12 June 2011

 No holiday because no MOT!

 

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

 Now my plans to be, well, absent have not quite gone according to plan. I have been foiled by an unexpected MOT hiccup; the Wednesday before I was due to drive to England’s fair county of Derbyshire I dutifully took my car for its (second) MOT quite expecting it to fly swiftly through the examination.

 The vehicle in question, a Seat Altea circa 2006, is only 4 years old. It is regularly serviced as is the wont of ladies who do not know, nor have the desire to know, how the internal workings of a car engine. I am familiar with vehicle maintenance requirements sufficiently to drop mechanically accurate phrases into the conversational exchanges with the Service Manager and no more.

I confess that my eclectic general knowledge expands and contracts as my personal sphere of reference changes. Safe to say to keep up to date I have had to resort to reading broadsheet newspapers to be quite as abreast as I was in my twenties! And in my forties Intelligent Life, the cultural spin off of the Economist, suits me down to the ground; especially as the quarterly (soon to be bimonthly) publication is delivered to the door!

 

Back to the car, ever since I gave the Service Manager in question the ‘damaged’ spare wheel (with an apparently intact alloy), he has been overly polite. The event to which I refer involved a closer than desirable encounter with a short sighted ‘elderly’ man unable to control his accelerator foot. He attempted to settle outside the formal channels until he saw the total at the bottom of the estimate. Scraping my expensive fibreglass bumper was a mistake as it’s not a matter of touching me up to rectify the inconvenience!

 The ‘business’ card he, the defendant,  gave me had ‘con club’ meets ‘yacht club’ written all over it – or was the nautical logo the real giveaway!  The card was obviously designed to impress, (the members of the golf club), but it had homemade by my grandson practically embossed across thin paper thin card. His almost vintage car, circa the 1970s, was practically pristine until he pranged me by the lottery upgraded church corner! Frankly he should have surrendered his driving licence years ago!

Unfortunately on this visit to the dealership I saw the Service Manager’s female colleague. A small woman who personifies the phrase tight lipped. Her exquisitely ironed uniform shirt/blouse with a perfectly aligned name badge is coupled with an absence of eye contact. Her born with a perm look haircut compliments the perfect wife look; a matching engagement and wedding ring ensemble neatly interlocked above nicely clean clipped nails.

 

She is not best pleased when, as she is about to deliver the bad news, the smiley Service Manager returns and says ‘Hi Ms Medley, how are you? It’s failed’.  He then breezes back out without another word! I ask on what it has failed to pass the certificate I require to get to Northumberland. Referring to the red VO03 form (the number may be inaccurate) emblazed with FAILURE across the header, she says three things. In fact it’s only actually two because after the Tester got that far he hadn’t bothered to check the emissions!

 The problem is compounded because the dealer doesn’t have the part in stock so for once I can’t control the situation by throwing money at it. I wouldn’t want you to think I have vaults of the stuff rather advancing years have taught me to save for such eventualities.

 The car is now sitting outside the house where it has been since Wednesday as I am not insured to drive it anywhere without a valid MOT certificate. It is clean, both inside and out (hoovered of the remnants of healthy snacks (dried cranberries/mango) and less healthy cigarette ash). Can you imagine how galling it is to see the sunlight twinkling off the waxed and polished bodywork as I hike (slowly) up the road with kitty in a wicker basket?

Mother was less than ecstatic to receive the phone call saying I wouldn’t be coming on holiday. Disappointment imbued guilt brought me to the verge of tears too. In truth this was the final straw in a rather high stress juggling act that I call my flexible self employed portfolio!

 

So the upside is that I had time to spend attending to my much neglected garden and thankfully Arabella and I did this yesterday. Today the constant rain would, of course, ruled this pursuit unavailable.  Thankfully last night pussy toes was bushed too so I got to watch Wallander without her taking part!

 

Today as kitten napped I rearranged the items designed to stop her getting behind the TV. As soon as she woke and saw me on my hands and knees behind the equipment she twigged what I was doing. Distracted temporarily I thought I might have won – wrong! A further ten minutes were spend moving the items as she had managed to squeeze into the only gap I’d left and got stuck!

 So as I write this, late again, she is shut out and meowing. Or rather she was and now it’s gone suspiciously quiet. Several of you ladies told me she’d grown out of this; none of you said quite when this transformation in her behaviour would be. Answers please in sophisticated abject desperation!

 

Car less I decided to try on line shopping. Surely this service was designed for such circumstances and the convenience would mean I would never have the desire to cross the shop threshold again? Well not quite. Simplicity it may be once one has got the hang of it.

 This time I have apparently ordered 3 pineapples, 4 packets of fine beans, 2 things of hair mousse and no bananas or Vanish powder. The pineapple I can kind of understand but the beans well in my defence the 2 for £2 off wasn’t clear! And frankly I didn’t find myself overwhelmed by the £61.36 I spent but hey I got 122 points!

 On a far more serious and grave note, one which should be given far more prominence, the war tactics of Muammar Gaddafi. I have previously referred to my work in the field of sexual violence but I may not have talked of how I have long struggled to understand why in a supposedly civilised society rape is still a weapon of war. I recall talking of Congo as the contemporary rape capital but even this was not officially sanctioned.

 The breaking news at the beginning of the week that Gaddafi, or familial members of his regime, had sanctioned rape to the extent that it appeared ‘Viagra type’ drugs had been bought in large quantities for his soldier appalled me. It was, for me, gut wrenching and breath stopping.

 The following difference of opinion between UN Prosecutors charged with investigating the crimes in Libya was frankly a distraction. Even if the rumours are not entirely true the fact that this was being considered in the same vein as buying ammunition to furnish soldier with adequate equipment changes everything.

 Tactics of this nature once more use women as a means to an end. To rape women to dishonour a community, to stop the men (to whom the women ‘belong’) fighting and encourage the insurgents to surrender. Collateral damage takes on a more sinister meaning when there is intention behind it.

 Years ago when working in Rape Crisis I took part in a documentary series about crime. I ‘played’ the part of a rape victim; filmed walking down a Cardiff street in the rain, my face obscured by an umbrella. It was one of a series of three; the others about being violate at home i.e. burglary and finally car crime.  The analogy was uncomfortable at the time but the wider outcome seemed worthwhile.

Would I go along with it now; probably not. Last night’s Wallander had one of a group of men whose houses had been broken into saying he felt like he had been raped. I wonder if societal views have moved on at all; or if the language has changed but the underlying sentiments remain as it ever was.

 For once I really don’t feel like lightening the tone but I will because to not would be to give in. And to give in would not be consistent with the steel that us sophisticated ladies have at our very core! And not forgetting the decorous fabrics we swathe our curvaceous forms in – for this I salute Italian Vogue for using ‘real women’ as models this month.

 Is Nigella Lawson a real woman, beautifully curvy as she might be I somehow doubt she stretches into a plus size figure hugging number? But neither could you use her rib cage as a musical instrument! On the subject of musical instruments I am looking forward to welcoming Catrin Finch to the next Salon. There are still a few places left and I wondered if any of you had a daughter or a niece or indeed a god daughter who is learning the harp? If you have and would like to bring her along to have dinner with Ms Finch herself please do let me know.

 One of the most important things we as sophisticats can do is be an example to the next generation. We can show young women how much fun this thing call life can be. I can’t confess to being a great musician myself but I did play the double bass in the North East Derbyshire Youth Orchestra! All I can really remember is how my father had to collapse the back seats to move the instrument. On one occasion when he braked suddenly the whole thing shot forward and changed gear!

So ladies I shall leave you to find out if the rain has stopped coming in under the front door – I may yet have to give into a PVC door although I do love my wooden one. Oh and to rescue Arabella from the ‘naughty’ step!

 

In sophistication as always

 

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