The war has ended, let peace and prosperity reign!
Celebrate the servicemen returning,
Coming back here and taking our jobs.
We have the Sex Disqualification Act now,
But we’re still expected to work the same
Long hours as our male counterparts.
Still disqualified from equal pay and benefits,
Earning half the amount of men in most industries,
Not based on half the ability but
Decided only on our sex.
Still we’re here, keeping the home fires burning.
Chin up, come on old girl,
Back to “women’s work” we go.
We’re allowed to work on assembly lines now,
But of course none of us are allowed to supervise.
Only one in ten married women work because it’s
Not possible to do a full working day and manage the
Laundry, dishes, cleaning, sewing,
Care, cooking, child-growing
Of a family.
Well done! Well done, sister suffragette –
We have the vote, we made a change!
But only if you’re a woman of a certain age.
30 years or older please
Because a woman has no wisdom at
19 or 20.
Screen screen screen, screen,
One more hour and I swear I’ll scream.
Too many small boxes filled with faces,
All in one Zoom or Team or FaceTime
But separated by walls, the divisions between us both real and virtual,
Only one face per rectangular box.
My mind feels like it is melting in this flat upright world of screens.
How can I explore when the only Explorer I have is Internet?
Now of course obsolete. Who browses that way any more?
What will we say that about in 6 months or 6 years?
What more will we lose and let fade away…
Chin up, come on old girl,
Don’t think like that.
You’re still safe within the four walls of your home,
Staring safely at the untouchable screen,
Routinely seeing the same faces in their boxes.
Look but don’t touch
Those people I can see,
As I ache to hug the people closest to me.
So unspeakably grateful to have work to do,
No one coming over here, taking our jobs.
Equal pay for all!
(Except for that pesky 12-25% gender gap we don’t like to mention.)
Did you know there are still no sectors of the economy where women are paid the same as men across the board?
You don’t want to get me started on diversity on boards.
We keep those home fires burning and we have to work so hard to
Keep those home fires burning,
Because those bills aren’t going to pay themselves and that fire needs lighting by someone!
A lower salary is better than no salary, am I right ladies?
Who says we can’t have it all?
No, no there’s no discrimination here!
“Go to work, or don’t,” has been uttered and it’s utterly unclear.
That is if you have work to go to, of course.
Is it a relief to be furloughed or has it become yet another thing to make us feel low?
For business or pleasure our link to the outside world,
To each other is through these rectangular portals,
The screens to another dimension.
I’ve dreamed in Zoom –
I saw boxes floating in front me as I walk down a street,
Heads suspended in small rectangles, obscuring my vision of what should be in front of me,
Screens replacing reality.
Some of us have started sewing ostensibly for sanity.
Masks, patchwork, blankets, clothes.
It’s more than make do and mend now.
It’s make, create and hold on to something physical, hold on to reality as we
Try not to disappear…
I have turned to cooking.
I step into the kitchen away from the computer,
Taking in the solid comforts of hob, the pots, the pans and the oven
As I prepare my next comfort food.
I chop, mix, scrape, knead, stir, bash, fry, bake, grill, caramelise, sear, boil, toast.
I feel calm as I cross the threshold and leave my flat phone, tablet and computer worlds behind.
I find unexpected solace in hoovering, cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the kitchen floor, clearing pots and pans away.
For those minutes and hours I forget about the boxes looming on the horizon, waiting for me.
In this pocket of domesticity, I don’t have to look too far ahead and
My view is filled with 3-dimensional objects of all shapes and sizes.
I, a woman,
Turn away from work, back in time towards the odd relief of
Cooking and cleaning.
And I can’t help but think as the wartime words pour out from the mouths of our leaders,
What would the women of 1920 make of this?
The women who lived through a real war and fought so hard
For the right to vote and
For the right to work and
For the right to be seen as equal.
What does it mean in 2020 to be this woman?
I’m a serial monogamist.
I’m a one at a time kind of girl and I always have been. Sometimes I go through them quite quickly and you’ll think I’m fickle because my current favourite changes like seasonal ice cream flavours, but then I suppose that’s the nature of flitting from one to the next so frequently. But there are constants. The ones I always come back to, like the tide returning to the shore. Those are the real favourites. Comfort flavours.
I rarely, if ever, cheat.
I won’t say I’ve never cheated. That’s not true and I don’t like to lie.
But I haven’t done it often. I tried it though, like so many people do.
The truth is, I really do just prefer having one at a time. There’s such pleasure in losing yourself entirely in just one – the experience is sweet and to be savoured, only this, right now, entirely, fleeting, soon to be over. But while you’re here nothing is better and there is nothing I want more than this one. Just this one. Nothing else.
I’m talking about books.
I’m talking about the particular, delicious, sensual and sometimes erotic pleasure in losing yourself in one single world. And when it’s a world you so want to explore, that’s where true magic lies. If you’re lucky it will be a trilogy or a series and you’ll have more time. But it will end. It always does. You can’t go on with it forever. They always end, as they must.
I become envious of people who are making their discoveries for the first time. There isn’t anything like it. The element of surprise, the sheer joy of reading a book for the first time, one you’re really enjoying, is almost too much to bear. I think that’s part of the conflict while I read them. There’s one voice in my head telling me to slow down, while another (far more frequently victorious) is already planning how I’m going to irresponsibly stay up all night to get to the end.
I become giddy with the joy of it. It bubbles up inside me at this beautiful, fictional place and the fact that I’ve got permission to be there. Me? Yes, me! I’m invited to indulge in the delights in these pages and I want them all now please but I don’t want it to end. I must know what happened. But I really don’t want it to end. I can’t not know. But then it will be over and I’ll have no more left but I’ll wish so hard that I did. And I always feel bereft when I do, inevitably, reach the final page.
There’s a kind of superiority borne from this virgin-envy. I find myself becoming snooty. Consoling myself with placatory platitudes: “she won’t love it as much as I do”, “don’t worry, he won’t understand the full implications of the ending”, “it’s ok, it won’t speak to any of them as much as it did to me.”
I hate book groups. I can’t stand them. Reading, for me, is so intensely personal. I don’t want you to tell me what to read this week or next week or any other week. I’m selfish with my reading. It’s for me. We can recommend books to each other, but I’ll never expect you to read something because I don’t read when expected to. I read because I want to. I don’t want you to take away what I’ve seen here in this book that I love, in this world that I’ve found, by discussing it to death with pre-prepared questions that are so annoyingly inane, a child would be insulted by them. I find it unbearable to plan to dissect something that is so beautiful.
It’s my reading. Don’t force me share it. Don’t make me cheat on it with you or with another book that you’ve said I must read because the group voted and democracy rules, or because it’s Sally’s turn to choose but Sally has terrible taste and we all know it but everyone gets a turn. Let me instead open up a bit of myself and choose to give it to you as a gift. It will be a shy offering, and as I open that door and let myself back into that world, this time with you holding my hand, you’ll see my eyes look somewhere past you and my face light up and it’s like the sun is shining or like I’m visiting an old friend…because that’s what is happening. I’m visiting a friend. More than a friend. A lover – one I think of and remember fondly.
I love to read. It’s one of my life’s greatest pleasures. To sit and take in a world of words from somebody else’s beautiful mind.
I love to read books one at a time. To know that I’m giving myself totally to them for the time that I’m discovering them. To give them the respect that they deserve. To be only in that world, entirely immersed and surrounded by new sights, new voices, a small universe captured in words on pages…that is something that I feel is a privilege and it fills me with joy, excitement and a visceral pleasure.
I’m a serial monogamist. But only with books.