|LETTERS FROM LONDON
|REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
8 November 2015
|The 39 Steps
If you are brushing up on your proper ‘ladylike’ qualities, as you do, look no
further than Country Life magazine as the ultimate authority.
Following their recent rules on what makes its male readers ‘modern gents’.
‘Modern gents’. Erm. Not a loo reference then? But no comparable ‘modern
ladies’ – simply ‘ladies’. Ladies who would recognise a ‘modern gent’ by his
ability to undo her bra straps with one hand. Cringe-making? Obviously. But
utterly bad taste, darlings.
So after that observation, surely you are anxiously anticipating the 39 Step
Guide which will permanently insure your position in society. Well, in pretentious
country society that is.
Hints: ‘cooks perfect, crispy roast potatoes’… ‘knows when to let a man think it’s
his idea’. Wait right there. Are we certain these 39 steps aren’t taken directly
from their 1950’s edition? Or perhaps its founding issue of 1897. Just saying.
1 Finds laughter is the best medicine
2 Can say ‘thank you’ no matter where she is in the world
3 Cooks perfect, crispy roast potatoes
4 Offers to split the bill
5 Knows that everyone, including herself, improves with age
6 Offers the builder a cup of tea
7 Excels at making love, lasagne and long gin and tonics
8 Can silence a man with a stare and make a dog lie down with a hand signal—
and vice versa
9 Can imitate Piglet and Pooh voices for a bedtime story
10 Prefers Mr Knightley to Mr Wickham, but is secretly in love with Rupert
11 Never downs a drink in one, unless it’s a shot of tequila
12 Is aware that the school run and dog walking do not require full make-up
13 Never wears shoes she can’t walk in
14 Knows when a man is spoken for
15 Can paunch a rabbit, pluck a pheasant and gut a fish, but allows men the
16 Remembers her godchildren’s birthdays
17 Knows songs for a long car journey
18 Is neither early for a dinner party nor late for church
19 Doesn’t over-pluck her eyebrows
20 Knows how to deflect a lecher with grace, and a proposal with kindness
21 Comforts nervous flyers
22 Would never have Botox
23 Knows when to let a man think it’s his idea
24 Would never own a handbag dog
25 Can tie—and untie—a bow tie
26 Might not understand the rules of rugby and cricket, but enjoys the game
27 Knows when to take control in the bedroom and the boardroom
28 Knows the difference between Bentley & Skinner and Baddiel and Skinner
29 Instills manners in her children, but lets their characters flourish
30 Knows when to deadhead a rose
31 Is never afraid to overdress
32 Can handle a sports car, a sit-on mower and a ski lift
33 Knows when to stop dyeing her hair
34 Teaches her son to iron his shirts and her daughter to change a fuse
35 Owns a little black dress
36 Always has a hanky
37 Knows that ‘brevity is the soul of lingerie’
38 Has kissed several frogs and made them feel like princes
39 However lucky in life, she doesn’t boast on Facebook
Depressed now? Feeling inadequate? Questioning your confidence?
Experiencing gender confusion? Checking your eyebrows? Don’t do it! Better to
down a drink, any drink, in one.
Time to down the entire bottle. A retiring headmistress claims that young girls
need to choose between a career and a family early on in life.
Vivienne Durham, head of Francis Holland Regent's Park, was awarded Tatler's
Best Headteacher of the £13,000 a year public school last year. Vivienne
supports women who choose not to 'combine' motherhood and a career.
In the interview with Absolutely Education magazine and The Telegraph, Viv
said: “I'm sorry, I'm not a feminist. I believe there is a glass ceiling – if we tell
them there isn’t one, we are telling them a lie.” Who knew? Glass ceiling?
Really? Best not to challenge it then, right Viv?
“Young girls have massive options these days and some of them will make a
decision that they don't want to combine everything and that is as valid as
making the decision that you do want to combine everything.” The easy way out
is clearly unmatched then.
What a relief. Housewives will at least have the time to home in on their 39 ‘lady’
skills. God forbid they would challenge their small brains, seek self-expression,
function in the world, contribute to society/culture/science/technology/life.
Perfect roast potatoes are just so crucial to a woman’s identity. No female Bond
The school counts Cara Delevingne, Jackie Collins and Jemima Khan as
examples of girls who clearly didn’t follow Viv’s anti-feminist ‘suggestions’. Viv
retires in January. Count the days…if you have a moment from your fulfilling
day of laundry, ironing, cleaning, cooking, food shopping…losing the will to live
The average wage paid to men in full time employment is 32pc above that paid to
women. Mind-numbingly bored with domestic life at home or
underpaid/undervalued/under estimated at work. Brilliant choices. 9 November is
the day women work for free until the new year. The pay imbalance affects
almost 55 per cent of Britain's top earners crushed under the glass ceiling. No
worries. It would take 54 years to reach equality in the workplace if current rates
continue, Oh, go on strike and take the day off to rent Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.
Pass Them By
Reports about the new UK passport were released this week. Your new passport
is purporting to be a celebration of British landmarks, influential figures and the
nation’s arts and culture over the past 500 years. The new design features how
many women? Oh really, you can give it a guess. Wrong. Just two: Ada
Lovelace and Elisabeth Scott. Scott designed the pavilion and theatre on
Bournemouth pier if you are curious.
Apparently there are more depictions of sea defences, windmills, trout,
submarines, whales, planes, canal side engineering, Anish Kapoor. Oh not the
ArcelorMittal Orbit! (Sponsored by UK’s richest man and costing us £10,000 a
week). Other pages are strewn with ‘iconic British innovations’ such as post
boxes and stamps, trains and ships, computers and clocks, the London tube
map, a south Asian dancer, a Chinese dragon and a Caribbean carnival
costume. Those who have seen it are calling it a right mess.
Remember that recently blogger Caroline Criado-Perez campaigned to get Jane
Austen on the £5 note? Clearly this was not noted by immigration minister
Names suggested: Rachel Whiteread, Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley, Mary
Quant, Charlotte Bronte, JK Rowling, Shelagh Delaney, Muriel Spark, Aphra
Behn, Christina Rossetti, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Mary Wollstonecraft or
Virginia Woolf, Zaha Hadid. Perhaps the criteria was number 23: knows when to
let a man think it’s his idea.
Let's Put It Straight
Now here’s a perfect example of not ‘knowing when to let a man think it’s his
idea’. Dr Gerulf Rieger from the Department of Psychology at the University of
Essex is all excited. Dr GR has studied a staggering 345 women and shock
horror, all women are bi-sexual. OFGS. Oh let’s quote the man: “Even though the
majority of women identify as straight, our research clearly demonstrated that
when it comes to what turns them on, they are either bisexual or gay, but never
The women in the study were shown videos of attractive men and women and
the dilation of their pupils recorded.
I suggest the clever doctor read Dorothy Dinnerstein’s The Mermaid and the
Minotaur (1976), published in the UK as The Rocking of the Cradle and the
Ruling of the World (1987). One premise is that women are culturally
programmed to respond to visual female sexual imagery (as obviously do men)
before they then experience a sexual response.
With the ‘discovery’ of youthful-sexual-fluidity, one quarter of British teenagers
having had same-sex experiences and with people refusing to be labelled,
perhaps the women in the study were simply trying to please the doctor as they
have been culturally coached. Just ‘suggesting’.