Thursday, October 27, 2005

On Monday I got a call at work from the Evening Standard. They asked me if I had any thoughts about ad exec Neil French’s comments about women being crap employees etc. etc. Basically they were asking me to write an angry letter, and the fact they had to ask indicates that women weren’t filling the ES mailbag with furious screeds, but were instead just rolling their eyes and getting on with their lives. I obliged, and they published my letter, and thankfully I wasn’t fired when I got to work the next day. I criticised the publishing industry for the lack of women at the top, despite editorial assistants being 95% female. By the time editors reach the stage where they’re commissioning, somehow 60% are men. By the time employees reach the board of directors, about 90% are male. Where do all the women go? And where do all the men come from? (My ex-boss, a female editorial director, emailed me to say ‘they mostly come from bookshops’. So I never should’ve left Borders after all…)

Last night I went to the House of Lords. I’ve always wanted to see the place, and it is beautiful inside. Really breathtaking. I was there for a talk organised by Abortion Rights UK, with speakers including several Labour MPs, Diane Holland, a trades unions representative; Jo Salmon, Women’s Officer for the NUS; Guardian columnist Zoe Williams and several others, including a woman from NOW. The venue was packed and we moved to a bigger room, which quickly became full and about half those attending had to stand for the full two hours. The meeting had been called to discuss the attempts being made by right-wing politicians to reduce the time limit on abortion, ostensibly to do away with ‘late term’ abortions (which receive a disproportionately high number of column inches despite accounting for 1-2% of all abortions performed). The speakers were inspiring, impassioned and articulate. Zoe Williams spoke about how the media represent abortion: as a tragedy, never as a reasonable option. No one on TV has abortions, unless it’s in a period drama and they go to a backstreet abortionist. No celebrity comes out and admits to having had one, although as 1 in 3 British women have terminated a pregnancy, we all know people who have. She mentioned in passing her own abortion, and a middle-aged Camilla Parker-Bowles doppelganger with pearl earrings spoke up cheerfully: ‘I’m the co-chair of Abortion Rights UK, and I had three abortions before the law came into force.’ There were women (and a few men) in their 60s and 70s, who had fought for the law to be changed in 1967, and defended it in the 1980s when it was under attack, and who expressed sadness to be here again, fighting again, when we shouldn’t have to.

Worldwide, over 80,000 women a year die as a direct result of backstreet abortions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

YUM: Curried parsnip soup.

I caved in, and I bought a pair of skinny jeans. I have bad association with any trouser that tapers at the ankle, as my first pair of jeans (circa 1987) were from Bhs with hems so narrow my mum had to buy a size larger so I could get my foot through. I looked like a turkey in them, and ever since then I, like so many women, have embraced the boot cut. But, feeling all 30 of my years, and dressed like a businesswoman/undertaker (black boot-cut trousers, long black coat, sensible flat shoes), I decided to try the trend all these hip young things (Kara, Kyle, most London gals) are wearing. So I went to Gap. Not the first place you go to for cutting edge design but, dang, they really do have nice stuff. Plus, they boast that their skinny jeans make you drop a dress size as soon as you put them on. So I took a few pairs into the fitting room, along with a pair of city shorts, which made me look like this dude. But the jeans… they were a revelation. Suddenly I saw what all the fuss was about. I looked younger, thinner, I suddenly had a new wardrobe staple to wear with boots (forgive me Father, but I will tuck them in), flats, dressy tops, casual tops. I cackled to myself and I bought them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I am getting heartily sick of the media circus around men saying dumb things. An ad exec claims that the reason women don’t get to the top in advertising is because they’re crap and don’t deserve to. He then went on to say ‘they all go off and suckle something’. What a prince, eh? Rightly, he lost his job, all the while insisting that he’s not sexist, he’s just telling it like it is. I’m sure the latter is the case: while many men in senior management think women are crap, few of them are stupid enough to say it. What is stupid is that TV and radio latched onto this, with Vanessa Feltz doing a call-in on the subject. That’s right: so, are women really crap? Call in and have your say! Today there’s another furore, this time over Gordon Ramsay’s comment that women can’t cook. Bigmouth Gordon will be sleeping on the couch tonight: his wife, Tana, is Grazia magazine’s cookery writer. Oops. But, once again, women have to drop everything and rush to refute this boring, clich├ęd, brainless accusation. Why do we bother? Seriously, why? Some of us can cook, some of us can’t. So what? Are the ones who do practice the domestic arts so insecure that they have to speak up when some idiot makes a throwaway comment? What does it matter whether we choose to make dinner from scratch using 23 ingredients, or throw a Chicago Town pizza in the microwave? The argument is so old (for years men have been gloatingly pointing out that all the top chefs are male, while their partner is doing all the grocery shopping and cooking a meal after a day at work), and so stupid, that the more I write about it the more riled I’m getting. OK, enough.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Just spent a couple of house riding the 13 bus, as this is the last day the route will be served by Routemaster buses. There were bus enthusiasts galore lining the route (that’s quite a lot of people – it runs from Aldwych to Golders Green), standing on traffic islands and at junctions, taking photos of the bus, and the bus itself was packed with middle-aged men enjoying the ride. The atmosphere on the bus was cheerful but slightly melancholy, and the men (I saw one woman) taking photos looked sad as the bus passed.

I fucking hate eBay. They are being bastards, and have removed two of my listings, claiming I was using keywords to get interest. I listed a trench coat as 'not Burberry' - so obviously I am not trying to pass it off as a genuine item, although yes, I am hoping that people using Burberry as a keyword will see my coat. What really pisses me off is that their policy is totally inconsistent. Look on and search using Marc. The vintage section has over a dozen items with Marc in the title, even though they're not Marc Jacobs. Same with Miu Miu. So why the hell aren't eBay upbraiding those sellers? Am hopping mad. Must go drink.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Links galore!

Not sure if T’s getting my email (either her IT dept or mine seem to have twigged that the content of the dozens of emails flying back and forth each day is not remotely work-related, unless you count bitching about evil bosses). So here’s a list I made for her (and any other non-UK pals who are coming to stay!), listing lots of fun, cheap ways to spend a day.

Train to London Bridge, lunch at Borough Market. Get RV1 bus, which goes past the Tate Modern, London Eye and across Waterloo Bridge to Covent Garden.

A walk in one of the parks: Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, St James’s Park are all nice, as is Regents Park.

Marylebone High Street! Lovely, pretty shopping street near Selfridges, with nice cafes, a great book shop, lots of swanky clothes/homewares shops. Good place for Xmas gifts.

Dennis Severs House, and the Sir John Soane’s Museum. Follow a visit to the latter with a warming shot of vodka at Na Zdrowie, which is around the corner.

V&A Museum, National Portrait Gallery, National Gallery, and Tate Britain. Good way to spend a few hours on a rainy afternoon.

Geffrye Museum in Bethnal Green, followed by Vietnamese food in one of the many amazing, cheap restaurants on Kingsland Road.

Shopping in East Dulwich, a walk in Dulwich Village (tres posh), and a drink in the really good bar on the main road in East Dulwich, which does great sausage sandwiches and has tons of different beers.

Indian food in Whitechapel, near Ilona & Ewa’s old flat. BYOB, and super cheap.

Girly thing: treatment at the Aveda spa, drinks at Claridge’s, afternoon tea at Liberty.

Fish and chips. Olley’s in Norwood is one of the best in London, or Rock & Sole Plaice in Cov Garden, or Sea Cow in East Dulwich.

Walk the Thames Path! Not the whole thing, but a few miles. Visit Hays Galleria near Tower Bridge.

Greenwich market and the Royal Observatory, lunch in a nice pub.

Cake and coffee at Paul, and a browse in the Office Shoes sale shop down the street.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Photos from the first Crafternoon baking session... We spent about 6 hours shopping, cooking, and drinking Bellinis. And eating all the cakes we made. Next one is at the end of October, at Amy's house, with pumpkin pie and other autumnal baked treats...

Also, jacket potato for lunch = comatose by 3pm.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Managed to see almost my entire UK-based family over the past weekend. Went to big sister’s housewarming/engagement party on Saturday, and little sister was there too. On Sunday half-sister’s kids had a birthday party, and I saw aunt, cousin with his wife and two children, other cousin’s wife with their three kids, and after all that I went to see my mum. Phew. At the birthday party we were discussing my sister’s engagement, and my aunt picked up my left hand, looked sadly at my ring finger, and sighed. I feel that my inability to extract a proposal from Steve is a sign of my failure as a woman. Ah well.

Ten years to the day since the OJ verdict. I heard the verdict in the parking lot of the 7-11 across the street from my flat on Halsted Street in Chicago. As it was early afternoon, I was either on a day off or working a late shift, and was nipping to the 7-11 for lunch (probably a Snickers and giant coffee… my diet sucked when I was 20), when a newspaper truck pulled in and the driver started unloading papers. I couldn’t believe the verdict back then – and the way it divided America. There’s a really good article by Gary Younge here.