Monday, 21 May 2012

Of Mice and (Wo)Men

Forgive me, I’m going to divert briefly from the familiar territory of body confidence and use my blog to share with you a terrible and traumatic story. It’s the story of a 31 year old woman who just this minute had a gigantic screaming row….with a mouse.

They say, in London, you are never more than 6 metres away from vermin. When I first moved into our flat in the city, my flatmate assured me that the occasional mouse citing was a normal facet of London living. Like congestion charges, constant sirens and 24 hour Vietnamese food. I put her casual dismissal down, in no small part, to the fact that my flatmate has never actually seen a live mouse in our flat. BodyGossipRuth has a theory that mice only like human women with gigantic boobs (hence their insistence on terrorising me). Or that my flatmate has terrible eyesight. Or that she is suffering from a very specific form of mouse-related denial.

I started to think perhaps the problem was me- Maybe I was suffering from mouse-related delusion. Mouse hallucinations. Or Mousillations, if you will. What people who’ve never had the pleasure of vermin in their house don’t realise, is that they’re fast little fuckers. It isn’t like Tom and Jerry, where a mouse stops every few paces to poke its tongue out cheekily at an assailant feline. You hear the tell-tale pitter patter of tiny mouse feet and see the briefest flash in the corner of your eye. For about 3 seconds it’s terrifying, but then it’s quite easy to convince yourself you imagined it. We continued this way for weeks. With me banging on my flatmate’s bedroom door at 1am, stage whispering “sweetie….. I just saw the mouse!” and her replying “it’s okay, it’ll be gone by now. Go to sleep” – I’d meander off to bed wondering how on earth she could be so calm about what was clearly an apocalyptic, Pied Piper of Hamelin style situation which would somehow herald our untimely deaths.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back (well, it gave me the hump, anyway) was when I was watching the infamous ‘Mr Jengles’ scene in ‘The Green Mile’ one evening. I suddenly noticed a flurry of movement beneath the television. There’s a mouse ON my TV and a mouse UNDER my TV! I fumed. For some reason this struck me as unacceptable. Mice were entirely taking over my world. I would not have it.

“We’re getting a cat.” I told my flatmate.
“Noooooooooo!” she said (she has an aversion to all things furry and four legged – apart from mice which appear, uninvited, it would seem) “remember when you wanted a cat before, and then you changed your mind?”
“Yes, but that was a post-break-up, rebound cat” I said. “That was a cat which would have been purchased to give me unconditional love in the way that only a dog, or highly trained human man ever could. That was selfish and wrong. But THIS time I just want a mouse killing machine”.

The next day, cat dialogue unresolved, BodyGossipSarah came to stay. The mice hadn’t been forwarned of this development. It seems they’d gotten into a routine of waiting until myself and the flatmate had gone to work. Then the crafty little buggers were running riot in our kitchen, having a little party, looking at my Bowie calendar and lapping up my Nando’s sauce (probably). Little did they know that Sarah would come waltzing into the room at an unscheduled time.

I was on my way to a school in Oxford when I got the call. “Tash. Three mice have just…..just JUMPED at me!”

“Erm. Do mice jump? Are you sure they’re not using hoummus pots as tiny trampolines?” was my first question, before I realised how insensitive I was being. I quickly formulated a plan. “Okay, okay. Go downstairs. Knock on the door of the ground floor flat. A fit man will answer. Ask if you can borrow his cat” I instructed.

Two hours later, I was informed that the cat had to be cajoled from my bedroom, where it had inexplicably insisted on going, twice, before entering the kitchen, pouncing on the mouse, and letting it go again.

So much for my cat plan. It’s all a myth, them being good at mouse catching. It was time to call the professionals.

Over the next two weeks, a very nice man by the name of Wayne frequented our house wielding various weapons designed for the mass slaughter of mice. He laid traps and they caught things. Things which subsequently ended up dead. “Wanna see?” he’d ask, waving the offending trap under my horrified nose.

“Yeah, alright” said my flatmate, once. I peered at her quizzically, trying to ascertain if this was all bravado.

“woah! Cool!” she said, peering into the trap “it’s head’s come right clean off!”. A lengthy discussion ensued, in which Wayne the mouse man and my flatmate peered into various small boxes containing various small dead things and discussed the contents thereof, seemingly equally fascinated and neither of them remotely grossed out. I began to wonder whether this might be a match made in heaven, characterised by a mutual love of trapping and murdering small, furry creatures.

One day, Wayne announced he had caught seven of the little blighters to date (SEVEN. Ick), and had cleverly ascertained from whence they were springing. “I’m going to fill in your holes” he announced, in a way which immediately made me wish that it was my flatmate he was addressing, rather than me (I believe she may have rather enjoyed it, she’s definitely crushing on the mouse man).

Wood was hammered, holes were filled, white stuff was sprayed. I mean none of this remotely euphemistically. All entry points were sealed. Phew. The end of all the mouse drama.

Or so I thought.

Over the weekend I saw a familiar flash in the corner of my eye, as I made a cup of tea. “It’s post traumatic mouse syndrome” I told myself. Only it wasn’t. It was a baby mouse. Sighing, I speed dialled Wayne the mouse man, who agreed that perhaps his hole-filling efforts hadn’t quite been up to scratch and he’d return during the working week (tomorrow afternoon).

Which would have all been fine, if it weren’t for the fact that I just went downstairs to take my washing out of the machine and saw a gigantic bloody great mouse run out from behind the recycling.

I screamed.

It, check this, SCREAMED BACK AT ME.

Well, it squeaked in a way that suggested that it was screaming.

A ridiculous mutual screaming scenario ensued. I shrieked at the ruddy, great giant mouse. It shrieked back and thrashed about slightly.

OH GOD MY HOLES ARE FILLED! I’M STUCK IN THE CHUFFING HOUSE WITH IT! I thought, before pegging it to the uncertain refuge of my room on the second floor.

Where I now sit, trembling, waiting for BodyGossipRuth because between us we might have a shot at confronting the beast.

Feminism has bought my gender an awful long way. I can now earn my own wage, cast my own vote. I can change a light bulb and I’ll have a good crack at putting up a shelf. But I’m still incapable of doing anything other than screaming pathetically when confronted with a mouse.

And for that, female race, I apologise.

Yours, defeated by a mouse.


p.s. Since writing the above, BodyGossipRuth has gallantly assailed my kitchen, removed my washing, fetched me a glass of calming water, helped me plug in a mouse deterrent plug-in device and looked out of the window in a menacing fashion when some neighbourhood yob types looked like they might be trying to steal her bike. She is now officially my boyfriend.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Liz Jones -v- Gok Wan

So, it appears that once again Gok Wan has found himself in the firing line, pelted with the word-bullets which are Daily Mail columnist Liz Jones’ self-righteous wrath. One might have thought she would have found someone else to pick on by now. But no. It appears Gok has really got her goat. This is the third time Ms Jones has inflicted a column on the Daily Mail reading world which brands Gok ‘patronising’.

How to Look Good Naked: “Patronising!” says Liz.
Gok’s Fashion Road Show: “Patronising” Liz choruses once more.
And today, Gok’s comments regarding Mums on the school run are….yep, you guessed it….PATRONISING.

In case you’re reading this, Liz, just FYI – “condescending” means the same as “patronising”. You may wish to do a little word swap to introduce some variety into your writing.

I’ve done a rudimentary Google search on the whole Liz-v-Gok debacle and read as much as I could without falling asleep.

It seems that the bulk of Liz’s argument centres around the (somewhat misguided) notion that men would not be subjected to the same language and treatment as part of a TV show branded ‘light entertainment’ and that Gok’s efforts to style the nation are a thinly disguised, yet catastrophic blow to girl power. (Aw, bless. She thinks she’s being all feminist.)

I haven’t been able to find Gok’s comments on the attire of British mothers (rather suggesting that Liz Jones works really hard to find reasons to be suitably column-ready in her rage), but I should imagine they are something along the lines of : If you make the effort to look lovely, even if you’re a busy working Mum, your life will be a little more fabulous.

And he’s right. I don’t have children, granted, so to avoid finding myself being subjected to that most tedious of all arguments “but you are not a mother! You JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!” (it’s been used on me during countless, less directly relevant debates), I shall use the example of my own mother. I cannot remember my Mum being ever being less than groomed and well-presented, despite having, in addition to myself, two boys born so close together everyone thought they were twins (my brothers are 10 months apart), working within the family business and all the usual demands which many women cite as the reason they’ve been unable to dress themselves sensibly in the morning.

And of course, I would have loved her just as much if she wore a uniform of sagging-at-the-knees leggings and an egg stained cardi. My point is, it’s obviously possible to work, bring children into the world and ultimately avoid this particular wardrobe destiny. It undoubtedly required a considerable amount of effort each day. But I believe my mother would argue that it was worth it: It was about expressing her own self-worth. People who dress to suit their shape and size are giving the message that they respect their bodies, and themselves.

Gok has taught women throughout the UK how to do that exact thing, ON A BUDGET, no less. Wearing clothes that flatter your figure puts a spring in your step, even if they cost £3.99 from Primark, or were fashioned using a sheet of glitter paper and some pritt stick.

As for Gok’s tone and manner which Ms Jones apparently finds particularly objectionable, I can only say this: Liz is obviously lucky enough never to have suffered from cripplingly low self-esteem, or to know anyone who has.

Some women’s egos have been left so utterly dented by endless pressure to aspire to an ever-changing and very narrow idea of beauty, by ‘fat talk’ within their peer groups, or by partners who make them feel worthless, they literally do need to be cajoled into a pretty frock.

A new outfit won’t magically transform you into a different person, but if you have ever seen the look on someone’s face when they’ve been given a makeover and see themselves in the mirror, you’ll know that it can easily be the catalyst someone desperately needs to set them on the path to confidence.

True confidence is about emotion, it’s about ‘feeling it’…… but isn’t it easier to ‘feel it’ when you are beautifully accessorised? When you are celebrating your individuality by showcasing your body shape? When you’re wearing a bra that actually fits?

I think it is and that is why, Gok Wan, I salute you.