Archive for April, 2008

Spring Clean

Posted in Uncategorized on April 26, 2008 by ladyredjess

Beloved readers,

I have become entrenched in a stale marriage with Blogger. The layout is just plain ordinary and we don’t have exciting transmissions anymore. Thus I have decided to embroil myself in a torrid affair with WordPress.

I will be moving this blog to the sexier environs of https://ladyredjess.wordpress.com in the near future. If, by chance, you click on this link and it transmits you to a black hole, that means the exporting has gone tits up and that I will be sitting quietly at my desk, trying to figure out what to do next.

Hopefully however, my vast and superior knowledge of all things technical will ensure a smooth breakup and an intact set of crockery.

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ANZAC Day Nausea

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2008 by ladyredjess

I was going to title this blog ‘ANZAC Day Ambivalence’ (which has nice alliteration) but after seeing the headlines on news.com.au this morning: ‘Gallipoli pilgrims pay respects’, I am changing the operative word to ‘nausea.’

It seems to me that each year the ANZAC Day celebrations become increasingly sentimental, distorted and obsessed with nationalism. In a country that has so little European history and therefore aspires to make do with what it has, the few events worth commemorating (and even those are dubious) run the risk of being blown out of proportion.

This year, it appears that they are trying to give the ceremony religious overtones, and this has made me very, very angry. Gallipoli was created by the mismanagement of leaders who wanted to create a back door entry by which to attack Germany. The terrain was inhospitable and almost unpassable and the ANZACs were fired upon as soon as they left their ships to crawl onto land. It was an absolute bloodbath which is not deserving of the respect of a religious ceremony. Yes, the soldiers were heroic and for that they should be remembered, but they were going into war and they were going to kill people. I am of the opinion that murderers should not be honoured as saints.

Often ANZAC Day appears to me as a celebration of war, or rather, a celebration of a bunch of men who played with their toys and territory. Adding to my reservations is the repellent term ‘mateship.’ For what of the thousands of women who supported the ANZAC forces? The nurses serving in Egypt, France, Greece and India; those working in auxiliary roles as cooks, nurses, driver, interpreters; and those holding together the country at home – taking on the emotional burden of keeping families together, and of making sure the economy dragged itself on by doing men’s work, whether in the cities or on the farms. Does ‘mateship’ celebrate them?

I do believe in respecting what these people did because they loved Australia and because they risked their lives for their country, but I think the commemoration shouldn’t focus so exclusively upon the Diggers. I also think we should look to the future rather than to the past. Australia, someone once told me, was different to England in that it had such an emphasis on youth. We encourage our young people, we are positive and we try to look forward. In this spirit, then, I believe there is another cause far more worthy of our attention: justice for the Aboriginal people.
Getup, always a practical organisation, have made a step in that direction into this by composing a song for justice. You can buy it here (but only if you’re in Oz). If Australians are determined to have ‘mateship’ as their defining characteristic, why not extend that to Aboriginals and do something about reconciliation?

A Gloomy Start to my Morning

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2008 by ladyredjess

This morning at breakfast I read an incredibly dispiriting article about the discrimination women employees faced once they announced they were pregnant. One of the cases it highlighted was that of Ramona Jones, who worked in the human resources department of a county council, working her way upwards until she was a step away from a management position. Then she announced she was going to have her first baby. The promise of a move to a higher role disappeared and on her return from maternity leave she was shoved back into a boring role that she had held two years previously. By no means alone in this situation, she cited examples of women in senior positions who had been forced into a similar pattern or who, on arranging to work part-time, were expected to do their entire job in three days instead of five (can you imagine doing this with a new baby anyway?) and naturally floundered and were forced into redundancy.

It occurred to me as I read this article that the women were fine at their work – they did well and were rewarded for it – until the very point that their femininity became obvious. For what marks out a woman as a woman more clearly than her capacity to give birth? Women can be treated equally (though they are rarely paid equally, but that is another blog entry) as long as they act like men. As soon as their difference becomes obvious, they are penalised for it.

The thing that saddened me most was the colossal waste of talent that this practice encourages. The article ended with a comment from Ruth Holloway who was told to resign when she became pregnant and who, in trying to contest this, was forced to take a cheque and shut up rather than carry the case to a tribunal because she was so exhausted from fighting the company (and as a deaf woman who has to constantly stand up for my rights, I can totally empathise with this). Holloway said: ‘It’s great fun being at the school gates, and looking after my children full-time, but it’s not quite the same as the buzz that you get from running a massive team and being in charge of a £4bn budget. It’s not quite the same as leading a massive team project. If you’re the kind of person who can do that, then you enjoy it, and so I do miss it. I always will.’ The loss isn’t just Holloway’s, though, it’s also her company’s. Just from this comment you can see that the company has lost a bright, energetic and competent employee.

I recall a conversation I had with my father a while ago – one which didn’t, unusually, descend into a biting argument – in which he said that feminism had been around for thirty years and that good things had happened, but there were very few women in roles of power. He was of the opinion that women just weren’t cut out to lead. Actually I think the only reason why there wasn’t an argument was because I was still young at this point and hadn’t mustered enough ammunition to reply, so I let it drop. Now, however, I can see that at least one reason why there are so few female leaders: sexism is still rife and if it’s a choice between doing battle with a bunch of testosterone laden triceratops and looking after your baby, you’re obviously going to chose the latter, especially if it’s your first baby because you don’t really know what you’re doing and don’t want to fuck it up. This isn’t only detrimental to women, but to men as well: what if a man doesn’t want to spend hours at the office but wants to look after the baby too?

At the heart of it all is a glaring hypocrisy – the people who get to the top of a profession are often those who have been nurtured well. How can they then show such disregard for the job of parenting by keeping men at work away from their children, and by forcing intelligent women back into the home, where they may become bitter and bored (and looking after babies is incredibly boring, though few dare to admit it) and transmit that frustration to their children? And this is only one small aspect of the fallout from the poor treatment of female employees – I could go on for hours but I have a thesis to write.

The only hope I have is that gleaned from a newspaper I read a while ago, which said that companies will be forced to change to accommodate women because, as the population ages and the employment pool shrinks, companies won’t be able to afford to lose their female employees. And it won’t, as my father thought, take thirty years. If, after three or four decades, sexism like this still exists, it will take generations to be rid of it.

Better than Mills and Boon

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2008 by ladyredjess

This isn’t an internet dating blog entry, although one of them will be forthcoming in due course. Suffice to say it’s providing hours of amusement, but (because I am fastidious in my tastes) no romance yet. For that, where better can I slip than between the sheets of a book?

The Easter long weekend took us to a Woolacombe, where we stayed in a caravan with some friends and our cousin, who also brought along his retinue, the various members of which descended on us a varying times. It was bitterly cold, although not snowing as it was in the rest of the country. As we played beach volleyball, I began to laugh at the absurdity of the situation: the wind was horizontal and it was near freezing, but we were going to have our beach activity no matter what. Anyone other than the English would have just stayed inside and toasted their tootsies by the fire.

The next day I went for a walk by myself along the shore. The tide was out and had left pools of water in the sand which I skipped over. Coming back was tortuous, as the wind was icy and determined to fold me in half and then, joy of joys, it began hailing. I finally made it back to the caravan for a game of Scrabble, which I lost because someone helped H (again) and I subsided into a deep sulk.

On Sunday we went for a long walk along a headland, then down to a cove with black sand and a log smouldering from a fire. A dog, going bananas in the sea air, bounded around with a stick. I collected some rocks for my fish bowl, and on the way back H and I sank into the green grass at the top of the cliffs the way we used to do when we were kids on the farm, watching the birds freewheeling and the sea tossing up white balls of foam into the air above us.

We ate dinner at The Thatch and enlightened the English as to the anatomical meaning of this term in Australia, then played bingo at the vile club in the caravan park for novelty value. The kids’ games room was filled with brightly coloured slot machines and the adults’ room, full of pokies, was identical, thereby making for an obvious transition from one kind of game to another, more damaging one.

After bingo we settled down to watch Ocean’s Eleven. ‘Oh,’ I said scathingly as a car backed up with an enormous piece of equipment on board (don’t ask me what it was), ‘it’s such a boy’s film.’
A looked at me pointedly and said, ‘And what did we watch last night?’
I squirmed. It had been Pride and Prejudice. It was an otherwise beautiful film except for the scenes with Keira Knightley in them. Twiglet is clearly suffering from a want of vitamins because she has rictus of the jaw and can’t move her muscles properly. Unbelievably, she wasn’t as thin in this film as she was in Atonement, in which she closely resembled a coat hanger.

The next day we set off home via Doone Valley, which a friend had told us about during another clifftop walk. The road into the valley was steep, with trees crouching on either side, and I said that I wouldn’t like to be caught on that road on a dark and stormy night. We pulled up at Doone Valley Buttery for second breakfast, and came upon a sheepdog with a screw loose. It had a fascination for stones, but if you threw her a stone, she’d take it down to the creek and stand guard over it in the water. We drove onward over narrow roads through twisted trees and thickly grassed banks, pausing by a brook for photos. I expected Heathcliff to come striding over the grass and to pinion me against a tree but alas, the vision didn’t materialise.

At lunch we stopped at Dunster, where there was a castle. We had lunch at a pub which had an African Grey Parrot called Nelson in a cage. Nelson wouldn’t talk if you were looking at him, so when the old men who were sitting nearby exited, he set up a whole little landscape of croons and whistles, and then erupted with, ‘Wanker!’
‘Nelson!’ the bartender scolded him.
Said bartender was similarly odd. Overhearing our conversation on facial and body hair (specifically on getting a free exfoliation when a girl kisses a prickly boy) as he set down our plates, he added, ‘I do like a good stache.’
After lunch, full of Cumberland sausages, we wandered down the road to a paddock and watched more dogs galumping about, then into the National Trust gardens, which were just beautiful, not least because of the magnolia tree that was in flower. We climbed the hill to the castle, and once at the top realised we had to get our skates on as none of us wanted to be left behind in the waiting room at Swindon train station.

And the romance? It began as soon as I opened the covers of Lorna Doone when I got home. There was tall, strapping John Ridd fighting the equally strong, but murderous Doones to get his girl, who had been born into the wrong family. That was a good enough plot to keep anyone reading, but what added to my delight was the way the strands that seemed to end in questions were caught up and woven back into the fabric of the work in that wonderfully logical, but improbable, 19th century way. And it wasn’t so much the characters themselves that lit up my mind, for John was faintly misogynist and Lorna needed a man to defend herself – but rather the quality of their love. It sprang up in their childhoods, then endured and made them stronger: John’s love pushed him to become braver, Lorna’s washed away her pride and breeding. It was the alchemy of love that made me fall for the book, and want to begin it again as soon as it had finished.