How to be a woman

You may remember that in the autumn I went on a bit of a feminist rant. Having never used the label, my new life as an ordinand in a church which is still divided over women in leadership, it’s now a word and state of mind I have to inhabit. [That post has also become a major issue of contention between a male friend and I – in fact, we had an argument about it while in Paris. I will take this opportunity to apologise for unintentionally labelling him a misogynist. He is not. He’s just a bit of a patronising git sometimes…]

Prior to returning to the French building site, I’d had a bit of a chat with a friend from last year’s trip who had shared some of my ill-feeling about such behaviour. [At this point I feel I’m having a can open – worms everywhere moment with that aforementioned male friend… Ooops.] We got onto the subject of girl power and feminism, which ended with her own mantra for life as a woman:
“Live and let live and don’t get breast implants”
The conversation also included an enthusiastic recommendation of a book that had been languishing on my wishlist for quite some time – Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman.

Serendipitously, it was on offer at WH Smith the following morning, so I snapped it up as ideal holiday reading. It was begun with glee on the Eurostar to Paris and was immediately engrossing. As described on its back cover, it’s part memoir, part rant and that’s a combination which was always going to go down well with me. In the back of the car en route to the Limousin, it amused me so much that passages had to be read aloud to the female friend I was sharing the back seat with – but in hushed tones, not wanting the men in the front to hear. After all, how would they respond to this explanation of how to work out if you’re a feminist:
“Put your hand in your pants.

(a) Do you have a vagina and
(b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist!”

Holiday perfection, right there.

The following day, another friend arrived bearing a copy and we rejoiced at how much we were learning and how ridiculous parts of it were. I was able to question whether she had been shocked/mystified by some of Moran’s revelations – was I the only woman not to have named parts of her anatomy? [No.] Did she agree with the plentiful use of the C word? [No. And I have written about my views on the subject here.] Had she ever gone commando? [No.] The women gathered and discussed feminism in serious and non-serious measures. A Texan builder picked up a copy, read a chapter, and had his eyes opened considerably.

Most amusingly of all, the book helped me overcome some of my more prudish tendencies. As I mentioned when extolling the virtues of Ackroyd’s London Under, we spent an evening alternating between it and Moran’s book – the latter providing some light relief from deaths via cess pits. I read aloud most of a chapter relating to underwear – which culminated in an excellent passage about the trials and tribulations of bra wearing (a subject that’s very close to my heart…). Moran has a manifesto against society’s passion for tiny pants which includes the following hilarious anecdote, which couldn’t really be left out:
“I was on a crowded tube with a friend of mine, who gradually grew paler and quieter until she finally leaned forward, and admitted that her knickers were so skimpy, her front bottom had eaten them entirely. ‘I’m currently wearing them on my clit – like a little hat,’ she said.”

I wasn’t sure I could read it out loud. I’m a trainee vicar. There were near-strangers in the room. Heck, there was a man in the room! But I took a deep breath and read on as if I said such things on a daily basis. [Interestingly, when any of us happened to get to the other C word, we always referred to it as ‘the C word’. Our sensibilities were not to be undone to that extent.]

I don’t agree with everything Moran writes, but it is written in such a way that you understand why she’s done, said and thought what she has. The chapter on her abortion was painful reading – but it is an admirable thing to have written about it in the first place. It isn’t a feminist manifesto in The Female Enuch sense, but it is a logical, coherent (and hilarious) text that illustrates just how ridiculous society’s attitude towards women – and women’s attitude to themselves – can be.

Top quality Friday Fun

This week, I feel my fun offering is of slightly higher quality than it sometimes is. Regardless of quality, there is definitely quantity – so if you’re sat at your desk desperately urging the clock to move faster towards 5pm, there should be something here to amuse you for quite a while.

Firstly, a piece of fun that I can’t actually vouch for entirely. On Monday, the Guardian published a list of the ten funniest Tumblrs. Such is my pace of life that I’ve not had chance to explore them properly (despite the tab having been open for four days), but one has jumped out at me.  Notes to my Future Husband is simply genius (and occasionally a little crass in language, but we’re ok with that, aren’t we?). My entire blog is essentially a manual for my future husband, but this Tumblr is a little more pithy. Here are some gems that amused me:

That latter one is a bit of a running in-joke – but I wholeheartedly agree with it.

Of the others, People Who is definitely worth a look (you’ll be nodding earnestly within seconds); I Love Charts has to be a good ‘un – after all, do we not all love charts? Oh, and there’s an obligatory animal one – Animals Doing People Things. Ok, all of them are probably good – that’ll be why the Guardian chose them! 
Continuing the ’10 things’ theme, here’s something a little more niche. I don’t know about you, but I love ice skating (watching, not doing it) and therefore a Hairpin article entitled ‘The 10 Greatest Figure Skaters Who Never Won an Olympic Medal’, delighted me. Not only is the article full of fascinating ice skating facts, but it’s accompanied by YouTube footage of routines, which basically means that there’s over an hour of skating to be watched. Isn’t that simply blissful? I love those dedicated Hairpinners! 
Finally, a discovery I made last night courtesy of a friend on Facebook whose daughter occasionally features in it – Miriam’s Daily Adventures, a webcomic by Miriam Kendrick. I love a good webcomic/cartoon [see xkcd and Cartoon Church for starters] and I really like people who view the world in a similar way to me. Sometimes xkcd’s geeky science stuff goes way over my head – which is not an issue with Miriam’s work. I give you a recent series on Nutella as an example: 

I suspect you may now be cursing me for triggering a Nutella craving that will last the rest of the day. I am not apologetic for this. *Cackles evilly.*

Actually, that’s not the end. If you’re feeling really unmotivated at this point of the week, let this small American child give you a pep talk:

Who said ordinands were meant to be responsible?

I was under the impression that only mature, responsible individuals entered the priesthood (yes, I realise that I am not necessarily in that category – but perhaps I’m the exception to the rule). However, after a week in France with 100 other vicars-to-be, I have discovered that this is definitely not the case. It seems that in fact, many of the students find it all to easy to connect with their teenage selves…

One can understand how childish games might become fun in a foreign monastery with free-flowing red wine. Boo Yeah! was a discovery on our first residential and it’s on its way to becoming a firm favourite. [It’s like Hot/Cold, but with yells, screams and humiliating actions.] Then there’s Guess the Kitchen Implement? – never has an extractor fan been so hilarious. How would you mime such an object? [That game is immensely simple – you mime the action of a kitchen implement. I suggest beginning with a corkscrew and getting progressively more complicated.] My personal favourite was miming one of those egg timers that changes colour in the water.

Anyone ever played spoons? It’s a classic youth group game – enough spoons for all but one of the group; a pack of cards; when the first person gets a set of cards, they reach for a spoon and everyone follows; person left spoonless is out. Sounds fairly tame, but it’s vicious. It’s not often that I participate in games that involve pre-match rules on which areas of the body to avoid (we specified faces and specifically those wearing glasses). Despite this, the end of the first round saw me prostrate on a table, devoid of glasses and with an elbow in my cheek. Actual blood was shed before I went spoonless (nails dug into fingers) and one player damaged their nose. Ah, the hilarity! It didn’t end there – how else should such competitions be settled than by a Chariots of Fire style quad race (at 11pm)? A race in the dark, round slippery floored cloisters, clad only in socks. It’s a miracle no bones were broken. (An alternative version involving blankets and towing girls was proposed the following evening but never took place.) Oh, and it couldn’t be left with one race – there was another, this time a 4 person relay version. Men…

Poor quality due to darkness and speed, but you get the idea – this was during the relay.

It was the childish pranks that were more surprising. People who follow a certain worship leader on Twitter, may have noticed a reference to a discovering a frog in their bedroom. It turned out this wasn’t a natural phenomenon, but a plant by an intrepid ordinand. Retribution was to follow, in this form:

That is no ascetic monastic bedroom, that is a bedroom devoid of all possessions and beds. Genius. No idea how long it took or how many people were involved, but I am impressed. [Note to self: be careful who you play tricks on in future…] 
Just in case you think it was only the ‘young & trendy’ students who were getting up to high jinks, two of my favourite quotes came from students of more advanced years. One opened an act of worship [a boat/ocean themed agape meal] with the sentence “In the words of the Village People…” and proceeded to quote In the Navy. Another, in response to a request that we shout out words of praise and thanksgiving, kicked off the shouting with “Rum punch!” – something that we should always be praising God and thanking Him for. [It was the cocktail deemed most appropriate for a boat based activity…] 
[An aside: the ‘young & trendy’ reference was actually a high point of my week. On the first morning a lecturer came over to the table I and my fellow younger students were sat eating breakfast and said “Spot the young & trendy table” to which one of the group replied “Wow. We’ve made it.” – perhaps we had, but I had to observe the reality: “It’s sad that we had to come to theological college for that to happen.”. Still, I’ll take that – I finally have an area of my life in which I’m cool, that’s enough for me.] 

Perhaps it’s three years at theological college that turn irresponsible wannabe teenagers into mature priests? Evidence from our staff would suggest otherwise. Who got over excited during the bonus University Challenge staff round in the pub quiz? The Assistant Dean and Principal. Who demanded more wine when their answer was considered wrong? A leading, respected theologian who may or may not be married to an Archbishop. It seems there is little hope for the Church of England…

Friday Fun can be educational too

Three things for today…

1. Something to make you laugh (and hopefully teach you something):

I have it on good understanding that if you’re currently suffering from beginning of academic year sniffles (or freshers’ flu), watching this will make you feel heaps better. In the mean time, I’ll be on the look out for a vicar with a spinning head…

2. Something educational, crafty and really rather fabulous. Ever wanted to learn how to knit a pigeon?

(In my head there’s a brilliant link between those two videos, but no one else would understand it, so I’ll keep quiet.)

3. Something geeky, mathematical and utterly hilarious:

Ahhh, Mr Cosby – a wise, wise, man. [I will admit that my tired, not very mathematical brain took about 30 seconds to work out this joke when shown it last night.]

I know I said I had three things for you, but in the course of writing this post I’ve found a bonus item. Courtesy of a face to face connection and a Twitter introduction, I’ve discovered a rather lovely blog about New York’s public transport. Public Transit Adventures is a combination of photography and the all important random public transport encounters – an excellent place to while away a tedious Friday morning.

Niche and childish Friday Fun (Updated)

Having been on retreat for most of the week, my exposure to things of an internet based, fun nature has been limited. I did discover Draw a Stick Man, but so did most of the Twittersphere and Facebook. If by some chance you haven’t stumbled across it, it’s a genius five minute distraction (and absorbed me while I was finding a viewing of Source Code less than captivating).

If you’re a fan of classic girls’ school stories, you can indulge in 30 minutes of immense fun by listening to a programme on the Chalet School on iPlayer – God bless Radio 4 for commissioning this. Guests are quizzed throughout the show and anyone in the vicinity of my bedroom last night would have heard cries of “Emerence Hope you dumkopf!’ [excellent use of Chaletian German slang I feel] and a frantic yelling of eleven names – “Len, Con, Margot, Steve, Charles, Mike, Felix, Felicity, Geoff & Philippa!” [the Maynard offspring] It also included revelations such as how to pronounce ‘Chaletian’ and ‘Elisaveta’ (neither were pronounced the way I’ve been saying them for two decades). Anyway, it was a lot of fun for me, but probably only fun for a minimal number of blog readers…

If you’re a Greenbelter and/or friends with me and the folk I go to Greenbelt with, you might find my friend Jenni’s video of this year’s festival fun:

Jenni’s recently become passionate about creating videos, which can be a tad disconcerting when you’re out and about with her (I’ve actually just remembered that she filmed some of my birthday, must find out what happened to that…) but produces really quite impressive results. The best thing about this video is that it captures the essence of our Greenbelt – Pie Minister, the French sausage stall, sitting around in our PJs under the gazebo, singing and the obligatory eating of cake in the beer tent. Beautiful.

All of the above is either niche, or not particular new, so I feel as though I’m letting the Friday Fun side down. So as a final attempt to make you laugh this morning, I present you with a series of boyish pranks that really go to show, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…

Attempt one at the pulling the table cloth away trick:

Attempt two:

Attempt three:

And finally, attempt four:

Yes, it’s obviously not quite the disaster it appears to be, but I do rather like the concept. Plus, it made me laugh out loud and this morning that’s got to be a good thing.

WAIT! It’s not over yet…
You know what’s also childish? Sesame Street and my passion for Glee. Thus it is utterly awesome that Sesame Street has parodied the now exiled on Sky tv show. Appropriately for a song about the letter G, this is g-g-g-genius: