Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Well done, Sister Suffragette!

'I’ve thought of a better way than sticking in a pin,’ Grange Girl said, passing me a cup of tea and taking the pin out of my hand. I tend towards the literal when it comes to metaphors, sayings and proverbs. For instance, I do actually grind axes, I tend to put pans to the back burner, and I make goldfish faces when I drink too much.

‘I don’t know anything about any of these candidates,’ I protested, ‘so I need the pin to help make a democratic choice.’

She shook her head, and I said, panicked, ‘I know you’re going to make me read their manifestos or something. If so, give me back the damn pin, and I’ll use it to stab myself.’

‘Do town councillors even have manifestos?’ Grange Girl turned my list round so she could read from it. ‘Look at their names.’ She pointed to the first candidate. ‘Mr Flake, for the Lib Dems. Well, say no more.’

I nodded. ‘I see what you’re doing. But actually the word ‘flake’ for me conjures up, not an unreliable person, but a delicious chocolate bar which, thanks to the power of advertising, is forever associated with a sex act.’

‘This is an art, not a science. If you like the sound of his name, Mr Flake might be your man.’ She moved down the list. ‘Ms Makepeace, for the Greens. Make Peace. That’s nice, isn’t it? And look, here’s another Green, Alexander Fleming. Discovered penicillin, right?’

‘Different chap, I’m guessing, on the grounds of age.’

‘You can tell so much from a name,’ Grange Girl said. 

‘You can’t, though. That’s a proverb you’ve just made up.’

‘Here’s a Labour candidate called Mr Blair.’

‘Well, to be fair to him, he couldn’t really stand for any other party, could he? It would seem like he was trying to avoid his fate: ergo, evasive.’

‘Exactly. And look, another useful-sounding Green: Mr Handy.’

‘Don’t tell me, the Tories are fielding Mr Tickle.’

‘No, they’ve got Ms Orwell, which makes me think of Big Brother and double-think. You know, I think this method does actually work.’

I looked under the table at Grange Girl’s feet. There’s no-one I admire more, but I wasn’t surprised to see that she was wearing clay slippers.

‘Grangey, how is choosing a candidate by their name any less arbitrary than sticking in a pin in?’

‘How is it any more arbitrary?’

‘Fair point. I guess this is the exact sort of random freedom the Suffragettes fought for. So,’ I asked her, ‘You going to use this method for the parliamentary election too?’

‘Don’t be silly,’ she said. She held up my pin. ‘I’m really going to need to keep my eyes closed for that one.’

 Beth Miller, 5th May 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Who's prepared to pay the price, for a trip to paradise?

It was late, and Pixie Haircut and I were crossing the Bell Lane rec, when she said, apropos of nothing, “Do you think there are prostitutes in Lewes?” 

Quick as a flash, I pulled on some fishnet stockings and posed provocatively under the lamp-post. However, it was so dark (the lamp wasn’t on), that Pixie didn’t notice, and I had to resort to calling out ‘Hello, Duckie,’ to get her attention. Yes, I am willing to concede that my representation of sex workers is slightly out of date. 

I caught Pixie up (she’d hurried on ahead for some reason), and asked what had brought on this slightly left-field musing. She explained that on her way to meet me earlier that evening, she’d walked past a house where a lady in a state of dĂ©shabillĂ© was standing in her doorway, waving an affectionately lewd goodbye to a much older gentleman. I won’t trouble you here with Pixie’s spirited re-enactment, but it did lead me to ask whether she definitely saw it, or was getting muddled up between real life and the Robin Askwith film, Confessions of a Window Cleaner.

“I definitely saw it, and no he wasn’t her father or grandfather or other plausible relation.”
“You know this because…”
“I just do.”

Pixie led me to this alleged house of ill-repute and we stood on the opposite side of the road, examining it for wantonness.
“There’s a light on,” she gasped, “at this hour!”
“Well,” I said, reasonably, “We’re out at this hour, and when we go home, we’ll probably put a couple of lights on so we can clean our teeth, put on our cold cream, etc.” 

We speculated for a few more minutes, then the front door opened, making us jump. A burly man stepped out onto the path. Behind him stood the purported Lady of the Night, wearing a floral dressing gown which she was holding closed at the front. We tried to look inconspicuous, but we were clearly casing the joint.

“You two gonna be out here gabbing all night?” growled the man, shining a torch into our faces. “Me and the wife are trying to sleep.”
The woman behind him said, “Come on, Ray,” and with an extra frown, the man clicked off the torch and went back inside.

As soon as the front door slammed Pixie and I scuttled up the road and didn’t speak till we were outside my house. “Husband, my eye,” I said.
“He was clearly her husband,” Pixie said firmly. “So either he has no idea what’s going on. Or he’s, er, her business manager.” 

I went indoors and reported our investigative findings to Man of the House.
“A red light district? In Lewes?” he snorted, spreading Gentlemen’s Relish onto an organic oatcake. “I don’t think so. Now if you were to say Newhaven, well, that’d be a different story.” 

Beth Miller, 27th Feb 2015

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

There's a difference in living and living well

For Christmas, I received India Knight’s book, In Your Prime. I suppose I was given it because ‘prime’ is a euphemism for ‘past your prime’. (Actually I was given it because I asked for a copy, but there’s no pathos in that version.) The book is targeted at women in their late forties and beyond, and focuses rather more on foot care than I was expecting. It’s less about prime in the Miss Jean Brodie sense of running away to fight in the Spanish civil war, and more about prime as an excuse to buy things to make life easier.

Now India Knight is a well-heeled woman who lives in a very smart part of London (I have in fact seen her house, but I am NOT a stalker, as I explained to the police), and so her list of essential items, in the chapter called ‘Living Well’, includes a bed which costs in the thousands, goose-down pillows, personal trainers, laser-surgery, Botox, a ‘good’ handbag (meaning Louis Vuitton rather than Debenhams) and so on.

This got me thinking about the things that help me live well. Few of them are the most expensive things I’ve ever bought. Some of them aren’t even actual purchases, sorry India, I know I’m letting the side down. Most of them, of course, are items of stationery. First amongst these, the King of Living Well, is envelopes. How often have I gone to get an envelope to send something important, like a complaint letter to the school, and only found one ratty square red envelope, its glue no longer tacky. Well, now I have a whole stack of envelopes, in C4, C5, C6 and the sad outsider DL. Get me knowing the official sizes. 

More must-haves: a proper sellotape dispenser so you don’t have to waste time finding the end; Pritt stick that hasn’t dried out (tricky, as Pritt dries out overnight, like a mayfly), non-perished rubber bands, pens that work; gloves paired up in a box near the front door; reading glasses in every room (not a massive expense, these things are cheaper than chips); zips that don’t stick. 

A brief survey revealed some other people’s essential ‘Living Well’ items to include swimming goggles for cutting onions (see photo, posed by model - by the way, I’m sparing you the lengthy debate that accompanied this suggestion, about how none of the other so-called tricks work); a penknife about one’s person, for all those cutting/mugging emergencies, and a homemade dispenser for a ball of string, or twine, as we call it in Lewes (the instructions for this involved a lemonade bottle and were rather complicated).
I’m going to write this up on a DL envelope as a proper list, and next time I’m passing India’s house - once the restraining order’s lifted - I’ll pop it through the letterbox. In my opinion she needs to focus less on Botox, and more on envelopes, if she’s really going to have a happy prime.

Beth Miller