Tag Archives: coffee

I Don’t Bring Me Flowers.

14 Jan

“Hey Mum! Dad’s home and looks like he’s bought you some flowers!”

It’s been a long and hard few weeks. To say the least. Dishwasher died just before Christmas. Okay – the least of my worries, but bloody annoying nonetheless. Although I’ve been putting on a brave face. I’ve been trying to *pretend* that I don’t mind spending hours and hours chained to the kitchen sink in addition to all of the other millions of things that I do in life. Telling myself stuff along the lines of … chatting to the kids whilst they eat their tea and do their homework is ‘bonding.’ Reassuring myself that forcing them to put away the clean dishes is ‘promoting a sense of responsibility.’

But in truth, it’s been yet another big pain in the arse. And it came hot on the heels of the central heating packing up, the leaking chimney stack and the car needing several hundred more spending on it than we anticipated.

Still, it seems that my other half must have clocked that I was looking even more in need of botox than I normally do. Seemed that he’d picked up on the grottier than usual passive-aggressive remarks emanating from me. And had chosen to bring a smile to my lips by way of floral-treat.

I looked away when he walked through the front door. Pretending that I didn’t know. Not wanting to spoil the little surprise that he had planned for me. And then the 7 year old piped up again; “Oooh, Dad – that’s a nice flower thing for Mum. It’ll cheer her up. She’s been a right miserable old bag.”

A Coffee Plant. A rare thing that gets the coffee-heads down at the Roastery all giddy. But ..?

Coffee. A v rare plant in the UK, that gets the coffee-heads down at the Roastery all a- giddy. But. Really ..?

But Father didn’t seem to hear what the kid was wittering on about. And minutes later, the fella still hadn’t presented me with them. Instead, he was busily engaged in his usual tea-time ritual, feretting about with the toaster, trying to sort his crumpets and jam out. And then I saw it. Right next to the toaster crouched ‘my flowers’.

Which were, in fact – a coffee plant.

Yes, yet again – my other half had brought his work home with him. Although usually it’s bags of freshly roasted coffee, labels and gripes about the giant coffee firms who treat farmers overseas like crap. But today it was the Real McCoy.

And our youngest – not the most discerning when it comes to noticing what flowers could and should look like – had mistaken the plant for a loving gesture aimed at Ma.

I expertly showed not the slightest smattering of disappointment. Instead, I said; “Why’ve you brought the coffee plant home?” In between gobfuls of crumpet he replied, “Too cold in the roastery right now. Need to keep it here.”

“Goodo,” I said. And then added, “Funny – when we saw you with something green and leafy coming through the door, the kids assumed that you had bought me flowers! Imagine that! Hilarious eh? Can’t remember the last time you…”

He gave me a look. “Well. You categorically told me never to buy you flowers again. Don’t you remember? You said that they were an empty-handed gesture and you preferred more meaningful presents as a way of apology. For any guilt-ridden feelings that I might be entertaining.”

I was rather incredulous when faced with this statement. “And you believed me?!” I replied.  Following it up with;”HOW long have we been married?”

Somebody loves me. ME! ME! ME!!!

Somebody loves me. ME! ME! ME!!!

But we left it at that. Probably served me right for being so convincing when I’ve got a bee in my bonnet over something.

Anyway. The whole point of this blog is more about what transpired the next day. I happened to be trundling around Morrisons, when I noticed a rather forlorn looking bunch of roses. Reduced to less than a quid.

It suddenly occurred to me that I have never – ever – bought flowers for myself.  Not because I judge people who engage in such frippery and tokenistic gestures as being shallow and simple-minded souls (if I *DID* think that – one of my bessie-mates, our Lesley would give me a good old fashioned Mancunian pow-slap in the chops, because she’s always spending her cash on floral tributes to herself.) Nah – I’ve just never bought them for myself because it had never occurred to me that I could. That I like flowers. That they perk your living room up a bit and that – for less than a quid – you’d be a bit of a berk to look a gift horse in the mouth. That you don’t need a partner, a child, a friend or *anyone else* in your life to do something nice for you. When you can do it for yourself. Liberation, sisters!

And it’s even more rewarding when, later on in the evening your other half gets home and comments; “Nice roses. Who bought you those?” And you get to screech back at him;

“ME!  ME! ME! I BOUGHT MYSELF FLOWERS BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE WANTED TO!”

And when he resorts back yet again with the; “Well – you told me NOT to…” you can just cut him off at the pass and say;

“Oh go and talk to your coffee plant. I’m sure that it makes more sense than I do. And stick your crumpet in the toaster. Because that’s the only crumpet you’ll be getting, for a few weeks.”

A match made in heaven.

A match made in heaven. Aw. (Really)

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A Killer? Minus The Caffeine.

14 Jul
Post 3 – for ReadKirklees

Occasionally I do chuck a book title or two into this blog as ‘recommended reading’ for like-minded folk. And last year I flagged up a book named ‘King Crow,’ by Michael Stewart. Mr Stewart happens to hail from the same side of the hills as I do (that dreadful Manchester place) and like me, he also did the defector thing – now happily living in west Yorkshire, hanging out in Kirklees and no doubt feeling as confused as I do, in terms of whether he’s more of a red, than a white rose.

Purchased in 1989 from Afflecks Palace. One of my many relics...

Purchased in 1989 from Afflecks Palace. One of my many relics from days of yore..

Now, ‘King Crow’ was a darned fine book. So much so that it won The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker Prize’ award. So much so that I’ll be honest here; I didn’t really want to read Michael Stewart’s next offering. Because I don’t know about you, but these days, I rarely find a writer who manages to pack the same kind of punch with that ‘difficult second novel.’

But ‘Cafe Assassin’ has more than managed to pull this off. For me, the acid test of a damned good read is this; that you find yourself flicking back and forth in the book – checking facts and circumstances; reminding yourself of the vaguely sketched but now important, details of the story. Smiling to yourself ‘ah yes….that fits. I like that.’ And the proof of the pudding lies in the fact that you find yourself thinking of the story a few weeks later – pondering the characters, their motivations. And finally – when you find yourself trying to lend your copy to your mother (even though there are snippets in there that she might not fully approve of – and I’m not talking about the way the author disses The Cramps) well. Then you know that you really *should* flag the book up to all and sundry.

Be afraid. Especially if you're a posh QC who screwed your one-time best buddy over...

Be afraid. Especially if you’re a posh QC who screwed your one-time best buddy over…

Michael Stewart doesn’t just write books. He’s a bit of a scripter too. And his work always touches on the kind of themes that fascinate me the most; working class origins, poverty versus privilege, justice, people struggling to find their own unique voice in a world that seeks to sink the undesirables and the impoverished as fast as it damned well can.  And what I love most about his writing style is that it isn’t exclusive – anyone – of practically any reading ability – can pick up his work and engage with excellent prose, ultra-realistic discourse, canny social observations and humour – whilst actually educating themselves at the same time (i.e. I’m off to read some Baudelaire and a dab of Gerard de Nerval now.)

Neither does ‘Cafe Assassin’ lack on the storyline. Regular readers of this blog know that for nigh on 15 years, I’ve been involved in support to prisoners at home and abroad – so the blurb on the back of the book was a clincher for me; “Nick Smith went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, after twenty-two years inside, he is looking for the man who put him there…Nick wants everything that Andrew has. He wants it all and he will do anything to get it.”

To kick off with, we don’t know what Nick has done – whether he *has* indeed committed a crime at all – but we know for sure that he’s out and about these days and that he’s mega naffed-off.  In between the thrill of the chase – the desire for house, life, wife – I love the way that Michael Stewart deftly weaves in the colours of the North; I found myself hankering back to the days of mooching around Afflecks Palace in my monkey boots with the Rasta shoelaces, hanging out at The Dry and at The Night and Day Cafe, laughing at the ‘student-types’ at the Hacienda … (and will the lad who approached me on the dance floor there in ’91, informing me “Hey Girl – I’m digging your rave!” please email me? Because you are categorically the only man who has ever complimented me on my dancing prowess. And I would personally like to thank you. You were twisting my melon, man.)

Baggy jeans, maybe. But was there EVER an real excuse for me wearing these things?

Baggy jeans, maybe. But was there EVER an real excuse for me wearing these things down the Hacienda?

So from the dropping of E’s down at the Hac (not me, Mum!) to the violence of Cat A-Wing HMP Wakefield… right over to the triple-garaged homes of well-heeled Ilkley; our protagonist continues to lurk and plots the utmost in revenge. Yup – Cafe Assassin has all of the bases covered for me.

But I’m not going to spoil any of the suspense for those of you who want to read it (and believe me – there’s bags of the stuff in there) but I will say that for me, at any rate – the ending was rather unexpected.

dockers

Another one of my MADchester antiques

But certainly not a let-down.

So if you are after a rollocking good read for the summer; if you trust me on my previous choices and words of wisdom and if you want to support one of the best indie publishers in the UK (those Bluemoose people) then do snaffle this book up ASAP.

ms on cimbali

The only missing ingredient in the book? The caffeine.

In fact, my only criticism of the novel is that there was a distinct lack of caffeine involved.  But then, none of us are perfect.

 

 

Like help, my face cream ran out. And then my lippy too! Life is sooo tough.

9 Mar

Women (and baby) who lug the sacks in the coffee fields all day in Ethiopia. Did they 'ever have it so good'? (Or was that Us?)..

This morning I realised that I had totally run out of face cream AND lipstick. And I was like ‘Arghh! That’s, like soooo EVIL!’  I mean, it was a real bummer. Kind of ruined my day. Something that men get away with, without getting all stressed about….

Life is hard being a woman…

Actually – it isn’t really. Is it? I mean. As women in the UK we have just SO damned much going for us…So much to be able to do, see, buy, experience.  BUT all of that ‘fluff stuff’ belies the truth of the matter for MANY women still in the UK.  As a woman,  the odds – still – are really stacked against you in many ways. Issues such as domestic abuse, unfair treatment at work, being taken for granted by the state as you carry out the sometimes (crushing) task of trying to be a ‘good mother’….All of these things can get you down at times. And even more reason (I would argue) to get your feminist thinking hat on and think long and hard about how far women HAVE come in this country. Indeed, yes.  All of the above achievements that we have made as women here are thanks to women long-gone and the many older women still VERY much around who fought so hard for our rights.  No sense of entitlement here. They had to be fought for.

Sadly though, I think that far too many of us women are caught up in silly and trivial concerns.  It’s as though we are blinded by the triviality and froth of Celeb Culture.   Come on – think about it.  The vast majority of women in the UK – have it pretty damned good actually.  I suppose I have been (fortunate?) in that I have lived and worked with women in desperately poor countries and seen just how hellish ‘being born a woman’ can be.  Welcome to a life of exploitation, beatings, no education, back-breaking work, enforced sex,  uncontrolled pregnancies, dangerous conditions for giving birth, disease (untreatable because of where you live or because men won’t let you leave the village in order to get treatment) and abandonment in your old age.

Just because you were born minus the male appendage.

I could provide you with a hundred websites that do incredible work to help women living in oppressive and horrendous conditions all across the world.  But the horrific condition of Fistula is a personal favourite cause of mine (and yes – Lorraine Kelly is patron. I’ve always liked Ms Kelly and now all the more reason to appreciate her.  www.freedomfromfistula.org.uk)

So I actually count myself as *fortunate* to have seen just how badly women can be marginalised in ph-so-many developing  communities. For example – out in the coffee fields its nearly always elderly women and/or their adult daughters (with toddlers in tow) who bring in the crippilingly heavy coffee sacks.  It is the men who are in charge of weighing, milling, selling and business decision processes. Often when we asked why women are kept out of the management structure and discussions – the men would tell us ‘Oh the women are not interested. And they don’t understand this kind of thing. Many of them are illiterate’.

And when the women were asked, they would say  ‘No. We would love to be involved. Especially we would like to be involved in looking after the money as the men don’t do this so well…..but we don’t want to make the men angry by forcing ourselves forward’.

And I don’t want to start painting ALL societies in developing countries as being misogynistic. There are quite a few out there who could teach us a thing or two about true partnership and equality.  But I do think that the trick is how you present the inequality of women to them all.  I mean no-one wants some mouthy Westerner trucking up and rubbishing the way that your community or culture works.  Its about having a LOT of respect and taking the gently-gently approach to providing information on how much better things can get for a group of people, if real equality is working in practice.

Right now, I am over the moon to hear that the two coffee co-operatives we are supporting,  have both increased their female membership by 50%!  And a lot of this is due to the approach of one of my (female) colleagues who is all too aware that arriving with a ‘Right you Blokes! Shift over and give your Board seats up for the Women!’ just does NOT work…

Hopefully there are some men out there too, who have bothered reading past the silly ‘face cream and lipstick’ opening that I began this blog post with.  As it is at this point I want to address your concerns. I know that a lot of (younger) men don’t really understand what ‘all this feminism’ is about. What’s the point? Women seem to have it pretty good to you these days. Aren’t all feminists a bunch of ugly, hairy, bloke-hating militants?… So if that is the way you are thinking, maybe just pause for a bit.  Ask yourself WHY the press have perhaps wanted to portray feminism as something deeply troublesome and unnattractive. Maybe it is in the vested interests of the press and media that women are pretty playthings who expose their breasts and go under the surgeons knife in order to win the hearts of men.  Sexy fluff sells doesn’t it?   And whilst women spend half of their lives fretting about how they look – our energies to change anything for the better in society are totally sapped…

Yes, I ackonowledge though –  there are many MEN out there who have having a rough time of it themselves.  And who are totally oppressed and marginalised themselves.

Certainly our society has let its younger men down. It seems that millions are being pigeon holed into having to lead a life of long-term unemployment. Many of them lack any positive male role model in their life. And they are surrounded by inane, gun-toting ‘Cool!’ images of macho men and bimboish, unnatainably beautiful women. Men cannot let their guard down still. They are still meant to be ‘the strong one. To be the breadwinner.  Lots of talk about it being ‘okay to feel your feelings’ but in practice – there seems to be nothing out there that will support men as fathers, as partners as responsible members of society. Where do you go – other than to the pub or onto the street corner? Where are the positive past-times that help you to excercise both your brains and your bodies?

The work that I am involved with believes that the only way to prevent the oppression of women is to also work with men in order to stop the alienation of them as a group.  And one way that we are bringing men and women to work together better, and to understand each other better is through tackling trade injustice – which always, ALWAYS exploits the poor. 

Happy International Womens’ Day everyone – let’s try and stop any abuse or oppression of people – whether it be due to their gender, age, race, beliefs or nationality…I hope that you like the photos that ‘my man’ took of the young women in Ethiopia – these are the lasses who lug the coffee sacks about all day long… See the baby on the back…