Love her or hate her Germaine Greer can still hold the attention of an audience. On a sleety Sunday night in January Ms Greer was perched uncomfortably on a high stool in the Gate Arts centre; what’s more during the questions she revealed it was her birthday! Now that is commitment for you especially at 73 (something I only found out later).
Still provocative but softer somehow Greer spoke for around an hour off the cuff without drawing breath. The scheduled start of 730 turned in sometime after 8pm but given that it seemed to be a mass reunion for many of the audience the delay was accepted. A curiously accommodating response from a once politically active population many of whom had met at Greenham Common or in my case in the Cardiff women’s movement of the late 1980s.
Her opening gambit was to announce an event being hosted by the Cardiff Feminist Network to stop violence against women; her question was why just women? A valid question given the number of young men meeting a premature end today. Moving on Greer took an ad hoc journey through the last 40 years through the challenges of the bra through pornography and how to support women in the Arab world facing the challenges of democracy. Of the women I had gone with none of us agreed with everything she said but we had all enjoyed hearing a robust feminist in action; still active and pragmatically hopeful.
I didn’t mind turning out on a dark Sunday to hear Germaine Greer speak, in some way the prospect of being inspired, educated and reminded of my feminist principles transferred me from the warm house to the cold car. As I write there are less than 12 hours before I will find myself on Cardiff Station; a meeting in London calls. No rendezvous under Dippy’s Tail this time; a more serious AGM for the same client. But the platform at 6.30am is not something I’m looking forward too especially with the guaranteed malfunctioning of my nervous system in sub zero temperatures; I predict the return of the uncoordinated octopus!
The arctic weather presents a sartorial challenge for the sophisticated spinster; the bone chilling wind today cut through my stylish but frankly inadequate outfit today! I no longer own a ‘proper’ winter coat; not owning a good camel full length number my predecessors wouldn’t have dreamt of leaving out of one’s wardrobe – such a purchase would have been ‘an investment’ piece. So the solution is layering. But how does one accommodate the 6am start in the dark frost (very cold) via the car (chilly but bearable) to the platform (very cold) to the train (bound to be overly warm by Newport) to Paddington Station (undercover so not too cold besides isn’t London always kept frost free by pollution) via the taxi (warmish) arriving at the venue (temperature unknown but bound to vary during the day). Heavens I’m exhausted just thinking about it and I haven’t mentioned the compulsory social ending in the nearby pub before getting back on the train!
Does one work from the inside out? Well obviously one does but should thermals (that cannot be removed) form the foundation of the body building outfit. A pair of tights under the wool gabardine trousers is a must; with the temperature compromised balance I have to leave out the purple suede short boots I had planned to wear on account of the 3 inch heels. Whilst perfectly manageable when the ambient temperature does not reveal ones exhaled breathe the hovering around zero business buggers that one up completely. Before realising I am not adventurous enough to cast caution to the wind by wearing purple suede with cherry red boiled wool (despite the 3 foot of leg between top and bottom).
The only way I can insulate myself sufficiently will be to wear three layers of boiled wool under a full length mohair cardigan; I trust you are oozing with sympathy at this point! Note to self (apropos a near miss in the ladies loo before a seminar this week): remember to lift the bottom of the cardigan out of the way before flushing the loo. Believe me one needs ones wits about one when having to juggle a pair of crutches, hand bag, work bag etc whilst fastening ones trousers and simultaneously attempting to reach the flush. Fortunately I looked down just as the water started to gush over the bottom of the garment that had draped itself unhelpfully in the bowl!
Adding to the nightmare that will be me trying to create the ‘competent (desirable yet unattainable) consultant’ image at 430am I am in DIRE need of a haircut! Currently my slapdash behaviour this morning has rendered me resembling a red setter with a strawberry blonde rinse. Let’s just say the wavy locks are relaxing at the moment when frankly I need a little more oomph! Does one risk overdoing the hairspray in the warmth of the bedroom risking it freezing outside creating an ice sculpture that will surely melt on the train? Arriving in Paddington with ones travelling companions politely averting their eyes away from the soggy bird’s nest that is now resident on ones head in place of ‘a tidy (hair) do’!
On the platform I am meeting a colleague I have got to know well and like enormously. We have developed a comfortable camaraderie able to accommodate the business in both an erudite and frivolous manner. Tomorrow we are to be joined by a man from an aligned sector who is planning to stand for election to the committee. The current membership is exclusively female; not for any reason other than sheer chance but nevertheless this gender bias is reflected in the character of the committee. The lengthy CV submitted by the prospective member is deliciously peppered with research into female participation in the sector; I feel it would be rude not to interrogate the findings of this frightening erudite specimen! Given the power that would be awarded on election I feel a responsibility to ensure due diligence is carried out. For avoidance of doubt whilst my peripheral nerves are indeed compromised by freezing temperatures the initiating organ (i.e. my brain) quite ably pumps out the messages it’s just there is a bit of a breakdown towards the edges. This of course could mean me issuing a beautifully articulated observation as I fall at his feet when I lose my balance at the edge of the pavement!
On that note I will attempt to eat my breakfast before going to bed early as I seldom have much of an appetite before 8 am; pity I’m not that hungry…