The fashion world has resurrected the crop top and I’m running for cover…

The fashion world has resurrected the crop top and I’m running for cover…

We’re caught in a big freeze, a winter wonderland of Bing Crosby imaginings. It is cold, slushy and wet but yet somehow beautiful; sky’s ultimate orchestra.

Snowy road

As a result of this arctic anomaly, people are donning layers from thermals to bobbled hats; woollen socks to balaclavas. But in spite of this the shops are full of clothes for the spring. Mannequins are now wearing skimpy dresses, thigh length skirts and vests. When looking for a jumper you will now find a blouse. Need a pair of trousers, try on these shorts for size. Or perhaps a pair of shoes is what you need, will these sandles do?

I don’t understand it. Do retailers and fashion designers not look outside? Just because fashion has their ‘seasons’ or cycles does it mean that everything warm has to disappear? Are they somehow under the impression that because they have produced a lacy, see-through nylon number that the sun will bat all the clouds and rain away and take its rightful place in the sky? Do they not realise Ireland doesn’t actually have bloody seasons?

Perhaps they know more than I do though seeing as while trudging through a snow shower last night I spotted two women, dolled up for a night out. Coatless, hatless and gloveless (a condition I would rather rent my womb out for, rather than be in at the moment) and in 6 inch heels they walked or more hopped protesting at it being ‘baltic’. Instead of seeing a grim evening of artic proportions when looking out their window they must have seen a beach in Rio. Did they actually mistake a window for a poster?

Crop top

To top it off I read today that crop tops are back. Crop tops? The only people that should wear crop tops are, well, nobody. It is half a t-shirt. It’s a top that was measured wrong. It’s a piece of clothing that ran out of fabric. The problem is people will be wearing them because they are in the shops. A shorn piece of fabric dangling from hangers that girls and women will flock to and dare to wear out. Any hint of sun will see Dublin filled with oyster and orange coloured stomachs and bellies not knowing what they have done to be put on show, not knowing quite where to bend or fall. It will be a flesh fest. One in the same line as guys who take off their t-shirts in a rare blast of heat and wander around M&S.

I think a prayer may be in order. To delay this inevitable fashion infliction. One to the snow or hailstone gods to please stick around for a bit longer….

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I watched Bear Grylls and I didn’t like it….

Rainforest

I watched Bear Grylls and I didn’t like it….

I discovered Bear Grylls this week. I had known of him and seen images of him in soggy combats and a sludge covered face, but up till a few days ago had no idea what he did in his programmes.

This episode followed him trekking through a jungle in Belize. The weather was torrential; the kind of rain that makes you think there must be someone in the sky just holding a hose over the world. He looked exhausted, soaked to the skin, freezing but yet kept on going. He forged through the delicate ecosystem like a bull in a china shop or more appropriately in his case an elephant in a rainforest. As he walked he talked, rapidly and with the excitement of a child with ADHD. The camera work added to this because at times it was shaky, following him in a kind of epileptic fit that made the watching experience all the more disconcerting.

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As Google makes running shoes talk, I want to know what the others sound like…

Google shoe

As Google makes running shoes talk, I want to know what the others sound like…

A few weeks ago Google launched a talking shoe. No, not in a parallell universe where Walt Disney is alive and has turned his attention to footwear rather than mice, but a shoe designed to motivate runners. It does this by saying things like “I love the feeling of wind in my laces”, “You have made me a very proud shoe” and “Are you a statue? Let’s do this already”.

But what about all the other shoes? If we lived in a world where footwear spoke of their own accord what would they be saying and how would they be saying it? As usual I have a few thoughts on that very issue:

Flip-flops – A Bob Marley sound-a-like with narcolepsy. This pair talk about sand a lot and not in a good way. ‘It gets everywhere man’ is a common phrase, while a salty sea is what sets off the narcolepsy as they are terrified of water.

Doc Martens – A teenage boy whose voice breaks intermittently so it goes from high pitched to deep in the space of seconds. When it’s high it sounds like someone having just sucked helium, when low Darth Vader without emphysema. ‘You won’t break me in’ and ‘Have you bled yet?’ are common phrases. The Doc is a threatening shoe.

Riding boots – These just neigh, a whiny neigh that can only indicate yes or no. Although that doesn’t matter because it’s hard to distinguish which is which, and the real horse always blocks them out. As they are not able to articulate words they just neigh at each other all the time. However they do enjoy both mud and rain so are at their most melodic in winter.

Stilletos

Stilettos – Meryl Streep. Or more so all her voices in every film she has ever been in starting with 101 Dalmatians and moving backwards. In the world of actors she is a stiletto as she towers above most other actresses (apart from maybe Judi Dench, Marion Cotillard & Cate Blanchett) so it only makes sense they sound like her.

Wellies – A farmer with a mouth of marbles. These guys are from the nether regions of the world and as a result are nearly impossible to understand. Every fifth word sounds familiar because it is either ‘ya know’ or ‘yar’.

Sandles – A small girl with a voice so squeaky dogs run away on their approach. Sandles are giddy and like to be the centre of attention, which is a shame as they are more often than not, very ugly. Socks are the only way to muffle the sound and are used effectively by many older men whose dogs do not fetch them shoes, but socks.

Ankle boot – A Russian dominatrix wearing leather and slapping a whip. “I can’t hear you” and “You’ll do as you’re told” are said with regularity. The whipping sound scares the crapp out of most animals so they are banned from zoos, racecourses, animal shelters, safaris etc.

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The holy smoke has spoken…

pope

The holy smoke has spoken…

The white stuff has spoken. We have a new pope. While the recently usurped and renamed Benedict hides out in some mansion overlooking a glistening lake being tended to with goblets of tea and shortbread biscuits in his rabbit fur-lined chair, a new man has taken his place.

Francis is Argentian and being promoted as a humble and simple man. Instead of limousines he takes buses and pays for his own meals. Catholics across the world are swooning (perhaps due to a sleeping gas impregnated in the smoke that only affects the really holy). At first glance he seems ‘better’ but is that really the case? Let’s look at the facts:

1) He is anti-abortion. You have no choice irrelevant of the circumstances. Just have the child, the holy spirit will buy it clothes and food.

2) He is against gay marriage. Only women and men have a right to marry in the eyes of the church. Even though churches are run by just one sex and women are shunned. Remaining celibate and single is the only other option.

3) He opposes same-sex adoption as it denies a child a mother and father. It doesn’t matter if said mother and father are unfit and/or neglectful. The possibility of a nurturing upbringing is exclusive to heterosexuals.

4) He also opposes euthanasia. If you’re terminally ill just have to put up with the pain until your body gives up. God will decide.

Can someone please tell me where does the ‘new’ come in?

Zombies are on the loose & it’s bicycles they’re after….

Road

Zombies are on the loose & it’s bicycles they’re after….

I have recently taken up cycling. The main impetus was to get healthy, but the fact I can come and go when I like is a bonus. Getting to work from home and visa versa is easy. I am no longer reliant on public transport that seems to have a mind of its own when it comes to turning up. It is a freeing experience and I’m glad I took it up.

That said I am not sure if the pros outweigh the cons. Yes I like to feel the wind in the hair when I can actually feel it under the vice-like helmet. Yes I like getting to places faster through narrow alleys and empty one-way streets. And I definitely like the fact my thighs no longer feel like jelly, but rather a well set blancmange. But, and nobody told me this, there are a hell of a lot of cons.

1)      The amount of gear you actually need. Naively I thought a lock and helmet were enough to get me started. My brain was secure in a Styrofoam shell and I had a way to keep my bike attached to a metal pole or bend. I was wrong. The more I cycled, the more I required.

i.        Wet gear

ii.       Many, many lights

iii.      High-viz gear

iv.      Layers of warm clothing

v.       Gloves that feel and move like steel

vi.      A basket so I don’t end up like Quasimodo

vii.    Bike clips

viii.   A bike pump

ix.     A puncture kit  – which I don’t own yet, but is on my list

x.      There’s more, I just haven’t come across them yet…

2)      The weather. It’s evil. It’s as if it waits for you to leave the house/work to pelt down with rain, unleash a wind that belongs to an apocalypse or plummet to a temperature that makes your teeth freeze.

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They call it eBay, I call it a waste of time.

ebay

They call it eBay, I call it a waste of time.

Last week I decided to give eBay a try. People had convinced me by going on about how easy it was and that people on there would buy ‘anything’. So armed with some clothes that I no longer wore that just kept mounting into a leaning pile, I decided to dive in. It was time to sell up and cash out. Or at least that was the idea.

Signing up was easy and pretty pain free. Thankfully I already had a Paypal account so did not have to go through the headache of that experience again. Photos taken I was ready to start. Listing was not as painless, the categories went on forever from material type, to neckline, length, colour, style. By the end of putting up one item my head was spinning. The real pain was setting the price. There were loads of options with price charts and strategies. After a quick read of a ‘dummies’ type guide up I opted for the auction option and put a start price of 1.49.

Then I waited…and waited. The items were up there, but nothing seemed to be happening. Not a sniff of a bid on a paltry 1.49. Then I forgot about it got on with other things. Then 10 days later two sold notifications landed in my inbox. Confusion ensued. I didn’t even know there had been interest. With some excitement I clicked on the mail. Two of the best items were gone, a DKNY top and another from G-Star. I didn’t wear them anymore so they were better off in someone else’s wardrobe rather than my own…but I didn’t intend to sell them for the starting price. Both of them were gone to new owners for a pathetic 1.49. The money paid for the postage was three times that. What the hell?

So by my calculations from a total of 5.49 this is how my ‘profit’ breaks down:

4 euro postage

25c insertion fee

10c for the envelope

2 euro at least for all the wasted time sorting it out and posting the packages, based on minimum wage payment of 8 euro per hour means that my total profit is a loss of 86 cents. Double that for the two items means that I am 1.72 out of pocket and irritated into the bargain.  Not only, but the items that didn’t sell cost me money so I actually owe bloody eBay 1.40 in ‘fees’.

To add insult to injury I got an e-mail from them today which reads:

Congratulations on your first sale!
Take me shopping
Take me shopping
You’ve done it! You’ve sold your first item and it’s making someone happy right now – and you’ve pocketed the cash. It’s time to do it again!
The first time you sell can be the hardest but now you’ve learnt the ropes you’ll be able to do it more easily next time. If you didn’t the first time, consider using a listing upgrade, such as Gallery. You’ll stand out from the crowd and are likely to attract more bidders.

So not only have I wasted time and energy along with losing money they want me to do it again?! I especially like the line of ‘you’ve pocketed the cash’. All I have pocketed eBay is a pain in my cerebrum and a negative Paypal account.

You could say it was my own fault – for setting the price too low, not having good enough pictures, not paying attention to the listings, but seriously how do you end up owing money when selling something?!! My tryst with eBay was a failure, a promising relationship that has turned sour. All you eBay lovers can keep it, I am going back to the charity shops and wondering if the person in the queue in front of me is wearing my jumper.

In the fight for equality, women seem to be losing….

Girl and butterfly graffiti

In the fight for equality, women seem to be losing…

I was once stopped in the street for a vox pop quote. It was a well-known radio station and the question was simple – Do you think women are treated equally? At the time I said yes. I waffled on about glass ceilings and women being able to work, earn their own money and make their own decisions. And that’s true, at least in the tiny bubble I was living in and referring to. In my part of the world there are opportunities, options, choices (albeit reduced since the life sucking recession) for women, but that is not universal. I still cringe when I think about my answer.

Strangely the trial of Oscar Pistorius has brought the issue of women to the forefront. The Guardian reported that in South Africa there were more than 64,000 sexual offences, including rape reported in the year to April 2012, while domestic violence against women is common. That figure is staggering while the word ‘common’ being used to describe domestic abuse is hard to get my head around. Somehow the practice is normal and accepted.

I think a lot of women (including myself) have forgotten that others are not as lucky. While we reap the benefits of the feminist movement and changes in society, many are stuck in the same situation they have been in for thousands of years with little or no sign of change.

I spent a lot of my childhood in the Middle East. Part of living there was that we were segregated from the people we lived around and beside. As expatriates we all lived in compounds with high and thick walls. I was never sure if it was to keep us in or others out. As a child you adapt and get used to things. It wasn’t strange for me to see women swathed in black with only a slit for their eyes. I remember thinking how hot they must be. In temperatures of over 45 degrees celsius they were forced to walk around in the greatest heat seeker ever invented, while the men wore white long robes that reflected the blazing sunshine which was often raised to be used as a fan. It was as if the garb was made just to add more weight to the woman’s burden, always dressed as night even when walking in day.

It was and still is a culture of superiority and repression. Testosterone is the ruling factor and anything less – is well, just less. I didn’t see it when I was younger, never understood the implications. When I visited as a teenager I found it oppressive. I had to watch what I wore, make sure that my sleeves and hems were long enough. It was a shock to the system despite the many years already spent there. I was acutely aware of my body and felt like I stood out.

International Women's Day logo

The experience made me aware of my gender. I have always felt comfortable in my own skin and going to a mixed primary school, never thought much about the difference between men and women, at least not past the practical sense of physicality. It may sound naive, but I took people for who they were and (a) gender was something I just was.

As I got older I noticed things more, paid attention to the differences. After a stint in an all-girls secondary school I realised that I didn’t like girls much. At least not girls stuck together with no male buffer. It was a bitchy and tense environment where I constantly had to be on my toes, to not offend, say the wrong thing or reveal too much. It was not a place I enjoyed or would like to repeat. Nothing untoward happened. I just don’t think it’s a natural environment for any child, either all-male or all-female. Why exclude half the population? Aren’t you just setting a precedent for this division as ‘normal’?

Admittedly men and women think differently. Men seem less preoccupied with things they cannot change. They have an enviable ability to accept and move on. Pragmatism must be embedded somewhere in the Y chromosome. They also look for solutions rather than dabble in the problems. In my experience women love the problems – or rather the steps to resolution. We want to get there, but have some angst/fun/enamel gritting along the way. But isn’t it the differences that have got us into this, seeking what separates us rather than binds us?

The fact is there is still a huge gap between men and women. It is narrowing in certain cases, but in many such as India where the gang rape of a medical student in Dehli caused protests and outrage, the case of a 16 year old being set on fire for accusing a man of rape (again in India), the widespread practice of female genital mutilation across the globe along with the arranged marriages of children not even in puberty, the chasm just seems to be widening. The ‘weaker sex’ are being kept weak.

I have always hated that term  – ‘weaker sex’ along with ‘bird’, ‘chick’ and anything other feathered reference. It is derogatory and is meant to be. Why does one gender have to be superior to another? Can identity not be linked to what we do and are doing, rather than the costumes we were born wearing? Can’t we just be known by our name?

International Women’s Day takes place on March 8th.