Posts Tagged ‘St Andrews’

So a few hours ago, I was walking down the main street in town when I saw three young white Scots – I’d estimate they were about eighteen or nineteen – up ahead on the corner, hooting and making engine sounds in (presumably) appreciation of a car that had just driven past. Then they turned and started heading towards me. And as we passed each other, one of them glanced at me and asked, “Would you shag me for a pound?”

I was, quite literally, dumbstruck. The boys kept walking; I got two paces before my outrage had time to assert itself, at which I shouted after them, “Fuck off, you misogynist bastards!”

Quite clearly, I heard one of them laughingly ask the others, “What did she say?” And then, when his friend repeated the “fuck off”, he got angry and started to yell.

I couldn’t make out what he said next – I’d kept on walking – but just before I rounded the corner, I saw that all three had stopped and were shouting after me.

The encounter went no further than that. It was, after all, the middle of Sunday afternoon, outside a church, in broad daylight. At least one passerby stared at me when I yelled at the boys to fuck off, doubtless because she hadn’t heard their original remark. I was left shaking with fury for at least the next half hour, and though I’ve since calmed down – this was hours ago – I’m shaking again as I type this.

This was not a pleasant experience. It was vile and awful, a breathtakingly casual display of sexism. I did not know these boys. They were younger than me by almost a decade. A minute earlier, they’d been laughing about cars. I’d done nothing to offend them. Bad male behaviour is never excused by what women are wearing, nor do skimpy clothes count as provocation. Nonetheless, as some men clearly don’t understand this fact, you could be forgiven for wondering how I was dressed – after all, the lad in question clearly thought it was appropriate to proposition me for sex.

Behold today’s outfit:

Call me crazy, but I’m struggling to find a definition of ‘provocative attire’ that includes a rainbow beanie, glasses, a Gryffindor scarf, a leather jacket, an ankle-length velvet skirt, and barely-visible boots. I was shapeless and comfy; with my hands pocketed, hair covered and neck scarved against the cold, the only way I could have been showing less skin was if I’d been wearing a niqab or balaclava.

Which only leaves my gender. A stranger insulted me because I was female: nothing more, nothing less. And when I reacted with anger – when I called him and his friends misogynists and told them to fuck off – they got angry, because to their minds, they’d done nothing wrong. To them, the remark was a harmless joke, yet there was I, busting out the swearguns and shouting like a crazy lady with no sense of humour.

THAT IS BECAUSE MISOGYNY IS NOT FUNNY, YOU FUCKS.

OK? It is creepy and invasive and threatening. If a group of men said that to me at night with no one about, I’d be deeply fucking scared. The fact that it was daylight – that I was able to swear at them withΒ impunityΒ and keep walking – is down entirely to luck and privilege: luck, in that I found my voice before they were out of earshot, and that the incident happened in daylight in front of witnesses who would likely have intervened on my behalf; privilege, because I’m white, a fluent English speaker and a legal resident of this country, and therefore had absolutely no reason to think that, if my retaliation made them angry enough to hurt me, I would not be protected or believed by those in power.

This week in America, Republican Rush Limbaugh was forced to make a condescending apology to Sandra Fluke, a young woman he called a slut and a prostitute for her advocacy of birth control, after being shunned by members of his own party.

“In the attempt to be humourous,” he said, “I created a national stir.”

But humour never defends misogyny: not when you’re an idiot teenage boy, and certainly not when you’re a politician.

Grow the fuck up, all of you.

Street Hawker

Posted: February 10, 2011 in Fly-By-Night
Tags: , , , , , ,

Tomorrow, we head to Bristol. We’ll spend a week there, and then head to London for another week, before coming back to St Andrews. That means waking up at early o’clock tomorrow, which means I should already be in bed, but right now, I don’t care about any of that, because I’ve just met my first hawk.

It’s Thursday night. We went to the pub to see a friend who’ll be gone by the time we get back. We stayed, we talked, we drank a bit, and then we headed home. Walking through the city, inebriated undergraduates were everywhere, roaming in packs. And then I stopped, because there was something in the road, occupying a space usually inhabited by parked cars.

It was a hawk.

It was there, and it was strange, and it was beautiful. And then the man to whom it belonged – older, slender, Scottish – got out of his Jeep, smiled, and asked if I’d like a closer look. I thought he was offering to hold it up for me, give me an inspection that way. Instead, he handed me a thick leather falconer’s glove, which I put on my left hand. Then he bent down, undid the hawk’s jesses – red, with silver bells – and placed her on my outstretched arm.

Her name was Amy, he said. She is five years old, and a harrier hawk. And when he raised my other hand to touch her, she felt like satin.

The man has four birds right now, he said: two harriers, a kind whose name I didn’t catch, and a peregrine. He likes harriers because of their intelligence; they for live up to 25 or even 30 years, and are easy to train.

Like Amy the hawk.

He asked nothing for the privilege of holding the bird. Of all the people who stopped to look, I don’t know why he singled me out to hold her – maybe it was because I had a camera, or because I was visibly less drunk than the raucous students shrieking at the sight of the bird in the road. But in a night overcome with noise, both man and hawk were a pool of quiet, as though they’d stepped out of a different world. I don’t know why he was there, though our friend said afterwards that man and bird are known local quantities. When I handed Amy back, my arm wobbled slightly, and she reacted by stretching her wings, flapping briefly, yellow feet digging into the leather glove. I didn’t feel a thing. And then the falconer smiled, and I smiled back, and we walked away, leaving him surrounded by a staring crowd.

I love Scotland.

Or, more specifically, St Andrews!

We have now been living here for nine days, in which time the following things have occurred:

  • Frolicking through the snow;
  • Jetlag recovery as aided by copious amounts of Top Gear;
  • The purchase of twelve novels from various bookshops;
  • Friendly drinks at several pubs;
  • Eating pheasant;
  • My catching a week-long cold;
  • Toby wearing plastic bags over his socks because his shoes leaked;
  • Befriending an astrophysicist;
  • Several successful dinner experiments;
  • Completely forgetting how the coin-operated washer/dryer system works, twice;
  • Yelling at the stove because the dials turn the wrong way, so that I keep setting them on low instead of high;
  • My old laptop catching a virus and dying in the arse;
  • The purchase of a shiny new laptop, on which I am now writing this blog post;
  • The inexplicable loss of my favourite smooshy purple knitted hat;
  • The discovery of a cafe that serves hot chocolate with marshmallows, whipped cream AND Β a chocolate flake;
  • One aborted trip to the movies, being as how it was too cold and we were knackered;
  • One sighting of a genuine Scottish gentleman wearing a genuine Scottish kilt;
  • The discovery that there is, lurking about somewhere, a town cat called Hamish; and
  • The acquisition of a very strange bird-puppet, which I have named Archie the Arche Mascot.

So, as you can see, it’s been a pretty packed program – even so, I apologise for the lengthy radio silence. Doubtless I’ll have more to say (and the strength/will to say it more coherently) at some later date, but in the mean time, here is a photo of Archie, who was given to me by a nice lady at one of the town’s ten charity shops.

Cheerful little fellow, isn’t he?

News!

Posted: November 6, 2010 in Life/Stuff
Tags: , , , , , ,

So, I have this whole half-written blog about the internet scuffling over steampunk this week that I want to post, but right now, I just don’t have the energy to finish it, because in less than two months, Toby and I will be moving from Melbourne, Australia to St Andrew’s, Scotland, where he has accepted a job. So, huzzah! But also exhaustion. Because two months is not a particularly long amount of time, and there are a hojillion billion things which must be done before then. The most significant of these involves teh visas, acquisition of which is guaranteed to break the human spirit faster than a crash course in waterboarding. Also, selling our unwanted possessions on eBay, figuring out what to do with our cats (who will eventually be coming with us, once the 6 months it takes to get them pet passports are up), buying airline tickets, looking at accommodation, getting those things we do want to keep freighted over, attending my sister-in-law’s engagement party, travelling to Sydney for an early Christmas and my mother’s 60th birthday, dealing with the next round of edits for The Key to Starveldt, finishing up my job and ending our lease, to say nothing of the fact that, prior to learning Toby had got the job, I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

So, a bit busy, then.

Having only found out about the job a week ago, it’s taken until now for the full reality of it to sink in. We’ve been running around organising things, telling people and trying to figure out what to do next, with the result that only today did it actually hit us that we are moving to Scotland. This resulted, not unappreciably, in a form of localised collapse, viz: multiple naps, a trip to Max Brenner’s for chocolate frappes, the renting of the new Sherlock Holmes movie (because action films starring Robert Downey Jnr are soothing unto my soul and, yea, also pleasant to look upon), and a world-first decision not to attend a friend’s karaoke party on the grounds of exhaustion.

By way of properly comprehending the import of this last, know that I will happily walk over poisonous snakes and swallow hot glass if it means I get to sing Kiss By A Rose in front of other people, many of them strangers. Because I love me some karaoke.

So, yes. Busy! But just for tonight, we will revel in a glorious state of pretend un-busyness. With Nicoise salad.

Much to my astonishment, while we were still in St Andrews, I managed to write roughly 45,000 words of the ambush novel in just over two weeks. This is a little bit scary, but also served as justification for my decision to take a break from it while we were in Leuven. That was four days off; since we’ve arrived back in Surrey, I’ve had a few more days of rest, and although Christmas loometh large, I’ve now decided to try and jump back in, albeit at a slightly reduced pace. The current total is 47,000 words, and my feeling is that the whole work will come out at somewhere between 85 and 100 thousand, depending on Reasons. In accordance with the fact that I am a Crazy Lady, I’ve set myself an impossible goal: to reach the end of the first draft before we return to Australia – that is to say, by 10 January 2010. Or, put another way, to write another 40,000-odd words in less than twenty days, days which contain Christmas and New Year’s Eve and trips to Bristol and London. I also plan, as a sort of New Year’s present to myself, to submit the polished earlier sections to a particular agent.

Did I mention I was insane?

What’s remarkable about this project is the extent to which the whole story is planned out – a much more organised approach than my usual scattergun habit, and one I’m going to try and harness in the future. Thinking on plotpoints as we flew into Belgium, I realised a need to return to earlier scenes and add in some extra detail so that the bit I’m up to now makes more sense, but other than that, I’m confident that the narrative is flowing well. There’ll be exposition sequences to trim down, of course, and overall editing to do, but it says something about my current levels of madness that I have also jotted down titles, key plot points and progressive storylines for a subsequent three books featuring these current protagonists.

‘Tis the season, I guess!