional wire-framed, for gym and boutique wearing purposes. The Shire is not Shoreditch, and middle class countryfolk just do not understand the ironic ugly look.

To add insult to injury, I got emailed this link today. I was seriously tempted to invest until it was revealed that they don't even offer a prescription service. Do people honestly spend £205 on glasses they don't even need? Really? If you are one of these people, then shame on you. Spend your £205 on actual myopic people who need to look pretty in obligatory face-bottle-ends.