Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Ladies ladies ladies! What would the men of the world do without our sweetness, demure manners and what Les Gray out of Mud described as the sound of "girlish laughter"? Yes, wimmin make the world go round. If men were wimmin, the streets would be filled with the fragrance of sweet French perfumes and everyone would wear gaily coloured frocks. Everybody would be kind, loving, forgiving. Think of the evil men have contributed to the world - war, violence, hatred, bombs, guns, the wearing of big skateboard shorts and chunky sandals at barbeques ... then think of Woman. What is she? She is a song, a dance, a bird of paradise, a mystery, the centre of the earth and yes - the earth itself.

Having reached metaphor overload, let me now salute my sisters (for we are all one - oppressed by men and our hideous ovaries) with a list of The Things Women say - an acknowledgment of our grace and refinement.


"She turned around to me and said". Always a popular phrase, now reaching epidemic proportions as women make an effort to use it at least a dozen times in a conversation, to heighten drama during a good bit of gossip.

"Lewis, Chelsea, Jordan - GET BACK 'ERE!!!" Harrassed mother in Asda attempts to quell child revolt in lovely flutey melodic voice, possibly.

"RIGHT! Lewis! I've fucking 'AD ENOUGH!!! No McDonald's for YOU today!" Mother fails to quell child revolt. Child responds by going "WAAAAAAHH" at 130 decibels and lying on floor.

"There she goes, turning her nose up at us again. Do you know, she just ignored me in the street the other day". Woman derides work colleague to other work colleagues for (a) being a bit quiet and (b) not actually seeing her in the street.

"Posh Spice isn't all that - she's all skin and bone and she's got horrible spots. And she's such a miserable looking cow." Woman's objective criticism of celebrity who's younger and thinner than her, has piles of money, lives in Spain and is married to a handsome multi-millionaire footballer. Wimmin are never jealous of other wimmin - all they do is encourage them.

"You look lovely." Woman's gushing tribute to best friend on choice of party outfit. See! Genuine encouragement, no hint of bitterness.

"I didn't want to say anything, but she looks like a right slapper. It's much too young for her." Same woman confides in another woman about best friend's choice of party outfit.

"I dunno ... why can't she just be happy for me?" Yeah, whatever. I've just lost 8 pounds at Weightwatchers: she's put 5 pounds on. I've just got engaged: she's just been dumped when he found out she was pregnant. I've just got a promotion at work: she's just found out she's being made redundant. WHY CAN'T THE SELFISH COW JUST BE HAPPY FOR ME?

Ahem. A woman needs a man like a man need the office bike - or words to that effect.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Mid-August. On one Thursday night at this time you can set your clock by the third news item on television. It will always be footage of girls celebrating their A-level triumph. They are always what my mother would refer to as "nicely brought up". Funny, that - anyone who was "nicely brought up" but who dared to live down our street or work with her would soon become an object of hate. "She's got a bob on 'erself" my mum would say - in Hazel Slade dialect, this describes any female given to boasting about her new fitted kitchen or her husband's recent promotion at work. That's another story, though.

No, the reason you can tell these teenage girls are nicely brought up is because they have lovely shiny long hair and lovely clear skin - the sort of girls who make a virtue out of wearing little or no make up. Because they have lovely long shiny hair and lovely clear skin.

A marked contrast to us more homely looking sorts at the turn of the 80's, hair wedged, flicked and sprayed to within an inch of its life and skins bludgeoned with layers of foundation in an attempt to disguise volcanic pimples.

However, it wasn't just physical inferiority that marked us out as different to the current generation of A-level students. Or even that none of us would dream of hugging each other in that affected way which they must have learned from watching the awful "Friends" - too soppy and lezza, we would've thought! No, this lot seem to genuinely believe what their parents and teachers have drummed into them: you must strive and strive to educate yourself throughout life, and only then will you be "fulfilled" in your job.

In the 1970's, careers teachers would try to imply that there was a vague possibility of what was termed Job Satisfaction, but, by the age of 14, most of us had worked out that being stuck on a factory assembly line or typing up the minutes of a meeting was going to provide very little Job Satisfaction, and certainly was not as enjoyable as receiving your pay packet or wage slip. Very few of us applied ourselves to exams to the extent kids do now, with their straight-A passes across the board.

My glorious career had already been chosen by my parents, from the moment the midwife announced "congratulations, Mr and Mrs Utility, it's a girl!" Because my parents had horribly gruelling factory jobs, I was going to join the ranks of the poncey lower middle classes who'd never put in a decent day's labour in their lives. In other words, I was to become either a teacher or an office worker. Well, teaching might have seemed quite appealing 30 years ago, when the likes of my history teacher got off with a warning after crashing into a tree under the influence of a bit of draw, and one languages teacher held on to his job at our comp for two whole years despite constant lateness and several days skiving off - school truancy is more common among the under-18's, I'd always thought. What a doss, though, just the career for me! Mind you, I started to have my doubts, and I'm glad I did. The prevalence of league tables, assessements and endless paperwork meaning more homework for teachers that we had for
O and A-levels combined is bad enough. It also seems worryingly common for teachers to be verbally and even physically abused by pupils or their parents, take your pick. I shouldn't think many of today's would-be students would make the remark most girls in my A-level year did - "I want to be a teacher".

The problem is, I can't help thinking that many of the hard-working and highly-qualified teens are setting themselves up for big disappointments further down the road. Either the job they'd dreamt of won't live up to expectations (face it, not many jobs do) or it won't reap the financial rewards they'd hoped for, despite all their endeavour.

In our class, the only pupils who considered their degrees with real seriousness were the sarky, slightly overripe boys studying maths, technical drawing, the sciences and the collected works of Emerson Lake and Palmer. They would never work up the courage to chat up a girl, ever, but they would pore over the UCCA forms, mulling over where the best courses were for Applied Engineering or Chemistry. Ironically, today there is a drastic shortage of students taking science degrees and these skills are sorely needed in the workplace. Possibly that situation will not change without a return to popularity of Emerson Lake and Palmer. Possibly that is a price too high to pay to increase the level of science skills in the country.

Aligned to this is the news that less and less teenagers are interested in learning "trades" - there are no real apprenticeships in the likes of building and plumbing anymore, although they're essential jobs. Is it a bit wide of the mark to suggest that kids without strong academic skills have been marginalised in favour of potential media studies and drama students? Who determines that all degrees are "worthy" whereas, say, a technical college certificate is a "failure", even if it results in someone doing a job that's essential?

Well, the Utility Room is meant to be me and my inconclusive meanderings. Can't think of much of a conclusion to this one really, except that, even though I came of age through Thatcherism, the dole and youth training programmes, I'm still glad I'm not a teenager in 2004.

Smug cow that I am.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Who exactly were Darby and Joan?

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