The Pudgy Woman Muses: It ain’t what you do it’s the reason you do it.

Teaching.

The job I have been doing for the past 20 years, give or take, between having the minx and moving from one hemisphere to another.

The job that has given me moments of joy, frustration, anger and gastro.

A job that has made me laugh hysterically, sob uncontrollably, shout forcefully and vomit dramatically.

It is a job that people respect enormously, apparently, but one that people are quite happy to mock or denigrate. Ask most teachers and they will tell you that, if one is at a dinner party and the topic of what one does for a living comes up, other guests will have one of three responses to your answer…

1. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oooooooooo, I couldn’t do your job!

2. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oooooooooo, all those holidays!

3. What do you do for a living?

I’m a teacher.

Oh.

Or you get the complete wankers who feel compelled to offer the adage, “Those who can do, those who can’t teach, eh? Eh?”, as if awaiting the reply, “Yes. You’re quite right. I am a useless shit.”

If people do ask supplementary questions (either because they are genuinely interested for a moment, or feigning interest, or because the buffet isn’t yet open), the first question you will be asked is “What do you teach?” (answering this question with the simple response of “Bastards” never fails to gauge a person’s interest. It is also a useful way to end the conversation when the buffet is finally open). I’ve been asked how I got into teaching. It is funny that in 20 years I don’t think I have ever been asked why I teach.

“So, why do you teach?” I don’t hear you ask. Because every single day is unpredictable and emotional and scary and frustrating.

I know of no other job where you can be catatonic with range one minute, and laughing like a drain the next. Students, especially the age range that I teach (teenagers – pause for dramatic intake of breath from the reader), have an uncanny ability to wind you up so tightly that you end up regressing into a state of childlike stubbornness, resulting in conversations like this:

Me: You need to stop talking, Tommy.

Tommy: But I wasn’t miss.

Me: You were! I just stood here and watched you talking!

Tommy: No, you didn’t.

Me: Yes, I did.

Tommy: Didn’t.

Me: Did.

Tommy: Didn’t.

Me: Diddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddiddid.

There are moments when students are just so unfathomably rude to you, that you question why you even do the job, or why you’re not allowed to carry a big, pointy stick around with you.

There are moments when students and parents just simply know better than you do, refuse to listen and then blame you when it all goes wrong.

There are moments when you have so much work to do because you are expected to be a teacher, a counselor, a nurse, a parent, a philosopher, an employee (to the school and to the parents), a chauffeur, a bank, a travel guide, a concierge, an information desk and the all-seeing-fucking-eye that you just want to hide in a cave until everyone buggers off.

It is the only job where you will find yourself uttering surreal statements like:

“Kylie, please let Colin out of that locker. Yes, it’s very interesting that he is small enough to fit in there, but he’s gone purple and he’s crying.”

“I’m not sure why you are staring at your crotch, William, but I’m really hoping it is because you have your phone out and nothing else.”

“Sophie, please write in your exercise book and not on David’s head.”

Parenting is draining at times. I often find myself shouting random phrases down a darkened corridor like “Hair!” and “Socks!” whilst sobbing into a cup of cold coffee. Teaching is much the same, but instead you shout words like “Walk!” and “Pen!” whilst sobbing into a cup of cold coffee. When you are a parent, you find yourself repeating the same instruction 18 times until the simple task of, say, putting a cereal bowl into the sink is finally achieved. Teaching is much the same, except you are repeating the same instruction 18 times to 25 different kids, which is maths I can’t even attempt.

The list of banal questions you are asked daily, lesson after lesson, is enough to turn you from teaching and into the arms of mercenary work, or cleaning the toilets at an all you can eat seafood buffet.

Here are the top ten questions guaranteed to make a teacher whisper ‘for fuck’s sake’ under their breath before responding:

  1. Do I underline the date?
  2. Do I write this down / on paper / in my book?
  3. Can we watch a film today?
  4. Can I go to the toilet? (inevitably, this will be asked five minutes after returning from lunch.)
  5. What time does the bell go?
  6. Do I write in pencil or pen?
  7. Is pink pen OK?
  8. Can I borrow a pen?
  9. Is this going on my report?
  10. What do I have to do again?

This last question is the absolute bitch of all questions. This will be asked by at least two kids, one of whom will be called Josh, even if it is on a sheet in front of them, on a PowerPoint and tattooed on your forehead.

But above and beyond all of this, teaching is the one of the only professions I know where you have so many stories to tell. Every day, I come home with something funny, or sad, or surprising, or downright unbelievable to tell the long-suffering husband or indeed the minx.

Here are a few of my favourite moments so far, and every one is completely true – hand on heart.

After teaching Romeo and Juliet to a group of Year 11s somewhere in the wilds of Surrey, I asked them to write a text response in answer to the question, ‘How does Act 1, Scene 1 set the tone for the rest of the play?’ Not too stretching I thought. One boy, a delightful little shit with a shaved eyebrow and all the charm of a bowl of tepid sick, wrote his opening sentence thus:

‘In the beginning of Act 1, Scene 1, the servants of the Capulets and Montagues are fighting in a pubic place.’

How different a word and indeed a sentence can be through the simple omission of a letter.

I asked him to stay behind after class, much to his chagrin.

“Ummmm, just read that sentence again.”

“Why what’s wrong with it?”

“Well. You’ve spelt public wrong.”

“So?”

“Well, it completely changes the meaning of what you are trying to say.”

“Does it matter?”

“Ummmm, well yes, actually.”

“I can’t be arsed to change it.”

“Ok, great, thanks. Off you pop then.”

Although, this was also the boy who, when I told him that I had made him a folder of revision materials that he could take home to use in the holidays, responded with “Fuck that shit.” Nice.

On the theme of misunderstandings of Shakespeare, I once spent an hour convincing a child that Lord Capulet did not hate his wife, that their relationship was simply one that was representative of the times. When I asked them to support their argument with evidence from the play, the pupil, in confident voice, stated “Because in the first scene he shouts, “Bring me my longsword, ho!’”

There are lots of funny stories surrounding the misunderstanding of words, or bad word choices, or poor spelling. In a recent essay, a girl wrote that in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch goes home one evening and ‘exposes himself to his children’. I’m hoping that she meant emotionally. Another boy, in his creative writing, wrote that his character was making himself extremely comfortable in a ‘large-breasted armchair’. I told him that that was not quite the phrase, but if those chairs did exist, I knew quite a few men who would buy one…

My favourite spelling related tale though, is this one. I had asked a Year 7 class to design a film poster, complete with credit block, hook line, visual image (you know, proper like). The film was about an exciting event in their own lives and they had to choose a famous actor or actress to play themselves and their family. Lovely lesson. When the kids left, I began cleaning up and as I looked down I noticed a scrap of paper on the floor.

When I read it, I was a furious.

The language was disgusting and racist and I simply couldn’t believe that a Year 7 child had come up with this filth. The note read…

anal swots nigger

As I looked up the pupil’s timetable, ready to stomp to their classroom and read them the riot act, I suddenly realised what had happened. What she meant, what she was actually trying to spell was this…

lwv9nbtn5ni2ylpsgsqa.jpg

I think I laughed for about 20 minutes. I still have the scrap of paper.

I’ve had my car shot, my classroom set fire to and I’ve been called a variety of horrible names by a multitude of scrawny little tossers. It’s quite cathartic to say that. Scrawny little tossers. Because when you are a teacher you get called things, mainly because the kids know full well that nothing will be done, and you’re not going to retort because you can’t, unless you don’t want to be able to pay your mortgage. One boy was quite confident in his assessment of me as a ‘fucking slag’ and told me of his summation quite often. Turns out that that boy’s mother was quite ill and that he was looking after her and his siblings (of which there were many). Sometimes kids are going through more than we can imagine. Sometimes we can empathise with them and try to understand why they are taking it out on us. Sometimes they are just little shits. Experience means that you can, more often than not, separate the shits from the suffering.

My empathy does have limits, however. This is the same boy who caused such a disruption to one of my classes that I had to send him to another department with a note that asked if he could have a ‘long weight’. He was gone for 35 minutes. When he came back, he was carrying a 7lb weight given to him by the Science Department. I told him that he would need to go back, it simply wasn’t long enough, to which he replied, “Are you taking the piss?” A little bit, yes.

There are moments that make you despair or that make you want to put your head in your hands and leave it there forever, like the Year 10 girl who came running in to my class to tell me that she had learned something amazing in Science – that there was only one moon. Before that lesson, she had thought that each country had its own moon. I’ll say again – Year 10. She was so proud though that I had to check myself and smile rather than grimace or say “Really?”. She was also one pupil in an English class of 25 who looked at me with bewildered awe when I told them that Barack Obama often travelled with a figurine of the Madonna with him because of his beliefs. After a couple of minutes of silence, I realised that I had to explain that I meant religious beliefs, not a belief in the 1980s pop icon. The Virgin Mary, not Like a Virgin. The added punchline here was that this was at a Catholic school…

So why do I teach? The answer to this is in one last story.

I consider myself to be a bit of a whizz at Assessment for Learning, that is, little activities throughout lessons that monitor whether kids have learnt stuff and what I need to do about it if they haven’t. My feedback, I would suggest, is always clear and helpful. I spend a lot of time marking work so that pupils know what they have to work on and how, so I was a little perturbed to hear this statement from one of my Year 10s last year, who on receiving his feedback, and after hours of marking, exclaimed, “Wahayy! A shit load of ticks and no crosses!”

And I guess that is what teaching is to most of us most of the time, a shit load of ticks and no crosses. We can’t like it all the time, sometimes we don’t like it at all, but sometimes it just fills you right up with whatever you want to call that feeling – joy, for want of a less clichéd word. And that is what makes up for all the other shit; that lightbulb moment, the moment when that kid who hates your subject answers a question with something insightful or wise, when they see that what you are teaching them matters. When they say something that makes you laugh so hard that cold coffee shoots out of your nose. It is the one of the only jobs where you will meet truly remarkable kids who have so many different talents and abilities, who might struggle in your subject, but who might excel at singing or acting or fishing or running or drawing or caring.

Yes, some days it is all too much and honestly, there have been times when I have wanted to quit. But what else would I do that allows me all of this?

And, of course, all those holidays…

The Pudgy Woman Muses -Motivation, Memes and Minimising Mummy Guilt.

The internet is a wonderful invention. So much information on so many different subjects and more porn than you can shake a stick at, (in fact there are many niche sites dedicated to videos of people shaking a stick at it. Apparently). It has also spawned the devil that is social media, a devil that sucks up hours of my life as I read articles, look at videos of people icing cakes or stapling Go Pros to their dog’s head to see what they get up to in the day, writing witty posts, showing off about how very interesting my life is, trying to avoid Game of Thrones spoilers and, more importantly, trying to avoid the worst thing – the motivational post-er.

I hyphenate the word for three key reasons:

  1. Post-er – Noun: One who constantly posts motivational posters/memes or messages. See also: annoying arse, sycophant, person who rarely takes their own advice.
  2. Post-er – Noun: A post about how to live your life, which can also be seen hanging in a frame on the wall of a dodgy car insurance office under the heading ‘teamwork’ or ‘success’ or ‘determination’, and which are normally situated in the staff room by the noose from which people hang themselves after staff briefing.
  3. Post-errrr – Exclamation: What one says in response to the phrase ‘Have you seen Collin’s new meme? Yes, another post! Errrrrr!’

 

Let me give you some examples of the most nauseating ones I have seen so far…

 

 

OK – if by it you mean running, the answer to why is probably ‘because the sleeve of my cardigan got caught in an ice cream van window’. The answer to how is ‘reaching for an extra flake’, and any other questions would be met with a ‘why are you still asking questions? Just unhook me, my Mr Whippy is melting!’

 

I am particular nauseated by the motivational post and/or meme that covers relationship advice.

Like this…

bulb

Good advice, as long as the light bulb didn’t shag your sister.

 

Here are some others that actually make me dry retch. You can feel the arrogance oozing off the page…

motivation-meme

 

Ohhhh, right. Thanks for that outstanding piece of advice. Mind. Blown. ‘Don’t’. Brilliant.

 

motivational-fitness-workout-quotes-69_saving-my-life-meme

Bite me.

tumblr_mzy4wuymzi1tpyjvwo1_500

 

Undermines my message.

 

I do like this one though…

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Allow me to move on to my next point – the annoying banality of it all. Look at this phrase…

Always remember.

Yesterday’s today is the beginning of a new today tomorrow.

A load of bollocks, right? Makes absolutely no sense at all.

Now look at this…

meme

I made this meme.

I guarantee that you can take any old bollocks, stick a glacial landscape behind it, and you’ve got words of wisdom to live your life by.


The main problem I have with these posters, truth be told, is that they make me feel guilty, guilty for not running or swimming or dieting or spending less time snarling at motivational posters. I am fully aware of what it is I need to do, and I’m happy for those who do it, I guess I just don’t want a slogan and some clipart reminding me that I have been sitting down for five straight hours, and the Tim Tam I lost an hour ago is nestled and gently melting under my left boob.

Yes, there are lots of things I should be doing – travel, adventure, reading books, progressing my career. There are lots of things I need to do – hoover under the beds, clean the oven, talk to my husband. It’s all a bit overwhelming at times, and the guilt can be overpowering.

So, I have made a decision. I will not feel guilty anymore. I will take a proactive step in getting rid of the guilt. And in order to start that off, I have decided to compile a list. An anti-bucket list.

Now, an anti-bucket list (a fucket list perhaps?) may sound like a negative life draining exercise to some, but to me it has actually been quite life-affirming. I have realised that it is perfectly OK not to want to do things. Not thinking about all the things I really ought to be doing has freed me up to do all the things I actually want to do, and at no point will I be bombarding you with motivational posters about how many Krispy Kremes it is possible to fit into your mouth at once (discovered through extensive doughnut-based research)…

1.The first item on my anti-bucket list follows a conversation I had with the minx (now 7, can you believe), who berated me at Sea World on the Gold Coast for not wanting to take a pleasure flight (an oxymoron if ever I saw one) over the coastline. The conversation went like this…

Minx: Ooooo, Mummy! Let’s go on a helicopter, it will be fun! Shall we go? Shall we? Shall we?

Me: Absolutely not.

Minx: Arrrrrrrrrrr. Why not?

Me: Because I can’t think of anything worse.

Minx: I can think of a lot of things that are worse. Being eaten by a bear, for instance.

Me: Yes, but I would never put myself in a situation where I could get eaten by a bear, just like I would not get myself into a situation where I’m hurtling through the air in a metal ball of death, held up by two rotating, metallic lollipop sticks.

Minx: Are you scaaaaaaarrrrrreeeed? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Me: Yes, yes I am.

Minx: Oooooo look! A seagull!

Thank God for short attention spans.

So, there is number one.

I will never want to fly in a helicopter.

2. The second one is very similar. The thought of sitting in a flammable wicker picnic basket under something that can set fire to wicker picnic baskets, namely fire, weeping uncontrollably as someone points out the hill we’re about to career into is not appealing. Hence, number two. 

I will never want to fly in a hot air balloon. 

3. I never want to sit in a cage and look at Great White sharks. I’m not even going to explain that one.

4. I never want to go to a Robbie Williams concert. In fact, I would rather set fire to my armpits. In a hot air balloon.

5. This next one I have made mention of before, as it comes straight from the eye level shelf of Satan’s Pantry. I dislike a range of foods – marmalade, grapefruit, Camembert, spinach – but at least they are aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eye. But what the fuck was God thinking when he created the oyster? Picture the scene if you will…

St Peter: Morning, God. Fifth morning to be precise. Time certainly does fly. What’s on the agenda today then?

God: Well, Pete, I was thinking that today, I would create all of the birds and all of the living creatures of the ocean – ACHOO!

St Peter: Gesundheit. Well, that sounds delightful. What have you done so far?

God: Well, you see this here? This tiny, winged creature with a long tongue and frantically flapping wings? That’s a hummingbird. AAAAAASSSSCCCHHOO!

St Peter: God bless you. I mean – never mind. That is quite beautiful. What else?

God: Well, here, I have lots of shells lined up to make into crustaceans and other delights of the ocean. Ah-ah-ah- AAAACCCHHHOOOO!!!!

St Peter: God, I’m not being funny and I’m not telling you what to do, you being the creator of all things and that, but I really think you ought to have a rest today.

God: Rest? Rest? If you check my diary, Peter, I think you’ll find that rest isn’t scheduled until the day after tomorrow. Oh, here comes another sneeze. It’s a biggy. Pass me a hanky will you?

St Peter: I don’t have a hanky. Here, use this!

God: AAAAAAACCCCCHHHHOOOOOOO!!!!! Yikes – that was moist. What the hell have I just sneezed into?

St Peter: A shell. Sorry, it was the first thing that came to hand.

God: Blech. That looks gross. It’s sort of swimming in there, like a tiny floating island of phlegm.

St Peter: Ewwww! Throw it away! It’s making me feel sick.

God: Now, now, let’s not be hasty. Want not, waste not and all that. We could do something with this. We could market it as a tasty snack or amuse bouche. It could be served in fine dining establishments all over the world or in shitty seaside food vans on the east coast of England. Just put a lemon wedge on the side of it and voila! We just need a name…

St Peter: OYSTERS!!!!

God: That’s a great name! Did you just think of that?

St Peter: No, I threw up.

 

Et voila, the next one on the list of fuck its…

I will never, ever eat an oyster.

6. I never want to record my life’s activities on a GoPro. Mainly because people don’t want to watch a close up video of my forehead as I eat a Toblerone and complain about the pain of eating triangular chocolate whilst binge watching Geordie Shore.

7. I never want to have a colonoscopy. Or anything with the suffix –oscopy. As I keep telling my husband, I do not want anything shoved down the back of my throat or up my back passage thank you very much. I realise that this is not something that anyone wants to do, but I felt it needed saying.

8. I never want to watch videos of doctors lancing boils or pimples. I mean seriously. What the actual fuck?

9. I never want to trek the Himalayas. If I want to get dizzy and short of breath, I’ll reach to the top shelf for a custard cream.

10. I never want to get a Brazilian. I really can’t think of anything more humiliating. I mean childbirth strips you of any human decency and decorum. By the time the 20th person had ‘examined’ me in the labour ward, I felt like Sooty and, after 48 hours of labour, it got to the point where I was so tired that I didn’t care if they were actually doctors anymore. But at the end of all that, I had the minx, and you do forget all of the cripplingly embarrassing stuff. But with a Brazilian, you have someone buggering about with your bits, pouring hot wax on your foof and ripping it back off again, seeing what God gave you and how much fur he covered it in, and I’m sure there must be an odour. I’m guessing it must be like trying to pluck an otter. Anyway, I digress. I’m imagining that the pain is unimaginable, and at the end there is no baby, nothing to coo and blow raspberries at (I would hope anyway). Just a bald front bottom. And two weeks later, you’ll be sitting in a meeting, desperate to scratch your undercarriage when the hair starts to grow back, attempting to sit in different positions, shifting around in your seat to relieve the insane itching. No thank you very much.


 

So there we go. I must say, I thoroughly recommend this exercise. It is quite liberating. It has also appeased some of the ‘mummy guilt’ I feel on a daily basis. You know the kind, ‘if my daughter sees that I am afraid or I have any kind of negative feelings about anything, then she will turn into a psychopathic serial killer, or worse, an estate agent’. I now just explain to her why I do not want to do something, and I am not afraid of admitting my likes and dislikes – I just try to do that in equal measures. Basically, I try to remember…

 

meme-2

The Pudgy Woman Wonders About Women

 

I follow a lot of stuff on Facebook. I follow a lot of pages about strong women, as I am really hoping to raise one, and on some days, when the wind is blowing in the right direction, be one. I read a lot of stuff about what to say and what not to say to girls and women, about women in the press, about women in films, about women in the workplace, about body image, about resilience. I read a lot of stuff produced by Geena Davis and Amy Poehler. It makes me think, it makes me a bit mad sometimes, it makes me realise that I have been reading for two and a half hours when I should have been doing my marking.

There are so many strong women and girls out there for all of our youngsters to look up to and although I realise that there are still massive inequities when it comes to gender issues, I honestly think that this is an exciting time for young girls in particular. The minx has so many books about girls who save themselves or save each other, or who don’t get themselves into situations where they actually need saving in the first place. There are no handsome princes in these books (and as she said the other night when we were reading one edition of The Sleeping Beauty, they are not always that handsome anyway. But then she does have a type already. She favours the Mediterranean look). She’s not interested in books about men saving women. She finds them a bit boring. She does, however, like books about animals that pass wind. Or books about little girls that will not clean their teeth or brush their hair.

She is at the age where she is quite vocal about her opinions on all sorts of topics, which again is a blog in itself, so that started me thinking about me as a youngster. What was I like? (Chatty and not shy with others until secondary school knocked me for six, friendly, vocal, bright but not world-changing). What did I read? (Books about adventures and animals and then when I was a teenager, nuclear war, because it was the 80s and Threads had been on the telly and we were all shitting ourselves). Who did I look up to? Now that is the question, and one that I have been pondering for some time. And I think I have cracked it – my definitive list of female role models, women I have loved or looked up to or wanted to be just like.

Here we go…

 

1. Sarah Williams – Labyrinth

I have watched this film about 87 times. There was a time in the late 80s when I could recite every word. I loved everything about this girl, this film, the music. I loved the opening credits, the swooping computer-generated owl promising the fantastical that turned into a real barn owl which hovered over Sarah in her dress-up costume as she swooshed through what seemed at first like a magical kingdom, reciting lines from a play to an unseen audience. I loved the fact that she didn’t seem to give a shit that someone might be walking through, what turned out to be, a public park as she told her, what turned out to be, dog that ‘through dangers untold and hardships outnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city…’, and that that person would have had every right to call the authorities to alert them to the fact that a 16 year old girl was talking to her dog in the park in full costume and might need some kind of special care, or tranquilisers. Sarah Williams simply could not give a shit. Until it started to rain obviously.

 

lab 2

 

I loved that she was a bit spoilt.

I loved her bedroom. Absolutely full of lovely junk, and her bed was amazing and girly and gorgeous.

I even loved her shirt and waistcoat combo and I spent a long time, and still do, trying to find a shirt that looked like hers. I have, as yet, failed.

lab

 

But more than that, I loved THAT dress. Even though I was never a girly dressy girl, the thought of getting married in a dress like that was the stuff of dreams. The sleeves that come to a point at the wrist. The lace. The silvery bits. Her perfect, waxy-pale shoulders. The thought of having hair that long and glossy and poufy, not a weird, angular bowl cut…

lab 3

 

I am not, however, sure about the choice that she made at the end of the film, with the words ‘you have no power over me’. Let’s weigh this up. A life of middle class drudgery, no friends, no life, babysitting every Saturday, mourning a mother and hating a step-mother a la every matriarch-based fairy story ever written, or living it up with Jareth, a hot elf who looks fucking great in leggings, has promised he’ll be your slave if you just adore him (no probs there Jareth), and an army of goblin babysitters on tap. Hmmm, let me think…

Maybe, in hindsight, what she should have said was, ‘You have no power over me at the moment, because I’ve been running around a lot, and my calves are burning, but if you give me a half an hour and a cheese toastie, you can absolutely have all the power you want over me. How would that suit you?’

I bet she’s kicking herself.

N.B Since writing this blog, I have watched Labyrinth with the now 7 year old minx. She told me she really liked it, although I’d forgotten that there are a couple of characters that are slightly nightmare inducing. A further upside is that she now also really likes David Bowie. It also reminded me what a bloody brilliant film this is.

 

2. Princess Leia – Star Wars

leia

 

 

Where do you start with Princess Leia Organa? I mean really. Where?

She’s just badass. She is the epitome of the mighty girl. She has a witty line for everything and everyone and if anything does actually faze her, she doesn’t show it (except when her home planet is disintegrated by the Death Star in A New Hope, but you can kinda forgive her for that one). She doesn’t fall for Solo’s charms straight away although he was, and let’s face it still is, hot. She can shoot a storm trooper at 50 paces, she comes up with ideas when the men just stand around idly, and she’s a general now, and that’s pretty cool. And she has nice hair.

I didn’t realise how strong my affections for this character were until I loudly and snottily burst into tears when she walked out of the rebel transporter in The Force Awakens. That took me by surprise a bit, I can tell you. And the bloke sitting next to me in the cinema.

N.B It is Wednesday March 8th, #InternationalWomensDay, and Carrie Fisher has left us. What a dreadful couple of days that was. I never thought that, when writing this originally, we would be mourning her a few weeks later. The outpouring of grief from women and men around the world just showed what a powerful role model she was as an actress, a writer, a humanist, a daughter. You are missed Carrie.

 

3. Linda Evans – Wonder Woman

woman

 

What was not to love about this 70s superhero? As her everyday secret identity, Diana Prince, she looked marvellous in denim bellbottoms, she had perfect boobs which would sit as soft and perky as a pair of panna cottas, and her hair was thick and glossy and poufy. And then when danger reared its ugly head, she would simply spin around and transform into Wonder Woman!

She had an amazing theme tune, all rock and bass guitar and 70s funk. She had a costume to die for; it was at once patriotic and sexy, a look which is very hard to pull off let me tell you. When she fought off the bad guys and jumped tall buildings in a single leap, at no point did one of her tits pop out. She had a little crown and a whip, like a sexy princess dominatrix. What’s not to love? And she sure was pretty.

I wrote to Jimmy Saville once, asking if he could fix it for me to become my hero for a day. I’m not sure if he could have made me into Wonder Woman, but I am sure that if I had made it to the show, and given the chance, he would have tried to make me into a woman…

 

4. Mrs Whitehall – Chaddesden Park Junior School

Mrs Whitehall was my second and fourth year Junior School teacher and she was simply marvellous. In the second year, her name was Miss Hall, and then she got married and I remember that being quite exciting.

She had lovely hair. It was shoulder length and bobbed, but flicked back and bouffant and it was the most gorgeous caramel colour. In the winter, she wore a camel-coloured, knee-length coat and it had a thick fur collar, made of mink or something, and I thought she looked lovely. She would run her hands under it to fluff it up round her chin before she went outside. Funny what you remember…

She was the kind of teacher who never really raised her voice or made a scene, but you hated to disappoint her so you just got on with your work and silently hoped that she would catch you being good.

She caught me eating in class once, behind the lid of my desk. I had stuffed my mouth with sherbet pips under the guise of looking for my ruler. I thought she wouldn’t notice. She did. She called me to the front of the class and she told me off, quietly but effectively.

Worst day of my young life.

 

5. Floella Benjamin – Play School

floella

Cheerful, cheerful Floella Benjamin. The kind of person that you could never imagine having a bad day, or a tantrum, or cracking a filthy joke, you know, like “Brian! Brian! You’re a facking Cant!” and finding that hilarious. (If you are not a British child of the 70s, you may have to look that one up. It’s a really funny joke. I promise.)

I believed that the toys were dancing when she was dancing with them, and I believed that I could make a chandelier with a paper plate, a pencil and a blob of plasticine, because she told me I could.

I often thought about threading the sweets from candy bracelets or Polos into my hair so that it would clatter when I moved like hers did.

But the best thing about Floella, was that she was not repulsed by Hamble. That plastic, Chucky-looking fucking doll, with its weird squished face and tightly curled brown hair. Not quite white, not quite black, not quite Asian, just someone’s ugly, middle-aged-looking plaything from the 60s that they found in an attic and decided to terrify toddlers with.

play school

 

Which window shall we throw Hamble through today? That’s right, the round window.

Breath, Michelle, breath. Think about Floella and come back from the dark place.

 

6. Sarah Connor – Terminator and Terminator 2

We have two very different Sarah Connors here. In the first film, she is a little annoying; she’s jumpy and screamy and a bit flapping-her-hands-in-front-of-her-face-y. But she grows on you. When Kyle Reece (who has been sent from the future to impregnate her) is badly injured outside the industrial compound where he will (spoiler alert) eventually die, she picks him up and carries him in and saves his ass – that time anyway.

reece

 

In the second film, Connor is incarcerated in a mental institution as she tries to warn the doctors and the general populace that if they do not get their shit together they are all going to die in a massive nuclear explosion. They do not listen. She makes her sparse bedroom into a makeshift gymnasium and does some pull ups. I love that scene. I love the shot of her delts and biceps as she goes for another rep, and then the close up as she turns around slowly to look at the doctors who are peering at her like some sort of exhibit through the small porthole window in her cell door.

The look on her face.

Very much like the look on my face when I am teaching and someone at the back of the class is talking.

 

sarah

 

I love the fact that she is a momma who makes mistakes, and that by trying to protect her son, she fucks up, constantly. Kind of sums up parenting for me. I love the fact that she has friends who have an arsenal of guns, and bazookas and grenades just waiting for her return. And I love the fact that she knows exactly how to use every piece of artillery in that lock up. I love the fact that she had dedicated her entire adult life to one cause, no matter what.

And then in the next film, she has died of leukaemia. And that is that for Sarah Connor.

 

6. Private Vasquez – Aliens

vasquez

 

Of course it goes without saying that Ripley was, and even after a couple of crappy sequels, still is a massive hero (oh how I crave to shout the line ‘Get away from her you bitch!’ in an increasingly aggressive volume at someone one day, even if they are not doing anything).

But it was Vasquez who floated my boat when Aliens was released. Muscular, bad ass, bandana wearing Vasquez. Again, like Leia, she had a witty comeback for everything. Consider this exchange with Hudson, played by the late, great Bill Paxton:

Hudson: Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?

Vasquez: No. Have you?

Great stuff.

I also like the insult ‘Pedejo jerk off’ which she uses towards one of the more useless officers– I have no idea what that is, but I shall endeavour to use it at some point in my life. The thing I liked the most was that she was respected. She was the only female marine who saw combat, (and wasn’t just killed at the controls of her transporter), a sole woman in a testosterone-fuelled world but still accepted as one of them. And she dies a badass too. Oops, spoiler alert. Am I meant to say that first? Yes, she was masculine in appearance, but then that is how directors seem to cope with strong women – it’s either big muscles or big tits.

A further N.B – When I first published this blog, I sent it via Twitter to all the women mentioned, and only one got back to me.

Capture

Vasquez answered my tweet man! I could not breath when I saw this…

 

7. Cleo Rocos – The Kenny Everett Television Show

Big boobs, poufy hair, my first real introduction to a quite blatant sex object who I understood to be, and agreed was, sexy. That is all.

rocos

 

8. Servalan – Blake’s Seven

Remember her? I bet this one has just taken you right back.

servalan

I loved the fact that she was so deliciously manipulative. She had mastered the art of the disparaging raised eyebrow, and the shorter her hair got, the more disparaging the eyebrow became. Here are some insults thrown at her or said about her…

“the sexiest officer I have ever known”

“a credit to your background – spoilt, idle, vicious… and greedy”

“a tasteless megalomaniac”

“perfidious as a snake”

“any attempt to embarrass her personally is an exercise in total futility”

“she has all the sensitive delicacy of a plasma bolt”

…and yet she still ruled with grace and lovely hair and a very clear sense of purpose which she dedicated herself to. She did not appear in the finale of Blake’s Seven, so who knows what happened to her. Perhaps she found the starship trooper of her dreams, settled down and awaited the patter of tiny eyebrows.

 

9. Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman – Dirty Dancing

I don’t care who you are, where you are from, or what kind of school you went to, if you were a girl of the 80s, you loved Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman. And if we are all honest, it is not because she wanted to go join the Peace Corps after she graduated with honours from high school, or that she stood up to her doctor daddy and made him see what a strong independent woman she was, or that she looked great in pedal pushers and a bra top.

Nope.

It is because, whether you like it or not, we all clung on to that desperate dream that one day we would go on holiday with our parents, and we would meet the man of our dreams, our Johnny Castle, and he would whisk us away and show us what it is to be a woman. Whenever a good-looking boy would walk past, you would be like, ‘this is it, this is the one. He lives on the beach, and he is going to wink at me and take my hand and enlighten me in the ways of love.’

dd

Unfortunately, when you holiday at Mablethorpe Chalet Park, your options are fairly limited, unless, of course, Keith the cross-eyed carney takes your fancy (and quite possibly your purse), or Lee, the bloke who cleans the slot machines and has one top tooth and, unfathomably, a love bite necklace.

***

So there you have it, my Top Ten. All were strong personalities and single-minded ladies committed to a cause, whether it be entertaining the masses, saving the world or shagging a dance instructor, and apparently I also liked poufy hair and boobs. Go figure.

So go on then – have a think. Who were your role models growing up? Answers on a postcard, please, to:

Hamble

Shepherds Bush Home For Retired Props

London

W12 4QT

 

 

 

The Pudgy Woman Muses – Train Travel and Other Animals

Now and again, when I have had enough of tiny women in huge SUVs running me off the road because a) their tiny little feet don’t reach the brake pedals and b) because they are too small to look over the steering wheel and c) even if they could see over the steering wheel, they are visually impaired by the size of their massive sun glasses which give them the peripheral vision of Stevie Wonder, or when the thrill of dodging balding, middle-aged men in Holdens that should have been scrapped in 1988 (and by that I mean both the car and the man driving it) has become a bit of a bore, I like to take the train.

 

Compared to negotiating the terrors of the freeway, the train, to me, is a more stress-free and relaxed way to travel. When I think about train travel, it conjures images of days gone by, when tall, thin men with handlebar moustaches would read their broadsheets in respectful silence, trying to turn to the city news without hitting the man next to him in the face. It serves to remind me of a civilised time, when we were not all time poor, when the working day was 9 till 5 and when the boss could not phone you at home, mainly because you had no phone. It conjures images of first class carriages, and antimacassars, tea for two and ticket inspectors, rolling green hills speeding past your clean and graffiti-free window, of pulling into majestic city stations, of ladies with parasols and perfumed hankies. You get the idea.

 

Of course, train journeys today do not live up to those, albeit overly romanticised, images of times gone by. They do not have the same gentile and civilised nature. In the mornings, trains are packed with sleepy commuters who are simply trying to get from A to B whilst talking to as few people as possible. By night it is a tube of drunks, a tube dripping with vomit and regret. No moustached broadsheet readers, rather the pasty faced, overweight businessman reading the world news on his hand held device. No first class carriages on the commuter train, just the sweaty, stained seats that have been farted on too many times to mention. Antimacassars? How many people even know what they are? Ticket inspectors become Hobby Bobbies with a note pad and a rubber truncheon, and perfumed ladies, scent-drenched and over made up teenage girls, or even worse, the often self-titled ‘Yummy Mummy’.

 

Saying that though, they are still interesting places, and I get to indulge my two massive pleasures in life on train journeys; thinking about things as mentioned in my last piece, and the constantly amusing game ‘This Is Your Life!’ whereby I give the people around me fascinating back stories…

 

There was the lady in the seat facing me the other week, a lady with a pinched nose and a mouth like a cat’s arse, who looked at me with such indignation every time a small cough escaped my lips, that I guessed that she had just returned from a six month incubation period in a TB clinic, where she was constantly swabbed and probed by an huge Arabic doctor with large hands and was therefore terrified of recontracting the disease through my tiny, tickly cough. Such was her panic, that each of her waking moments was spent avoiding the afflicted, but to her absolute horror, she had inadvertently sat in front of the very person that could be her downfall – woman with slight cold. Either that or she was just a bit of a bitch.

 

This morning, there was short, snoring man in a track suit, head lolling on his chest, small beaded string of saliva spoiling the front of his hoodie. What is your story, oh man who snores like a bison? Why are you so tired, and why are you wearing a full, grey tracksuit on a commuter train at 6.30 in the morning? Are you currently starring in Rocky the Musical, and the all night dress rehearsals have you all tuckered out? Are you on the run from a local insane asylum, hoping desperately that your doctors do not think to look for you on the 6.15 from Frankston? Will you later catch a train to the country where you will set up home in a disused shed, eating grass and making love to cows?

 

And man in three piece suit whose eyes are too close together and who got on a nearly empty train yet stood up the whole way into the city, staring at me either directly or in the window. You are clearly a serial killer.

 

Literally hours of travel time can be spent playing this game – fun for all the family, including the minx who, when three years old, played the game by shouting at the Asian gentleman in the sunglasses “Look Mummy, Gangnam Style!”

 

Some people do not really require a back story, they are interesting enough as it is; old Chinese man with ripped carrier bag and iPod who sits at the back of the train singing Elvis Presley’s Heartbreak Hotel again and again, until I want to pull the carrier bag over his head, or mine; man who sits in front of me and announces, “This is not my real face,” later revealing as he leans forward wreaking of death and Roast Beef Monster Munch, “because my real face was burned off,” (true story); the woman who spends the whole train ride announcing loudly into her mobile, “You just need to take the joint out of the freezer tonight, Colin, and roast it at 200 degrees. No, the freezer. No, the lamb. No, Colin, the oven. Tonight Col. When you get home. The freezer, Colin.” The same woman who spends the remainder of the journey looking forlornly out of the window as the realisation dawns that she did, in fact, marry a complete fucking moron.

 

Then you have your flat characters, the characters you see all the time on every train around the world; the man who you think is waving at you, but who is actually trying to flick a particularly adhesive piece of nasal excrement off his forefinger; the woman who is carrying way too much stuff whilst simultaneously trying to push a buggy with a screaming two year old in it, who is being completely ignored by commuters on the train as they busily look at their phones to avoid the imploring eye contact of said harassed mother, secretly admonishing her for having the audacity to get on a train at this time of the day in the first place; the one young man who does help and then sits with a look of smug self-congratulation for the rest of the journey; the group of teenagers who have no volume control and also all suffer from the same unfortunate case of Tourette’s; the other people on the train who shift uncomfortably in their seats pretending not to hear until one person eventually and somewhat ironically shouts, ‘Can you please stop swearing? There are women and children on this train. Have some fucking manners!’; the man who sits next to you who just plain smells, usually of one of the following things – fags, coffee, a Ginster’s Cornish Pasty, old sweat, old hair products, last night’s booze or indeed all of the aforementioned; and finally the person who thinks it is perfectly acceptable to sit and eke out little gusts of noxious anal gas for the entire journey.

 

Other than all this, however, there is something that I love about the commuter train, and that is that it is one of the last places left that is bereft of the inequalities and discriminations of social class. I actually like the fact that there are no first class carriages and that there is in fact no divide between working, middle and upper class. All walks of life are represented in each of the carriages, and each carriage is a microcosm for the colourful and rich society in which we live. There is an equality with commuter train travel that is lacking in so many of the other areas of our life which are dependent on wealth and social standing; planes, restaurants, schools and health care to name but a few. No matter what job you have and what you earn, if your preferred method of transport is the 8.15 from Paddington, you all sit together, and you all pay the same price. It is a sort of vehicular Communism. And to further convince you, dear reader, on this point of the equitable nature of train travel, consider this.

 

I do not care who you are, what colour, creed, religion or socio-economic bracket – if the train seat in which you choose to sit is warm and, more disturbingly, moist, we all have the same thought…

Please let that be coffee…