Saturday, 26 October 2013

Women Driving Or Surviving?

I know there have always been many jokes made about women drivers but seeing the news this morning that women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive, well okay, so it isn't the biggest problem women have had but every day we learn of women like the one in Kenya who was sixteen, raped by six men and left unconscious and the police made the men mow the lawn outside the police station and she is in a wheelchair. Yeah, it's different but it's the same. It's a power game.
I remember Germaine Greer saying thirty years ago  that women have no idea how much men hate them. It's a great generalisation of course but it's no surprise to me that a lot of the clever out going, out spoken and independent women in our society live alone.
I'm tempted when I hear about women being persecuted in other countries to say that they should be armed. I don't think it is going too far and I can't stand the way that people forgive one another for atrocities. How could you not hate somebody who despised you so obviously? I'm not a great believer in forgiveness. I think it damages the person I am. I'm sure it ought not to. It  should make me stronger but it doesn't. I feed my anger because it keeps me going. Hate is so useful, it can be turned into energy and directed constructively.
There is of course another side to all these things and one of my early memories was of my mother learning to drive when I was very small. My father had never bought a car, he drove his parents around in their enormous Austin Shiline - what a car that was. As children all four of us could sit on the floor in the back and feel the bumps in the road. He was so pleased about the Austin A30 which he bought for my mother - she didn't work outside the home so it had to be his money. No worse for that.  The little car was green and it was hers entirely. Nobody else ever drove it. I even remember the bloke who taught her to drive. He was called Donald and what a nice chap he was.
My husband used to mend cars in secret and then give them to me. I had a dark blue MG Midget and then a Scirroco - is that the right term?  He painted it bright yellow and it was an automatic and to quote his words 'it went like shit off a stick'. I had a summer car and a winter car, the summer car was a bright yellow MGB GT and the winter one was deep red and four wheel drive.
That's love. That's when men really love women, making them cars, being proud to give them cars but most of all respecting them enough to let them buy their own. I remember after my husband died one car salesman asking if I would like to bring my husband along to help.
When my daughter buys new cars we go together and woe betide any salesman who tries to do my kid down so you see some of us have come on a long way but spare a thought for those women who are driving in Saudi Arabia in defiance of the law and for all those in countries where women are still abused. And it's not just far away places. Two women a week here are killed by their partners. But also I keep in mind the lovely men like my dad and my husband, Richard. I wish they were still here, they would both have been so proud of my daughter and the woman she has become and all the others of her generation, out there, driving, loving, getting on with their lives.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Cads, blighters and bounders!

 In my favourite Georgette Heyer book, Cotillion, there is a lovely hero, a burbling not very bright man called Freddie.  He is aristocratic, impeccably dressed but most of all he has the best manners of anyone in the world. Manners maketh the man so they say, or woman of course and at one point in the story Freddie is being critical of someone and he says 'kind of fellow who behaves scaly to waiters' and that is the point.
I have just been to Athens and stayed in two five star hotels. It being the close of the seasons these places are cheaper than when the season is in full throttle during July and August. It's my birthday and it has become customary for my lovely daughter and me to spend the days around it doing something wonderful.
The only blot on these things is rude people and hush, dare we say it?  Some of them are British.
Why do people leave their manners at home when they go on holiday? I'm presuming they don't behave like this at home but then maybe they do, maybe they are just so full of themselves that they are rude all the time. I don't think this is to do with culture or customs. I addressed several English people and was ignored. I'm not easily ignored. My daughter tells me I can be very loud so perhaps they don't care for my bouncing Tigger impression or perhaps to be put crudely they are so far up their own backsides that they don't notice other people.
By October the people who work in the hotels are finished, knackered. They've put in many hard hours early and late and they don't need the hassle.
Standing in the foyer of the wonderful Grand Bretagne hotel in Athens, waiting to be checked in, people pushed past us, told us they were more important than we are, that they had less time than we did and their designer clothes presumably were there to show how very much they mattered.
Nobody speaks unless it's to get themselves somewhere. I'm embarrassed for them.
The thing about manners is that it's all about making things easier. The reason you're supposed to spoon your soup away from you is so that it doesn't end up in your lap. You can put a napkin on your lap too and that stops you needing a dry cleaner. You wait in line because it means everybody gets a turn. You can even think of it as better for you. Unless somebody's rude to you first you don't do it to them and most importantly of all you never ever humiliate anyone who is hard working and doing his best. You don't start eating before other people because it means you're finished when they are halfway through and it mucks things up if you're having three courses and in any case why would you want to?  The best dinners of course are those you share.
So remember, folks, do unto others as you would have them do to you and as Bertie Wooster might say, What ho, old bean.'