9 October 2011

Dear Sophisticated Ladies

 It is with immense pride that I add my congratulations to the three winners of the Nobel Peace Prize 2011. Three amazing women share the award: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Leymah Gbowee a peace campaigner also in Liberia; and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen.  The decision was not without its critics but twas ever thus when the achievements of women are acknowledged. The sacrifice these three women have made is humbling. At times like this I feel so inadequate and realise quite how fortunate we are in the UK.

 In contrast the cruelly premature death of Steve Jobs, a truly inspirational man who changed the world in quite a different way. The power and influence driven individuals can have on the lives of people they never meet astounds me. Sometimes we underestimate the impact of our individual behaviour on others, a casual comment that is misinterpreted hurting someone we care about in ways we never intended. It’s not an excuse but technological advances too often mean we don’t consider our response before rapidly firing back an email – oh I do sometimes mourn the passing of the ink dipped quill written missive, the envelope sealed with a personal monogram in wax!

 The October Salon will welcome Kirsty Davies, Deputy Director of the Institute of Welsh Affairs and a local councillor in Cardiff. Kirsty joins us to tell us about the work of the Scrutiny Committee she chaired looking into the Trafficking of Adults for the Purposes of Sexual Exploitation in South Wales. Another example of how one person can make a difference by raising the questions many people would rather remain unposed.  Only when we know about what happens can we too ask awkward questions using our personal influence to make someone, in a position to change things, listen. I shall be writing to you separately inviting you to the Salon as it is an issue I feel more of us should be aware of.

 Having begun this week’s missive on such serious matters all else will risk jarring and sounding trite. Forgive me as the reality of our daily life is the juxtaposition of the tedious and the tremendous. I am reminded of the time I heard Womens Hour concluding a piece on rape followed by one on tiaras! The seasons have indeed changed and the weather this weekend has been characterised by rain whipped by wild winds swirling around our shapely ankles. Soon I shall be forced to wear tights beneath my slacks!

 Saturday morning found me in Cardiff Bay being encouragingly buffeted along the Oval Basin in the wind tunnel created by the Wales Millennium Centre; once more I nearly became Mary Poppins!  My destination was the Pierhead Building where the Buddhist Peacebuilders exhibition has just opened profiling the contribution of three men to peace: Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Daisaku Ikeda. It is a fascinating insight and open until 17 October – if you happen to be in the area do pop in.

 On Saturday afternoon I finally made it to the Iris Prize Festival in Chapter. Ever since the Prize was established I have been saying I will go and see more of what’s on offer; this year I decided just to do it! I had planned to see four but only managed three. Two films from a male perspective and one female; simplistic naively innocent story lines in some ways but all achievements in their own right.

 The value of camaraderie and friendship, embedded in all three films coupled with the struggle to live your life as who you really are, an unsurprisingly consistent theme. The humour of a female academic battling with trying to establish life after being abandoned really struck a chord with me. She is an intense self absorbed woman in her late 30s shockingly unaware of how judgemental she appears to be. After being broken down into sexual submission, by a rather more relaxed laid back woman, she nevertheless walks away from happiness appearing to be more comfortable with a detached aloof existence. Many wry smiles were on the faces of the audience members as the credits rolled!

 I had begun the day a little too slowly leaving the house with a banana in my hand and a cereal bar in my bag. My hair might have looked fabulous but my tummy was empty! Priorities: external appearance on which one can be judged first with inner sustenance second (or possibly third after coffee (and cigarettes)). OK superficial is my middle name; guilty as charged!

 But after the second film I was rather hungry. It was now 3.30 and all I had eaten was a flapjack. A very nice raspberry yogurt topped flapjack at Bar One with a friend but nevertheless just a flapjack. Battling with nausea, associated with the side effects of my current drug regime, I am reduced to eating fruit and yogurt plus porridge – great weight loss programme if only it was a matter of choice!

 So in between films I go and buy a medium sized bar of Galaxy (plus a small bag of Minstrels for speed). Finding a seat in the cinema I am alone in the middle of a row; discretely opening the chocolate I break it into squares and balance in on top of my bag on the adjacent seat. One does not want to be observed consuming the illicit substance! Perfect. The lights go down and the film begins.

 And then a latecomer decides to sit next to me; right next to me on top of my handbag! I only just manage to whip the bag from under her backside before she melts the chocolate with her buttocks! Why when there were at least four empty seats between me and the next people did she choose to sit next to me? And now of course the broken chocolate pieces are in a heap, in my bag and she can see what I’m up to. Of course I brazenly pursued my chocolate eating firmly staring straight ahead as though I had every right to do what I was doing; which of course I did!

 I arrived home at the same time as my neighbour over the road was trudging to his front door unusually on foot. To say he looked unhappy was an understatement and he was only too pleased to explain why! He is the father of one year old Ophelia of whom I have previously written. Whilst I still have no inkling to his name I now know his wife is called Emily and she had taken the car to Llandrindod Wells. Curious as this destination is usually an indication of public sector employment; I’m sure there are other reasons for finding oneself in the ‘middle’ of Wales but I’m not familiar with them!

 In summary he is working in Port Talbot and is picked up by his mate in the morning. Said mate had taken the afternoon off so my neighbour had found himself having to use public transport to get home – hence the weary stature and the six pack in a carrier bag dangling from his hand. Public transport was an experience he never intended to repeat! Bless him – he’s a builder and not exactly a shrinking violet but his sensibilities had been unnerved by the journey leaving him visibly traumatised!

 In conclusion I spent this morning changing over my wardrobe as linen is certainly not providing a sufficient level of insulation from the elements for someone who moves as slowly as I do! Not quite thermal long johns but should things deteriorate further they are now to hand. Annoyingly I discovered more winter trousers than I remember packing away – Auntie tells me one can never have too many pairs of black trousers although my collection has not reached double figures as hers has!

 The arrival of the Gudren Sjodren catalogue with some deliciously enticing boiled wool items was the motivator that spurred on this activity this morning. Do have a look at this fabulous collection as you are sure to find something to add that extra item to your winter ensemble. I shall wait a week before placing an order!

 In sophistication

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Filed under Musings of a Contemporary Spinster, Sophisticated Salons

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