– I spent Christmas in Dorset. There, a “feminist Christmas” is being allowed 10 minutes off cooking the turkey to drink a cup of coffee!
– Dorset is England’s forgotten county. Sandwiched between Hampshire (famous for Winchester and the shipyards of Portsmouth) and Devon (where holidaymakers go if they don’t want to or can’t afford to fly to Europe), it remains 50 years behind the rest of the country, 75 behind London.
– As a certified card-carrying feminist, I leave some of my credentials at the border and put on my vacant, damsel-in-distress look as I negotiate the country lanes and accept cheery wolf-whistles from the farmhands.
– OK I joke – and if you’re a Thomas Hardy fan, you may have heard of the area (though he changed all the names) – but it certainly isn’t a modern woman’s delight!
COMING OF AGE
– I was born and raised there, and it IS a lovely county, but when I turned 16 I moved from a co-ed high school to a single sex college to do my A Levels. And, girl, what a revelation! Yes it was still Dorset, but it welcomed girls from all over the country (a few boarded), and my feminism grew roots.
– Sorry, a digression.
– My parents still live in Weymouth, so I visit for Christmas.
THE EVE OF THE EVE OF CHRISTMAS EVE
– This year, with threatened rail strikes and goodness knows what else, I drove my Suzuki Ignis down on December 22nd.
– So the 1ST day of my 7 included a male hitchhiker who looked likely to jump into my car at a junction (fortunately the passenger door was locked and the gearstick in 1st, so I shot off quickly), AND a male cyclist hovering around in front of me for what seemed like a mile. When I finally passed him, looking annoyed, he shouted “keep your knickers on, luv!”
Yes, male chauvinists are alive and well on Britain’s roads.
– On the 2ND day I took my mother to the shops. I’m not the sort of girl who gives much thought to what she wears to go out locally, so I’d put on ordinary pressed stone jeans.
In the multi-storey car park/parking lot, I expertly reversed into a tiny space. (OK, expertly is a tad pretentious!)
But as my mother and I exited the car, a boy of about 15 looked at me and made two comments: “Learn to drive” and “but nice chinos”.
– I resisted the temptation to shout “f— off you prick!” and let my mother say in her sweet way “Shut up – my daughter is an excellent driver and she’s wearing jeans”
– I was about to compliment her on her fashion sense, when – running away – the oik said “she ruined the gearbox”.
– Ignorant, rude, and scared sexists are alive and well near Britain’s parked cars!
– OK, PANIC NOT, dear reader! The 3RD and 4TH days (Christmas Eve and Day) were happily spent with my m&d, my bro, my maternal grandmother, and anyone else who passed by and popped in. Which included my one-time best friend Louise, who told me that her new boyfriend was called William and hated her shortening it. (I reminded her that I’d been there with a Richard!)
A BUSPERSON’S HOLIDAY
– I’m a lawyer, and if I let that be known, suddenly all friends and acquaintances have a “tiny” legal problem. They usually involve criminal law, and my “expertise” is employment and equality. Anyway, when my mother said “Oh, Allie dear, Mrs G. has a problem I said you might help her with”, my heart sank. I found myself phoning Mrs G., who – it turned out – had a friend who thought she MAY want a divorce!
– So the 5TH day was spent talking to her about her friend and her friend’s “obnoxious” husband, who had apparently cheated on her with his secretary. Make up your own mind whether our conversation – running down Mr G AND his secretary – was feminist or not.
ON THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS…
– My True Love Sent To Me… Himself.
– Actually he isn’t my true love, never was, but he thinks he is.
“I heard you were back Al”, he gleamed at me.
“Yes just for a couple of days”, I said hesitatingly,
“And you’re looking even nicer than when we dated”.
“We never dated – we kissed once”, I said as the memory flooded back “and I’m just going out – it was nice to see you again”.
– If anyone (still) reading this thinks I’m being harsh, you haven’t had wolves trying to come back into your life! I may be single at the moment but I’m NOT desperate.
– So my last day in Dorset was here. My parents took me out to lunch, my brother tagged along with his girlfriend (she’d joined us yesterday), and she was driving us in her Jeep.
– Needless to say she was ace behind the wheel (as even my father noted), and parked almost as well as me – OK, OK, perhaps better than me!
– But the reason why I’ve finished on this is to bring us almost full circle. We were about 4 spaces from where I’d parked a few days earlier (the restaurant and the supermarket being near to each other – well we were in Dorset, not Piccadilly Circus), and… WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT, riding his bike with his mates, was our teenage critic from Friday.
– With my brother and father there, he refrained from making it known that he remembered me, but he made EXACTLY the same comment to our driver today (maybe his dad had a gearbox business and needed customers!).
– But that just told me that ‘they’ are pre-programmed – when they see a female doing something as well as or better than them, they send out a routine sexist comment.
A happy feminist New Year to you all!