Days of discipline

About two years ago, during a camping trip, my then four year old ran a stone along our shiny black rental car.  It was one of those heart-stopping, I’m-going-to-choke-on-my-own-vomit moments.  Something that only other people’s kids do.  Surely?  Those unruly types that never get invited to play because quite frankly you can’t be arsed to deep clean your house afterwards.  Not my kids.  My angels.  Surely not?!?

This work of car-art consisted of deep scratches across five panels of the car, from tyre to roof.  I was (oh-so-slightly) livid.  Yet, as I used my most menacing tone of voice and insane-woman eyes, my four year old just watched and listened.  He didn’t respond.  Instead, he just took it.  No crying.  No pleading for forgiveness.  He might as well have shrugged his shoulders and said “fair enough”.

As punishment, he sat quietly on his own.  He wasn’t allowed to play with the other children on the campsite.  He wasn’t allowed to play crazy golf.  We didn’t talk with him.  Yet… There he just sat.  Four years old, and he just took the punishment.  He took the punishment like a (mini) man.

After one hour, we were impressed.  “He certainly realises the severity of his actions” we nodded to each other.  What good parents we were.  We taught him a good lesson that day.  He learnt by consequences.  Let’s bring him back to the fold.  He’d never do that again.  “You can come back now darling”.  He did.  Quietly he moved from his ‘naughty spot’.  He gradually acclimatised himself back into the family routine.  Things slowly returned to normality.  Then… One hour later… he took a stone to finish the job.  He finished by scratching the other side of the fucking car.

To this day, I have no idea of the motivation behind his behaviour.  I always thought I kind of understood my kids but this action left me stunned.  Completely clueless.  I just didn’t get it.  I ran over options in my mind.  Did he need attention?  Or more love?  Was my son being creative?  Or vengeful?  I just couldn’t figure it out and this made me crazy.  Nut job crazy. A year and a bit later I asked him why.  Why did you do it?  And… His reply?  His reasoning?  “I just did” he replied and weirdly this response liberated me.

How many times, as women (mothers / friends / daughters / sisters), do we need that reason to accept a situation? That theory of another person’s motivation?  Why did she say that shitty comment?  Wear that colour?  Not appreciate my work?  Give me that look?  Why.  Why.  WHY????  But maybe we need to hold back the analysis.  Maybe there is no reason to uncover.  Maybe she just did, like he just did, like they just did?  No reason.  No motivation.  They just did it and that’s that.  It’s time to let go of the rationale. Accept it, flick it off, move on.


Mirrors of my Madness

When I look in the mirror I am always, oh so slightly, disappointed.  Darling, don’t misunderstand… I am most certainly not a woman obsessed with looks and have become generally ok with the fact that I am a slightly grubbier version of my pre-child self.  No.  Instead, the issue lies with my dreams of being high maintenance.PicMonkey Collage

You see, dear reader, I have aspirations of regular leg, bikini and crack waxing.  Dreams of shiny, smooth, but beautifully bouncy (aka Cheryl Versini-what’s-her-face? Cole) hair.  Hope of no ladders in my tights, no toothpaste stain on my black top, no VPL during my latest squeeze into a bodycon dress.  However, the reality of each visit to the mirror presents a cold slap in the face.  Hair is fluffier than expected.  T-zone greasier.  Lines deeper.  Clothes grayer.  My day-to-day solution?  I simply stopped looking in the mirror.

I find that this avoidance tactic allows me to strut around with a deluded self-confidence and has worked well for the past six years. Inside my head I’m a Hollywood starlet yet in reality I’m an Eastenders extra.  And darling… I’m almost there accepting the fact.  However, I now have a new problem. A different reflection to contend with. One I can’t escape or avoid. A mirror that delves deeper than my running mascara. A reflection of my deepest soul, of my innermost flaws and imperfections… It’s my bloody kids.

It starts when they’re first born…  “Who does he look like?”  “Who does he resemble?”  His nose, his eyes, his hair colour.  And, that’s fine.  It’s a kind of cute discussion at this point and it’s clearly a happy distraction from how little sleep you’re getting and how sore your breastfeeding boobs are.

Then… as they get a little older, their facial expressions and body movements, quite naturally, take on a freaky similarity to those people they share genes with… “He just smiled like Granny” (when breaking wind).  “He runs like his uncle” (while naked?!)  These observations are also fine.  OK, it’s kind of freaky to watch and certainly makes you realise you were wrong about the whole nurture rather than nature belief you held for the last 20 years or so.  But… it’s ok.  You can handle it.  And… OK, it’s weird that they dance / frown / wee in the same way as those family folk.  But… it’s natural right?  I mean after all, they do share the same DNA.  So, no.  No problem with that.  Absolutely no problem until… they start to form a… wait for it… PERSONALITY!!!  Yep, it’s when their little characters emerge that there’s a different type of reflection for parents to deal with.

You see, it’s while parenting through my child’s most difficult moments, I start to realise that it’s the mirror to my own personality that can sting the most.  Forget the greasy t-zone or deepening crows feet, when you have the flaws of your character highlighted through another person’s example, it’s a chilling experience.  And… once you start to notice the similarities, it’s bloody difficult to stop.

His temper is explosive and hard to predict (no, not me…) and his flip to normality can be just as rapid (surely, not me…).  He can slice your heart with the cruellest of words before realising their impact (mmm, well sometimes…) then self-loathe with regret for weeks, long after you’ve forgiven (oh, ok…).  He’s fickle with folk (yeah probably…) but when he loves you, he loves you almost to the brink of embarrassment or obsession (OK, I admit it…).

After years of deluding myself by refusing to spend more than 10 seconds looking in the mirror, I gave birth to two little reflections who now follow me around, sleeping next to me, eating with me, sitting on the toilet when I’m in the bloody bath.  There was, there is, no escape.  Just a confrontation of “am I really like that?” and yes.  Yes that’s me.

I’m fickle.  I lose my rag easily.  I can say things I don’t really mean.  I can be embarrassment personified.  I know that and I’m not proud.  There have even been moments when I have hated myself for all those aspects of my personality.  Yet… when I became a mother and I saw the same characteristics in my children, it didn’t make me hate them.  Of course not.  My kids are bloody great.  Which, got me thinking… if I can forgive and love those aspects of my kids’ personalities… can I forgive (and love?) them in myself too?

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Dunker? Dunkee?

It’s Halloween…. And have I got a spooky tale for you, you allotment of pretty pumpkins. You coven of hot hags. It’s a tale of witches. An angry mob. Premonitions. Drownings. Are you sitting comfortably? Doors and windows locked?  If so, let us begin….

A few years ago, I was sat in a nurse training course (Yep, I used to be a nurse.  Sorry, did I not tell you that?  A nurse.  Yep, they let me train and work as a nurse for ten long years.  And yes, I left by my own free will.  Nope, I was not kicked out.  Yep, they actually let people like me look after people like you.  No Halloween trick. Scary eh?).  It was the kind of training that nurses have to do regularly to show that their brains haven’t rotten away like an over ripe banana being devoured by hybrid maggot-flies.  It wasn’t that interesting.

It was, however, also unfortunate that the course be made even more tedious by a twat of a tutor who was seemingly so insecure that she had to question and humiliate every sensible answer given by her brightest students.  She was possibly the only university lecturer that I ever met who seemed irritated by the intelligence of others.  She was a twat.  No doubt about it people.  A twat.  However, it was during this lecture, when I had my first vision.

“Errrr… What now?” I hear you, my wondrous werewolves say.  Sounds crazy I know but I swear it was a vision.  You see, just as the lecturer responded to her latest bright-spark of a student (a wonderfully wise midwife) I seemed to doze off slightly and a historical scene, clear as day, popped into my head.  I witnessed this lecturer, this female misogynist, leading a large angry mob and dunking this fabulously bright young woman into a lake… Accused of being a witch.

Ducking stoolApart from being thankful for the distraction, I didn’t think much of the flash of a vision until, on the last day of the course and in an impulsive fit of hysterics, I told the midwife.  Instead of the expected giggle, she responded by being pale as garden-centre-Christmas-display snow and telling me that she believed she was in fact drowned in a previous life.  How she believes in pagan teachings.  How she would consider herself a white witch of Mother Earth. Well fuck me – that shut me up.  Completely silent I was – for at least 60 seconds.

That little incident happened over six years ago and yet it remains in my head, the memory settled in my brain and sat like a squatter, refusing to be replaced with other things I should remember like my best mate’s birthday or my child’s non-school uniform day.  In fact, it wasn’t until recently that I understood why this vision had stayed with me.  I had a revelation.  You see, here was a vision of a group of brutal folk.  Of the extinguishing of this liberal, kind, wise woman.  Events that were clearly traumatic.  However this was coupled with an aspect of uncertainty.  I was nowhere to be seen.  And that got me questioning myself… If I wasn’t there.  How do I know?  I mean, what would I be?  Would I be the dunker?  Or the dunkee?

Would I be the dunker?  The kind of woman who says things like “You see… other women just feel threatened by me” to your bare, thirty-something, fine-lined face and seeping mascara eyes (the tube said it was f@cking waterproof).  The kind of woman who spends days preparing a dinner party, insisting it ‘was nothing’ as she is presented with your newest failure of a raspberry pavlova.  The kind of woman who says “Motherhood just never phased me, I just managed to get on with it” as you tell her you’ve been prescribed your second course of antidepressants for postnatal depression.  Am I this kind of woman?  The kind of woman that can only be elevated by another woman’s dunking?????  That doesn’t sound quite right…

Would I be part of the crowd?  Would I follow like a sheep, not wanting to cause a stir or stick up for others?  The kind of woman who believes the victim ‘deserved it’ because of her short skirt.  The kind of woman who, despite intelligence, insists before her argument in a debate that she’s “not a feminist” (WTF?  Not a feminist?  How can you not be a feminist?) in some attempt to obtain kudos and respect.  The kind of woman that turns up the sound of her TV as she hears her female neighbour’s argument turn sour.  Am I this kind of woman?  The kind of woman that doesn’t concern herself with the rights of others?????  That doesn’t sound quite right either…

But, yet the real scary thing this Halloween is… I recognise that I do actually have this potential.  I think we all do.  Yep, sometimes we get insecure and say hurtful things.  Or perhaps, in our darkest moments, we may feel slightly relieved that our pal didn’t get the job of her dreams.  I mean, how would that make us feel?

Or, maybe sometimes life is just too bloody hectic and we feel so frazzled we avoid the troubled friend we spied in the supermarket.  Or perhaps we keep our head down as our colleagues bitch about the weirdo at work who we secretly like despite everyone else having an irrational fear / hatred of them.

I know I do have this potential.  The potential to be the dunker.  To be part of the angry mob.  We all have this potential.  How bloody depressing.

So therefore ladies, my group of gorgeous ghouls, I have a challenge for you this Halloween.  After trick or treating, after hanging up your pointed hats and parking your brooms, make yourself a promise.  Turn your cloaked back on your dunker potential.  Refuse to be part of the angry mob.  This Halloween, be the dunkee.  Give a bit back to Mother Earth.  Be liberal.  Be wise.  Don’t waste your time making judgements.  Celebrate in someone else’s achievements.  Don’t be a bitch.  It’s better to be a witch 😉

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Burlesque me away…

Put down that Agatha Christie… There is real life scandal afoot.  Hertford, my sleepy little market town, has been brought into disrepute.  The townsfolk are in uproar.  Local churches are fearing the beginnings of Armageddon.  Council officials are reinstating the ducking stool.  We need to protect the vulnerable women within this, our precious community – BURLESQUE HAS COME TO TOWN!!

As a family, we migrated to Hertford three years ago.  We yearned for the quiet life – the kind of place that only concerned itself with first-world problems.  Our journey followed the northbound A10 and allowed us to find that place in Hertford.

Hertford.  A pretty town where split ends are not tolerated thanks to the vast amount of hair salons.  A serene town that only comes to life when the local celebrity swan gives birth to some, quite frankly, ugly cygnets.  A town where middle-class mothers crumble at the prospect of their child going to a (wait for it…) “good” school with “outstanding” features rather than an “outstanding” school with “good”.  Hertford is an island.  Separated from the real world.  It’s our Hertford bubble.  But, God damn it, this fragile bubble was about to be popped by some corseted she-devil in fishnets.

I first felt this evil presence when I stepped inside the local theatre.  Hertford Theatre, our precious, community hub, torn apart by An Evening of Burlesque.  Some West End floozies set to dirty the usually pristine stage with this “exotic” cabaret.  Pure.  Fucking.  Filth.

Then… the bloody Burlesque Jems caused havoc offering lessons, a FREE taster session no less.  Tempting (how dare they?) regular-sized (scandalous) women to shimmy their breasts and butts at no financial cost.  Local churches were in uproar because they (the poor things) had mistakenly hired rooms out to these saucy little minxes.  It was bedlam.  Sweet Hertford life was over as we knew it.  Pure pandemonium…  There was pillaging.  Looting.  A swarm of mutant locusts destroyed our monthly farmers market.  A zombie, flesh-eating duck replaced our celebrity swan.  Survivors barricaded themselves within the castle walls for protection.  Complete and utter chaos… Hertford was about to be outrun by harlets… and I, dear reader, was definitely NOT going to miss out on all the fun…

Burlesque me away

My husband nearly choked on his spag bol when I told him I would be attending the Burlesque Jems lessons.  He didn’t say anything.  Instead he simply gave me that look.  You know the one.  That look that personifies the complete shock of another.  The truth be told, I didn’t need a glance to reign me in.  I was already full of doubt.  Why the hell was I putting myself through this?  However, good old pride took its place over the mozzarella so I, no matter how scared, embarrassed or anxious, was clearly going to go for it…

When entering the first lesson, my brave friend and I were welcomed by the deliciously busty Kimmy Von Shimmy.  Our anxiety was quickly replaced by hilarity as we started our pelvic thrust warm-ups.  Then, a few hip rolls, butt and breast wiggles later, we were ploughing through our first exotic routine.  The learning of steps was interspersed by the gorgeous, red-lipped Kimmy shouting “Look at my Hertford Harlets moooooove…”  I cannot remember the last time I had spent a good thirty minutes laughing – laughing deep from my belly.  So deep, my uterus and bloody fallopian tubes were in hysterics.  The hilarity then gave way to me concentrating on the dance steps meaning the constant chatter of my usually fucked-up brain was switched off for a blessing of a moment.  I was confident.  I was beautiful.  I was sensual.  I was…. uncoordinated.  But, who cares… It was fabulous darling.

But why Burlesque??  I hear you, my lovely reader, ask.  Why have I made you sit through my Rambling Red rants about feminism and the sisterhood just to shake my hypercritical ass at some class for strippers?  Why not figure skating?  Pottery?  Karate?  I clearly had other options…

You want the truth?  The honest truth??

My dear friend, I could describe how my body has become purely functionary.  How it has given birth, breastfed, wiped arses, comforted newborn babies for hours, carried lazy toddlers, pushed buggies and stomped its way through numerous school runs.  How Burlesque helped me to get back in touch with the elegance of my feminine form.  But, this isn’t really true.

My lovely pal, I could confess how I grew ashamed of my figure.  How the constant changes of pregnancy, birth, motherhood and the simple act of ageing has affected my confidence in my body.  How I panic as younger women begin to flourish against my fading youth.  How Burlesque empowered me and helped me to accept myself, just as I am.  However, this just ain’t true either.

The truth is… I have no rational answer.  The only tale I can tell is that Burlesque makes me happy.  Ferociously happy.  I mean, when else is it deemed OK for me to pile on the eye liner and wear inappropriately slutty clothes?  When else in a group situation, can I hopelessly attempt to be provocative and not be judged?  When, since the girlie sleepovers of my teenage years, do I get chance to giggle hysterically with a group of women?  I definitely can’t remember the last time I asked a lady “Can I feel your knickers?” before asking her name.  I realise it probably all sounds bizarre in a ‘real world’ kind of context but the truth is… I love it.  I love Burlesque because it makes me happy.

But… how do I justify it with my feminist principles?  Is Burlesque good for feminism?

The answer: How should I know?  There’ll of course be numerous debates.  Undoubtedly, they will touch upon the objectification of the feminine form, the example Burlesque sets to young women, how we all have a responsibility over the example we set to others, blah, blah, blah.  Well, maybe I’m sick to death of responsibility.  The responsibility over my kids, my marriage, my house, my work…  Why the hell should I have responsibility over the 3 1/2 billion women across the world too?  For this protected hour each week, during my Burlesque class, the only thing I take responsibility for is my own happiness.

So, is Burlesque good for feminism?  Who bloody knows.  Is Burlesque good for me?  Hell YEAH! 

I’m a better parent when I…

OK… Don’t judge me.  Please don’t judge me.  You see, I’m going to admit something which may force you to mount your high horse.  I don’t blame you.  In fact, you may not be able to help it.  Those little legs of yours may just clamber up on to your saddle of self righteousness.  Before you know it, you’ll be galloping off into the distance, to a bright, beautiful, virtuous sunset, while turning your back on me.  Me.  Your embarrassment.  Your oh so slightly dingy, redheaded, blogging friend.  Me, who along with your other embarrassments in life, you would rather forget – those long, hazy university nights; the man in your past that you should NEVER have spent the night with; the purchase of 50 Shades of Grey.  You will try your very best to forget me too…

And of course, is it fair for me to ask that you don’t judge?  Is it fair for me to censor your judgement?  For me to ask that you control your thoughts before knowing the reason why??  Before I smack you square in the face with the punchline?  How can you (you poor reader) guarantee no judgement before hearing my confession?  It’s completely unfair.  But… I guess the truth is… I feel vulnerable.  I feel unsafe and I need to feel that safety, that emotional safety, before I admit something… You see… It’s a terrible truth… It’s a “see you in hell” kind of truth… I hate to admit it but… I’m a better parent when I – wait for it – d r i n k.

PicMonkey CollageYou have probably guessed that I don’t mean “drink” in the mainstream sense of the word.  It’s not in a tan-tights-coloured cup of Yorkshire tea kind of a way.  I, of course, mean the hard stuff.  The stuff that changes your otherwise flawless perception and steadfast emotions – even during a non PMT week.  While I’m not suggesting that I’m able to parent while wasted, I am completely convinced that a few drops of alcohol make me a better mother.

Now, just imagine… I’ve finished my day of work, it’s 4pm and I have just returned home after collecting my two boys from school.  It’s a happy reunion for the three of us.  Cuddles and kisses are shared.  Stories about the day are told.  I happily locate my house key and open the front door.  This door swings open.  The boys charge inside.  I follow, excited and relieved to return to my warm, welcoming home.  However, my smile slowly fades as I am gradually confronted with the devastation that has been left to smolder over the last 8 hours of work and school…

Is it possible that in the haze of a panicked morning routine, I lit a cereal bonfire, leaving the embers of milk and cheerios to burn and embed on our kids plastic table?  While in my zombie state of not asleep, not awake, did I allow the county council to relocate the local recycling centre to our lounge?  What kind of a charity shop is forming in our spare bedroom with clothes – indistinguishably dirty or clean – wrinkled and scattered everywhere.  My heart sinks as I survey the chaos.  My blood boils as the requests from my children begin to pour in: “Mum?  Can I have a drink?”  “Mum?  Am I allowed a lolly?” With every second that delays my response, their voices get louder, higher, increasingly whiny “Mum?  He’s got my game.”  “Mum?  He’s blocking the TV.”  School reading books need to be read.  Bills need to be paid.  Dinners need to be prepared.  A headache begins to form at the base of my head – the pain conscientiously radiates round to my temples.  Pressure forming, pounding within my skull.  Why God why don’t they offer trephination on the NHS???

And…. pop!  The bottle has been uncorked.

And… glug, glug, glug.  The prosecco has been poured.

I swig back a mouthful of cold bubbly stuff and feel the transformation.  Shoulders start to relax.  The headache fades.  I lie on our hard laminate floor, finishing a digger jigsaw with my boys with no cares about the wet laundry festering in the washing machine or the important phone calls I needed to make.  I am happy.  Relaxed.  The boys are happy and relaxed.  Their high maintenance mummy has been replaced with a woman who is able give them time without being swayed by other demands.  I just don’t understand it.  Why do I need wine o’clock to help me chill out?

Initially, I berate myself for needing this hidden pleasure.  I despise my weakness.  But then I get thinking…. it’s the numbing sensation I enjoy.  The ability to slice away the extra, unwanted layers in life – the things that aren’t that important.  The ability to enjoy that moment rather than worry about the past or future.  True, it would of course be more healthy to practice meditative yoga.  However, the reality is that a Downward Dog ain’t that effective when your kids use the asana as a bridge for their diesel trains.  I’m not using a little sip of wine to escape from my family life, I’m using that tiny tincture to escape the other shit.  So quite frankly my dear reader, you can judge all you want.  Go enjoy your numerous, pointless demands.  I’m off to watch Topsy and Tim snuggled up on the sofa with my two boys and a dash of the hard stuff.

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Play-date Hell

I know you, my delicious reader…  You read this blog title and thought “have to read that” because you’ve been there too.  Us mummies, we’ve all been there… the play-date from hell where Satan manifests in human, 5 year old form, wearing a Ben 10 t-shirt, cut-off jeans and faded red Crocs.  As soon as you welcome this Satan child over your home’s threshold you know, like a vampire, there’s no going back.  You’re in for a whole day of tears, tantrums and trouble.  You should have pushed this little devil away.  You should have sprinkled holy water over his TOWIE haircut and thrust a crucifix in his face.  Yet in true polite, mummy fashion, you open the door, you smile, you welcome, you settle yourself down for a bumpy ride knowing full well it’s all your own bloody fault for allowing this day to take place.

First let me state – I’m not entirely comfortable with the phrase “play-date”.  It sounds too contemporary, too fashionably weird for me to use, reminding me of some terrifying double date.  Although perhaps that’s quite apt.  Those double dates where the women are friends but their partners have less in common than an Xbox 360 and a 50p value sponge from Tesco.  Those double dates where the men are friends but their female partners use the three hours to weigh up how they compete on the scale of looks, success and glamour.  Those double dates where one couple is so obviously at war that the other has to just sit back and endure the show.  In fact it is a blessed rarity when the four attendees of a double date enjoy a harmonious evening.  Just like a play-date there are too many possible combinations of relationship dynamics.  Can it be possible that four people ALL happily get on??  Our most recent play-date tested this question.

playdate hellYesterday, the hottest day of the year, we were visited by an ex-colleague and her darling little boy.  By the time he had asserted that our lounge is indeed “VERY small” and pointed in the faces of my own children while shouting “Who are you?”, it was too late.  They had arrived and I was in for 8 hours of Hell.  The day progressed as follows:

Satan takes the first 30 minutes of his visit to dedicate himself to the devastation of my kids’ room.  Satan pours a full cup of apple juice over my 3 year old’s head (in our lounge).  Rambling Red mummy calmly requests that Satan does not repeat this action.  Satan asks for another drink.  Satan pours a second cup of apple juice over my 3 year old’s head.  Satan demands cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Satan announces his hatred for his lunch.  Satan’s mum screams at Satan to eat all his lunch.  Satan’s mum ignores Satan’s pinching of my 3 year old’s forearm.  Satan tells my 5 year old that his bike stabilisers are for babies.  Satan crashes the 2 day old said bike into a brick wall.  Satan shouts “Oi!  Did you hear me??” after me ignoring his rude request to “Go get (his) drink”.

Do you want me to continue?  I could.  But I think you get the idea…

In true Hollywood style The Omen was an exaggeration – Damien doesn’t just frequent the world of U.S. politics.  He’s all around us in normal peoples lives – in reception classes, in swimming lessons, playgrounds, soft play areas…  There’s no true escape.  The Devil is everywhere!!!  However, while this prospect scares me (and rightly so) what scares me most is the person I become while surrounded by these children.  You see what I find most difficult about these play-dates is that they truly test the qualities that I pride myself on most as a parent: my laid back approach, my gentle guidance, my patience, my use of humour to teach my kids right from wrong.  Instead these kids bring out the worst in me.  My own hidden Devil: moods, irritation, anger, impatience.  The parts of me that my 35 years has taught me to suppress.  But then it gets me thinking… I consider myself a relatively OK individual despite these, my own devilish qualities and surely that’s part of being human – the battle between doing what you feel to be acceptable and not so acceptable.  Of course we all have our conflicting aspects.  But then that means I also have to accept that these little Satan kids too have another aspect to their being.  A ray of light to oppose the hellish shadow they display.  If that’s the case, I guess it’s time for me to take a deep breath of tenacity and find their hidden angel.  It has to be there somewhere.  Doesn’t it?

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Long Distance Clara: My Feminist Inspiration

It’s my birthday today… I am now 35 years of age.  That’s right…  This redheaded blogger was born in the 1970s.  However, it was the 80s when I finally crept (with some caution) outside the insular yet imaginative little world I inhabited with Duncan (my pretend friend).  By this point the decade in question was in full swing.  I had my first crush (Jacko from Brush Strokes).  Pass the Dutchie and Total Eclipse of the Heart LPs were played on loop.  I barely survived the emotional trauma that was the death and resurrection of E.T. while my family basked in the technological advancement of Spectrum Computers and Yamaha Synthesizers…

For fucks sake… Don’t we just love the cultural references to childhood???  Possibly because it makes us feel cool again as we secretly freak out about our increasing age.  Hey… I’m so cool… I remember My Little Pony’s (the FIRST generation).  Vintage!  pigeonHey… I’m so cool… I had a full size Care Bear (Type?  Friendship – Of course).  VINTAGE!  BUT… It’s the reminiscence of TV that really helps us 80s kids bond… Mr Benn, Button Moon, Dungeons and Dragons, Dogtanian, Willy Fogg, Bananaman.  You get the idea…  Beer.  Brainstorm.  Bond.  But I have a problem.  You see, my favourite 80s kids TV programme is a little more obscure so tentatively, risking the blank faces of companions, I declare: “My favourite was (and of course still is) Pigeon Street!”

This programme was colourful.  The stories were fun.  It was liberal, forward thinking.  It had pigeons!  What’s not to love?  IT HAD PIGEONS!!  BUT even more inspiring (dare I say ‘influential’) was the character Clara, the Long Distance Lorry Driver… my first feminist role model.

Long Distance Clara stole my heart.  She enthused my mind.  Her big blonde curls, her curvy, womanly figure, her brightly painted lips – she was a hottie – AND she drove a Juggernaut.  A Juggernaut!  Yes… it had red, heart-patterned curtains but it was undoubtedly a Juggernaut.  She’d control, Long-Distance-Clarasteer, dominate this, the hugest of vehicles to the Docks before returning to Hugo, her chef husband who had lovingly prepared her an American-sized portion of Sausage and Mash.  She was an inspiration.  However, it’s only as a grown woman that I can look back and admire her true power.

Imagine… you’re a five year old girl, sat cross-legged on the reading carpet in your school’s reception classroom.  The teacher asks “What would you like to be when you’re older?”  Nurse?  Hairdresser?  Lawyer?  Artist?  NO.  “I want to drive a Juggernaut”.  Imagine the sniggers from classmates.  Imagine the patronising responses from the adults in your life – a soft giggle, a gentle tap (of sympathy) on your head, smug whispers to their friends “Bless her… she wants to drive a Juggernaut”.  Imagine having the balls to look them straight in the face, smile and quietly think “Fuck you.  I’m going to do it.”

Imagine… You’re in your early twenties.  You finally have the job of your dreams – your first real job.  You drive a Juggernaut and this Jugernaut-driving-world is a world dominated (and I mean DOM-IN-ATED) by men.  Imagine… as a young woman you have to navigate your way around (not just the UK motorway system but also) the politics of this working world: the stares from colleagues, the derogatory comments, the sports conversations, the suspicion that you may not be up to scratch.  Imagine having to prove your ability over and above your male colleagues in order to snatch their acceptance only to be reminded of your difference with the arrival of each innuendo or inappropriate remark.  Because remember, in this world you ARE ‘the other’.  You have a vagina for God’s sake – you will ALWAYS be different.

Imagine… You get up each morning, shower, blow-dry beautiful curls into your blonde hair, apply make-up liberally.  You are movie-star beautiful.  Imagine following this morning routine knowing that it will only serve to further separate you from your colleagues.  You are no short-haired, plain-faced, zero-breasted, androgyne.  Imagine spending your day in the cabin of your Juggernaut with only a rear-view mirror to truly appreciate your effort.  Imagine being feminine for your own enjoyment.

Imagine… returning from a tiring day at work to your loving husband.  After hours of packaged sandwiches and Yorkie bars, imagine tucking into a carefully prepared meal, savoring each nurturing mouthful.  While numerous women around the UK clear away dishes of the meals they themselves cooked, imagine snuggling with your man in front of the latest episode of  Knight Rider.

It was this Clara that was an inspiration to me.  My first feminist inspiration.  Clara, my dear… you taught me so much.  You showed that I could be both different yet equal to men.  You taught me that I could be nurtured within relationships yet still consider myself strong.  I can play ‘dress up’ for my own feel good factor without believing that men around the world had somehow created my image to objectify women.  You taught me to eat and enjoy.

So… It’s my birthday… I have been cared for and nurtured throughout the day, I have just managed to rise from the hottest bath in history to put on a slutty dress and full make up.  I’m off to eat garlic bread topped with mountains of cheese.  I will possibly drink copious amounts of wine.  Or enjoy a few pints of beer.  I may have a debate with my husband.  If he’s lucky, I may give him a kiss.  All these options.  All these contradictions… AND I’m still a feminist.  Thank you Clara.  I’m a feminist.

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Rambling Red wants to hear about your inspirations!!!  Please comment below…