The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the category “Feminism & Body Image – let them eat cake… or fat is a political issue”

Madame Señorita: The Expector

Audience reviews of Madame Senorita: The Expector remind me a bit of the rules of Fight Club. Nobody is prepared to fully disclose what actually goes on. The reviews are effusive though and it has ‘true spirit of the Fringe experience’ written all over it – so good enough for me!

I can understand the reticence to give a complete account because it would rob the performance (I won’t call it a show or an act) of the element of surprise and that is a major element. However without giving too much away – let me share some memorable images. I say images because it is for the most part a visual event with a handful of words uttered.

It starts with Madame Senorita entering the room as if in a funeral procession. Stately, ghostly, veiled – it’s effectively creepy. Once on stage and unveiled we see a face both mask-like and achingly expressive as she searches the audience – for what? We’ll see. The next stage finds Madame becoming an ungainly figure balancing on one leg and stretching out her limbs as if to make herself as big as she can. She greets everything with child-like wonder and a repeated ‘wow!’ She’s like a new-born animal or perhaps the creature from Frankenstein. She searches the audience again for her true love and there’s a marvelous interlude using classic farce techniques. There is more effective imagery to follow – getting a (male) audience member to place a pair of rubber gloves on her hands (handcuffs?) before she obsessively and suggestively scrubs away at a glass. Her face is a picture of tortured disappointment and disillusionment.

It’s about love, loss, beginnings, endings, expectations, gender roles and probably a lot of other things as well. It’s art in the way you can interpret it how you like. It’s entertainment in the way it’s a stunning performance.

Is it theatre, comedy, cabaret? It’s all of those. It’s also of the calibre of an official Edinburgh Festival show but with the added plus of having an intimate setting and therefore the potential for everyone to become part of the action. And if that puts the fear of God into you – please reconsider. We – as an audience – loved it and I’ve rarely heard such natural hearty laughter (and I’ve been to quite a few comedy shows!) from an audience.

Madame – without coming out of character too much – thanked us at the end and suggested that not every night works. So please go and please engage, you’ll be glad you did.

(Review for 18 Aug)

Madame Señorita: The Expector



The Lone Sisterhood

M Oliphant

If you’re in Edinburgh and want to celebrate International Women’s Day in a typically Edinburgh kind of way – that is low key, understated, unfussy, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it – get yourself along to the Portrait Gallery on Queen Street. There’s a small but beautifully formed tribute to 19th Century Scottish women called Out of the Shadow. Ironically it’s set out in a small passage way linking two of the main halls, on the far side of the building away from the main staircase.

Of course there are numerous famous and not-so-famous wimmin celebrated elsewhere in the staggeringly beautiful building (go see, if you’ve never been) but this collection is marvelously inspiring and uplifting in a completely unflashy way. Which is apt because these women just got on with it. They didn’t need anyone saying ‘yes, you can’ and ignored anyone saying ‘no, you can’t’. Become a novelist, artist, mathematician, poet, political reformer? Why not?

You know the quote about feminism being ‘the radical notion that women are people’? I prefer the notion that people (not just women) are individuals. Of course movements, groups, organisations are important when you’re battling arcane systems and attitudes. But once you’ve won that battle what better reward than becoming your own person? It’s a luxury but it’s a luxurious gift from the lone sisters who went before us.

I’ll leave the final quote to Margaret Oliphant (featured in the exhibition)

Oh, never mind the fashion. When one has a style of one’s own, it is always twenty times better.


No Sex Please… oh, go on then!


A grand night out!

You have to wonder what’s attracting people in their droves to the smut-fest that is 50 Shades of Grey. That relentless trundling juggernaut of hype, perhaps? Most probably but in my eavesdropping experience it’s a particular shade of person who’s getting hot under her M&S – rather than S&M – collar. Yes, it’s that woman of a certain age who would never have dreamed of dipping a court-shoed toe in erotica before everyone from the Women’s Institute to Mills & Boon started getting in on the act.

The laugh is just about everyone who has donated their money to the 50 Shades trust fund usually finds it necessary to use the following phrases when ‘fessing up: ‘not very good’, tragic dialogue’, ‘cardboard characters’, ‘rubbish’ along with ‘well, everyone else was reading it’. No doubt making those who have written erotica for years want to string up E L James and her ad team with a rusty old set of nipple clamps.

I, myself, am not bitter as that is not my area of writing. I did think about trying my hand some time ago but I tend to think that sex in novels should be treated like a very rich chocolate dessert – a small helping is very nice now and again… but a whole meal?  Another reason is thinking back to the grief I experienced when I put my first novel ‘out there’. I was working in an office at the time and a fair number of co-workers bought a copy and were largely supportive until they reached ‘A SEX SCENE’. I could tell when that happened as eye contact stopped and I was generally treated like I had left something nasty on their doorsteps. Strange because they are the type of people who I’m very sure will be organising a shrieky gang-date with Mr Grey this very night.

That’s the thing with 50 Shades  – it’s naughty, but nice. It’s kinky, but tame enough to be mentioned on Breakfast Telly. It’s Cinderella with handcuffs, Jane Eyre with gaffer tape It’s not going to change the world or frighten the horses. It’s perfect girls-night-out fodder for women who are no longer girls. The younger generation – as depicted on screen – will be too busy sorting out their own real-life revenge-porn cases and wondering what the hysteria is all about.

A Whole Different Balls Game

ScudamoreFootball can be great –  but it does have such a lot of ridiculous macho posturing sexist baggage with it. So I do have to be choosy as to what matches I can take time out of watching my collection of past Eurovisions, doing 5K runs and reading Emile Zola for. I’m afraid the FA Cup final yesterday didn’t make my must-see list but I did get the odd glimpse and noticed they were playing with a pink football! Was this a cheeky little symbol of the love that dare not speak its name sneaking into the ‘beautiful’ game?

It would be time too, eh? With stats showing that 3 – 6 per cent of the male population are homosexual it does seem a bit far-fetched that the footballing profession is so under represented especially when the appearance and behaviour of individuals within that profession make John Inman look like Grizzly Adams!

The conclusion is of course football must have the national average quota of gay people – probably more. But if those Premier League dinosaurs can’t accept the most basic of women’s rights I’m thinking the advanced LGBT class is going to be a bit beyond them.

I believe it was Bill Shankly who said that football wasn’t a matter of life and death – it was more important than that. How true – it’s a staggeringly important and influential (well, everywhere apart from the U S) way of life that takes kids out of poverty and makes them into gods. It defines nations and shapes cultural identity. It’s a great working class tradition that can be enjoyed by all the family but it can reflect the underbelly of society – violence, racism, sexism, homophobia. The governing bodies have done much in dealing with the violence and the racism so why not make a stand with the sexism and the homophobia? Time for a clean sweep and I can’t think of a better start than a certain head of the Premier League…




Join Us – Join the Euro Party!

Austria-Conchita-Wurst-1Here it is again – that gorgeous big glittering day-glo all-singing all-dancing Euro party that’s camper than Julian Clary wearing pink knickers serving up afternoon tea in a caravan parked on Brighton beach! We love it!

In past years you had to wait – like a kid at Christmas – for the jaunty opening bars of Te Deum to creak out from your telly-set as the clock struck eight – it was then – and only then – that you were able to see and hear all the weird and wonderful and sometimes brilliant pop offerings from that exotic land beyond The Channel called ‘The Continent’. How things have changed – now anyone can join the week-long run-up party via your chosen form of soash meedja on your chosen device. And forget about your drunken house parties and deliberating in Sainsburys about what kind of snack could represent Lithuania – that went out the window years ago. Instead get texting, tweeting, emailing your Euro pals and if you don’t have any – make some!

Quick observations so far:

The undoubted star of the show is Conchita Wurst for Austria. Calm down, calm down! Conchita isn’t a bearded lady he/she is a drag queen pure and simple. She does have a lot of class with a good strong voice and the song is a grower… weirdly it strikes me as something that could have come from Jesus Christ Superstar. And Conchita definitely has that look – even down to the simple robe-like gown (just take away the make-up and the jewellery) – and of course there’s the whole theme of resurrection – Rise like a Phoenix. Conchita as a messiah for gay rights? Marvelous!

The real controversy is going to be political (reale) of course: Russia v Ukraine. Now I like a bit of pol con at major international events and it’s good that people can get their point across (remember ‘we don’t want (to) Put(it)in’?)  but I have to admit I did feel sorry for the two young Russian lassies as the announcement of their place in Saturday’s final was greeted with boos. On the other hand Ukraine – typical to form – has a good strong female who this year has a man going through his paces on a giant hamster wheel. Go girl! Both songs aren’t bad at all with the Russian one having a big-Bond-theme edge but the chance of them picking up many (or any?) points is as likely as Rolf Harris getting his community service with Barnardo’s.

France are expectedly wacky, in an expectedly hip-hoppy kind of way; Poland are trying to be ironic (feminist, I think) with busty women doing household chores in a suggestive manner: girls – I can see what you’re getting at but it really doesn’t work; Holland have gone all country and it’s been mooted as a potential winner – but it’s not Eurovision in my book; Hungary has an interesting anti domestic violence theme sung by a fine young man on loan from the US – it has an electrifying L A Confidential feel to it; Greece has bags of energy with the other big prop (see hamster wheel as above) of the evening in the form of a trampoline, the song’s all right as well – but they surely don’t want to win, do they?

Finally – what about our own wee Molly? It’s fine – she’s a strong woman – she’s written the theme toon – sung the theme toon… It doesn’t sound like a British entry so that might work in a our favour. Max points for expressing the sentiment we should all keep after the streamers, Sambuca and cheesy footballs remains have been tidied away  – ‘We are children of the universe‘ or Europe at least! Join us!

Update:  Congratulations and jubilation to the magnificent Conchita who triumphed last night –  wonderful that she’s continuing to keep the whole issue of gay rights very definitely on the front burner. And to all those cynics who dismiss Eurovision as a piece of meaningless fluff – think again. There was a lengthy discussion on Russian TV last night regarding the major issues touched upon as above, with the writer of the Russian entry calling for more tolerance across the board. You don’t get that with The X-Factor!




Let’s Talk About Sex… age and image (the 5 stages)

DollSex – there’s no getting away from it. It’s  everywhere. It’s an all-pervading life force that can be used for both good and evil. It’s a maker of dreams and a wrecker of dreams. And let’s face it we’re all here because our parents ‘did it’. Most of us have difficulty with that concept – maybe that’s why we’re squeamish and fascinated in turns by the whole subject.

Think you can remain immune by taking a sabbatical or divorcing it from your life altogether? That’s not going to work. You’ll still be bound up in the everyday world of  how you’re perceived. You’ll still be judged on how you look. People will still make a decision on whether they find you attractive or not. Subliminally this comes down to that other person considering you as a viable breeding option and for passing on good genes. It’s primal and it affects you whether you’re male or female, gay or straight. And the galling thing is it affects every aspect of your life – from getting good service in a shop or achieving a top mark in your annual work report. It isn’t usually about desire – it’s a value judgement – pure and simple. It’s a measure of your worth.

Okay – so far, so depressing but a report came out this week with some heartening news. The research showed that more older people are having sex  (I presume with each other… ) and women are becoming more experimental (I believe with each other… ). So sex doesn’t HAVE to be the preserve of young airbrushed porn stars in the boy/girl combination – however much the media suggests it is.

Not so heartening was a report released by The Children’s Commissioner for England also this week. The main – and deeply shocking – finding was that young children are committing sexual abuse on other children. Makes you think that sex should be reserved for the older generation – I guess that would seriously inhibit the population level so that would have to have a bit more thought given to it… But with the whole sex thing being such a powerful tool (stop laughing at the back) it really shouldn’t be in the hands of children. How can they – or anyone – avoid it though? From Miley Cyrus probing herself with a giant foam finger to David Beckham‘s thrusting crotch plastered all over H&M – it’s in your face at every turn. And if a lot of adults have difficulty with telling the difference between fantasy and reality or struggling with the whole sexual politics power play – what hope does a younger person have? I’ve been giving the whole subject of how we deal with with sex at various times in our life  some thought and I’ve come up with five stages –

Pre stage – you’re a child and, ignoring all the Freudian stuff, you shouldn’t have anything to do with sex. From the Lolita-ising of young girls in ‘developed’ countries to young people (both sexes) who find themselves born into extreme poverty and are offered up for prostitution – it’s exploitation and just plain wrong!

First stage – as a teenager you are obsessed by sex but shouldn’t really be indulging. If you do it’s a bit like skipping your starter and main and going straight for the whole dessert menu – your palate is going to become jaded before it’s had time to develop. There’s also the danger of feeling sick and putting on weight (know what I mean…?) Surely a little amuse bouche is ample at this point?

Second stage – late teens, young adulthood is when you can’t get enough and it’s perfectly acceptable to go ahead with it. You’ve got the energy and the opportunity – so what are you waiting for? Just remember to respect yourself and others. Don’t get hung up about a ‘perfect’ image. Find your own style and develop a personality. And use a condom, please!

Third stage –  commonly known as the ‘too tired to ****’.  Most people in their thirties and forties will have settled down with families and whilst there may still be a spark of desire still there – the burdens of nappy changing, school runs, money problems, working-all-hours-to-pay-the-bills, coping with extended families takes it toll.  Even if you’re sans enfants or tout seul you’ll still find life weighing down on you and the ‘what if’s’ will start to haunt you, making sex seem like an irrelevance. Actually – assuming you have to time to think about it – a lot of things will start to feel irrelevant. Don’t be too cynical, sad or too tired. Important to remember you’re an individual and not just somebody’s something (or nobody’s nothing) – don’t lose that groove, you may never get it back!

Fourth stage – kids are out of the way, you may feel you have almost figured out what life is all about and who you are. You’re looking around for a new recreational activity. How about that thing you used to do? Sex – remember? Oh yes…  Now, with many people the ‘finding themselves’ part may have included ‘finding themselves a new partner’.  Word of advice – the grass may seem greener on the other side of the street but it probably isn’t. Change your life by all means but don’t confuse good sex – or just any sex with ‘finding’ yourself.

Fifth stage – is there a fifth stage? Of course, why not? Setting aside the mechanical issues of dryness, drooping and lack of overall stamina – this can be perhaps be the most fun you’ve had since stage two! And just think – no danger of unwanted sprogs, more chance of having a suitable and comfortable venue to ‘do it’, and a far lessened chance of catching an STD!

So sex can be fun, beautiful, nasty, political, controlling, powerful, confusing. It’s primal but we have the power to transcend what it was originally intended for and just have some fun – whatever our age –  and however far we are physically as individuals from some ‘ideal’. Sex is so many different things and it’s everywhere. You couldn’t – and shouldn’t – ban it. Quite the opposite – it has to be discussed – that’s why reports like the ones released this week are so important. Because whatever sex is it’s never not complicated

The Poppy is also a Flower

Charlene White 3The reason given by countries like the US and the UK for being a foreign presence in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan is fighting for the right to free speech, freedom of expression – battling those who would deny these rights to their people. Maybe newsreader Charlene White would do well to move to one of these more ‘unenlightened’ countries to carry out her job in that case.

In case you missed the story – Charlene appeared poppy-less when she read the news on ITV London because she didn’t want to be seen publicly giving one charity precedence over another. Brave woman – for in recent years the wearing of a poppy by anyone appearing on British TV has gone from cajoling fashion accessory to an all-prevailing polit-bureau-type dictat that people ignore at their peril! For many years Channel 4’s Jon Snow has invited disapproval by ignoring the ‘ruling’ but it seems that a special kind of vitriol has been reserved for a black woman who – shock, horror! – has shown that she is a thinking, reasoning being and not a media robot. And as you can probably guess the criticism had a nasty racist and sexist tone to it.

It’s strange, but a totally unscientific study – i.e. looking at ‘ordinary’ people in the street, at work and those that slipped through the net on TV – showed not that many wearing poppies. Could it be the ‘ordinary’ person in the street has more reasoning power that they’re given credit for? Maybe they feel that with people from the last world war now slipping away wearing a poppy shows support for conflicts that are confused and complicated at best and illegal and wrong-headed at worst. And maybe – possibly – they feel they can show fitting support for those who died for freedom of expression by refusing to be dictated to or bullied.

So to all those people who thought it their duty to reprimand Ms White using her gender and her race as starting points for their insults – I hope you weren’t hypocritical enough to show support for another young woman of colour attacked for self determination – Malala Yousafzai. I also hope that both women continue to challenge racist, sexist, dictatorial neanderthals whether it be in Afghanistan, Pakistan or the UK!

Whose Oil Is It Anyway? We’re Bigger – And Greener – Than That!

ImageI happened upon the Scottish Greens website this morning and read a pro-independence piece by supporter and former BBC reporter Louise Batchelor. I’m completely stumped as to how anyone claiming to have Green credentials can support Independence. Surely Green issues are worldwide issues and erecting parochial little land borders is like arranging to buy some sticking plaster for that huge, gaping wound that everyone knows has probably gone past the gangrene stage. We all have to try to make things better on a global scale though so is it entirely sensible to close ourselves off from like-minded people that make up a lot of the population in England, Wales and Ireland? Should we align ourselves instead with Iceland, Greece or Cyprus? All of whom are proving that you can be too small to succeed and I’m sure they have no other option right now but to put Green issues on the back burner.
Final thoughts –
Interesting to see the Scottish Greens using a ‘stop Donald Trump‘ image on their website considering that their new BF is Alex Salmond who originally welcomed the shredded-wheat-topped-one with open arms!

Dolce Vita or Ryvita?

ImageI nearly choked on my low fat rice cake when I saw the timeless Audrey Hepburn zipping along the Amalfi coast, Galaxy bar in hand, making us believe that by buying a piece of sugar-and-fat-filled confectionery that we too can be living la dolce vita while at the same time cutting a pleasing figure in those Capri pants. The thing is Miss Hepburn’s elfin beauty was predicated on the effects of WWII starvation rationing and later rumours of anorexia so if you’re thinking you too can get the look and the lifestyle by chomping on a chocolate bar you’re probably just the kind of person the Mad Men are after. Actually, maybe the advertising of chocolate bars is much more in keeping with those heady, aspirational days of the 1950s when chocolate was indeed a luxury and an occasional treat, not like today when it’s a food staple on top of a whole lot of other junk.

But what I find most annoying is the endless encouragement – by advertisers and practically all of the ‘celebrity’ cooks – to eat cake, indulge, eat more cake, indulge some more – is how two-faced it all is. You have Nigella insisting that only full-fat will do whilst turning on a designer heel and dropping a couple of stone in order to break the super-lean and super-lucrative US market. Or the two Hairy Muppets extolling the virtues of lard one week while telling us the next that it’s actually not that good for you. It always seems to be a case of treating us like a lot of clueless plebs – like inviting us to the Great Bake-Off Tea Party to stuff our faces but expecting us to purge and throw up in the portaloo round the back when we’ve done. Maybe that’s why they’ve chosen a departed film star for this campaign as she won’t be able to embarrass the company in question by announcing that she’s going on a diet the next week. These guys – embarrassed? Maybe that is going a bit far!

Go, girl… !!

ImageI was so happy to come across this image the other day – I still have my battered original postcard version which I would always pin up wherever I was working at the time. It took me back… not only to endless, miserable hours of office-based drudgery but back to more innocent school-day times. There’s something marvellous about the unprimped and unpimped faces of the girls in the picture – about as far away as you can get from the teased, tweezed and airbrushed little Lolitas that teeter into class these days. Also check out the tick-list of words that make you go ooh – brains, understanding, laughs… chips!!! Wonderful!

So on International Women’s Day this coming Friday (8 March) ditch the Botox, Vajazzles, eyelash extensions, Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, and the tired old stereotypes: cake/shoes, cake/shoes – present your real self to the world, have fun and celebrate being a real woman and not a Barbie! And if you’re in Edinburgh on Friday I can’t think of a better way of doing that than getting yourself along to the Tea Dance Stomp at the Storytelling Centre – all welcome.

‘It’s really good being a girl’ postcard is available from ‘Pinkstinks‘ (I don’t think they mean the singer…) and they have a lot of other stuff as well.

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