22 May 2011

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

I began writing this before I cleansed my contacts and updated the mailing list for Victorious Endeavours. And now launching into the matters on which I have been pondering this week I confess to feeling a little self conscious. This is rather unusual for me as my regular followers will vouch! If you have been wondering where my missives have been of late, if you have pined for me I can only apologise profusely ~ you know my technological incompetence is legendary darlings!

Before getting to matter of politics I must tell you that May is for me, and many of my friends, a month drowning in birthdays. Were we still children our bedrooms would be overflowing with party bags by the time June arrived. I rue the passing of the days that our mother’s slaved over homemade fudge wrapped in a twist of greaseproof paper (now called parchment). No the advent of shop bought goodies and additive laden lurid coloured sweeties had not arrived in the 1970s, the era of which I speak! When we played pass the parcel and hide and seek; or the memorable walks to see the bluebells led by my father whilst mother laid out the birthday feast. Do you remember homemade birthday cakes? The different manifestations of the pudding basin aided by the swiss roll? Mummy could always make a cake in the shape of the relevant number!

This afternoon my friend (with benefits) popped round with a card and a present. I opened the card ~ a picture of a woman in her 70s in a basque and stockings ~ the message along the lines of getting older is a choice. As today is also his mother’s birthday I quipped ‘did you send her the same card?’ to which he responded ‘well yes, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss!’ He of the expensive Mercedes arrived ‘despondent’ as someone had opened their car door into his leaving a dent. He knew which car was the culprit but, thankfully, had refrained from going into the restaurant, where he had taken his mother for lunch, demanding that the owner made themselves known! Boys and their toys!

I was charged with cheering his little chops up of course. However today was the first time he had met Arabella, my new kitten, and he was terrified and mesmerised. OK she is a little exuberant and unpredictable prone to leaping without warning at objects dangled in her eye line. And yes my legs are covered in cuts from her needle sharp teeth and claws but she’s only playing!

She is a tiny person of taste with a penchant for expensive moisturiser, which she watches me apply before carefully licking it off my face! I am impressed with how patient she and how she has adapted to my lengthy morning routine. Sophisticated ladies of a certain age will be familiar with and sympathetic to quite how long it takes to prepare oneself to face the world!

Whether 10 weeks old was too young to be introduced to the pedicure I’m not quite sure. Arabella was bemused by the various implements employed in this procedure. As an alien would be askance so a kitten was too! But then she is amused for hours by her own tail!

So to matters of greater import. It has been rather a week for discussion on matters quaintly referred to, on Woman’s Hour no less, as sexual incontinence. In common parlance one may also hear it referred to as ‘being unfaithful’, ‘predatory behaviour’, ‘lechery’ and more seriously ‘rape’.

I am of course gathering together, in shepherdess style, the demise of the head of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss Kahn, super injunctions and the Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke. The loose use of language perhaps a common thread or perhaps more accurately the value society places on women and girls.

I should put my card on the table at this point, just in case my position is less than clear. I am a trained rape crisis and domestic violence counsellor; the damage inflicted by these crimes on a human being are not matters to be toyed with. It is not analogous, as one commentator said, with burglary; you can move house, you cannot move body or mind.

The crime seems to be getting caught out unprepared for the response; how naive can one be? Does being in a position of high office give one the impression of being somehow immortal? Of being invincible? A little (alleged) dalliance with a chamber maid is surely forgivable? I confess that had I been getting out of the shower clothed only in a towel my first response would not have been to answer the door.

And when being interviewed on live radio perhaps I might have chosen my words more carefully especially on matters as grave as sentences for crimes of sexual violence. The Lord Chancellor is a man of his generation, uncomfortable with talking about sex, and he seems to have a tendency to make light of such matters.

But I suppose what worries me is what this attitude means in practice; the judiciary is comprised of men of his generation simultaneously charged with administering the legal system of this country and not entirely comfortable with discussing such matters.

When in positions of responsibility or just in the public eye do we have a duty to behave in a certain way? Like model citizens? To have a view on absolutely anything and everything? I recall my tenure at the top of the Arts Council of Wales; a relatively short sentence of a mere 15 months; but nevertheless the loneliest time of my (working) life. I was going to say my life but then that would be to ignore my self-imposed four year term in a relationship that didn’t last, (and on reflection should never have begun!); that was an equally lonely experience.

 The Chinese pianist Lang Lang was interviewed by Kirsty Young on Front Row this week. She was talking to him about his concert involving 50 grand pianos and alot (about 100) children; an amazing challenge indeed. Articulate and giggly he becomes guarded and cagey when asked how he feels about the imprisoned visual artist Ai Weiwei. Lang Lang says it’s difficult because he doesn’t know Ai Weiwei or the facts about the case. He never commits himself and the interview moves on with the question hanging unanswered. The power of the Chinese state is still present evidently.

 How fair is it to expect every individual to unquestioningly support every artist in trouble? Do you have a responsibility simply because you are lucky enough to be successful? It was a tyranny not a pleasure going to exhibitions whilst in the employ of the Arts Council, one was not allowed to scan the objects to see if one could grasp to curatorial thread (never having had time to read the catalogue – if indeed there was one).

Kwame Kwei-Armah writer, actor, director was the guest on Desert Island Discs this week. Accepting he is now a mentor for young actors and young black men in particular, he spoke reverentially of his relationship with his mother. I confess I still remember him as a nurse on Casualty!

So you change/modify your behaviour accordingly and if per chance you slip one evening and do something not consistent with that of a mentor well of course you will have sufficient resources to get a super injunction to conceal the details and the third party (the unsuspecting victim).

Does the affair of Sir Fred Goodwin really fall into governance concerns? Men (and ladies less frequently) have had sexual lapses ad immemorial surely if we worried about it all then we would never allow men to be in positions of responsibility! Has it all gone too far? Are the French right, where the private lives are just that private and not something of concern to anyone other than those involved?

Schwartzenneger’s lapse produced a mini Arnie rather old news now, distressing for his wife of course, but why of interest to the general populous? We like to blame, to point and jeer so we can say ‘not me, I’d NEVER do anything like that!’ The moral high ground has reached vertigo inducing proportions; there is no oxygen up there hence we gasp our last breathe if we spend any length of time up there! Thank god for the super injunction – see how jolly thoughtful these celebrities are protecting us from the details that would elevate us to those dangerous places!

And this week’s missive has become rather more random than I had intended but this reflects my week! And I had meant to muse a little more on matters of birthdays and to tell you of Arabella’s traumatic first visit to the vet! She growled and then cried! My guilt was overwhelming but she does need her vaccinations; and to be free of worms!!

And too few of you have responded to my invitation to the June Salon with Catrin Finch! It will be sophisticated fun I promise ~ I’m planning a whole new outfit; some platforms of 4 plus inches have already been secured!

In sophistication as always

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