Feminist Friday – Burkini

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I’m away on holiday this week but here’s a Feminist Friday piece that’s been brewing for a while on the subject of the Burkini.

So in case you weren’t paying attention… here’s the catchup. Several years ago, an Australian clothing designer named Aheda Zanetti made a swim suit for women who wanted to adhere to Islamic dress codes. An Islamic woman herself, Zanetti has designed several pieces for Muslim girls to wear while taking part in sports, allowing for them to be active and healthy while still adhering to their chosen dress codes.

Burkini M and S

This summer, several towns in south eastern France objected to women wearing Burkinis at the beach and so decided to ban them. And when there was a lady who defied, or did not know about, the ban, armed French police forced her to undress in public.

Telegraph Photo - woman Birkini

For such an horrific mess of an issue, involving feminism, religious freedom, freedom of expression and the right to privacy, that can be summed up in a remarkably short paragraph. But oh what a mess it has left us with. I have so many problems with the entire scenario that I’m not entirely sure where to start picking it apart. So… starting with a personal slant might be the best option.

I don’t like showing my body in public. I find wearing short sleeves and shorts in public disconcerting. I prefer trousers, or long skirts. Or a skirt that’s at least knee or calf length, with tights. If I am wearing short sleeves or sleeveless tops, I tend to wear a cardigan over the top, or a wrap. Or opt for elbow length sleeves instead. I don’t like showing my bosom, I prefer to have it covered up, along with my shoulders and back. I never show my stomach. I feel naked and uncomfortable if I do.

This has nothing to do with body positivity. I have no problems with my body. I think I look great. I’m in proportion, curvy, I have an out-in-out figure with boobs and a bum and a real waist. My husband tells me I have great legs. In the privacy of my own home I have no problem being naked, or wearing just my underwear. I have no problem with my husband looking at me while I do so. But I don’t like being ‘on display’ in public. I don’t have to justify it. It’s a personal choice. My free choice.

And if I choose to cover it up, that is also my choice.

It’s nothing to do with faith. Or religion. Or patriarchy. Or control. The only control in this is mine, and I choose to cover my body up. And what I choose to cover it up WITH is my choice too. I actually find the idea of a Burkini oddly appealing. I would never, EVER, wear a swimsuit to the beach, let alone a bikini. But I love to swim. I love to exercise out of doors. A burkini would protect my skin, along with my privacy and allow me to take part in an activity I like without feeling uncomfortable.

But that wouldn’t be allowed on those beaches in France. Or rather it wasn’t, until the French government overruled the bans, in the first sensible action of the whole situation.

So why do people have a problem with Burkinis?

Several parallels have already been drawn between the Burkini and a nun’s habit, and nuns are allowed to visit the seaside and splash around in their religious clothing:

Nuns at the beach

 

 

So what’s so different about a Burkini?

Is it that it is seen as a purely Islamic piece of clothing? More to the point, a piece of Islamic female clothing?

Here we come closer to an uncomfortable truth.

Islam is frequently presented as a religion which oppresses women. Only, that’s not strictly correct. Certain interpretations of *patriarchy* within Islam have, and in some cases continue, to oppress women. The Taliban. ISIS/Daenesh. The religious governments in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Pakistan, Khazakstan, Indonesia or any of the other Islamic countries which mandate the adherence to their interpretation of sharia law. What have they all got in common? They’re run by men.

People see the Burkini as a representation of oppression of women. But actually the forced removal of that symbol is a far greater oppression. It is an enforced *lack* of choice, which has absolutely nothing to do with religion or secularism, and everything to do with oppression and the suppression of free speech and expression.

I’ve taught Islamic students. Worked with Islamic colleagues. Known and counted practicing Muslims among my friends. The vast majority of them have been women. I have not seen a single sign of oppression among them in the way they practice their faith. Yes, they chose to wear a hijab in some cases. So what? It is something that they CHOOSE rather than something which is forced upon them.

If a woman CHOOSES to cover her head, to cover her body, to conceal her physical form – that is her right.

If a woman is FORCED to conceal herself – for example, under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan where women were mandated by law to wear full Burkas which covered their bodies and faces – then yes, that is a problem. I don’t like Burkas because they conceal the face. Something that is not demanded by the Qu’ran, but is enforced by men, by that particular patriarchal interpretation of sharia law, in order to oppresss rather than honour women. I mean, seriously, look at these:

Burka

There is a big difference between these blue tented monstrosities and the other forms of Islamic dress:

Islamic Dress

This fits the dress code for Islamic women. The body is covered. The cut is loose and concealing. Only the hands, feet and face are visible. The hair is covered. And yet this is not that different from what I would wear to go to work. OK I don’t wear a hijab, but I’ve been known to pin my hair up, to cover it with a scarf if it rains, to wear a hat or a hood in the cold weather, to tie a scarf or wrap around my neck and shoulders.

But people have no problem with the way I dress. Because I’m a white woman who is not Islamic. Even though it’s not that different to the brown women who are Islamic.

The women wearing the Burkinis were making a choice. And suddenly, with the force of violence and law, they were told they had made an ‘incorrect’ choice. Because it made some people uncomfortable, to be reminded that in some places on this planet, women ARE victims of oppression.

The forced removal of the Burkini was not about liberation. It was about concealment, just not of the body. It was an attempt to deny that there are women in the world who are oppressed. An attempt to remove the symbol of oppression and impose a single view of ‘freedom’ (ie exposure) onto that woman. It was not freedom to her, it was humiliation. It was embarrassment, it was abusive. I would feel the same if someone asked me to remove my clothes and expose my body in public, even the parts of it which are not considered by society to be too sexualised for public display. And it has nothing to do with faith, religion or oppression for me. It has to do with choice.

Islam is not, in and of itself, incompatible with feminism. I mean, look at this fine lady:

malala-yousafzi

One of the greatest living feminists, Malala Yousafzi. Is she oppressed just because she chooses to wear Islamic dress? Is she heck, she’s a leading light for feminism, liberty and female education in this world. The patriarchal enforcement of a single interpretation of Islam is what is oppressive, and that must be fought against. That must be challenged. But banning things like Burkinis is not the way to go about it. In fact, it’s a backward step. One we must try to put right.

The French motto of Liberté, égalité, fraternité has long been held in high esteem as a code for Freedom.

Perhaps we need to add a little more solidarité féminine to the mix – viva la sisterhood!

CSSB: Black and Red Top

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This black and red top was another chance find. I stumbled across it when I was killing time in a charity shop, waiting for an appointment near Wigan. I’m so glad I made this visit. As a result, I found two excellent new items for my wardrobe!

2016-08-09 21.37.44

BRAND: SALOOS

PRICE: £1.99

The red in this is a little harsher than I would normally choose. It’s more tomato red, rather than rich crimson red, or burgundy red. Normally I like warmer colours than this. But with the white and black, this makes a dashing change.

It’s a lovely silky material, but very flexible and forgiving of creases. The front is a wrap around style, but it is just decorative. No need to worry about wardrobe malfunctions when wearing this. There is a draw string tassel at one side, which is a nice touch too – unusual, I  haven’t see that sort of thing before.

I think the sleeves are my favourite bit though:

2016-08-09 21.38.14

They’re little cap sleeves, loose and flowing over the shoulders. The sleeves are slit along the bottom, as well. For me, this is one of the best things about this top. When I wear it, my arms are just wearing little capes, rather than being penned in. I do hate sleeves that are too tight around the cuff. Does anyone else find un-elasticated sleeves to be disgustingly uncomfortable? However this is great, especially for the warmer weather when short sleeves and more room under the arms are far more comfortable.

I’ve worn this for work a few times. Not for meetings, but for tutorials, when I try to be a bit more casual so I can blend into the workplaces that I visit. It goes well with black trousers obviously, but with a casual black cardigan rather than a suit jacket. It also works with the jersey skirt.

This is one of the few tops which I can comfortably wear for working at home too. I don’t have enough of those. I end up changing as soon as I come through the door, back into joggers and t-shirts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Afterall, who doesn’t love bra-off-o’clock? However, finding that work headspace is easier if I am at least tidily dressed to work at home. I tried working in my dressing gown in the early work-at-home days. No. No no. Big mental turn off, it sent me straight back to sleep. Plus the cats thought that I was a giant pillow … but I digress.

I wish I knew more about this brand – it’s a new one to me. Has anyone else heard of it? Does anyone know where it is stocked? Drop me a comment if you do. This has become a real favourite piece for me, so I would love to find out where I can get some more.

Monday Music – Romeo and Juliet

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Welcome to Music Monday – Romeo and Juliet! Sometimes it’s nice to be able to combine my passions, and literature and music are certainly among the greatest. A while ago, I started thinking about how so many songs that I hear seem to fit well into the classic stories, particularly into Shakespeare. Since then I’ve been putting my shiny new spotify subscription to use and compiling playlists to accompany the Shakespeare plays that I teach, as part of my tutoring business.

The most popular, by far, is Romeo and Juliet. It’s a classic isn’t it, boy meets girl and all the angst that follows. Romeo and Juliet remains popular with teachers, schools and syllabi, so this is where I’ve decided to start.

As these playlists are compiled, I’ll post them here along with a quote from the play for each song.

Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting – Elton John Theme for the Montagues and Capulets
“Two Households both alike in dignity
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”
Somebody that I used to know – Gotye and Kimbra “She hath forsworn to love, and in that vow
Do I live dead that live to tell it now” – Romeo
Rude – MAGIC! “Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.” – Lord Capulet
“Younger than she are happy mothers made…” – Paris
“And too soon marred are those so early made” – Lord Capulet
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me – The Jayhawks “But woo her, gentle Paris. Get her heart.
My will, to her consent, is but a part.”  – Lord Capulet
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You – Frankie Valli “Did my heart love ’til now? Forswear it sight!
For I never saw true beauty ’til this night.” – Romeo
Break Stuff – Limp Bizkit “Now by the stock and honour of my kin
To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.””I will withdraw. But this intrusion shall
Now seeming sweet, convert to bitterest gall.” – Tybalt
Shut Up And Dance – Walk The Moon “The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand” – Romeo
Can’t Help Falling in Love – Elvis Presley “I take thee at thy word.
Call me love, and I’ll be new baptised.
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.” – Romeo
Please Don’t Say You Love Me – Gabrielle Aplin “Well, do not swear. Although I joy in thee,
I have no joy in this contract tonight.
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;” – Juliet
More Than Words – Extreme “Oh, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” – Romeo
Imagine – John Lennon “In one respect I’ll thy assistant be.
For this alliance may so happy prove
To turn your household’s rancour to pure love” – Friar Laurence
A View To A Kill – Duran Duran “The day is hot, the Capels are abroad
And if we meet, we shall not ‘scape a brawl
For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” – Benvolio
Hammer to Fall – Queen “Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
No better term than this: Thou art a villain” – Tybalt”Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
To such a greeting. Villain am I none.
Therefore farewell. I see thou knowest me not.” – Romeo
Another One Bites The Dust – Queen O calm, dishonourable, vile submission!
Tybalt, you ratcatcher, will you walk?” – Mercutio”I am hurt.
A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped.” – Mercution”O Romeo, Romeo, brave Mercutio is dead” – Benvolio
Too Much Love Will Kill You – Queen “O I am fortune’s fool!” – Romeo
Full Of Grace – Sarah McLachlan “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?” – Juliet
See The Sun – Dido “I think it best you married with the County.

I think you are happy in this second match
For it excels your first; or if it did not
Your first is dead.” – Nurse

Father Figure – George Michael “Happily met, my lady and my wife.” – Paris
Honestly OK – Dido “Be not long to speak. I long to die
If what thou speakest speak not of remedy.” – Juliet
Total Eclipse Of The Heart – Bonnie Tyler “Farewell. God knows when we shall meet again.
I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins
That almost freezes up the heat of life.

Romeo, Romeo, Romeo.
Here’s drink, I drink to thee.” – Juliet
With Or Without You – U2 “Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight.
Let’s see for means. O mischief, thou art swift
To enter in the thoughts of desperate men.” – Romeo
Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell “Go, get thee hence, for I will not away.” – Juliet
Everybody Hurts – REM “See what a scourge is laid upon your hate
That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love.” – Prince

CSSB: Purple Lace Top

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There are days when I go deliberately looking for new clothes in charity shops. However, then there are days when I just ‘pop in’ for a look and there is the most perfect thing. Just waiting for me, in just my size and a favourite brand, right on the rack in front of me. That’s how I came across this purple lace top:

2016-08-09 21.33.14

 

BRAND: Per Una

PRICE: £4.99

Isn’t that colour just glorious? Even my rubbish little camera phone does it a little bit of justice. This was just so elegant that I had to have it, aside from it being one of my colours to a tee. The body has a darker sheath layer of purple underneath, which is fantastic for flattering my figure while the lace detail stands out over it. The lace on the sleeves is see-through though. There’s no lining to be seen here:

2016-08-09 21.33.30

Absolutely gorgeous, and very glamorous.

This top is so versatile. With black trousers or a tailored black pencil skirt, it’s smart enough to wear for work under a tailored jacket. However, it’s also light and fun enough to wear for an evening out, going out to dinner or drinking with the girls. I love the slimming effect, and the scoop neckline is very demure. I think this purple lace top is going to be a good friend of mine for a long time to come!

CSSB: Black and Pink Skirt

Black and Pink Skirt
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Welcome back to the CSSB imprint of Project Shandy, and we’re kicking off with one of my current favourite wardrobe pieces – a fantastic and versatile black and pink skirt.

A little over a year ago, I was on the verge of starting a new job, one which turned out to involve a lot more travelling and hotel stays than previous positions. So it was time to give my wardrobe an overhaul.

I learned a lot during my previous shopping expeditions around the Charity Shops of the North West. Now, travelling nationally, I could put my theories to the test in bigger cities. And ooooh boy was I rewarded for my patience!

Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bury and all of their suburbs were teaming with charity shops, all stuffed to the brim with goodies.

This was an early find.

Black and Pink Skirt

Black and Pink Skirt

BRAND: Per Una

SIZE: 16

Price: £3.99

I love this skirt, because it is so light and easy to fold for packing/transport, and the dark colour and strong pattern makes it very forgiving on the creases. It’s swishy, knee length and I feel so elegant wearing it. The waist is elasticated, which is a godsend for me, as I spend so much of the day sitting down in meetings and tutorials.

The black background makes it demure enough for meetings, teamed up with a black jacket, black tights and some high heels. Yet the pink adds a dash of personality, along with that fantastic spiral pattern:

2016-08-09 21.35.24

I mean just look at those gorgeous swirls and that mix of shades!

Shortly after buying this, I found two absolutely perfect tops to go with it.

2016-08-09 21.36.02

BRAND: Marks and Spencers

SIZE: 16

Price: £2.99

This one is such a good match I have to wonder whether it’s from the same collection. The material is a mix of cotton and polyester and I love the cut – the slight pattern down the front adds some nice detail, and the sleeves are a perfect three quarter length, with a little flexibility at the elbow. The only problem with it was that my bosoms were more than the buttons could handle! Luckily, it was large enough for me to pull over my head while buttoned up, so a few quick stitches sealed it up and prevented any embarrassing spillage. This, teamed with the black jacket, tights and shoes, makes for an excellent business meeting outfit.

The second top was a little more casual, but still lovely:

2016-08-09 21.36.48

 

BRAND: Unknown

SIZE: 16

Price: £1.99

Why on earth do some Charity Shops insist on cutting out the labels from the clothes? Seriously, the sizes are so different between brands, we need to know this information darling volunteers! I would never buy a size 16 from Top Shop, it would look like a doll’s dress on me, but Marks and Spencers and Per Una? Now we’re talking. So picking this up was a bit of a gamble – there was no changing room in the charity shop where I got it. However, for £1.99 I decided to take the risk, and I am glad I did.

I suspect it’s a BHS item – it’s got that sort of light weave and pattern in the material:

2016-08-09 21.37.00

But it would have been nice to know for certain.

Anyway – it’s great with the skirt, with a black cardigan for a more dress down approach. With thick tights and black boots, it makes a good autumn/spring outfit too, as it’s a bit warmer than the pink blouse. I have one gripe – the neckline and sleeve cuffs are fixed, no elastic in the mix. I wish they had a little bit of give in them. But that is me being really picky.

The tops were definitely worth the investment though. As well as the skirt, they go well with a pencil black skirt, and also with black tailored trousers. The t-shirt style top can even be paired up with a long black jersey skirt.

So that gives me several new combination outfits. All for less than £10.

I love Charity Shops. And so should all of you!

Feminist Friday – 2016 Olympic Coverage

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Dear Media,

I really wanted to enjoy watching the 2016 Olympic coverage this year. I adored London 2012. Thanks to my wonderful friend Elspeth, I even had the chance to go to a couple of the events. I bought the DVD ffs. And a large part of that was the fact that the female athletes were so well respected and honoured in the coverage of their competitions.

There were so many fantastic women to cheer for on Team GB: Jessica Ennis, Christine Ohuruogu, Nicola Adams, Lizzie Armistead, Victoria Pendleton, Danielle King, Joanna Roswell, Laura Trott, Charlotte Dujardin, Zara Phillips, Laura Bechtolsheimer, the ENTIRE of the women’s football team, Beth Tweddle, Karina Bryant, Helen Glover, Heather Stanning, Katherine Grainger, Anna Watkins, Katherine Copeland, Sophie Hosking, Saskia Clark, Hannah Mills, Rebecca Adlington, Jade Jones, Laura Robson…

And that’s just the British medal winning women! There were superb athletes, glorious women at the top of their fields from all over the world, competing at the highest level and shining like absolute stars.

Unfortunately, this year, everything seems to have gone to pot.

Let’s start with the fact that two boxers have now been arrested on charges of rape against two maids working in the Olympic village. Urgh. Disgusting.

Next up, people on social media decided to pick on the lovely Helen Skelton over the length of her skirts. She looked fabulous, and glamorous. And do these people know how hot it is in Rio? Seriously, what did they expect? No actually, don’t answer that, it would depress me.

However, I thought “well, at least the female athletes will have earned the respect of the media for this year’s Olympic coverage”.

…Yeah, not so much. It’s been pretty horrific actually, to the point where even The BBC have noticed.

For a start, Dan Hicks, an NBC Olympics commentator, decided to credit Katinka Hosszu’s husband for her gold medal. As the camera panned over him, there were no comments about him being proud, or a lucky man. No indeed – “there’s the man responsible” was the accolade bestowed. Seriously? I mean, seriously?? The woman just put in an Olympic Gold Medal winning performance, but you think her husband is responsible? Head, meet desk.

Next up, bronze medalist Corey Cogdell was described by the Chicago Tribune as “the wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein”. Since when do women get defined by their husbands’ jobs? Where are we, the 1950s?

Urgh. Just … urgh.

And, as we know in this deeply patriarchal world, women are not judged just by their relationships and partners by the Media. They’re judged according to their looks. And Fox News can always be relied upon to bring things back to that basic level. Two male commentators even decided to have a debate about whether athletes should be wearing makeup. After all, as one of them said: “Why not a little blush on the lips and cover those zits? I like to see the person who wins that gold medal go up there and look beautiful.” Because honouring them for their achievements should come second to that, obviously. To be fair, they were equal-opportunist in their idiocy, as they decided to pick on Michael Phelps as well as the female athletes. Obviously 22 Gold Medals just isn’t enough for these guys, Michael, you need to look photo-shopped to death on the podium too.

And it’s not just the makeup that’s been under scrutiny either! The Daily Fail decided to pick on gymnast Oksana Chusovitina from Uzbekistan, claiming that her pink and white leotard “failed to compliment her skin tone”, while The Sun were more interested in Michelle Jenneke’s ‘Abs-olutely fabulous” physique than her medal winning chances, even going so far as to suggest that she “certainly isn’t shy about showing off her body.” No links for those two. My hatred for the Daily Fail and The Sun should be well known to readers here by now.

Finally, just to add soppy icing to a burnt cake, some muppet on twitter decided to try and mansplain cycling to Annemiek van Vleuten. You know, the woman who was on course for victory until an horrific crash left her out of the race and hospital bound, with spectators fearing for her life and health. As if the crash weren’t enough, she was met with this response on twitter after tweeting to let fans know she was ok:

Ladies and gentleman, I don't believe it! It appears a man is barreling over hurdles to give unsolicited advice!!

First rule of bicycling …

She’s competing in the GODDAMN OLYMPICS! I think she’s way past the first rule of bicycling, dipshit!

As a result of all this rubbish, I am suddenly glad that I have not been following this year’s Olympic Coverage. I don’t think my television or sanity would have survived intact.

Story: The Advice Slip (2)

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Chapter 2 of The Advice Slip. You can read Chapter 1 here.

Anne was shattered.

Six o’clock had taken far longer than eight hours to roll around today, she was sure of it. It had been a better day that usual, helped along by Gary Maybury’s good news that morning. At least that had put all of the customers at the pub in a good mood. Silly beggars, Anne smiled to herself. There they all were, buying Gary pints and wishing him well, hoping for a slate in his new pub, and most of them hadn’t grasped that it was thousands of miles away in America.

Her feet ached as she walked out through the bar, waving and throwing a smile to a couple of regulars. Her phone beeped as she came out of the door, a message from her daughter.

MUM CAN YOU LEND ME 20 QUID TO GO OUT TONIGHT?

Anne sighed. Stacey was 18, in her first year at University, although you wouldn’t know it from the amount of time she went out with her mates rather than swotting at her books. Stacey swore that her grades were doing alright, and everyone else went out as much as she did, but still. Anne had her doubts. And of late, a shocking amount of her income was flowing from her wage packet at the Red Lion into the tills of various bars and nightclubs around the town, via Stacey’s impossibly tiny handbags.

Anne didn’t bother texting her back. She’d be home faster that she could work the keys out. She stopped at the machine and keyed in her pin, shuddering to herself in the cold. Maybe she’d get the bus tonight instead of walking, since it was starting to rain. Although, the fares had gone up again…

The machine beeped at her, displaying a message.

“Do you want an advice slip?”

Anne normally skipped past this, but for a second she hesitated. Gary had told such an odd story this morning, about getting that funny yellow slip from the cash machine. Feeling a little reckless, Anne pushed the yes button.

Sure enough, after the £20 note had appeared, a yellow slip popped out. There were three words printed on it.

JUST SAY NO.

Anne blinked at the note, and shoved it in her pocket. What a thing to say! And how odd, given that it echoed a tiny little voice in the back of her head. A voice which had spoken up when she got that text message, but had been squashed by the fear of an argument.

Why don’t you just say no?

Walking down the road, her leaky shoes squelching a little through the puddles, Anne frowned to herself and pondered the problem.

Why DIDN’T she just say no? The requests for money from her daughter were becoming ever more frequent, and ever more demanding. Especially since she had started dating Darren. Anne grimaced to herself. She had tried very hard to like Darren, but it was hard going sometimes. Talking to him always left Anne with a slightly greasy, slimy feeling in her soul. She couldn’t put a finger on why, but there was something about the boy that she just didn’t like.

It was probably Darren that Stacey wanted to go out with tonight.

All of a sudden, Anne grew cross with herself. Why was she paying for her daughter to go out on the town with a man that she didn’t approve of? She couldn’t stop Stacey going, but she could stop paying for it.

All at once, Anne found a hot spark of flame hidden down in her stomach and decided that, just this once, she would say no. In an uncharacteristic pique of rebellion, Anne went into the Tesco Metro just down the street and splashed out on a bottle of wine for £4.99. And with the loose change, she got the bus home, and promised herself a hunt for some new shoes to replace her old soggy ones before she went to work tomorrow.

There was a row. As predicted. But it was shorter and less vile than Anne had dreaded. A few huffs, a bit of stomping, a sulky silence over tea and Stacey went out anyway. Perhaps she hadn’t needed the money that much afterall. Anne pushed the drawer into the dishwasher and set the machine whirring, and had every intention of settling herself down in front of Eastenders with a glass of her impulsively bought Chardonney, before having a bath and going to bed.

But just as she was reaching for the remote to turn on the programme, she was startled by the sound of a key in the yale lock on the front door.

“It’s only me…”

Stacey. But it was … not even eight o’clock?

“Hallo lovie…”

A very sorry looking young lady came into the room. Her mascara was streaked down her face and she looked positively down in the mouth.

“Stacey …? Whatever’s the matter love?”

Anne was on her feet with her arms open waiting for her daughter as Stacey collapsed into sobs.

“There my duck, what’s going on?”

“I broke up with Darren.”

“Aww, bless you…”

“It was horrible Mum. I asked if he’d get me a drink at the bar, and he was really nasty. Said he’d only get me a drink if … if I…”

Anne pulled back to look at her daughter’s face. “If you what, Stacey?”

“If I agreed to have sex with him tonight.”

“And you didn’t want to?”

“I wasn’t ready Mum. I didn’t want to.”

Anne offered up a silent prayer of relief that her daughter had had that much self esteem.

“And he didn’t like that?”

“It was horrible Mum, she shouted at me, called me a little cock tease and said I was taking advantage of him, that he’d bought me a large wine and I owed him something in return.”

“What happened?”

Stacey sniffed, and the ghost of a smile sneaked out.

“Well… I told him he could keep the drink. And he said he didn’t want it.”

“And then…?”

“And then … well … I poured it over his head. And walked out of the pub.”

Anne tried for a whole two seconds not to laugh, but then Stacey met her eyes and the two of them dissolved into giggles. Embracing her daughter in a big hug, Anne settled her on the sofa and handed her the kleenex to wipe her face. Fetching another glass from the kitchen, along with the bottle from the fridge, Anne settled back into the sofa, poured a drink for her daughter and passed it over.

“Thanks Mum.”

“You’re very welcome my darling. Now, shall we catch up with Albert Square?”

“Yes please…”

The rest of the episode passed on companionable silence. The wine bottle was empty by the time mother and daughter went to bed. Anne remembered at the last minute about the little yellow note from the cash machine, and as she fell asleep, she wondered how differently the evening would have turned out if she hadn’t pressed the YES button.

Back in the saddle…

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It’s time to get back on the horse and back in the saddle. This blog needs to get the show on the road again.

I know things have been quiet around here. In all honesty, 2016 has been a depressing year so far. By February I realised that I was going to have an ongoing and ever increasing list of obituaries to write. So instead, I decided it was more mentally healthy to take a break from blogging.

In general, my life has been spectacularly busy this year, and it’s not a surprise that this place has been gathering dust. Big plans are in the offing which I’m not talking about in public yet. I’ve consistently had upwards of five private tuition students at any given time for the last two years.I’ve made excellent progress in my day job too. On the home front there have been big changes as well, with Mr Shandy giving up work for at least this year to give him time to focus on improving his health.

Picking my priorities was a tough exercise. Napowrimo was an early victim. As was this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week call for submissions. I simply didn’t have the time, energy or drive to publicise it and keep things updated as much as during the previous year. My writing submissions ground to a halt for some time, and I took a long break from Twitter, needing to totally rethink my social networking practices.

So now, eight months later, I’m feeling relaxed, refreshed, and I have a fantastic catalogue of good ideas to get things up and running again.

CSSB will be starting up again, with a regular Sunday Style feature. As always, we are open for guest posts. Send me your bargains, recommendations and fashion victories! We wants them precioussss…

I’m also going to run a new feature called ‘Feminist Friday’. Once a week, there will be a published rant about whichever feminist issue gets my goat. Again, contributions are most welcome. If you’re upset and cross and annoyed about something that’s getting on your tits, I want to hear about it. Articles from WOC, the LGBT community and particularly the Trans* communities would be especially welcome.

The usual Shandy Media Club, Shandy Kitchen and Song of the Week categories remain open for submissions too, as well as the general articles section. Those of you who sent things in while the blog was on hiatus, you’ll be seeing them online soon. For more information on all of these submission categories, take a look at the submission page for the site.

In memory

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In Memory of Lemmy, David and Alan

“Born to lose. Live to win.”
Lemmy Kilmister

24 December 1945 – 28 December 2015

Killed by Cancer

” Q: “Do you practice a form of worship?”
Bowie: “Life. I love life very much indeed.” ”
David Bowie

8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016

Killed by Cancer

“If only life could be a little more tender and art a little more robust.”
Alan Rickman

21 February 1946 – 14 January 2016

Killed by Cancer

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In Memory of Lemmy, David and Alan

…Always

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I cannot believe that I am having to do this again, so hot on the heels of the desperately sad news about David Bowie.

Alan Rickman. Dead from Cancer. At 69. Fuck.

I don’t even know where to start.

 

No seriously, I have started drafting this several times now and ended up deleting it. I can’t cover the characters, the films, the plays, the cameos in one article. I can’t begin to talk about the depth of his talent. Or how amazing he was as a person.

 

 

(Fuck, I am really still struggling to write this, I’m back to deleting large chunks at a time).

I am really finding it difficult to describe this incredible man without delving into cliches.

Because if there is one thing Alan Rickman NEVER was, it was cliche.

With some actors, the minute you see them cast in a film, you know what to expect from their characters.

You know precisely what to expect from actors like Hugh Grant (posh English totty), Angelina Jolie (the tough sexpot), Michael Cera (awkward nerd/geek), Samuel L Jackson (Badass MF), Tom Cruise (Cocky Action Hero) …

You can see the story unfolding before your eyes, because you’ve seen them walk this path before. That in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, it’s why type casting happens, and it makes big bucks and sells mega tickets.

But you never had that luxury with Alan Rickman.

From period drama to TV comedy specials.

From YA fiction to Sci Fi Pastiche.

From Nerd Culture classics to Rom Coms.

From classic villain to classy villain.

From Shakespeare to Music Videos.

He tackled everything. With grace. With style. With incredible talent. With full investment. He was someone who reached out to every kind of movie/tv/stage fan. Because he was in something that pretty much everyone has watched.

If he was cast in something, you absolutely knew the script would be fantastic and the character would be demanding, fulfilling and satisfying, and therefore the story was probably worth your investment in terms of time and money. But you couldn’t predict where he was going with it, and that made him a joy to watch in every single project.

I will miss that.

I will miss him.

Always.