Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The biggest disappointments of 2012

All in all, 2012 has been pretty darn great. A significantly above average year. The type of year that the people who make those nostalgic year-you-were-born birthday cards must breathe a sigh of relief over (2003 was a head-scratcher, right guys?).  But rather than give you a column that just says YAY THE OLYMPICS next to a hand-drawn doodle of Clare Balding and Psy the Gangnam Style man sitting on a cloud, I’ve decided to go against the grain of the year and be all negative instead. So here you are – the most disappointing moments of 2012. Hurrah!   


As someone who aims to spend at least 18 hours a day consuming some form of visual media, the arrival of Netflix brought with it great promise. It was cheap, it was instant and it would herald an end to streaming things in stilted two-minute bursts, pretending that the juddering picture is artistic camerawork rather than my shonky broadband connection. The reality was the online equivalent of the dvd collection you get in rented holiday cottages. The Full Monty; Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion; a copy of Hornblower that was probably free with the Sunday Express. Enjoy.   

Draw Something 

It was the hilarious digital Pictionary app that gripped the nation! For three and a half weeks, before it was bought by mobile giant Zynga, everyone stopped playing it and the company promptly lost $5 million in a month.   


This was a disappointment not so much in the sense of expecting much and receiving little, but in the sense that your parents are “disappointed” in you when you make a clanging error in judgment and bring shame upon the family. They started off as a logical evolution of the slanket, an experiment to see just how much snuggly cosiness an adult human can withstand before it all becomes a bit cloying. Then they grew animal ears and were adopted as ironic partywear by the sort of people who jump up and down behind TV news reporters. Comfort has never been so irritating.   

The Olympics Closing Ceremony

Being British, we sat through the first half of the closing ceremony in tense, optimistic silence, willing it to suddenly get lots better, very quickly. Then George Michael decided to use a momentously historic occasion in front of 26 million people to plug his new, unknown single, and we all exploded, turned to each other and went “this is a complete pile of horse turd isn’t it?”  

From that moment on, it was all “Emeli Sande” this and “Jessie J’s crotch” that, and we were free to vent our frustration at the closing ceremony being every bit as rubbish as the rest of the Olympics was brilliant.

Viva Forever  

Being British, we sat through the first half of Viva Forever in tense, optimistic silence, willing it to suddenly get lots better, very quickly. When the curtain went down for the interval, a tumbleweed of dismal silence swept along our row.  “Um,” said someone, eventually. “I sort of thought the Spice Girls had more songs.”   

“And better songs.”  

It turns out we only thought they did, because we were nine at the time.   

The Mayan apocalypse  

It’s only Thursday, so I’m taking a punt on this one.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

In which the stockings come down

With brother no.1, Christmas 1993
I am writing this during Twitter’s annual Elf-athon, which is why I imagine you can smell candy corn wafting up from the page. Whatever it is that candy corn might be. Right now the internet is about 70% people chanting “Elf! Elf! Elf!”, giddily drunk on joy and brandy marzipan, 20% people making a lot of noise about how they are purposely NOT watching Elf, or watching Elf purely to tell everyone how little they are enjoying Elf, and 10% spam Schmolex adverts.

I’m in the giddy majority, obviously.  I’ve even cracked out Maximum Christmas Jumper, the sequined one that comes down to my knees, as opposed to Moderate Christmas Jumper and Vaguely Christmassy socks, in which to watch it. But in my heart I know all this cheer is a deflection tool. It’s because I’m hanging onto childhood traditions with all my might, before the cruel sands of passing time drag them away and I’m just left with the Queen’s speech and acid reflux.

Mother Bravo declared many years ago that we would stop doing Christmas stockings when brother no.2 was 18. At that point I was 18 and he was 11, still more or less a vessel of childlike Christmas magic, just about able to forget he knew Father Christmas doesn’t exist if he tried really, really hard.

At the time it seemed beyond reasonable. By then I would be 25, and naturally past such things. I’d probably be occupying my Christmasses with more adult pursuits, like going on ski weekends with investment bankers called Gideon. But time, as time is wont to do, has sprinted past at an Olympic pelt and now brother no.2 is 17 and I am 24 and the idea of a stocking-less Christmas just feels a bit bleak.  What next, no charades? No communal family reading of The Night Before Christmas? We all do that, right?

It was only three years ago that we stopped leaving a mince pie and glass of sherry out for Santa. It had become vaguely ridiculous, what with all members of the family more likely to stay up and drink the sherry than coo over the magical icing sugar trail by the fireplace in the morning, but still. It was sad.

The obvious answer is probably to start having babies, so that the magic of Christmas can be rekindled for a brand new generation. But I hear babies are quite a lot of effort, and I can’t keep my potted basil plant alive. Besides, we wouldn’t want anything to cause a distraction during the Big Bravo Quiz.

So I ask you, at what age is it all meant to stop? 30, you say? Ok good.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

In which the princess is not a panda

We should all have guessed, of course – it was a classic deflection technique. Get a new fringe; world coos over new fringe; everybody stops monitoring your womb for five minutes and you can get discreetly pregnant. After all, nobody gets a fringe for no reason. Break up, breakdown, enormous forehead spot, spawning the future sovereign - every fringe tells a story.  

Sidestepping the vague ickiness inherent in the whole nation merrily applauding royal copulation, as though the Duke and Duchess are the Edinburgh zoo pandas, it’s sad that Kate’s chief public value, up to now having been 1. looking flawless and 2. producing an heir, will now inevitably be: looking flawless, while producing an heir.  

On the plus side, maternity wear will give me the likeliest chance I’ve ever had of ‘getting the Middleton look’. Once Kate’s swapped the nude stilettos for a nice pair of plimsolls and a smock top (or “poured her curves” into a comfy sweater dress from Hobbs, as the Daily Mail will doubtless have it), it’ll be far easier for the rest of us to match her in the style stakes. Other than accessorising with an adorable baby monarch, that is.  

But the most uncomfortable thing about the hoo-hah (the media, I mean, not a euphemism for the royal cervix) is how quick everyone is to overlook the way in which we found out. Not a dignified statement from the glowing couple, but Kate rushed to hospital with hyperemesis before the usual 12-week safety curtain has fallen.  

As a recovering emetophobe and, well, a human, I can imagine nothing grimmer than vomiting so much you have to be hospitalised. Except maybe vomiting so much you have to be hospitalised, but not before doing a few weeks of public appearances in restrictive wool coat dresses, all the while looking cheerfully, perfectly poised and maintaining the Shiniest Hair In The World for the braying vulture wake of the world’s press.  

It’s sad, then, not only that Kate is suffering but also that she and Will have had to spill the beans so early and be deprived of their exciting, private, secret-keeping time. The bit before Twitter explodes and the Daily Mail moves into her uterus and Ladbrokes start listing the odds on them naming the kid ‘LK Bennett’. The bit where they get to just be happy, nervous parents-to-be.  

Alright, she’s a pampered Duchess, while there are millions of women for whom a hospital bed and treatment to ease the suffering of pregnancy would be luxury beyond comprehension – but feeling sympathy for one person doesn’t mean you forget about everyone at the other end of the spectrum. Compassion doesn’t run out. So let’s be kind and leave them to it for a while.

In the meantime, I hear one of the Edinburgh pandas has been spotted buying Barry White records and massage oil. Keep your eyes peeled for a new hairdo, everyone.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Happy Christmas from all at Bravo Enterprises!

We open on a single snowflake, drifting gently through a night sky to land on the upturned nose of a child, wearing a bobble hat. Holding a puppy. The music tinkles in: a baby-voiced woman whispers a melancholy cover of Wombling Merry Christmas, at a third of the speed of the original. There are some pan pipes in the background, and the whistling of a winter breeze through some pine branches on a distant hilltop.

Cut to a bevvy of slow-motion women in sequinned cocktail dresses, laughing into each other's hair as they put on lipstick for the office party and open secret Santa presents, all of which turn out to be a loofah set. They are very happy with the loofah sets, and laugh into each other's hair some more. Outside the window, a train travels past. The snow is now thick as a duvet, and yet it is not delayed. It is not First Great Western or First Capital Connect, but a special variety of First Festive Express with nostalgic slam doors and velvet curtains and a toilet that smells of cinnamon whirls.

Cut to the North Pole, where Mrs Claus has been working very, very hard to make Christmas magical for her apparently incapacitated husband and family. Santa and the elves smile vacantly from the sofa while she whirls around in a tinsel haze, prepping sprouts and making nativity costumes and buying the right girdle for Granny and icing the cake and finding the spare batteries and de-icing the car and giving Dasher his antler medication and wrestling a polar bear for the last orange-centered Christmas pudding at the Lapland Superstore, because as we all know, only Mums can do these things without risking serious physical harm. Good old Mums!

Shortly afterwards Mrs Claus will neck a bottle of cooking sherry and slump in a miserable heap under the weight of society's sexist expectation - but it's ok because the advert will be over by then and she can cheer herself up with a nice bit of sale shopping.

Cut to a black forest gateau the size of a paddling pool, over which Olly Murs and someone from TOWIE hold hands and sway, as a Nolan sister plays piano, sitting in the centre of an enormous king prawn ring. Underneath the buffet table, a Furby and a Bratz doll have fallen in love.

The child from earlier arrives at the party, creating a sense of narrative cohesion. The snowflake has melted, but we know it is the same child because the puppy is now wearing the bobble hat. One of the sparkling, laughing ladies puts down their loofah set and scoops the child up in her arms, so that it can place the star on top of the Christmas tree. The Festive Express races past the window, this time drawn incongruously by reindeer. One of the reindeer winks at the puppy. The words [insert heartwarming message] appear on screen, then some small print explaining all items are non-returnable and may cause choking.

Fade out.


Are you weeping yet? Good.

In which I twhinge

This weekend, I tweeted Wandsworth Council to complain about the organisation of the Battersea Park fireworks display.

I’d like to pretend that it was an uncharacteristic move, borne out of sleep-deprivation, frustration at having to collect pre-booked tickets from the park before noon on the day of the fireworks, and perhaps a touch of over-excitement because frankly, I love fireworks more than most things in life.

I could pretend that, but I know in my heart (and also my brain) that the weekend before, I tweeted Natwest to complain about their shoddy customer service. While I was still in Natwest. I once tweeted Eat to complain that staff had forgotten the puff pastry top to my chicken soup, then discovered it sodden inside the pot. And complained some more.

I never used to be a complainer, mind. I’ve been an enthusiastic tutter and sigher for years, but it’s only recently that I’ve started channeling my dissatisfaction into something more productive. They say it’s never to late to take up a new hobby, and I’m happy to have found a pastime that is both calorie-burning and committed to the greater good.

It’s also a undeniable sign that I am becoming my mother, who once phoned up Baxter’s soup to complain about getting the wrong soup in her can and received £4 in compensation vouchers. “It was my son’s favourite,” she told them. “He’s very disappointed.” The son was 18.

The problem, of course, is that official complaining is so much quicker and easier than it used to be. Twenty years ago, doing a complaint also involved finding a pen, or dialing a number, possibly referring to a Filofax or angrily operating a Photostat machine, by the end of which your anger had probably melted away into just feeling slightly peckish, and all would be calm again.

Now, social media has opened up super express highways for complaining. We can eat an unsatisfactory croissant, receive bad customer service and whinge about it on Twitter before we’ve even wiped the sleep from our eyes. What’s more, we can do it publicly, like ringing a great big bell in the town square and yelling “Hear ye, hear ye! I only got three prawns in my sandwich and M&S are doing DIDDLY SQUAT about it.”

The good thing about all this digital disgruntledness, of course, is that it gives brands the chance to be brilliant back. The brilliant Bodyform video response to a snarky male Facebook commenter, for example, or o2 getting down wiv da kids when replying to ragey messages.

Wandsworth Council, by the way, never replied. But it must be said the fireworks were grand.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Skyfall snoozegate

What did we all think of Skyfall, then? Skyfall! New Bond! Ooh, the explosions! The cars! The shooting! The women, doing shooting! Scary Javier Bardem! Lovely Judi Dench!

Actually I can’t fake it anymore. You’ve wheedled it out of me, blasted watercooler enthusiasm. I fell asleep.

In my defense are the following points: 1) I have never managed to stay awake through a Bond film, so had very little point of reference for this one. Pretty much all I know is the shooting, the ladies, the cars and the fact that every so often he regenerates into a different man, leading me to assume Bond is part Timelord.

2) That Adele song really is very soothing. 3) I’d had a moderately rich Ben and Jerry’s first.

4) Not to go all Hipster Victorian on you, but massive, implausible CGI action sequences just leave me cold. Well done on your clever computing and that, but I’m the girl who preferred the old The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe from 1988, where Aslan looked like a giant talking shoebrush. I like a little authenticity. As soon as anyone in a film has hung by their fingertips from a speeding anything and not immediately died, you have lost me.

5) I don’t particularly fancy Daniel Craig. I’m sure he’s a lovely man, and he’s certainly very good at doing The Exercise and getting The Muscles – but frankly, I like my powerful, world-saving male heroes to have a higher gawk factor (see: earlier Doctor Who reference).

6) It was warm. 7) It was after 8pm. 8) I was sitting down.

In case Sam Mendes is reading this and on the verge of snotty tears, I’d like to stress that these last three are definitely the main factors in Skyfall Snoozegate. I’d say I’ve been semi-conscious for about 37 per cent of all the films I’ve ever watched. High profile releases I’ve napped through include The Notebook, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones, The Third Man, Casablanca, Withnail and I and at least half of the Harry Potters.

The most expensive nap I’ve ever had was during the 2008 remake of The Women, which I saw in Leicester Square at the princely sum of £11 WITH student discount – though judging by the 15 minutes of action I saw before The Land of Zs beckoned, I didn’t waste a penny.

My cinema sleepytimes aren’t dependent on quality of movie, however. More on the quality of seating, and whether or not there’s a High Inquisitor sat near me (“Who’s that? What’s she doing? Is he doing to die?”) that requires politely smothering with my coat/pillow first.

So it was no slight on you, Mr Bond. Or you, Judi. Or any of you, clever special effects folks, or you, lighting guys, or you, Daniel Craig’s official abs sculptor. Jolly good job, all of you. And I can say that with enthusiasm, because I’m feeling terribly well rested.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

In which it may or may not be THE LAW

The other day, my flatmate discovered that the school where she teaches had been accidentally paying her too much. And they wanted it back.

“But they can’t!” I spluttered. “They’ve given it to you, it’s yours. You’ve won the luck lottery! It’s in your bank - it can’t come out again, it’s like… a ship in a bottle! It’s.. it’s.. THE LAW.

It isn't the law, of course. It's the law of being embarrassed to say you can't give it back because you spaffed it all on I realised as I said it that: firstly, my knowledge of this legal area is based entirely on the time in Friends when Phoebe’s bank gave her money by accident and let her keep it, and secondly, that there are many things that we all assume are THE LAW which really aren’t the law at all.

Such as a shop being legally obliged to sell you something cheap if it’s marked at the wrong price. Why do we believe that? Do we think it’s, like, punishment for their clerical error? “You got sloppy with the pricing gun, chump, now flog me this discount ceramic puppy ornament and choke on the bitter taste of your own incompetence.”

I imagine these shonky misconceptions are about 20% based on things we’ve seen on telly, 15% on our innate sense of human fairness, and 65% on things our mums say, because their mums said them, because their grandmothers said them, because in 1894 you could probably demand your neighbour’s best goat as penance for them giving you the shifty eye in the post office.

Another classic is: places that serve food must have a customer toilet! It is THE LAW. We know of course that this one can’t actually be THE LAW, because if it was then all the Pret A Mangers within Zone 2 would have been shut down. But we continue believing it, presumably based on some warped digestive science logic that says if you can put it in one end, you must provide means for it to come out the other. You hear it, every day, every hour probably, echoing around the cafes and kiosks of the nation – somebody’s mum, saying, “Well they must have a toilet, they serve food! It’s THE LAW” whilst doing an agitated wee dance by the napkin dispenser.

My absolute favourite, however, is the enduring urban legend that says a pregnant woman caught short can relieve herself in a policeman’s helmet. Everybody loves this one, despite knowing really that finding a policeman in a helmet these days is more elusive a mission than finding a functional loo with paper and an antibac hand gel dispenser.

But I’m happy to say that after much extensive googling on the topic (one of my favourite things about the internet is that you can type in “pregnant wee helmet” and it knows exactly what you mean), I haven’t found anything conclusively saying it isn’t true. So by THE LAW of believing things are THE LAW unless you’re told they absolutely aren’t, it must be THE LAW. Go, find a pregnant lady looking desperate in a toiletless café and tell her about it now.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

In which we don't name that tune

I know this is a long shot, but do you know what song this is?


“Dum dum, do-do-duuuuh duuhh duhhh”. No? You must know it! “Dum dum, do-do-duuuuh duuhh duhhh”. Seriously? Come on. “Do-DO-duuuuh duuUUH”- oh I give up.

I’ve spent hours scouring the whole internet for this song. Scouring. Page five of Google. I’ve hummed it into a Shazam app, whistled it to my flatmates and sung it down the phone to my mother, but all have failed to identify it. My boyfriend and I heard it in a restaurant on Saturday and, in a move of predictable lethargy that we’ve regretted ever since, didn’t ask anyone who was singing it.

We think it might be glam rock. It sounds a bit like Slade, but definitely isn’t Slade. Although while on the hunt for the song, I’ve rediscovered just how much I love Slade - aside from a flagrant disregard for spelling that I can only assume slipped under the taste radar in the 70s because everyone was so zonked on Blue Nun and angelica-topped trifle - they had some really solid tunes. Coz I Luv You; Everyday; the one that was on the advert for the Fiat Cinquecento. Slade are for life, folks, not just for Christmas.
It isn't Status Quo either

Back to the song hunt – we thought it might have been Kiss, but it isn’t. We thought it might have been any of the related artists that Spotify points you to from Kiss, and spend a full two hours clicking through them on a musical breadcrumb trail (“The Sweet! COR I love The Sweet. YOU KNOW. Oh wait, I was thinking of Mud”). But it isn’t. 

Later we begin to think it might not be glam rock at all. It sounds a bit like the chorus from John Lennon’s Instant Karma, so maybe it could be an elusive Beatles song that we somehow managed not to hear during the last 24 years. It would help if we knew any of the words, or more than two bars of the tune. As someone who spends half her life frantically whistling music for others to identify (I can do all seven minutes of Bo-Rap without stopping for air), this has become my Everest. 

Eventually, we begin to think it perhaps doesn’t exist at all. Maybe we wrote it together in our heads – in which case, we should probably book ourselves some studio time pronto and lay this baby down, because it’s going to be massive. Bigger than Slade, even.

Basically, this has been a roundabout, 454-word way of asking: do any of YOU know what the song is? And if so, could you tell me before I flip and punch through a wall or something? Ta.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

In which I avoid making a 'custardy' gag

I have developed a new approach to autumn meal planning: start with the custard and work backwards. Now, everything I eat after 3pm is simply warming up for the evening custard. Paving the way. Vegetables, rice, protein; all just a digestive chore until I reach the river of golden reward that is the custard.

Since I hit on this new regime, it’s made the lesser aspects of seasonal shift all the more palatable. Rain? Custard. Dark? Custard. Getting dressed under the covers, because you can see your own breath in your bedroom? Excellent, more custard.

Of course, some people don’t like custard. I didn’t, for a portion of my childhood. I didn’t trust it. For one thing, it covered up my pudding to the point where I worried it was gone forever. It introduced an unwieldy liquid element into formerly solid desserts. It looked like the gunge from Get Your Own Back and tasted like… well, like yellow.

But soon, I began to recognize custard’s supreme power as an accompaniment. It can transform even the most dismal of dessert options into something comfortingly stodgy and sublime. Put a rich tea, the pauper’s tea-dunker, into the bottom of a bowl of custard and it instantly gains the kudos of a far superior biscuit. Add some cut up banana and you’ve got a pud so wholly delicious that it forgets it has anything to do with fruit.

All the coolest people are into custard. Doctor Who, who famously eats it with fishfingers (a combo which makes more sense when you acknowledge that hollandaise, as my friend Daisy pointed out, is just ‘savoury custard’); Custard from Rhubarb and Custard. In the process of writing this, I even found a wikianswers article called ‘Does Zac Efron like custard?’, to which the answer was a resounding ‘yes!’.

The best thing I have ever done with custard was melt a chocolate Freddo in the middle of it. The second thing was invent custard porridge. The third was the thing everyone has done with custard, which is to add a little water to the powder and make a freaky moving liqui-solid, like the kind of science experiment enthusiastic parents do with their children in half term to make sure TV doesn’t turn their brains to bin juice.

 I’ve had fancy custard, of course, made with cream and vanilla and all manner of heavenly manna, but it was almost too delicious to be allowed as a genuine foodstuff – like sticking a spoon in some cake icing and calling it dinner. Bird’s custard, however, with its exciting powder-mixing ritual and vague whiff of wartime austerity, feels like the more everyday treat.

Naysayers would argue that without egg, it isn’t proper custard at all. But then, naysayers would probably also claim you can’t write a whole column about custard, and I’ve just proved them wrong.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Eight things every fresher should know

1)    There will be other fun in your life, beyond this term. I mean, not loads of it. And you’ll never have booze that cheap or hair that shiny or standards that low again. But there will be other fun, it doesn’t all dry up at 19 - so don’t feel you’ve got to consume every bit of fun on offer now, like it’s an all you can eat buffet and they’ve just refreshed the prawn toasts. There will be dinner parties, and office dos in your future. Sometimes strangers will fall over in the street. See, fun!

2)    Seek out your own kind. During my first week at uni, I sacked off a fresher’s party to watch a Fawlty Towers DVD in someone’s bedroom with a group of other alternative thrill-seekers. Those people are still my friends now.

3)    It’s ok to make temporary friends. Really. Everyone does it. I mean, on the moral barometer it won’t put you up there between Mother Theresa and Aslan, but making a few emergency pals as human buffers and then ditching them two weeks in when you discover they’re really into KT Tunstall and making their own yoghurt is just a natural defense tactic. Nobody will hold it against you. Except maybe whatshisname and thingumybob.

4)    It’s good to make friends with some rich kids. University is all about expanding your horizons, and discovering the diverse world beyond your doorstep. For me, as for many students*, this meant associating with rich people for the first time. Not family-gets-an-Ocado-delivery rich, but seriously rich. Doesn’t-have-a-student-loan rich. Daddy-owns-most-of-Wiltshire rich. It was fascinating. Because underneath all the cashmere and acres of glossy hair, they’re really just like us – and nothing proves that more effectively than watching them puke into their own Mulberry bag at the counter of a Chicken Cottage.

5)    Don’t buy all the books. Don’t even buy most of the books. Because there’s this wonderful thing called a library, and another wonderful thing called ‘pretending you’ve read them’. Sadly it took me until halfway through my second year to discover the first, but I cottoned on to the second almost immediately.

6)    You will either get fatter, or thinner. But most likely the first one.

7)    Man cannot live on instant noodles alone. But if you throw in some sweet chilli sauce and a mushroom every now and again, you’re golden. Or you could do what I did, and embrace culinary independence by branching out with your eating in new and exciting ways. I became addicted to peppered mackerel fillets from Tesco. I discovered falafel. I invented 'pstub', the official fourth meal of the day. I once spread ketchup on some rye bread, just to see.

8)    Create a fun fresher persona. To this day, we still fondly remember Embryology Pete. Who he was, how he was significant in our lives or what he’s doing now, I couldn’t tell you, but that’s not important. He was Embryology Pete! EMBRYOLOGY PETE. Legend.

*Unless of course you are rich, in which case you’ll get to meet POOR people for the first time. We’re great, we’re just like you, except when we’re given presents we take the wrapping paper off carefully and put it in drawer so we can use it again.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

In which Page 3's days are numbered

It’s a pretty good rule of thumb, when wanting to test the sense of any life situation, to ask yourself: how would I explain this to a child? If you can’t communicate the logic of something in simple terms a kid can grasp, there’s a good chance it might be completely ridiculous. Extra light mayonnaise, for instance. Or why they let the contestants on Four in a Bed decide each other’s scores.

Now, I’d like you to think about how you would explain the existence of Page 3 to a child who has never encountered it before. Go on – have the imaginary conversation in your head. I’ll wait.

Tricky, isn’t it? Because when you stop to think about it, Page 3 is like an embarrassing old curtain pelmet from the 70s that everyone has somehow forgotten to take down. I like to think that when it finally ceases to be, just like smoking in restaurants, it’ll seem oddly incredible that it was ever A Thing in the first place.

The explain-it-to-a-child reason is just one of many being currently given by people signing the No More Page 3 petition on At the time of writing, it has over 17,000 signatures. It gained 6,000 just today. The campaign, an open letter to The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohan, was started by writer Lucy Anne Holmes when she noticed, flicking through its coverage of the Paralympics, that despite page after page of awesome achievements, the biggest image of a woman in the whole paper was still the semi-naked one.

“George Alagiah doesn’t say, ‘And now let’s look at Courtney, 21, from Warrington’s bare breasts,’ in the middle of the 6 O’ Clock News, does he?” reasons Holmes. The petition isn’t about restricting the freedom of the press. It’s not about condemning glamour models, or the people who like to look at them. It’s simply about asking, nicely, that they be taken out of the newspaper – because in case we weren’t all clear on this, boobs aren’t news.

Whether The Sun reports ‘news’ at all is a whole other debate, of course. But to write it off as an archaic, ignorant rag is to blithely ignore the influence it still has on a massive chunk of the population – not to mention anyone who ‘accidentally’ reads it on the bus. Page 3 is so entrenched a part of the mainstream media that loads of readers don’t even stop to question it. If we can’t change the whole paper, we can at least try to change this.

And while it’s heartening how strong and swift the response to Lucy’s campaign has been, it’s also been fist-gnawingly infuriating how many idiots still think “you’re just jealous” is an adequate comeback.

One argument commonly touted is empowerment. Or that the women who pose on Page 3 are actually exploiting the punters, as a sort of penance for being so easily pleased by a casual flash of mammary. Maybe they are. But rather than debate the endless intricacies of the power struggle, I want to ask: why does anyone have to exploit anyone? Can’t we just, y’know, take a break from all the exploiting for a while? If two wrongs don’t make a right, surely two exploitations don’t make a real advancement for either gender.

“It’s just a bit of fun,” is another classic. Of course! Fun! Like a naughty seaside postcard! Where’s the harm? The harm is in yet another generation of humans growing up to believe a woman’s worth is measured by how good she looks in her scanties. The harm is in giving these women fake ‘novelty’ opinions, to remind us that, obviously, you can’t be sexy AND interested in the fiscal crisis. The harm is in objectification being sold like a jolly joke over our morning cereal, to people who either can’t or don’t want to recognise it. There’s the harm. LOOK, I’m pointing at it, like a less amusing Where’s Wally.

Besides, isn’t it frankly insulting for a paper to think you only want to read the news if there’s a pair of bouncy breasts on the opposite page, like the proverbial spoonful of sugar, to take the taste away? If you want fun, folks, there are plenty of other places to find it. Go to a funfair. Have an ice cream. Or if you want, look at a publication that’s specially designed to have naked people in it. There are several out there, I’ve heard.

Then let Courtney, 21 from Warrington, put her jumper back on, so we never have to explain to a confused child why she’s there.

In which love is a full inbox

This weekend, it is mine and my boyfriend’s two-year anniversary. True, I pondered the correct grammatical arrangement of that sentence for about the same amount of time as I’ve spent mulling over the significance of the occasion (my boyfriend’s and mine? My and my boyfriend’s? My boyfriend’s and I’s?) - but still, it’s nice to mark the date.

Of course, it will be hard to top our one-year anniversary, where he took me to see Dolly Parton at the o2 and I bought him a dressing gown, but we can still try. We have gone for the ultimate luxury, staying in a posh hotel in the city we already live in – because nothing says, “I love you” like “oh look, complimentary slippers!”

From the time on our second date when he accidentally stood me up and found me drowning my sorrows in Primark, to the moment last Sunday night where we both realised we secretly didn’t hate Coldplay, it’s been a beautiful journey akin to one of the great Hollywood pairings (Laurel and Hardy?).

But the reason I’m telling you all this isn’t simply an act of awful coupled-up smuggery, you understand (though if my 17-year-old self is reading this, I’d like to say: ‘it’s fine, you get one in the end! Oh, and stop wearing that.’). No, it’s actually an affirmation for anyone out there who might be combing cyberspace and concluding that everybody single left is a Doctor Who monster with the personality of unmarinated tofu.

You see, we met on the internet. Or, as I’m planning on having printed on matching t-shirts soon, ‘Tim Berners-Lee brought us together.’ If you’d like specifics, we went for My Single Friend. Because is for hussies, POF for cheapskates, and eHarmony for people so keen to get married THIS YEAR that they’ve already bought the cake-topper. Plus, the sign-up-your-mate format guarantees that they do have at least one friend – which, call me a fusspot, is fairly high on my list of criteria.

I find it sort of incredible that there is still a stigma surrounding online dating. It just makes such good sense. Why keep on hoping you’ll bump into the love of your life in a pub, or at a bus stop, when you could search and appropriately filter thousands of eligible people from the comfort of your own sofa? Besides, someone you meet at the bus stop is no less likely to be a murderer than someone you meet online, now are they?

So I bid you, singles, go forth! Find yourself a nice new beau while you’re doing your online Tesco shop, safe in the knowledge that I’ve roadtested the path thoroughly, and two years on still not fallen in any potholes.

I’d better not hold my breath though – he hasn’t seen the follow-up to the dressing gown yet.

(He will tell me he loved this column, by the way, because he is in it. And it is the eternal law of the columnist’s life that people say, “I loved that article” when what they mean is “I was in it! You mentioned ME! I’d be famous if it wasn’t in Worthing!”)

Friday, 7 September 2012

Radio Ga-Ga

If it’s ok with you, I’d like to start this week’s column by quoting a relevant song. “On the radio. Woah-oh-oh-oh, on the radio.” You guessed right - I’m going to talk about radio! (That’s the wireless, for the more autumnal among you, and ‘blank telly’ for the yoof). 

Apart from once choreographing a dance to the Archers theme tune, which I would make my dad perform with me in the kitchen in the gleeful rustic manner I imagined they did it down the Ambridge disco, I never really used to be a radio person. There was a brief phase where Terry Garoghan’s Last Bus To Whitehawk on Southern FM was compulsory listening for everyone in Year 10, but largely, radio was just back-up TV.

You imagined if there was ever a crisis in which all the telly in the country was turned off (as, I don’t know, a punishment from the government or a Dalek invasion), the family might be forced to gather round a radio, acting out the scenes for each other to make sure our eyes didn’t grow bored and stop working. It was quaint, that radio was still A Thing.

But then, as I grew older and began the inevitable and increasingly speedy transformation into my mother, I started to understand radio. It’s like a nice friend. The radio is the busy person’s refuge, and the lonely person’s companion. Unlike telly, it doesn’t demand all of your attention – it’s content just to waffle away in the background. And like a real mate, sometimes it annoys you and sometimes it plays rubbish music, but you still refrain from kicking it in the head.

In fact, there’s something morally noble about the radio (bear with me). The way I see it, it’s less selfish than simply putting your own music on, because you’re being forced to share with the rest of the nation – and thus get to feel smug and self-sacrificing afterwards. “I don’t even like Keane. But what did I do? I listened to it anyway! I’m basically a modern day Joan of Arc.”

Having made you sit through this much, I may as well announce now that I’m a BBC Radio 2 listener. Does that disgust you? Are you still there? I realise in radio terms it’s like saying you’re really into Vienetta, or Amazon gift vouchers. It’s a populist choice. But it has musicals and classic pop and jazz and Chris Evans and Moira Stewart and an organist and GOSH DARNIT, it makes me feel cosy inside.

In fact, we’re a Radio 2 flat – especially since I started turning them all on at once in an effort to ward off the mice. Sometimes I’ll shake things up with a little bit of 6Music, or enjoy a session of late night Magic FM with a silent cab driver – but it’s to R2 that my heart belongs. Even when they play the same Amy MacDonald track every hour for a month. Even when Jo Whiley’s on.

I imagine eventually I’ll start blending in a bit of Radio 4 too, to supplement the quality chat with some worldly knowledge. Besides, it would be nice to crack out that dance routine again.

In which I personally state some stuff

My parents are clearing out my old bedroom. Considering I left home six years ago and they’ve been living in a room still semi-bedecked with purple and silver teen tat ever since, I haven’t taken too heavy a hand with the disposal process.

In fact, I have had no opinions on the disposal process at all, which is for the best as I am the worst type of sentimental hoarder. I never throw away birthday cards for fear the sender might subsequently die. I still have my friend Sarah’s Year 8 English project in a cupboard because I couldn’t bear the thought of her heartlessly binning it. Twelve years ago.

I’m aware that there is a magical, elusive point in time between ‘soulless humanoid’ and ‘drowning in pointless nostalgic detritus’ at which it becomes fine to throw stuff away, but I have never been able to clock exactly when it occurs. What, for example, do you do with theatre programmes? To come home, still floating on that happy cultural high, and instantly commit the programme to the bin seems like the behavior of an ice-hearted monster – not to mention a waste of £4.50.

But when it gets picked up years later, covered in a duvet of dust, by someone who is helping you move, and they ask in a condescending tone, “What do you need THIS for?” and you’re forced to explain that you’ve been keeping it as an emergency mousemat despite already having a mousemat and in fact not even using a mouse anymore… well, you feel like a fool.

So yes, they were clearing out and I was staying out.

“We’ve found your personal statement!” my youngest brother declared down the phone last week. “It’s really embarrassing!”

Well, of course it is. It is cripplingly embarrassing. I think I even knew it was when I wrote it, but probably thought at the time that willingness to humiliate oneself on paper in front of authority figures might actually go some way to earning me a place at uni (besides, everything one writes as a teenager is humiliating and naff. I bet Mozart listened back to the early concertos and went ‘OH GOD.’)

I reckon UCAS could, and should, make a really decent toilet book out of the worst personal statements submitted each year. Mine opens with the immortal line, “Some people dream of seeing their name in lights. I’m more interested in seeing mine in print”. BLARRGH.

But writing a personal statement is just practice for applying for jobs as an adult, of course. And anyone doing that know there is another magical, elusive point – this time it’s where the inversely proportional goals of ‘making yourself look like you’d be good at the job’ and ‘not sounding like an arrogant tit’ converge in perfect balance, and nobody in the history of the world has ever achieved it.

If I were High Ruler of the Universe (which I shall never be, because I couldn’t write a decent enough application), cover letters would be done away with in favour of real life tasks that exposed crucial truths about the applicant’s personality. Such as making them watch Steel Magnolias to see if they cried at the correct bits. Or asking them the correct amount of time to hold onto a birthday card before throwing it away.

In which I embrace the 'Burgh

I embarked on my first visit to the Edinburgh festival with a few simple goals: 1. Acquire and consume a deep-fried Mars bar. 2. Don’t accidentally join a comedy improv troupe. 3. Don’t look like a giant tourist. 4. Establish exactly which bits of the festival, if any, are the proper festival and not the Fringe. Because it seemed to be all Fringe and no… rest of hair.

The first of these was accomplished quickly, and easily. Saw a chip shop, went in, handed over two and a half of our finest British pounds and wolfed it, burning my tongue a bit on some melted nougat.

What was it like? Obviously, incredible. I’m disappointed you had to ask. As far as I can deduce, the only thing that could possibly be wrong with a deep-fried Mars bar would be if it tasted of fish. If it was imbued with a haddock essence and doused in a delicate vinegar jus, I might have had problems finishing it (might).

But fish-free as it was, tell me what there is NOT to like about melted chocolate and caramel, squidging out the sides of a crisp batter sheath? I salute the Scots, for looking at a normal Mars bar and thinking, “nahhh…. too cold, too solid and too healthy. Let’s fry it!” That’s the kind of envelope-pushing innovation we all need to be inspired by.

Point two was harder, in a way, because I really wanted to join a comedy improve troupe. But it was easier, in another way, because nobody asked me to.

This is probably for the best, as another thing I discovered during my first fringe was that improvisation makes me incredibly nervous. I worry for them. I worry that they won’t be funny, or that they won’t think of anything to say, or that what comes out will be shonky and a lot less hilarious than if they’d simply scripted it. I sit there feeling like their mum, and each time one of them improvises something good I breathe a sigh of relief for them. It’s a stressful experience, and one that I can’t believe would be eased if it were me on the stage instead, frantically trying to decide what Miley Cyrus would be likely to say at a funfair with Pol Pot.

The third goal died a death before it had even really been set. This was largely Rose’s fault, as she decided to wear a tartan scarf on the train. Then mine, as I decided to buy and lavishly photograph a Tunnock’s caramel bar (“They just taste DIFFERENT up here.”) Then both of ours, as we decided to buy I HEART EDINBURGH bags, eat baked potatoes with haggis and prance about whistling Scotland the Brave. Och well.

Point four, in case you were wondering, was never fully resolved but settled largely with the following rules: if it’s ballet or opera or marching soldiers and we can’t afford it, it is in the Edinburgh Festival proper. Otherwise, it’s all Fringe. Which may not work as a hair concept, but makes for a pretty great weekend.

Ten things to do now the Olympics are over

1.    Eat cake. It’s ok everyone, you can stop clutching the telly hoping Clare Balding will come back and announce we’re doing the whole thing over again, with jazz hands. There’s a new bastion of national pride waiting in the wings to capture our hearts, and that is The Great British Bake Off.

Perhaps it isn’t fully embracing the Olympic legacy to start tucking into the battenberg before everyone’s hamstrings have fully contracted - but when you think about it, beneath the acres of buttercream and Italian meringue, the cake comp actually embraces similar attitudes of discipline, perseverance and personal (or yeast-fuelled) growth of the Olympics. These are people who care so much about their craft that they’ll weep over a soggy-bottomed pie. That’s a dedication I can admire.

2.    Wait for the Paralympics. I am incredibly excited about the Paralympics, due in large part to Channel 4’s brilliant, and steadfastly nur-nur-we’re-not-the-BBC, marketing. Their ‘Thanks For the Warm Up’ campaign is doing a great job of breaking through my post-Olympic gloom and giving me cause to go, “YEAH! BOOM! More amazing humans being amazing!” every time I walk past a billboard.

3.    Start your own Olympics. I’m currently trying to found the Have-A-Go Olympics, for people with little discernable sporting ability who just want to have a jolly good go. Bonus points will be rewarded for additional challenges, such as completing the 400m hurdles with two bags of Sainsbury’s shopping, or in a pair of new sandals.

4.    Get really good at an obscure sport. It’s only a matter of time before speed Macarena hits the Olympic arena, and when it does I intend to be on that podium.

5.    Buy the team kit and stand around nonchalantly in public spaces, stretching, until at least five people have come up, shaken your hand and bought you an ice cream.

6.    Listen to everything Emeli Sande's ever recorded. She's a massive cultural icon, don'tcha know? Oh, you didn’t. Still, when her career has endured for decades and her songs have ascended into the realms of everlasting legend, we shall all look back and say, ‘Why wasn’t there MORE of her in the London 2012 closing ceremony?’

7.    Buy up all the remaining Cadbury’s medals and melt down their foil wrappers to create  your own replica medal. Then eat the chocolate.

8.    Create an Animal Olympics using the pet of your choice. My mother is currently sewing tiny sweatbands for each of our guinea pigs. They’re really more telly-and-a-pizza creatures, but I haven’t the heart to tell her.

9.    Use all the time you formerly spent listening to Olympic coverage on your headphones at work to learn a new language instead. Portuguese might be useful for the next time round.

10.     Inspire a generation. This is a pretty big one, admittedly, but we should all have a go. Start small: teach a child to do a cartwheel. Take them swimming. Race them round the park, and tell them they’re brilliant.

Or if you don’t have a child to hand, cheer on a passing jogger instead.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


If by any chance my high school PE teacher is reading this, or in fact my middle school PA teacher, or anyone who has ever had the luckless job of persuading me to partake in physical activity, I’d like to say first – sorry. All those times I ‘had my period’, I didn’t, and all those times had I twisted my ankle in a sketchily-described incident involving slippery grass and tripping over a kitten, well, I hadn’t.

But it’s all ok! Because now, suddenly, I LOVE SPORT. It turns out you were wrong about trampolining and telling me I was going to die of juvenile heart disease – what it actually takes to get me into sport is £8bn, a shedfull of elite athletes and the chance to cry noisily in public at least four times a day. So inspired am I by Team GB that I checked my trainers for nesting mice and went running this weekend. Twice! In front of people!

Like most of the rest of the country, between weeping and wondering what Michael Phelps DOES with all his medals (coasters? Hands them out to his milkman instead of a Christmas box?), I’ve decided I’m going to compete in Rio 2016. If Helen Glover can set foot in a boat for the first time in 2008 and row her way to gold four years later like a steel-armed goddess, then I can probably work up a passable performance in something obscure like water polo. I just need a tough, wizened old coach with maverick methods and a seriously good training montage.

Plus, if nominative determinism could ring as true for me as it does for Usain Bolt, I’d be really blooming good at it. Or a low-grade cable TV channel.

I realise I’m not a good sample group, being that this is the first Olympics I’ve watched voluntarily rather than because I’m on a family holiday and it’s raining, but London 2012 is the best Olympics ever, isn’t it? My personal highlights have included the Olympic parents (“Tell me what you’ve been going through this last week,” said presenter. “I’ve been laying a patio,” replied Beth Tweddle’s dad), the discovery of endless well of love in my heart for Claire Balding, and inventing a drinking game around repeating ‘Johnson-Thompson, Johnson-Thompson’ until it goes funny.

Then there have been the underdog stories, the bluffing of sporty terminology (I LOVE a good keirin, don’t you?), the listening to every presenter’s careful use of ‘union flag’, the Wiggo-fuelled mod revival, and the fact that almost every single thing I had expected of the Olympics has been proved wrong. The tube has been a veritable floo system of easy transportation, the tourists have been lovely, the rain has been dramatically decorative at worst, and it’s impossible to be grumpy when every third person on the street is wearing a bright pink anorak. 

And if all those things can defy expectation, maybe my thigh muscles can too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find some synchronised swimming to cry over.

In which bad manners are in the iPhone of the beholder

In these times of ever-evolving communication methods, it can be hard to know exactly what constitutes bad manners. We’ve just about settled on the fact that exposed table legs are now acceptable, while wiping your nose on the vicar’s curtains still isn’t, but everything in between remains a hazy mess of subjective squeamishness.

I’ve been thinking about modern manners recently, fuelled by several events. The first was the arrival of a press release about the Birmingham Food Fest, at which Michelin-starred chef Richard Turner had reportedly banned mobile phones at dinner tables. “When dining out at a restaurant, four in ten adults would think nothing of using a smartphone, making calls, texting and checking emails,” it sniffed from my inbox, before going on to complain that some people don’t even use their cutlery correctly.  Ye gads! What WOULD Escoffier say?

Hot on the heels of this whinge was the release of Sherry Turkle’s book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, which prompted a slew of articles about how gadgets are making us lonelier people with terrible social skills and overdeveloped thumb muscles. And while I hugely admire the lady for having a name that sounds like a 70s dessert, I have to disagree.

The thing that the techno-killjoys always seem to neatly overlook is that while we’re supposedly being antisocial by treating our smartphones like extra limbs, what we’re actually doing is being MORE social, by means of those smartphones.  If I temporarily absent myself from some tedious dinner chat in order to take a photo of my meal, tweet it, upload it to Pinterest, blog about its relative merits and take part in a hashtag game called #dinnerfilms, am I not in fact widening my social horizons rather than stunting them?

Likewise, (and I have had this exact conversation with my father), despairing because you’ve got no phone signal for an afternoon doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a lonely, addicted web cretin – you just want to reply to that tweet, and text that friend and organise that dinner date within a reasonable timeframe. Which is GOOD manners, surely?

What articles like these are really objecting to, of course, is rudeness. This I can get on board with. I hate rudeness. But rudeness is a different thing to breaking flimsy, unspoken rules that nobody has agreed on in the first place. As with so many things in life – rice pudding, disco dancing, wearing corduroy – it’s not what you do but the way that you do it. A rude person will always be a rude person, whether they’re touting an Android tablet or an abacus (to add up their rounded-down contribution to the bill).

Assuming the role of Emily Post-Millennium for a second, I’d propose that a polite, “I’m sorry, would you mind if I quickly reply to this text?” is more than sufficient cover for a quick bit of at-table phone action. Asking yourself, ‘is this status update really necessary during a dinner/meeting/funeral?’ should be enough to establish whether you’re just really connected, or really a bit of a tool. No. Technology came to make us friends, not lose them. And I put it to you that if the Victorians didn’t spend mealtimes secretly texting under the table, that’s only because it hadn’t been invented yet.

The third thing that happened, by the way, is that I got my first iPhone. Can you tell?

Friday, 27 July 2012

In which I find my Olympic event

The thing about the Olympics is, they’re basically all about sport.

All of it. Sporty, sportsmanlike, sporting… sport. Cutting edge investigative journalism this may not be, but watching the gas companies and soft drinks brands and laughably lardy burger chains bend over backwards to try and associate themselves with fitness over the last few months, I’ve finally realised why I feel like a kid with its nose pressed up against the window of a really good party.

I can’t do sport. And by ‘do’, I mean perform, understand, and not be picked last in a team for the purposes of. But despite that, I want to be involved. I’m not going to be able to justify crying at the Adidas advert until I’ve felt a genuine spark of sporting endeavor course through my brittle, unfit veins. So I decided the best option (short of starting my Make Eurovision As Massive As The Olympics And See How Everyone Else Likes It Campaign) was to forget about the incredible feats of human achievement that I can’t participate in, and start thinking about the ones that I can. For example:  

Enormous hair
As a nation, we do enormous hair brilliantly. From Elizabeth I via Maggie Thatcher and Leo Sayer to Adele and the late Amy Winehouse, Britain specialises in barnets you can rest a pint on and hide a chinchilla in. Those of us not blessed with voluminous follicles have taken on nature, and conquered it - all we need is a can of industrial strength dry shampoo, a comb and a dream. That’s stamina and determination I can contribute to. I mean, I would if I could fit my head through the door.  

While there’s little chance of me covering myself in glory on track or field, there’s plenty of chance I’ll cover myself in pastry crumbs while sitting in a field. So I’ll take picnicking to new levels. I’ll walk around armed with M&S sausage rolls, a rug and a posh bottle of elderflower cordial every day for the month of August, and host impromptu picnics wherever possible. On the bus. In the Primark changing room queue. Gold medal standard picnicking.  

Spot the sexism
Now I think about it, if I had got my act together sooner I could have volunteered myself for Chief Sexism Spotter at the Games, marching around with a clipboard yelling “I CALL BULLSHIT” at every obvious inequality. Because there’s a veritable buffet cart of them rolling around at the moment. First I’d start with every TV presenter, newspaper and other douchebag who publicly whinged at the news beach volleyball players would be playing in trousers instead of bikinis if the weather was too cold, then move onto the Australian and Japanese authorities who flew their male teams in first class while the (more successful) women’s teams sat in economy.  

Appreciating the opening ceremony
A fleet of flying Mary Poppins descending from the sky to fight Voldemort? I plan to appreciate the heck out of the opening ceremony.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Street Harassment FAQs: an imaginary conversation


Sorry, what was that?

Hello, gorgeous.

Yes I thought so. Would you like the middle finger with accompanying eyeroll, or a clumsy expletive? I’m might have a more eloquent speech jotted down somewhere in my bag if you can hang on a minute?

But it’s a compliment!

Is it, though? Is it actually? As @Blonde_M excellently put it in this post, a true compliment is intended to make the recipient feel good – not the giver feel powerful. Did you say it with my feelings in mind?

Honestly, it was meant as a compliment

Ok, fine. But what made you think you should pay it in the first place? You don’t know me. I’m not in a pageant. I’m not being officially presented at the Ambassador’s Ball. I’m just on the Northern Line, biting a hangnail. I’ve got a bit of lunch down my top. Did I look like I was fishing for compliments?

Well, you’re a girl…

Ah, of course! I’m a girl. I’d stupidly forgotten for a minute. But yep, there they are – the steady throb of my baby-hungry ovaries, the whirring cogs of the part of my brain still trying to figure out the offside rule, and, most importantly, my urgent gnawing need to be evaluated and approved by every male I have the good fortune to pass on the street.

Are you being sarcastic?


So you’re saying you DON’T want us to compliment you?

Most of the time, honestly, no I don’t. I have friends for that. And family. And a talking Ken doll from the mid-90s. If it means not having to feel like I’m being scrutinised and rated out of 10 every time I leave the house, I’ll happily forgo the odd stranger telling me I look hot, thanks.

But isn’t it nice to get a surprise compliment from a stranger?

Well, yes – this is a tricky one, because it can be lovely. A lady at a bus stop once told me I had incredible skin, and I walked around like one big beaming epidermis for the rest of the day. But I think that’s because, like all truly great compliments, it was no-strings. She didn’t expect anything in return (or at least, she didn’t hang around leering, so I assumed she didn’t). She just wanted to say a nice thing.

But what if, y’know… it isn’t no-strings?

What’s that? You mean, if you see a comely lady and want to tell her she’s purdy in the hope she might agree to kiss you on the mouth?

Something like that

Well, first I feel it’s only fair to warn you that the chances of successfully pulling anyone you meet on the street are minimal. Teeny. Like your-


It’s true though. You can be a perfectly appealing guy, not drooling down your t-shirt or wearing a dirty overcoat or anything, and we’re still likely to back away when you try to hit on us in public. Partly, because it sets off a security alarm in our heads. And partly because, like any ill-judged social interaction, it just makes us cringe.

Sure, everyone likes the idea of meeting the love of their life after they’ve groped your bum outside a corner shop in Kilburn – but life isn’t a fairytale. Sometimes you’ve just got to acknowledge the odds.

But what CAN we say then?

Well. I’m about the employ a massive cliché here, so brace yourself. Ahem. It’s not WHAT you say, it’s the way you say it.

Or at least, that’s partially true. If what you want to say is “Hey baby, suck this” then no amount of warm smiling and non-threatening body language is going to stop us wanting to thwack you in the delicates.

But when you’re treading the fine line between a friendly approach and a sleazy come-on, you just need to make it clear that you’ll retreat without fuss if we want you to. Start small, with a smile. Not a creepy one. See if she smiles back. Learn the signals. If they make a fake phone call to a friend, they’re not interested. If they frown nervously and shuffle away, that’s your cue to quit.

It really isn’t that different from any person who strikes up a chat with any other person at the bus stop, and then won’t piss off when they want to get back to their book – except we have the added fear that you’ll follow us down a dark alleyway and we’ll have to jab our keys in your eye. Nobody likes being harangued.

That’s true. I gave a guy the time once and he ended up sitting with me the whole way from Piccadilly to Cockfosters talking about which waterfowl are native to Britain. It was bloody annoying.

Now imagine he also wanted to have sex with you. Maybe he did want to have sex with you.

That’s a point.

Also good to note: there’s a big difference between complimenting us on something we’ve chosen, like our shoes, and being ‘complimented’ on an intrinsic part of our physicality. Like our arses. “Hey, great hat!” says, “You have brilliant taste. You chose an excellent hat. Congratulations*”, while (and forgive me if there’s a GNVQ out there I haven’t heard of), there’s no expertise involved in growing a nice pair of tits.

Rather than feeling proud, it makes you feel like a piece of meat laid out for inspection. And even if we’ve been classified as prime fillet today, what if we’re scrag end of neck tomorrow? It establishes a system in which we feel we have to look hot all the time. Every day. Just in case there’s a bloke looking.

(*Actually that’s a lie. “Great hat!” usually means “Whoah there! Hat. You’ve got a hat on.”)

So, if in doubt…

Say nothing at all. Yep, ’fraid so. And I hate to break it to you, but nothing catastrophic is going to happen if you DON’T toot your horn at that girl in the sundress. Her day will carry on perfectly well without you shouting ‘Awright sexayyy’ out of the window. If anything it will probably be better.

Wouldn’t it be nice if one day we could just tell women we think they’re beautiful without them feeling scared or objectified or pissed off?

Yes, Men. Yes it would.

(Thanks to @ashleyfryer and the brilliant ladies of AWOT for their inspiration, opinions and lols on this topic.)