Issue 3: Bloody Weddings

6 Jul

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The Feminist Jumble Sale cordially requests your presence (and presents) at the wedding of the century! There’ll be jiltings,  bad dancing, tears at the altar and shattered dreams in abundance.  Please take your seats amongst the elegantly  suited and booted, yet rather tipsy, extended family members for the Feminist Jumble Sale Bloody Weddings edition. Our third offering features new contributors Nicola and Louise and our first playlist courtesy of this issue’s  token man, Matt (and Spotify).

CONTENTS:

Our Song by Nicola

Bloody Weddings Playlist by Matt

Landlocked Blues by Celia

The Best Day of My Life by Emily

A list of all the things I have done for you this year by Louise

Bloody Wedding Dresses by Emily

Issue 4 Heads Up

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OUR SONG by Nicola

Weddings ~ the first dance ~ our song. Is this just a coupley conceit or does uniting over a tune really strengthen and prolong a happy healthy relationship? From first date until separation (or not), ‘relationship experts’ would say it’s important to have shared interests and music in particular is an art-form worth bonding over… well it depends on the song obviously, especially if you expect me to come to your wedding and smile approvingly as you fawn all over each other on the dance floor.

Not being romantic in the traditional sense of the word, I’ve never found myself in the situation of picking one song to represent the passionate and undying love between me and another.  (The fact that I have never been encouraged to do so may indicate that I date similarly unsentimental types!) And if ever asked by a friend/colleague/market researcher what the first dance at my wedding would be I’m usually stumped for an answer, though the stock reply of ‘Love will Tear us Apart’ has passed my lips in particularly uninspired moments.

To be honest the thought of having to pick a three-minute song with a few verses and a chorus (and possibly a middle eight) to summarise my feelings for someone else does not appeal much. Firstly because I am prone to putting my foot in it – a recent dedication of ‘You’re the One for Me Fatty’ being a case in point – but also because I know that whatever I choose will stay with me for the rest of my life, or at least until I get divorced. My dad apparently proposed during ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ and regularly joked that this was the colour he turned when my mum said ‘yes’. After 34 years of marriage the joke never wore thin… for my dad at least.

Having said all that my mind has returned to the subject on occasion, during the first fresh blooms of a new romance or on a quiet day at work for instance, and the sound of 1960s girl groups do tend to resonate around the heart and head. Songs by the Ronettes, Crystals, Shang-ri La’s, Chiffons, Marvelettes, Velvelettes, Shirelles etc perfectly capture that feeling of being young and besotted. For me, ‘Be My baby’, ‘He’s Sure the Boy I Love’ and ‘Great Big Kiss’ remind me of having the most overwhelming crushes – both as a girl and more recently as a more worldly (read: jaded) lady. Those pleading lyrics, backed up by a phenomenal wall of sound, perfectly capture the process of the emotional becoming physical: the burning desire for attention, the aching need for reciprocation and the devastation of loss.

If I were writing this with a grounding in feminist critique instead of from a platform of ignorance known as ‘personal opinion’, I would go on to dissect the problem of young and poor Afro-American girls singing songs written by older white males and the question of exploitation that this throws up. I know the influence of Phil Spector in particular is an eyebrow raiser given his behaviour towards women both inside and outside the recording studio. However, in terms of putting into words and executing perfectly in melody those feelings that have both amazed and crazed me there is none finer than these popstrels. I just don’t know whether dancing to ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ on your wedding day is recommended practice.

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Bloody Weddings reception disco megamix by Matt

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LAND LOCKED BLUES by Celia

He was standing in a call box on Portmadoc high street when she told him the wedding was off.

He had never seemed able to keep any credit on his mobile since they had started seeing each other so he had taken to using the local phone boxes quite a bit of late. They were different these days, requiring somewhere in the region of eight pounds worth of change to be deposited before beginning the call and often, in a vain attempt to compete with smartphones, had keyboards for  you to email and update others on your progress through life via the ever-changing myriad of social networking sites. This one had dirty windows and smelt of what he was desperately trying to convince himself was Farley’s Rusks, but was much more likely to be piss.

They had sent the invites out and everything. She had bought the dress, a mint green sari. Neither of them were of Asian descent, she had just quite fancied it. Something different, like her. She had also invested in an elaborate feather headdress which he later found out was known as a ‘fascinator’. The name delighted him.

Hanging up the receiver and listening to the coins dropping down, he turned to open the door. Even with both palms on the smeared glass it was difficult, all his strength seemed to have suddenly evaporated now that the news he had been half-expecting had finally broken.

He walked over the bridge in a daze. Past the yachts and fishing boats. Past the record shop where he had spent his Saturday afternoons as a youth, flipping through the racks and which now survived on selling second hand vinyl over the internet. He focussed on a seagull high up in the sky, just floating on the currents without any purpose. He looked like he was having fun.  He was passed by a gang of women on a hen do coming in the opposite direction. They spanned at least three generations, yet all wore bright pink leotards and tutus and smelt strongly of spilt cider. Most of them looked extremely fed up and quite a number of them were crying; their liquid eye liner, mascara and lip gloss in various states of decay: across, around and down their faces.

As he walked, he visualised one wall of the room that he was on his way back to. It had been  decorated by him, covered completely with photos of her in every guise. Sexy in that red strapless dress. Effortlessly sultry and eating a yoghurt. Just woken up and grumpy, wearing an over-washed Joy Division T shirt with her hair piled up on top of her head and sticking out in all directions.

When he reached the house, he put the key in the lock,  let himself in and tiptoed upstairs. His parents would both be asleep in their separate bedrooms by now. He ran a bath and robotically climbed in, barely feeling the nearly too hot water envelop his skin and turn it bright pink. He thought maybe one of the reasons his teenage years had been so debilitating and had seemed to take so long was because his parents had never invested in a shower. He had spent so many hours lying in that very same enamel tub with the green tear mark below the hot tap, reflecting on so many things, quite literally navel gazing for what would have been hours, had the water not got cold and his Dad hadn’t banged on the door and told him to get out and do something with his life. Showers for him still seemed to belong to the realm of the dynamic go-getter; he had still never quite mastered the art of not getting water all over the floor when he took a shower at a hotel or at her house.

His parents had never married. He thought maybe that was why he had wanted to so much. None of his friends were married. Blake, who was to have been his best man, had had a girlfriend for a while and they had even gone and got matching tattoos at a tattoo convention in Southport, but they had never seemed keen to tie the knot.

He lay in bed. The duvet covered his whole body and head. He stuck one full leg out of the side as he was too hot, but he liked the feeling of pressure and mild panic the duvet brought on. It made him feel inexplicably secure. In his ribcage bubbled swathes of guilt and regret, but only from time to time. He felt permanently distracted, as if his bodily systems were not willing to let him feel the full impact of the news just yet. When he did feel bad, it was largely due to the practical anxiety of cancelled flights and lost deposits. He anticipated the slow trawling through of emails to contact caterers, photographers and florists and telling them not to bother. It wasn’t to have been a big do, just a registry office with some friends and family.

At last he slept, face down and dribbling into the pillow case that had once belonged to his late grandmother. He dreamt vivid versions of a hyper-reality: of washing up, e-mailing, watching TV.  He was awakened a couple of hours later by foxes copulating loudly in next door’s garden. It began to rain. He thought he was going to have to take the photos down, but decided to put this off for another day.

They had met on an  internet dating website. They had bonded over music and after a particularly animated discussion about Bright Eyes on the dating site’s instant messaging service, had agreed to meet at a pub in Manchester.  He had been early and sat in the pub reading Eric Hobsbawn until she arrived. He had also made a CD for her and brought it with him. She had brought a series of her own poems on scrap paper which she left for him one by one when she went away to the toilet.  It turned out to be quiz night at the pub and they had a go, coming second to last due to their insufficient knowledge of 1970s TV presenters and Dr Who. They both felt sorry for a drunk old man who kept shouting out the answers and was slow hand clapped out of the premises by the new younger, trendier crowd that had recently come to dominate that area of the city. After last orders, they walked  arm in arm  around the streets, out of the inner city as far as the suburbs,  talking about what their lives had been about up to that point: work, friends, films, politics, books.

He was surprised when he found himself in love with her a few weeks later. It was a Thursday afternoon and he was sitting  in a traffic jam on the way back from work. At the temporary traffic lights, listening to the Beta Band on the car stereo, it hit him all of a sudden and that was it. She was so different to anyone else he had been out with, he hadn’t expected to feel like this. The feeling of wanting to be with her and never let her go led him to propose a few months later. She had seemed shocked, but had said yes straight away. His friend Andrea whom he had worked at the library with until both their jobs had been cut had seemed morally outraged that he would agree to marry someone before cohabiting. But to him it made perfect sense, at least in the less rational side of his brain. She was really beautiful and funny, so funny.  Andrea was probably just feeling neglected and envious because he never went down the pub after work anymore.  He had to drive to Manchester every Friday night now to see her. His friends had become a distant memory, he never had any credit to ring them, but he reckoned they would be happy that he had met someone.

After a few weeks of being together, they had started to argue. Only over really trivial things like him not putting things back in the fridge or closing cupboard doors. He had taken  this as a sign of their closeness and suitability for each other. She had seemed very busy and aloof for the past few months; he had known something was up, but had no idea where to begin to make it better.

Now he was in his bed and she was gone. He stayed in that bed for some time. Not just hours, but days and weeks. The redundancy money from the library was enough to keep him going for a while. Some of the pictures began to peel away from the wall, blu-tacked corner by blu-tacked corner. He began to  look beyond her to the details in the photos. The Muller Fruit Corner with the lid partially peeled back. The faint tan line on her shoulder. A slight imprint of a pillow under her eye.

His parents were quiet at the news and treated him with respect and distance. Blake and his mum did their best to cancel the plans that had been made and preserve his apparent tranquility in the wake of the break up. His dad had always been distant, but now bowed his head in sad reverence whenever they passed each other in the kitchen or outside the bathroom.  In his bed, his daydreams consumed and healed him, began to make him strong again.

After some time he awoke one morning with a strong urge  to leave his bedroom and  venture into town. Crossing the bridge he spotted the sign painted in red,  intricate yet  bold as a Bob and Roberta Smith artwork: BOAT FOR SALE. He stood there and was transported into a catatonic state.

He would return home via Somerfield where he would pick up enough cardboard Pampers boxes to fit his entire record collection. Leaving only the B-52s and Sparks albums behind, he would  drive back down to the record shop and emerge with just enough money for the transaction. He would then hand this over to a silent, wrinkled old man with a pipe and beard and the sailing boat would be his!

He would climb aboard wearing a stripey turtle neck jumper and a bright yellow lifejacket. She would be ringing him on his smartphone; his parents having presented him with one prior to their tearful farewell due to its top notch GPS tracking facility and pre-installed round the world sailing app. There would  already be numerous missed calls and five answer phone messages, all from her. She would be ringing and ringing. Suddenly there would be a gust of wind and the boom of the boat would swing to the side. The phone would shoot out of his hand and land, not in slow motion, but very quickly, in the bay. He would feel a sense of calm as the phone floated down below the surface and  out of sight.  He would look out into international waters, proud as a decorated soldier saluting a fly past and  he would pull up the anchor,  guide the boat expertly away from the quay and out to sea.

He did attempt to dial the number for the boat’s owner, but realised he had no credit before he even pressed the call button. His daydream made him grin widely as he headed back up to his parents’ house with his record collection intact in the same bedroom of his youth.

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THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE by Emily

Which would you like to see first – the video or the slideshow?  Let’s start with the video.  I know it off by heart now!  Every time Mister (that’s what I call him now – and he calls me Misses!)  and I sit down to watch it we still can’t quite believe that it’s captured you, arriving late – having held me up!  You come rushing in, all flustered, you’ll see in a minute.  No, don’t be sorry, we laugh about it.  Now.  But you had no idea how long I had to wait in the car, for the latecomers to get into the church so I could make my entrance.  Obviously the bride must come in last!  Anyway, here we are – isn’t it a lovely church?  We chose it because it was so quintessentially English, oh, and here you are – bursting in.  You look like you’re wondering if you got the right wedding!  And your hair’s all over the place.

So this is my favourite bit, just before I walk in, the camera sweeping over all our friends and families, everyone looking really excited but, you know, serious at the same time.  Da-na – here comes the bride!  Look how sweet the bridesmaids look in their royal blue dresses, and I am still so pleased with the dress.  Such a perfect dress; I see finding it as one of my personal triumphs, that I’ll always look back on with pride. Obviously I wanted to wear white, it had to be  a traditional dress, but with my own personality stamped on it, do you know what I mean?  So it was my idea to add a bustle and a royal blue bow to match the bridesmaids.  This bit’s nice – you can see one of the bridesmaids drops her posy – bless! –and the other one pick it up for her.  Ahh.  And now, look, we get to see my Husband at the altar!  I’m still getting used to calling him my that – sounds so grown up doesn’t it?  I’d never seen him looking so smart, and do you like the way his cravat matches the blue theme?  I had to choose the suits, of course, because men don’t have a clue about these things do they? And look at the best man, Mister’s best mate of course – I bet you’re used to seeing him looking like a right scruff, down the pub, – but look at him all suited and booted.  Didn’t you have some kind of thing with him once?  I seem to remember a rumour, or was that your sister?

The ceremony was just perfect, wasn’t it?  The poems and readings and hymns – we selected them to make sure everyone felt a kind of blessing on the day, you know?  I know you’re not a believer, but I bet even you felt it was a really special, spiritual occasion.  Didn’t you?  I think everyone did.  Look it’s bringing a tear to my eye even now and I’ve seen this umpteen times!  It’s the bit where he says “I do” – gets me every time.  Doesn’t it make you want to get married?  Are you seeing anyone at the moment?  Oh well, I’m sure Mr Right will come along soon, you won’t be on the shelf forever.  Actually when he does, you’ll be the last member of your family to marry won’t you?  All your cousins, your sisters, all settled down now.  Well, it’ll certainly be a big celebration when you do!  I promise not to be late!

Did you enjoy that?  I could order you a copy if you like.  While I’m sorting out the computer,  let me just tell you about how much fun it was spending the vouchers we got as wedding presents.  It’s such a big decision choosing the plates you’ll eat from as a married couple, possibly for your whole married life.  We couldn’t decide whether to go for classic or modern, and in the end kind of compromised.  The important thing was that it was a decision we made together, as husband and wife.  I’ll make you a cup of tea in a minute and you’ll see what we chose.  I think you’ll be jealous – wouldn’t you love to be able to get all new stuff and be able to throw away all that mis-matched charity shop china?  Surely that’s enough to make you hurry up and find someone special.  Ha!

So here are the piccies – I’ll do it as a slide show – everyone drinking champagne at the start of the reception.  Look!  There’s you – I think you’re on your first or second there.  And there are the bridesmaids – they’ve had enough of their flower garlands by now – and there’s your mum and your nieces and cousin.  You look quite similar don’t you?  Except their hair is their natural colours.  And here are a few shots of the dinner.  I hope you didn’t mind the table we put you on.  It’s so hard getting the seating plan right, especially where to put the single people!  Not to mention when there are broken families to deal with!  Nightmare.  At least that’s not a problem on my side of the family! We didn’t think you’d want to be on a table full of kids, so we put you with Mister’s friend from work.  Actually, he was meant to come with his other half but they split up recently, and we thought you’d be able to cheer him up.  Actually we were trying to do a bit of matchmaking – any luck? No, I suppose he was a bit depressed, it was soon after his break up.  Unfortunately he was the only single man there, apart from my brother’s gay friend, but he doesn’t count!  Shame, but you can’t say we didn’t try! And those other couples, actually they were friends of my mum’s, all nice people, I’m sure you found something to talk about.  There you all are, saying cheers to the camera.  The wine bottle on your table went down quite quickly didn’t it!  You certainly look like you’ve had a few by then!

The speeches were lovely weren’t they?  You missed most of the best man’s one – you weren’t deliberately avoiding it were you?  Shame as it was really funny, you know, really personal but he only overstepped the mark a couple of times.  It was especially near the knuckle about me!  His girlfriend told him off after, but we all laughed.  My dad’s not much of a public speaker but I loved what he said about me being his princess – and finally off his hands!  Every woman should feel like a princess on their wedding day, shouldn’t they?  We’re all little girls at heart, really.  Aren’t we?

Actually it was about at this point that I almost had to pinch myself – I couldn’t quite believe it was really happening, that the best day of my life was finally here.  I knew i’d get him in the end, but there were doubts, especially the first time we split up.  He came back to me because, as he said, he’s a man and he has his needs!  After he came back to me the second time, I decided I was never going to let him go again and by the end of that year I had the engagement ring to prove it. And now, look, this wedding ring that puts the seal on it. Forever.

The next pictures are all of the dance floor and there are some great ones of all my sisters doing a routine, and your uncle freestyling – there!  All the kids are running around by now.  That’s our first dance.  I think this was the most romantic part of the day for me, because the church bit was the solemn and serious bit.  We did practise, but we all know he can’t dance.  But I made it clear it was expected – it was our wedding day!  His mates all hit the dancefloor in this one, they’ve all had a few.  And is that you in the background there,  yes, you’re dancing with the best man.  Where was his girlfriend while you two were dancing like that!  I’d better make sure she doesn’t see this one!  I don’t think there are any more of you.  Or him. Had you had enough of dancing by then?

I was so glad I saved the bouquet-throwing until the disco, it made it more fun.  Shame you weren’t there to try and catch it.  I was really pleased my cousin caught it.  Although she’s only 16, she might be the next one to get married!  And she was so pleased.  thinking back, I think I was about her age when I first caught a bouquet – the first of many! – and I wasn’t the next to marry.  But never mind, I got there in the end.

Actually there is one more with you in – look you’re in the corner there, you look like you’ve been crying.  Probably with happiness, right?

So fingers crossed it’ll be the christening next!  No, no happy news yet, but hopefully soon.  Unlike some, we like to do things in the right order, so now we’re married I’m really keen to start trying.  Biological clock and all that.  And I’d hate to be an old mother.  No, I know I’ve still got a while, but I don’t want to take any chances.  How old are you now?  Oh.

Anyway, Mister and the best man will be back from the pub soon.  I’ve been trying to get him to cut down now we’re married, but he seems to go even more often!  Me and best man’s girlfriend often watch telly together now, we call ourselves pub widows! Not that they are married; she’s still waiting for him to pop the question.  Do you think he will? Shall I show you the pictures that we’ve chosen for the album?  Are you sure you can’t stay? They’d love to see you. I haven’t even made you that cup of tea yet, what am I like?

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A LIST OF THINGS I HAVE DONE FOR YOU THIS YEAR by Louise

Spent a substantial sum of money and several hours travelling to a ‘luxury’ destination that I had no interest in going to in the first place.

Contacted all of your old friends and asked them to send photos of you and write nice messages to you which I compiled in an expensive photo album. You took this entirely for granted.

Listened to your tales of seating plan controversies and the merits of melon versus mozzarella salad.

Wrote nice things about you and a man I hardly know in an overpriced and tastefully chosen card card – which you did not acknowledge receipt of.

Spent a very boring day sitting on a chair with an inexplicable bow tied around it, saying nice things about you to complete strangers.

Smiled through gritted teeth as middle aged women patted my arm and said reassuringly, ‘Don’t worry, dear, it’ll be you next’. I have no wish to be next. Ever.

Had my bottom pinched more times than I care to mention by ‘hilarious’ uncle Arthur.

Made nice comments about the catering which was the likely cause of the compulsive vomiting which afflicted me throughout the journey home.

Sent you a note when I got home (once the vomiting had finally stopped) to say thank you for inviting me to share such a special moment in your life.

…since you ask, a simple thank you would have been nice.

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BLOODY WEDDING DRESSES by Emily

On a recent plane journey I had the misfortune of catching part of an American “reality” wedding-related show called Say Yes to the Dress.  I have no idea how representative it is of the current state of the current American TV offer, but I did find myself morbidly fascinated for about ten minutes, before it stopped  killing time, instead seemed to extend it eternally.

The premise of the show is entirely lacking in drama or relevance to anything: some women are getting married; they need dresses; said dresses must be purchased from the wedding dress emporium on which the show centres.  The programme makers have found, somewhere at the bottom of the barrel, some small dramatic pressures; that of time (the dresses must be ready in time for the appointed wedding date) and money (the brides must be able to afford their choice).  Basically it’s a show about shopping, and the only reason I can think that this is enough of a reason for the programme’s existence is that its focus the semi-mystical cult of the bride, represented by enormous, expensive white garments.

We meet the shop’s proprietor, an overly-groomed and very camp,  sneering wedding-dress Nazi.  To counteract him slightly are two good-cop assistants who show token quantities of humanity towards the hapless belles.  So this is the team that the women are up against – an unnecessary combination of supporter and adversary, which still fails to increase the dramatic tension in any measurable way.

Next we are treated to an introduction to the women, and here some slight further dramatic obstacles are introduced into the mix.  X has to find a wedding dress that will work with her bump, because shock! Horror! She’s pregnant! Y must find a frock that is short enough for her to dance all night in, as her Latin roots demand, and Z has a tight deadline.  Her betrothed is a soldier and they must marry on his next home leave.  These are obviously all extremely tough challenges for a team of professional dress-shop assistants, but they bravely take all the women on and the search for the dream dresses commences.

I endured part of Z’s story before turning over to watch Avatar again (it was a long flight).  We are allowed a little of her backstory: She was raised by her dad, mom having left when she was small.  She remains daddy’s little girl, but is marrying her soldier boy so that he has a wife waiting for him rather than a mere girlfriend, when next away in I-Raq, dodging friendly fire or massacring insurgents or whatever it is he is paid to do there.  Explaining this to the camera brings a tear to Z’s pretty young eyes.  But that’s enough about her life, family and personal choices: the show is about dresses and we are on a deadline, remember.

The reason her dress has to be perfect, we are told, is that Z has been planning her wedding day since she was 12.  Will the shop be able to fulfil her childhood fantasy?  I’m obviously on the edge of my economy class seat by now, as Z explains her requirements.  We cut to the good-cop assistants, who explain that the hardest part of their job is to help women very slightly rethink their ideas.  Wedding dress Nazi steps in to proclaim that whatever women say they want, he always knows best.

Accompanied by these weird people, we sweep through the massive shop that is a sea of white, cream and ivory satin, silk and nylon.  In the cult of the bride, the only colour is white, and the law seems to decree that all frocks must be encrusted with beads, lace, frills and ribbons.  As the cult followers are grown women who have stuck rigidly to their childhood fantasies, wedding dresses must conform to Disney’s warped vision, obviously.

A selection of dresses is brought to the waiting bride, who is being supported by a whole entourage of cult followers, including her dad and her chief bridesmaid.  Z tries on a frock and parades in front of her team, who all promptly cry about how beautiful she looks, while the wedding dress Nazi looks on, cynically.

Quite how the programme makers introduce some obstacle to this being The dress I will never know, as I can bear it no longer.  I will also never know how X and Y get on with their choices, but I have a feeling that all the women went home several thousand dollars poorer, toting massive bags of frothing white tulle, maybe having shed a few tears at some point in their “journey” towards buying a dress.  But I am left wondering why I took so much notice of the programme.

The cult of the bride is a fairly modern phenomenon.  In the last century women married in order to live with their boyfriends.  They wore a nice dress for the occasion, had some sarnies , cake a glass of wine and that was that.  The cult is obviously heavily supported by the wedding industry, a lucrative business, which promotes the infantalising of women. Listening to Z’s explanation of her 12-year-old self’s dream wedding dress, I was upset for several reasons: that she wasn’t embarrassed to be admitting that she is sticking to ideas she had about her future which she developed in pre-adolescence; that the whole programme and hence industry validates her wish for immaturity; that this possibly intelligent, grown woman wishes to be a waiting wife for her soldier husband.

This woman, along with X and Y, is in fact making a decision which will affect her entire future.  An emotional, sexual, financial, familial and legal choice, which will make breaking up expensive and unnecessarily complex.  Her life choice is reduced to a 12 year old’s dream of being a princess for a day, worshipped by all the cult followers, being the desperately needy centre of attention, before the realities and drudgeries of married life leave the photos as the only reminder of fantastical perfection.  It is unspeakably ridiculous.

Imagine a male equivalent of this programme.  Three grown men are asked what they had wanted to be when they grew up.  They then have the opportunity to dress up and pretend to be a policeman, fireman or astronaut for the day, in a special shop.  Everyone cries that they got to live out their childhood fantasies, and then they go back to their normal lives.  Mr Benn aside, somehow I don’t think it’s a goer.

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ISSUE 4 HEADS UP

The fourth edition of the Feminist Jumble Sale is due out in early September, and we are pleased to announce the theme of Bloody Heritage. We’d love your musings and creative outpourings on this theme by the August Bank Holiday weekend.  please send to feministjumble@hotmail.co.uk

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