Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why are women so nasty to each other?

An age old question, that.
I have been mulling over the savaging of Selina Scott last week by the harpies who have columns in the nationals.
Selina has, quite rightly, been challenging sex discrimination by broadcasters over the last few years. In 2008 she successfully sued Channel 5 who dropped her and replaced her with a younger broadcaster.
Selina was widely quoted discussing the ageism issue and the harpies turned on her, with one scathingly saying that Selina herself had been nothing more than an "autocutie" when she was a news reader a few years ago, implying that Selina had been hired for her looks and dropped when she started to lose them.

Except that she hasn't lost her looks. She is still a stunning woman and her age is irrelevent. I'm not going to give her age I get annoyed at the way the papers always give a woman's age no matter what the story, as if it enables us to form some sort of judgment. Kim Cattrall always get furious when people say she looks good "for her age". She just looks good.

I doubt if Selina ever considered she was hired for her looks. And by accusing her of that, the harpies imply that attractive women can't have other qualities, namely intelligence, wit, charisma.

I applaud Selina's efforts to highlight this issue. I am fed up with seeing grizzled male broadcasters when most women are bounced by the age of 40.  There of plenty of mature women still broadcasting in the US - Diane Sawyer, Connie Chung, Jane Pauley and Barbara Walters.

And as Gen Y is the majority now - there are more of us watching TV than young people - our views should count for something.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The demise of the autobiography

Biographies and autobiographies have always been a great pleasure of mine. I love the witty anecdotes, the turn of phrase, the remembrances of less hectic times and the odd bit of salatious detail about a celebrity.

Lately however, the whole genre has fallen into a steep decline.

Any two-bit celebrity feels obliged to rush into print. Consider for a moment the Top 10 bestsellers. Two of those are books by the minor celebrities who make up the TV show "Loose Women". Against my better judgment I downloaded Carol McGiffin's book "Oh Carol!" because I find her amusing and like her robust views. She admits in the book that she was urged to write a book by the publisher of Denise Welch (actress, fellow Loose Women pannellist.) The McGiffin book is very badly written and the chapters which I think are supposed to be amusing simply aren't. The chapter on life with Chris Evans is the only part of the book that seems to have been given considered thought.

Oh Carol! indeed.

I won't even mention all the books by WAGs, Z list celebrities and footballers all under the age of 30. What can they tell us about life? Much of what Katie Price actually does in life is manufactured purely so she can update her turgid autobiographies and her ITV2 TV shows.

And then there are the appalling misery memoirs. What does it say about us that so many are in the book chart at any one time?

Among the books I have enjoyed the most are several by people who aren't remotely famous. "Where did it all go right? Growing up normal in the 70s" by Andrew Collins was a refreshing antidote to the misery memoir. "Misadventures" by Sylvia Smith was an eccentric hit, recounting many incidents in the life of a career secretary but none of any significance. The deadpan delivery is somewhat fascinating. I loved also the books by actress Liz Smith. She didn't become famous until she was 50 and her book "Our Betty" is a poignant account of a hard life of struggle.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lynne Featherstone causes a flap

Lynne Featherstone is a Home Officer Minister in the coalition government. When male journalists want to be patronising about her, they refer to her accolades as "most attractive MP" (voted by whom?).Yesterday the Sunday Times reported how she wants action to combat the growing problem of body image for men and women. It quoted her as saying that Christina Hendricks from Mad Men, a size 14, is the sort of shape we should be emulating: not the skinnies like Victoria Beckham.

Today predictably a number of writers and broadcasters have been getting in a flap, misconstruing what she said. Featherstone says in exasperation "oh for goodness sake!" on her blog. She wasn't implying that we should all look like Hendricks as the new role model but that's where most of the newspapers have put the focus.

Watching the Gok Wan programme How to Look Good Naked, I've been shocked at how young people are conditioned to think about body shape from the age of 10 or even younger. On another programme, The Ugly Truth about Beauty, many said they would consider all manner of plastic surgery to get the body of a celebrity. The Gok  programme is trying to get the government to include body image in the national curriculum. And bearing in mind how many young people are depressed and bullied in the UK, we clearly need to deal with this. It's often to do with body image.

So I'm glad to see Featherstone taking up the cudgels. The fashion industry needs to get real and stop using size zero models. Magazines should role-model using "normal" sized models (those referred to as plus size, who are usually a size 12 - 14).  But I don't think we'll ever see an end to celebrities being airbrushed and Photoshopped, which Featherstone wants to see. It's too prevalent. Even magazines like Woman & Home do it. The difference is that when you're older and wiser, you know darn well that the various 40 and 50 something celebrities don't really look so radiant and wrinkle-free. When you're a youngster, you don't have that perspective and it's seen as normality. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Variety is the spice of life

It's been the most amazing, informative and varied fortnight.
It started with a few days in our Prague office. An evening of beer tasting fed my curious mind with all sorts of nuggets about top and bottom fermented beers.
I then hot footed it to Oxford, where we were a sponsor of TEDGlobal. This is a week-long conference, attended by people with a hunger for knowledge. The university stream presented speakers from all walks of life and gave them seven minute slots. Perfect! Seven minutes is just enough to share the idea and it's not long enough for death by Powerpoint. I'm going to champion this at work. The longer sessions were panel discussions with very diverse speakers and topics. And I must mention the goody bag. Absolutely awesome, everything you need for your physical and intellectual needs: eg the Bobble water bottle; an umbrella (how pessimistic!), David Attenborough's Life dvd set and some gizmos including a worldwide sim card and wifi adaptor.
One of the pitches I enjoyed most was about the hurdy-gurdy, because although I vaguely knew it was some sort of musical instrument, it had never really crossed my consciousness.
Then on Friday the Creators project began. This is a collaboration with my company and Vice and it's aimed at young people. The two-day event in London featured amazing installations, music and dance. Now I didn't go yesterday - I went to a wedding - but at the press preview on Friday it was great to see how excited our younger team members (under the age of 24) all looked.
Today it was back to more mundane pursuits: gardening, the roast dinner, and bowing to J's whim of dashing off to Comet just before closing to look at TVs.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Creative" dressing alert

I'm going to a conference this week in Oxford. We're sponsoring the coffee lounge and as a result get some sponsors' tickets. It's a highly sought after event but I confess to feeling a bit flummoxed at the "attire" guidance which states business casual but goes on to say that suits should not be worn and in fact it's better to go for "creative casual" but no shorts.


I would rather they'd gone with business casual. What's creative? Floaty kaftans? The tribal look?

For anything work-related, I find it much easier to wear something smart and classic. Skirts and trousers with fairly plain tops, jazzed up with bold jewellery, is what I normally wear. I loathe wearing jeans or going casual with colleagues. The reason is that you can commit so many sins, unwittingly, with jeans, immediately catapaulting yourself back to the 80's if they're the wrong cut, length or colour.

I get Grazia every week but I don't buy any of the outfits. I sometimes take a trend and add it in a tiny, subtle way - for example, they recently featured little evening bags with feathers, and I've been looking out for them ever since. But I avoid a) high fashion for fear of looking mutton and b) going into Top Shop where I feel 110, or designer stores where the shop assistants look down on anyone bigger than a UK size 8. 

I was never much good at fashion. The party held with Maddie Grigg in the early 80s was the high point of my fashion sense, when I wore, in homage to Spandau Ballet, knickerbockers, a white frilly shirt and a head band. I had some truly hideous outfits in my 20's. A few examples:

This monstrosity (left) - jade green trousers & jacket with red shoes - was bought in Milton Keynes and worn to see David Bowie. I don't think I owned a pair of jeans at that time. I don't know what possessed me.

Even worse is this "track suit" horror - right - which was bought at one of those clothes parties that a friend of my mum's had.

What have been your fashion faux pas and successes?


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fun in Prague

Had a great few days in Prague - business not leisure, although there was a lot of fun. I thought I had been to Prague before but I couldn't remember it. As a team building activity we had a scavenger hunt around the city, armed with map, pack and tram tickets. We started off at the Castle - what a magnificent cathedral! - and walked back, gathering historical clues on the way from characters such as Charles IV.

One of the tasks was to draw the team, with a view of Prague in the background. My team cheated and got one of the artists on the bridge to draw a caricature. Our ingenuity won us the challenge.
We also had a lot of laughs about Paul the Psychic Octopus. You must check out his Facebook page. Very funny comments. When one of our team forgot to meet us for dinner, we left him a message in the lobby "from Paul," but he somehow missed it.

Prague has a marathon in May so I am now trying to talk J into it, as it's such a great place (and such good value after Euro zone countries!) I would love to go back.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Vuvuzela Won

Many pages have been written and many theories aired about the failure of the England football team in the World Cup.
I can't let it go by without adding my two pennorth. Heaven knows, I had to endure enough of it.
Here I am in my England t-shirt looking forward to the England v Algeria match. First of all, tell all the knee-jerkers to stop calling for Fabio's resignation. He's the best man for the job, always was, and still is. The words "silk purse and sow's ear" come to mind when thinking of his task with the team. I won't go on about pampered players earning too much money. That's a fact, we have to live with it. But the team is very weak. Too many key players were injured. And they were too old and slow. But where are the youngsters? Herein lies the rub.

Germany had an old team last time round but they've rebuilt themselves and at this stage look like eventual winners. They have 35,000 coaches to train young players. We have fewer than 3,000. I gather the FA spends £1m a week on grass roots football but clearly it's not enough. I'd like to see the big retailers get behind the game with some serious investment.

Then there is the FA themselves. And FIFA. Two useless organisations run entirely by men. FIFA: ignoring complaints about the ball. Rejecting the need for technology until they had to do an embarrassing u turn. The FA is run entirely by businessmen, some of whom have featured less than favourably in the News of the World. I am with the late, great Brian Clough and Lord Sugar in their withering assessments of the Football Association. I'm not saying you can solve the problem by adding a few women to the board, but it would make a difference. For example, the panicked reaction before the World Cup to news that AC Milan were trying to lure Fabio away. Instead of letting it lie and riding the tournament out, what did they do? They immediately locked him (and them) into a two year deal. Now if I had been on the board I would have urged them to apply common sense. It's not something men necessarily have when they're in a collective.

I would like to think that Fabio can now rebuild the team along the lines of what happened in Germany but according to the Sunday Times, the next generation of players is even worse.

But no doubt by 2014 we will have put it all behind us and will go through the usual anguish and agony when we watch England play.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Blogger bitten by fish

We're back from our Greek honeymoon, two blissful weeks spent in Rhodes. We were in Rhodes two years ago but this time were on the north eastern side of the island at a place called Kolymbia. Having ascertained it was a dreadful village built for tourists we upgraded to all inclusive at our luxurious resort hotel, and it was well worth it.

The sunbathing was perfect with a choice of spotless beach (it was awarded the Blue Flag while we were there), immaculate lawns or the lagoon shaped swimming pool.
The Blue Flag arrives (John saw it coming ashore in a boat, as if it was the Olympic torch)

We went on the obligatory trip to Rhodes Town, the oldest still inhabited medieval town in Europe, and didn't bring back one tacky souvenir. Result!

And the fish in the headline were tiny Garra Rufa fish. For 15 euro you could plunge your feet into their tank and enjoy the pleasant sensation of tiny fish kisses as they allegedly sucked your hard skin away. I say "allegedly" because my feet didn't look any different afterwards, but the owner said there's a big difference after three sessions. And he was a born salesman. Interestingly there's an article in today's Times about the first London salon offering these natural pedicures. Price is £45.

The fish have a nibble
The beach
Happy honeymooners
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