Tag Archives: The Beano

A Purple Genius

6 May

The man wore purple. He teased and joked with his audience. He was perhaps the most gifted musician that ever walked the face of this earth.

Nah, I’m not talking about that Prince fella (although I did quite like him too.) I’m talking about another chappie who happens to be linked to royalty. Well, only as a knight of the realm, you understand.

Sir James Galway has always been a bit of a dude, hasn’t he? The Man With The Golden Flute, they call him. Now, I think that I’ve blogged many times before about the kind of music that I’m into – or WAS into – when I was growing up (’cause these days I have no time for such selfish indulgences such as actually selecting and enjoying music of my own choice…) First came Shakin’ Stevens (haaahhhh! Seriously! Sorry.) Then I became was a Duranie, then a metal-head of many years standing and then… then I had children. Nuff said.

So how was I ever exposed to the music of Sir Jimmy? Well, any parent worth their salt does their best to impose their musical tastes upon their children don’t they? (And don’t worry – I’ve removed the death-metal CD’s from the 8 yr old’s bedroom recently. He’s beginning to sing along to some shockingly colourful profanities, you see…) Meaning that my dad got me and our kid into The Beatles and Elvis – and we frequently had Buddy Rich and various Jazz albums inflicted upon us. But my parents were never enormous classical music fans. UNTIL….

….They realised the soothing quality of such music on their offspring. I’ve got vivid memories of sharing a bedroom with my brother (I was probably 15, times were tough then y’see – and come to think of it, our bed was very hard and had two shiny taps at the end of it) and every night the sound of James Galway’s masterpieces would come floating up the stairs from my dad’s record player. (Accompanied by ‘Will you two GO-TO-BLOODY-SLEEP? Or you’re never staying up to watch ‘The Professionals’ again!‘)

And yet it wasn’t me who introduced my daughter to the magic of the maestro. My dad was to blame once more. I’ve blogged previously about the fact that my daughter is also learning to play the flute and I guess that Grandad must have been searching for something a bit more inspirational, in order to prevent a you-must-practise tantrum. So this is how my gal developed a huge interest in the work and in the life of Sir J.

To cut a long story short, she decided to write a ‘proper-old fashioned letter’ to the man himself. It managed to find its way to his abode in Switzerland. And we were then astonished to hear back from him. It turned out that Sir J is also a huge fan of The Beano too – and frequently can be seen chucking piles of horse manure over ‘softies’ who annoy him when he’s jetting to and from his swanky concert venues (ok, I made that last bit up.) flute

But seriously. What kind of a person – the best flute player in the entire universe – takes the time to write back to a little girl in Yorkshire? A *good* guy, that’s who. A true, golden-at-heart, down to earth fella.

So we decided to pay tribute to Sir J by battling the M6 and driving all the way to Birmingham to witness him in concert, along with his wife, the fantastical Lady Jeanne. We bought new shoes for the kid! We bagged front row seats! We saw Jimmy get awarded an honorary doctorate from the University! We laughed! We cried! (well, I did.) We chewed fruit pastilles! We said ‘hello’ to Julian Lloyd Webber and thrust coffee at him (‘Mother! Have you NO shame? Marketing your coffee at a Lloyd Webber!’) And we watched the most astonishing performance that any of us had ever seen. One man, managing to sound like two flutes were playing. Unbelievable. Truly spectacular.

Afterwards, the man in the purple suit welcomed our little lass on stage. She presented him with her very own precious Beano egg-cup (don’t worry folks, I managed to rub the egg yolk stains off it before we thrust it at him.) There was a group hug and a photo opp.

The nicest couple in the world of classical music. Plus some kid they're about to march to jail.

The nicest couple in the world of classical music. Plus some kid they’re about to march off to jail.

And then, the best thing that a parent can ever hear (especially after you’ve given up your day off in order to go head to head with the sodding-Bull Ring) rang in my ears; “Mum – thank you! This has been the best day of my life!” Followed by Grandad agreeing that it was the same for him too. And her replying; “But NO Grandad! That was supposed to have been your wedding day!”

We both noticed a pause at that point. Or perhaps Grandad’s hearing is failing. Who knows?

Anyway. Perhaps this isn’t one to repeat to Grandma.

The Industrialisation of Words? And a Revolution.

30 Jul

Continuing my focus on library-adoration and generating more love affairs with the lit, in today’s blog I wanted to focus a bit more about the challenges facing the great British public when it comes to getting your mitts on a decent book.

First of all – let’s start with the schools. Now, I realise that I might differ from a lot of parents when it comes to The Big Choice of ‘which high school should I dump the kid at?’ – because for me, postcode, number of A-starred qualifications achieved and whether the uniform matches the girl’s eyes isn’t really of much importance. What is at the top of tick list is … The School Library.

So yes – Mr and Ms Headteacher – if you want me and mine to truck up and place bums on your seats thereby ensuring your future survival, you really will need to cough up some good library offerings. Because not only do I want my kids to be surrounded with a sea of books, I’m also acutely aware that for those outside-of-lessons times, the library can offer a sea of tranquility and a place of safety. Especially if the bigger and nastier kids keep trying to flush your head down the loo, during the lunch hour as a result of your Ma’s very public blogging-habit.

But sadly, the odds tend to be stacked against school libraries. I happen to know someone who works in one of them and who tells me that the budget for purchasing new books *for the entire year this year* was a staggeringly pathetic £300! Three hundred measly pounds! What on earth will that buy the school in terms of books? (well actually… I’ll allude to this issue again in a minute.) And with such a low amount to play with, trying to draw in the kids who are not natural readers, who may not venerate books and shriek ‘Mind The Spines!’ at others as I’m rather want to do – must feel nigh on impossible for staff.

Hogwarts School Library. (We can but dream...)

Hogwarts School Library. Bet this lot cost more than £300

For the purpose of this blog  I’ve been speaking to the Schools Library Association – a registered charity that supports schools who want to provide great libraries for kids. The charity provides advice, training and reviews of recent books for schools. And to be honest, they didn’t have to try very hard in order to persuade me of the benefits of a school becoming a member of the SLA;  as I’m already a bit of a born-again Bookie. But I was definitely sold on the organisation, when I saw the range of information available to members on how to engage the more reluctant reader. Schools Library Association

So I reckon that if you’re a parent and you want your kid to grow up to become an adult with a life-long love of books, you really should be persuading your school to join the SLA if they aren’t already members.  And if you’re not a parent – then the very least you should be doing is re-writing your will and bequeathing everything to the SLA. Or volunteering to work in a school library. You know it makes sense…

Good news then! That the likes of the SLA exists. But then the inevitable bad news; that the resources available to schools for stocking the libraries, well. Don’t exist.

In my previous blog, I mentioned that my daughter – a child with dyslexia who has learned to at least *enjoy* (if not froth at the mouth over books, as I do) – has become very dispirited with the type and range of books on offer at school. I’ve also heard from many other parents who were saying exactly the same kind of thing – and these are all folk whose kids don’t have any kind of issue in terms of reading or literacy. The dissatisfaction with the range of books on offer is now at the stage where I decided to set up my own informal little lending library – using the old-fashioned, second-hand but brilliant stories that have captivated my own children (although we do operate a fierce system of fines for overdue books – a ruddy great big bar of Galaxy and a bottle of Bulmer’s might just about stop us from sending The Tyke Lads round.)

But why did I feel that I had to do this? Why are so many of the books available *not working* for so many of our kids? Why are we still being told (see previous blogpost) that literacy rates give enormous causes for concern in the UK? And yet – conversely – the UK book industry publishes more books per head than any other country in the world?  Publishing Too Much Tosh?

And meanwhile, why are our kids (and boys especially) telling us in a recent survey that, “I cannot find things to read that interest me,” (with 35% of boys claiming this.)

Give boys GOOD BOOKS. Or they might do this to their toys. Boredom has that effect...

Give boys GOOD BOOKS. Or they might do this to their toys. Boredom has that effect…

The depressing truth is this; the UK book industry is completely controlled by humongously proportioned publishing houses who are continually re-branding, merging and jockeying in order to be the fellas who can sell the most.

These publishing houses work through a tiny number of distributors  and in order to *maximise profit* (which let’s face it – is far more important than literary quality or a rollocking good read, a brilliantly unusual story) books are bought and sold at ridiculously discounted prices.  The simple economics of 21st century capitalism mean therefore, that massive amounts of certain, selected titles have to be stacked high and flogged off; cheap as chips.  Hence the product placing, the ‘Summer Read Same-Olds’ – of a very selected number of titles in our high street shops and even our supermarket chains too, which on pain of death (i.e. profit margins) HAVE to be sold to us unsuspecting reading public.

And this means that an independently published (or self-published) ‘unknown’ author (read; ‘non-celeb’, or alternatively, ‘not well-connected in the literary world already’) finds it utterly impossible to access the high street market -or to be able to offer the kind of discounts that the distributors demand.  They cannot compete. Originality and innovation is stifled. Bland formulas and the approach of ‘hey – it worked for 50 Shades!’ rules the day. Hence the watering down of new styles, of content, of quality.

And all of this is because of simple economics; if you want to get rich off of the back of a book jacket, you have to pile ’em high and take NO risk on a new author. Risk aversion is the mantra of the marketing moguls in the publishing industry.  And if you don’t want to be part of the chain stores who have to play to the tune of the Big Fellas, you’ll also struggle. Our precious little gems – the indie book stores are subsequently having a hard time of it. In February 2014 – for the first time ever – the number of Independent Bookstores dropped below 1,000. Go Love an Indie Bookstore Bluemoose logo (2)

Kevin Duffy – founder of the north’s best independent, high quality publisher ‘Bluemoose’ always has plenty to say on the Londoncentric and ruthlessly profit driven literary establishment that now dictates what ‘tosh’ (in the words of my daughter) is all too often published and bulk-bought by both high street stores  and strapped for cash public and school libraries.

He and I got chatting about what his views were with regards to the range and type of books available as essential reading within school curriculums. He told me of an additional, worrying trend;

“The problem is this; that the school curriculum is so prescribed now, that it doesn’t allow for ‘peripheral’ reading – as teachers seem to only ask students to read passages and not the whole book, in order to pass the exams. The pressure on teachers to teach to the ‘exam’ is also limiting. The love of words and the rhythm and insight of novels is therefore lost – to this – the ONLY objective in state schools … to get the best possible grade in the exams.”

One of Bluemoose Books most compelling publications is ‘STOP – Don’t Read This!’ – the true story of what Leonora Rustamova, otherwise known as ‘Miss Rusty’ – a secondary school teacher from west Yorkshire faced when she tried to furnish the most disruptive kids in the classroom with a love of literature and of writing (clue: she was sacked. But go read the book anyway. Even though it’s title tells you not to. It’s ace.)

leonora-rustamova--stop-dont-read-this--paperbackAnd in relation to this rather famous incident which made the national news headlines (and the high court), Kevin says that Miss Rusty’s approach in order to engage these lads; “meant tramping into unchartered waters” in the sense that bringing in different books and references outside of the prescribed methods/materials met with *more* than strong disapproval; that a teacher who tries to do this is asked; “‘What does it add to the curriculum? And will it help them pass an exam?’ If the answer is no, then it exits stage left. Literacy in today’s education doesn’t mean the love of words and books and a lifelong gift of beautiful stories that transcend the everyday – but league tables and grades. It is the industrialisation of words.”

So should we feel depressed about these funding cuts, the dumbing-down of literature and stifling of innovation due to a horribly profit-driven market and the threats to our public libraries? Or should we count our blessings; for example – in comparison to

A blanket, pens, food AND A Beano. Poor wee chap was a bit disconcerted.

A blanket, pens, food AND A Beano. Poor wee chap was a bit disconcerted.

where I used to live (Namibia) we seem to have got it made eh? We have oodles of gubbins to read.  My own kids decided to start collecting and sending comics and magazines to these children, when they saw them happily sitting at the edge of the roadside, content to be reading empty food packets … Because these little ones are desperate to read – to scan anything that entertains or informs them. (And yeah – if they get to eat the contents of the food wrapper first, then they’ve had a damned good day.)

But perhaps we have too much choice. Perhaps we need more literary direction for the youtube generation who feel rudderless when faced with all of the books and therefore just give up and watch telly/youtube instead. A bit like me when I returned to England after living in Namibia and horrified my mother when I stood in the middle of Morrisons and screeched; ‘I DON’T KNOW WHICH ONE TO GET! HOW MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHEESE DOES ONE COUNTRY NEED? FOR GOD’S SAKE!!’

Too many books? Too much cheese?

Too many books? Too much cheese?

But on the up-side, we do have an increasingly assertive and savvy band of high quality indie publishers and self-published sorts who are giving the big publishing boys a hell of a run for their money in terms of the craft of writing, quality of output and in being able to produce their own books. This means that a lot of publishers and agents are now doing their best to trash indie-publishing because quite frankly –  they are piddling their pants over this change; scared to death about what their own pension pots are going to be looking like in twenty years time. I kind of like famous literary agent Johnny Geller’s quote in relation to the sheer volume of new books being published in the UK; “either a sign of cultural vitality or publishing suicide.”

The times are a-changing indeed for writers and publishers;  we are talking about a revolutionary landscape here.

So take heart, dear devotee of the written word! But don’t forget, that as a discerning adult, it’s much easier for you to control the kind of stuff that you read. Less so for the nippers. And now – more than ever – our kids need us to swot up ourselves about what constitutes a good quality book. To see beyond the headlines, the chain-store teetering piles that want to devour your cash, to think further than just the same-old same-old famous names, the literary establishment circles and to start asking your more bookish friends for some rip-roaring reading recommendations.

And you can always ask me. And I’ll ask a much more clever, more literary-sort for you.

‘Cause I’m dead well-connected, me I am.

😉

 I kid you - we ARE very well-connected here in west Yorkshire. *True* Literary Establishment...

I kid you actually – we ARE very well-connected here in west Yorkshire. (*True* Literary Establishment…)

 

 

Bookish But NEVER Boring…

5 Mar

Reporting back from the promise in my previous blog – to expose the kiddywinks to those Public Information films that so many of us were nurtured with in post-war Britain, I have to say that I am rather disappointed.  We watched many – and the general consensus was “Freaky! Creepy!” or “well you never took no notice of them did you? ‘Cause you’re always talking to strangers in the supermarket. You shouldn’t be so friendly, Mum.”

In fact, my youngest (6) pointed out that “you make us read much more scarier books than those weirdy films what you had to watch.” And I have to confess that this is true. Not a day goes by without me exposing them to one of the classics. Last week it was ‘David Copperfield’ (the 19th century Dicken’s hero – not the overly-tanned n’ toothy American illusionist) and this week we are onto ‘The Man In The Iron Mask.’ (But please note – that clever little devils though they are, my two are not super-brats. I am talking about the graphic novel versions. With me there to read and to explain. No – I don’t shove them in the cellar with a dusty pile of The Classics first editions. Although believe me, the temptation is there on some days…)

In 'The Beano.' Again. But this time for an even more wonderful reason...

In ‘The Beano.’ Again. But this time for an even more wonderful reason…

Today has seen much cheer in the household – as we celebrate World Book Day. My daughter (10) commented to me that; “it was Dennis the Menace who got me reading wasn’t it? And who got me my first radio performance and magazine appearances,” (like she shares the same agent with Big Dennis or summat…) And this is all true. The dyslexic tendencies had led her to hide her school reading books and when I stumbled across an ancient pile of The Beano annuals, it transpired that I had suddenly found something that got her hooked into the world of books.  Which, some longer-term readers on here will know led us to a marvellous project that involved us trying to get reading materials to street children in southern Africa….(read the month of May 2014 for more info – and my girl’s own blog on it all here… https://funnylass.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/comic-remedies/  )

And the journey to the written word took the same ‘Beano’ pattern with the second child (who doesn’t have dyslexia) and who is now one of the biggest Dennis fan in the world. (Indeed, last night he informed me that he wanted all Horrid Henry books removing from his room (“I don’t like Henry. He’s not like Dennis. He’s a bit…. what’s the word…you always say? Sinister. That’s it.”)

Read... or you can watch the film. Or just summarise the story for someone else. The oldest methods are the best...

Read… or you can watch the film. Or just summarise the story for someone else. The oldest methods are the best…

My own thirst for new stories and fresh books (in between trying to write my own – which I am right now, patently avoiding doing…) is also never quenched. In fact, my daughter loves to read the books that I happen to be stuck into at any given moment. Albeit vicariously. Last night it was “I see that you’ve finished The Book Thief. Please PLEASE tell me what happens before I go to bed! Does she kick Hitler’s butt? Or what? Please don’t tell me she dies… I couldn’t bear it! I’ll never get to sleep if she dies..!”

But if you don’t happen to have access to small children yourselves in order to brainwash them with superb reading material – I would still recommend that you immerse yourself in the ancient art of reading aloud. Or of storytelling. Me and my other half  – before reproducing reared its head – covered thousands of miles in southern Africa as I read aloud to him on those deserted, long, straight and dusty roads (because they don’t have Radio 4 there and there are only so many times that you can listen to ‘Wicked Hits of The 80s’.) And even today I always keep a book in the car.  Of course, in the UK we have the opposite traffic problem. Standstill. So if we are having to suffer some (cough) ‘comedy play’ on Radio 4, then I just whip out a tome or two from the dashboard (“But just get to the point of the story,” he always says “You know that I can’t be doing with poetic and flowery so-called literary tosh.”)

Still. There are days when I don’t feel like reading to the kids. Or when they bring a book to me that happens to be a bit more drivelly; you know, something that I really don’t fancy wasting any of my precious minutes on. For example they learned a long time ago NEVER to try and get me to read the Disney book-version of anything out loud to them. And that I also really struggle with reading anything about superheros. (Unless The Life of Jesus counts, because that’s always a great one with which to go off on contemporary and political tangents with; “So sweetie. Jesus saved that lady from a horrid death. Do you think that it’s okay to chuck stones at a woman until she’s dead just because she might have been caught snogging a man who wasn’t her husband? Well that’s what happens in many countries all over the world today!”)c hamster 1

Yes, the world of my own offspring’s books tends to be funny, thrills n’ spills filled and … sometimes dark. Which reminds me of perhaps our ultimate favourite cheeky lad. That 6 year old Calvin and his precious ‘imaginary but real’ tiger, Hobbes.

I first found out about C&H when I was 14 years old and quickly amassed all of these incredible books by the insanely talented and hilarious writer/illustrator, Bill Watterson.  Watterson’s work is far cleverer and far more ‘LOL’ than Peanuts and the like. Calvin and Hobbes should be on the Must Read list of anyone who has ever been a child. In fact, it should be on prescription on the NHS for anyone who every suffers from ‘the blues.’ c hamster 2

As a young teenager I could identify horribly with the plights of Calvin and the nefarious schemes that his evil parents and schoolteachers always employed in order to stop him from simply enjoying life, not having not a care in the world and generally being a lazy little swine with no social conscience.  And now..? But of course. I can completely relate to the downtrodden parents who practically have to re-mortgage the home in order to find anyone crazy enough to babysit Calvin.

So, back to the Joy of Reading and a chance to share with you – in a celebration of all things bookish; what happens to be one of my all time favourite C&H strips.

And yes, gentle reader. I have utilised Calvin’s dad’s tactics on several occasions in order to bring one of the ‘less quality’ stories to a close….c hamster 3 final

 

 

 

Comic Remedies

19 Jun

….Part 7  (Dictated to me by small, guest blogger/daughter.)

“My mum said that I can have the last blog where we talk about the street children in Namibia.The very last thing we did that day – on the day when all of these pictures were taken – after we gave the children all of the things that had been bought for them, was this:

WE GAVE AWAY OUR BELOVED BEANO’S!!! (3 exclamation marks please, mum!)  ARRGHHHH! I just can’t believe that we did that. And other comics too! And here is a photo of the children with them:Their new comics - not enough! Need more!

But we were so happy that they got something to read. Because this will entertain them. And teach them to read english. It’s their national language actually and it is nice for them to learn.

They asked us to send books because they don’t have any. And they wanted – if they could manage to get to school like we were helping them to – to have sort of something like an after-school club, to have like – a reading club. We said that we couldn’t afford to pay for a big box of books because of how much the post office people charge you for parcels – even to the poorest people in the world 😦  And I think that our government in England could change this, if they really wanted to. WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THIS? IT MAKES ME REALLY LIVID!!!! (4 exclamation marks this time, please.)

So instead, we said that we would send them some comics instead. And this will be brilliant because we can send a lot. It’s still expensive but not anything as stupidly expensive as a big parcel. BUT this will entertain them even more than proper books, I think!

Comics are so important to our family because they helped me to read. I used to detest reading. But now, when a book is put in front of me – I can pick it up and read it. Only – I repeat – only IF IT’S INTERESTING! Also my mum, when she was my age, loved comics more than anything. Here are two photos of her reading a comic. Haha look at her glasses and that bum! No wonder she never goes out of the house without make-up on! And she still never stops reading now!

Look at that bum!

She couldn’t read without her glasses! (she still can’t!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here also is proof that even Grandma is made to read The Beano. Hahaha! (evil laugh.)

Grandma enjoying The Beano (in her wildest dreams/ nightmares.)

Grandma enjoying The Beano (in her wildest dreams/ nightmares.)

The kids at my school and my brother’s school where we live in west Yorkshire are now collecting their comics for all of this. Can I just say an overwhelming THANK YOU to all our school friends and parents and those very very special other ones who helped us and whose names I will not say because you might slap me. You know what? You made their lives so much better and I bet you don’t believe that. But really – be proud of yourselves because you really did put a big smile on their faces. I wish you could have seen it for yourselves.

I’m finishing with a Hello and a Thank You from them all to you.

And just to add a bit of comedy to it all, this is where we left my brother.  It has been very peaceful without him!!!!!!!!!! (10 exclamation marks, please.)

Love, The Mini Funnylass xx ”

My brother and his new house. I do hope that he is alright there ... (not!)

My brother and his new house. I do hope that he is alright there … (not!)

 

 

 

 

 

Top Shelf with Small Elf

19 Jul
The only dolly-birds WE want to see on the top shelf!

The only dolly-birds WE want to see on the top shelf!

“Mummy why has that lady got her bare bum stuck in the air?”

This was the reaction of a certain 4 year old when faced with one of the more unsavoury tabloid front covers. To be fair to the woman in question, her bent over backside which pointed at the camera actually wasn’t bare. If you studied her bum crack closely enough, you could see the hint of a G-string. But I wasn’t letting meladdo get that close to the pic…

At the time, I must have been feeling particularly hormonal/ insecure/ threatened/ humourless/frigid (delete whichever anti-feminist accusation you care to lob at me) as I actually decided to rattle off a letter of complaint. After all, this big airbrushed arse was flashing itself at the 3 foot nothing height of my small, stinky elf-child. And this was in my local Co-op for God’s sake! And I love The Co-op. The Co-op is fab. Okay – they’re a big giant of a monolithic retail outlet these days, but in comparison to most supermarket corporations The Co-op really do put ethical purchasing at the heart of things. They are born n’ bred of a philosophy that I whole-heartedly agree with.

So I was pretty chuffed to get a response back from the regional office, apologising for the fact that my pre-schooler was faced with acres of naked flesh when all he wanted to do was read about Dennis The Menace and Farting.   Apparently –  so The Co-op told me –  anything with such lavicious images should have been put on the Top Shelf. Away from small and impressionable eyes. They agreed that this should not happen again. That the store in question had been contacted about this.

But then I started thinking…they can’t REALLY shove tabloid newspapers on a top shelf, now can they?  Because tabloids give us the (cough…splutter…) ‘news’ don’t they?  So they at least have to be at the eye level of most grown ups who want to read afore-mentioned ‘news’.

I had a bit of a moan about this to the Significant Other in my life, whose opinion was “never mind shoving it up on theTop Shelf. They should ban any paper or magazine that shows women like that. This is The Co-op! They’re supposed to have ethics, principles and all of that….!”

Since this little occurrence, my 8 yr old daughter has become fascinated with the prevalence of bare breasts in newspapers. So, whether it’s the local corner shop, noticing a newspaper at a friend’s house or popping into a motorway service station, I am now faced with the question “Mummy – are those ones REAL boobs? Or are they ones cut open and stuffed with big plastic balloons?”  Whilst the younger kid (boy) descends in Beavis/Butthead mode a-sniggering ‘heh heh – boobies, juicy boobies!’

My kids are very familiar with the naked body.  But these are the bodies of their own family members (in a controlled and non-sexualised environment I hasten to add, before you go calling social services.) So, we’re hardly Prudey Pants Family.  And we’re living in this weirdy,warped society where a teacher isn’t allowed to smear suncream onto my little boy’s face (mind you – I wouldn’t want to either…it is a bit of a snot-fest. ) And yet it’s ok for him to be exposed to any random woman’s Boobs n Beaver-esque pose down at the newsagents.

So I carried out a little bit of quick n’ dirty research.  I spent 10 minutes in a larger London train station newsagents the other day. I was seeking a positive image of a woman.  Roughly 3/5’s of the  magazines were directly aimed at women. About 1/5 was your ‘special interest’ stuff (current affairs, Murderer-Weekly, ‘Trains What I Drool Over’ sort of thing) and then the last 1/5 was split between ‘music’ and ‘aimed at men.’  Aimed at men was your usual ‘Nuts’ and ‘Loaded’. So you can imagine the pics of the women on the front pages.  Utterly impossible standards of beauty, of airbrushed plastic dolly-sorts. Arses and Boobs provacatively crammed into whatever wet/tight/rubbery stuff the men are told that they like to see women in.  Interview one of the models and she will no doubt tell you that she feels ’empowered’ and ‘I love turning men on and it makes me feel so confident!’

(I could have a field day with the last sentence, but I will leave that upto the marvellous team at No More Page Three…they say it far better than I can…)

But even though I hate everything that the likes of ‘Nuts’ and ‘Loaded’ stand for, at least they were placed upwards and out of any small-people’s eye level. And at least – in their own sinister, anti-real female kind of way – they are being honest about what they are offering up for men who think that being a Real Hetero means wanting to see women trussed up and greased-down like plucked chickens.

Not so the women’s magazines. Less honesty here.  And they took up the 3/5’s of the rest of the shop. Every sodding magazine was either celeb-obsessed, diet-besotted or – again  – chocca full of impossible images of stunning women (tanned, airbrushed and plastically enhanced to the extreme.)  And this is the kind of stuff that we are supposed to be buying as women. This is the kind of tosh that our daughters (and sons) WILL pick up anytime, anyplace , anywhere. And feel that ‘this is what women should look like, this is the kind of lifestyle we should aspire to.’

And I honestly wasn’t being an awkward sod. I really, truly could only find ONE image of a woman that I felt was positive and natural. And guess where it was?   It was in ‘Kerrang’. Now, back in the 80s, the heavyy metal scene wasn’t particularly well known for its lack of misogynistic attitudes towards women. But it’s all change these days.  The women in the metal mags tend to be tough, they have a style of their own and they definitely (oh so definitely) care more about their art, their music than whether they are sitting pretty and shoving their bare arses in the air.

I came away thinking that the ONLY pic of a woman in that entire shop that I would be happy with my kids spending time looking over were the women in the heavy metal magazines. (And…there were probably a few sassy ladies in Railways Monthly but I confess that I didn’t flick through that kind of lust-driven filth.)

It feels like whilst women have taken huge steps forwards in western society – the vote, our rights to home/income/bodies etc – the real independence of how we look, of how we SHOULD look is sneakily being eroded. And ironically, this is taking place on the very magazine shelves where most of us head for a bit of light reading…

So what can we do as consumers?  As individuals it is kind of tough to deal with. I would say that making a complaint (as I did) can make a difference – and yes – the more the merrier when faced with Tits at Toddler-level. But one thing that we can all do together in order to turn the tide of this sickening and pathetic attack on the image of women, is to sign up to No More Page Three. The crew there have some amazing people and some great ideas.

Go join ’em!  http://nomorepage3.org/