Billy Bragg vs Boulton in Bristol

I am ridiculously excited about Thursday. More excited than I have been about many a Friday of late. You see, I have become slightly obsessed by the leaders’ debate. I spent most of the last one enjoying Twitter tirades, Nick Clegg’s tie, and David Cameron’s touché éclat while trying to wolf down a jacket potato and shouting at the telly. It was wonderful pantomime and made compelling water cooler chat for days. But this week I’m in danger of missing my political fix, sort of.  It’s the press night of a new play starring Billy Bragg (aka God). ‘Pressure Drop’, by Mick Gordon, promises to explore social and political reference points that we live our lives by, pivoting around the central question: What makes me who I am? Ever since I realised the calendar clash, I’ve been wrangling with that very dilemma. Should I opt for a night of political drama that is fictional or supposedly ‘factual’? What are my political reference points? And how in hell will I know unless I keep up with GE2010 and the leaders’ debate?! Most of all, I’m wondering how Bragg allowed the two to be scheduled on the same night. After several cups of tea and two Lindt bunnies (yes that’s right, Easter keeps on giving in the Russell household) I’ve come to the conclusion that it must all be part of some master plan. If missing the political event of the year to spend three hours on a bench in Euston is good enough for Billy Bragg, I’ve decided it’s good enough for me. I may, however, pack snacks. And a cushion.

The long & short of it

It has finally happened. I have reached the age where strangers think I am giving them dagger eyes (or, as my 14-year-old self called them, ‘evils’) when all I am actually trying to do is focus slightly my myopic eyes to work out whether or not I know them. Once upon a time, I could pick out a casual acquaintance a mile off. I took pleasure in showing off during my driving test by identifying not only the licence plate I was being asked to read, but also the one in the car park across the road. Oh how the mighty fall. An adolescence of reading far too many books by torchlight, a decade of staring at a monitor all day, and the inherited eyes-of-a-bat from my parents (one hugely short sighted, one long – damn shame they didn’t even out) have taken their toll and I now need glasses. For the first few days after this official notification I was reluctant to embrace my new status as a wearer of face-furniture. Another thing to remember as I leave the house in the morning? Another thing I can potentially break/lose/damage in the rough and tumble of daily life? But then a wise (very wise) friend pointed out one, irrefutable, advantage to my new situation: “Needing glasses is brilliant – it’s like a whole other area of your person to accessorise!”

Blonde on blonde

Apparently, towards the end of the last Ice Age, our male forebears became a minority amongst an increasing majority of women. The physical endeavor required to hunt bison and woolly mammoths meant that many males died and left the women with a shrinking pool of breeders. This meant that no matter how duff ugly said male specimens were, they miraculously had their pick of cavewomen to mate with.

Out clubbing of a weekend, prehistoric man was faced with a selection of voluptuous, barefoot goddesses. He started to become increasingly particular about the rare ones with fair hair, light colored eyes and pale skin. This ensured the rise of the blonde cavewoman and the guarantee that the golden gene would be passed to the next generation. It may have started as a genetic mutation, but flash forward a few millennia and somehow the perceived appeal of flaxen locks has stuck.

Blonde hair is often associated with youth and it’s been said that those around blondes have a tendency to fawn over them, encouraging them to behave in a child-like way to get attention. The archetypical ‘dumb blonde,’ is seen as attractive and popular, but not necessarily smart. It’s something that the most amateur of anthropologists can observe at any bar, restaurant, or social gathering up and down the country.

It may not be fair, it certainly isn’t rational (have you seen the queue’s around Headmasters for half price highlights? No-one over the age of 30 even knows what their real hair colour is anymore) but it’s there. Alive and well in London town, at least the last time I looked (Saturday night, since you ask). So next up I plan to observe men. For purely professional reasons you understand. Having recently attended an event with the delightfully bumbling Boris Johnson, I’d be inclined to say that a little playing up to the stereotype is something many males embrace as well. I’ll keep you posted.

Should we all cheer up?

The chair of the Orange Prize, Daisy Goodwin, has revealed that the contenders for this year’s award are all unfathomably depressing and “grim“. Women’s fiction is, apparently, in a dark, dark place. So are we losing our sense of humour? Or has it just been a tough year for womankind?

As someone who has always preferred a bit of comedy with my tragedy, this comes as a surprise. If I’m feeling down, I’ll want to laugh. If I’m up, I want to stay there. So here’s to a little more light with our shade – and I for one plan to scour the book shelves for some smiles.

Hugo Boss and other disappointments

It’s not that I begrudge my fellow man earning a decent living. It’s not even that I’m still furious with The Cowboys (TM) for conning me in every possible way to get me to buy the shoebox in the ghetto and then running off into the sunset with my money, emitting hyena-like shrieks of pure evil. It’s the fact that my new and blameless plumber wears Hugo Boss jeans, drives a Mercedes, and has just presented me with a quote with far more zeros on it than I had expected. And I have no shower. 

We have always been bathless (apologies to all my lovely friends who bought me fancy pants bath oils and lotions for my birthday. I’ll try not to ply you with so much wine next time you’re over so perhaps you’ll notice), but we took a great deal of comfort from our shower.  I did a lot of thinking under it in the mornings, while my mind was gently lifting itself out of dreamland, free from the constraints of rational daytime thought. It helped set me up for the day and woke me up like nothing else could. We also made good use of the shower at other times (no, not like that).

Living in a studio flat means that the bathroom (oh, okay, the loo-with-a-shower-hanging-over-it room) is the only place you can go to get away from it all. Had a row and want to flounce off in a dramatic huff? Need some thinking time? Feeling bloated? You head straight for the only space with a door in the flat. As a result, I and my other half have never been cleaner. We were positively squeaky. That is, until Sunday. 

Since then it’s been like The Poseidon Adventure round ours. And the couple living below isn’t too chuffed with us either. So now we are washing at work (not fun) and counting our pennies to work out when we can afford to get the damn thing fixed.

And my new plumber? Well, rumour has it he’s planning his next shopping trip. 

Do you think there’s time to retrain?

Awards season frenzy

This week we’re preparing for the Oscars. From salivating over menus that have been accidentally ‘leaked’ ahead of the big night, to lusting after gowns, laughing at last-minute presenter panics, furiously writing prediction pieces and hoping – really hoping – that Kathryn Bigelow triumphs over ex husband James Cameron in the best film awards. It’s not just that the Avatar director has recycled his boy-meets-girl plot in blue alien form, that the 3D effects are little substitute for a subplot, or even that his non-mammal protagonists are inexplicably blessed with DD breasts. No, it’s that every other male over the age of 15 thinks it’s great and wants to talk about it. A lot. And that’s only going to get worse if it wins. Vote Bigelow, for sanity’s sake.