Thursday, 29 March 2012

Miliband's Pasty PR

As the nation panic-buys petrol, the nation's politicians are panic-buying pasties.
Almost as soon as Osborne had slammed his now famous "comedy pie tax" down on a depressed nation, he was accused of "never having been in a Greggs."
Our PR-savvy PM was then left to wade in with a claim to have "once bought a pasty at Leeds station," as if this white lie somehow cleansed him of his privileged past. No real normal person would be able to afford a pasty at the West Cornwall Pasty Company in a station without being on expenses.
But worst of all is the posturing of the opposition. The guffawing faces of Ed Milliband, Ed Balls and Rachel Reeves just dropping in at a branch of Greggs leered out at me from the Metro this morning. You may be allied to the trade unions, but we don't believe you buy pies either, Miliband. You may "speak human", but you're probably gnawing on quinoa like a horse as you slip your pastries to the dog.
I could probably believe it with Ed Balls who looked rotundly at ease handing over the change for a pack of sausage rolls. Rachel Reeves looked like she would have rather preferred a double chocolate muffin, but kept on smiling through the photo-opportunity.
Meanwhile, the economy is collapsing and petrol station forecourts are running dry. Oh well, at least it's sunny. Not even pasty weather.

NB:I don't know why Greggs is seen as plebeian, it's just a bakery. Growing up with Bakers Oven we always thought Greggs was a bit posh because it had yumyums.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Biscuit Tin: A High-Tech Slimming Device.

The Government's latest high-level strategy to combat the nation's so-called obesity crisis will be the "resealable Dairy Milk bar". I imagine it will be about as effective as the hi-tech slimming device we have in my house: "the resealable biscuit tin."
The proposed introduction of this incredible bar is part of a gamut of bold measures, including Asda bringing in a low calorie range. Having tried their standard high calorie ranges, I dread to think what the slimmers' versions will taste like.
But Andrew Lansley is barking up the wrong tub of Slim-Fast. He should be talking to Theresa May about her alcohol minimum pricing policy.
Rather than setting a minimum price for booze, why not print the calorie content on a big red label on the front? Some alcohol already comes in conveniently resealable bottles so we're half way there already. It might at least make a handful of conscientious women think twice about that eighth Bacardi Breezer.
Set a minimum price for burgers and chocolate and bombs away - a svelte nation once again we shall be.
Not convinced? Me neither. It is our Americanised culture of cars and parkways and out-of-town malls and 24-hour Tescos and concreted playing fields and TV advertising and Playstations and sendentary desk jobs that is responsible for all of this.
Lay off the NHS, Tory fat-arses. And lay off my Mars Duo. I'm lactating a 12 kg baby and 360 calories ain't nothing.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

First it was the Pigeons...

Poor Miss Polly Hoops. The delectable hula dancing girl in the thigh-high stockings has got herself some incredible publicity these last few days. Some of it featuring her in a very small pair of shorts and a skimpy vest.
Anyway, Westminster Council has served the poor performance artist with a "noise abatement notice" after her Trafalgar Square hula shows got up the nose of, well, it's not clear. Maybe someone irritable in the portrait gallery cafe who just realised it would cost them £6.50 for a coffee and a small biscuit.
The theatre studies student has the good fortune of having Eddie "Introduce the Euro to Britain" Izzard on her side as she contests the notice in court.
But if the press coverage continues, I think she will have the support of a large portion of the male population, not just the transvestite former unicyclist comedians.
Doesn't Westminster realise we need more of this sort of thing (sexy people hula-ing, not noise abatement notices) during the global financial meltdown? Less "GlaxoSmithKline antibiotics factory jobs joy" boring budget-day talk and more "Shout Out to Miss Polly Hoops! Get Your Hoops Out for the Lads" &c.
On reflection, perhaps the recession isn't an excuse for the sexual objectification of women. Or is it? Oh I don't know anymore.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Osborne's Emergency Olympic Shopping Directive

I know I'm supposed to love shopping. As a registered female, I'm destined to adore nothing more than browsing boutiques for over-priced handbags and ridiculous foot-crushing, spine twisting 'shoes'.
However, I find the whole thing a tedious, creativity-sapping, wallet-draining, self-loathing boost.
The vast majority of women's clothes - which appear to be made for a climate far from the British Isles - repulse and anger me. What will I do with a sleeveless chunky-knit cardigan with extra cleavage plunge?
The closest I get to shopping for fun is buying a triple pack of M&S briefs and stopping on the way home for a muffin and a copy of Private Eye.
So it is with a massive sigh that I read about possible plans to suspend Sunday trading laws during the Olympics.
Is it really that urgent that we all get shopping during the games? Is it all that terribly vital that the Korean volleyball team has a chance to slip off to Lillywhites for leisurewear of an evening? Can't we all just have a nice rest, a glass of Pernod and a slice of Fiona Bruce on Sunday evenings? Can't we just stop shopping for five seconds and have a foot massage or talk to each other or browse internet suicide forums or whatever?
We need a day of the week where, for a couple of hours, we are obliged to face the fundamental emptiness of our souls and scrub the bath and/or talk to our spouse. Surely?
No, George Osborne is expected to argue - extending shop opening hours during the Olympics may be a vital key to "boosting the economy". If I hear this phrase again I feel I may hurl my blazing knitting needles into the gas fire and rip off my sagging utilitarian maternity bra in a rage.
Will the Japanese rhythmic gymnastics team really spend enough on Burberry in Selfridges for those blasted spending cuts not to go ahead?
Former transport minister Philip Hammond gave the same argument for raising the motorway speed limit to 80 not long ago. People, he said, would be able to get to places quicker, thus creating heaps of wealth. Mmmmm. I've often thought it was my unwillingness to break the 70mph speed limit that is at the root of my failure to thrive financially.
I'm not religious or anything. Far from it, the church and its power-constructs appall me as much as the current Government. But I do think they have one thing right: keep one day special. Well, at least a couple of hours where we are saved from the lure of Homebase.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Smugness of Knitters


I was thinking of ruminating on the pictures of Ken Livingstone putting out the rubbish half naked, but I have decided to save readers this delight. Today's post takes a distinctly domestic turn:

We've all seen them, the Shoreditch Knitters: sitting smugly on the tube in their skinny jeans, deftly crafting a pair of exotic-looking socks from recycled yarn. Every time I see one, I feel a pang of resentment as the multi-coloured fabric pours from their trendy second-hand 6mm needles.
How dare they know how to knit so well? How dare their rib stitch come out so smooth yet pleasingly stretchy, whilst mine becomes a thick mass of knotted string? How VERY dare they look so smug as their hands dance across the gently vibrating wool?
As any career-woman on maternity leave knows, it is pretty much an obligation to turn one's hand to the ancient handicrafts during the times of confinement. Headteachers, businesswomen, actresses, all will have been tempted towards the crafting shop as they push their little one around the neighbourhood.
With no prior experience, I have happily spent the last eight months stabbing my hands with felting needles during the creation of a tiny and pointless mouse.
I have given myself cramp in the hands knitting wonky dishcloths and even an apple cosy.
There are few soft furnishings in the house that have not escaped my obsession with blanket stitch. Only my recent return to work has saved me from felting embarrassing sheep and clouds onto my jumper collection.
During the time off, crafts save you from that feeling of endless, pointless toil that never ends. While the cycle of sweeping up sick and half-eaten food will genuinely go on forever, you might just embroider a pair of jeans with a daisy by 9pm. It's pointless toil, but there is a goal. Women of work need a goal, even if it is just the production of a felt finger puppet.
But the crafts also consign you to endless hours of disappointment and frustration - a similar emotional landscape to that created by life in an office. The pressure to achieve is greater now, too. The internet means there is no excuse for a lack of crocheting knowledge.
Perhaps we thrive on it, this angry, frustrated busy-ness. It wouldn't be enough simply to relax and enjoy the fabulousness of our babies.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lightening Bolt and the Ginger Dwarf

I'd like to be in the meeting when the royals decide where to send their family members on visits. As second in line to the throne, it's only fitting that serious William gets to work in the Falkland Islands to save a few lives, sparking an almighty diplomatic calamity.
And so Jamaica - stereotyped as the land of Rastamouse, batty-riding shorts, and people drinking rum out of coconut - was always going to get Harry.
The media this week lapped up his photocall with Usain Bolt, who made one of our finest princes look like an ugly ginger dwarf (do you remember how oddly dashing he seemed at Kate and Will's wedding, do you? Did that ever happen?)
Newspapers and TV newsmen were falling over themselves to report the hilarious antics of the rogue-ish prince, who cheated to get a head start in the 100metres. What a game posh bloke he is! Wonder at his ability not to take himself too seriously! I don't think I read a single negative word about the outing. Perhaps everyone was so excited about a press trip to Jamaica their critical faculties departed. I found it all rather cringeworthy and embarrassing. I hated watching Bolt have to look grateful and impressed to be around royalty.
It all reminded me of a documentary I had seen about the Nashi, Putin's youth movement. Its members are brainwashed by a cult of personality (Putin dives for pottery! Putin wrestles naked with a bear! etc)
Thank god then for the wonderful Portia Simpson Miller, prime minister of the island. She played along with Ol' Ginge Windsor with the hugs on the doorstep, but she took out a sharp little flickknife when she said it was time for the island to "take charge of it's own destiny". I have to admit, I didn't even realise that the Queen was still head of state in Jamaica, so I'm glad she pointed this out.
I'm quite a royalist at heart - I believe the royal family is a useful thing for Britain to have - but the idea of the Queen being the symbolic leader of a tropical island full of people descended from slaves? Surely this nation doesn't still require a white woman in London to oversee it still?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Token Pencil Skirt

So the European Commission wants to give the ladies a chance to play with the big boys at the top table of business. Not in the name of equality, of course, but because companies with better gender balance make bigger profits, apparently.
Many women find the idea of quotas to help them penetrate the [insert latest glass-related metaphor] distasteful.
Nobody wants to be appointed to fill a gender, race or disability quota, rather than on their merit as a worker. But others realise that the quotas may be a necessary evil to open the way to generations of highly capable women to come.
I'm not a fan and I don't think I could ever take a job in the knowledge that I was the token pencil skirt.
But I think we are missing the point. The whole debate seems to work on the presumption that men who are appointed to boards are "successful" and women who do not reach these heady heights are failures. They need a leg up.
Nobody ever seems to question the narrowness of what male politicians, journalists and businessmen regard as success. All paths away from FTSE100 companies, from high office, from business lunches, sock garters and central London are paths downhill in their eyes.
Rather than simply bemoaning the lack of women at the top, perhaps we should celebrate what women are doing "at the bottom", quietly, and happily getting on with their lives.