Hailstones and grey skies

This weather is hard work. I’ve got stuff queuing up to be planted out, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I was bored on Thursday – restless. I wanted to get outside. We don’t have television – only DVDs and downloads, and so there’s no opportunity to get lost in MTV when I feel a bit restless. I make no apologies for being hypnotised by MTV. It’s very soothing. It’s like sticking a baby in front of a washing machine. But No TV, no MTV.

But it was so very foul I didn’t want to go outside. I daren’t plant anything out. Most of the painting was outside and I was teaching in the evening, so I didn’t want to get messy and start painting the kitchen. Plus, I was just feeling plain irritable. I just want to get out of cardigans and jumpers – but it seems like this weather is lasting until at least the middle of next week. I even got my hot water bottle out again. It’s the middle of April!

Anyway, it was nice to have a break from the routine, the dirt, the seeds, the planting, and get a little glammed up. Well, a bit. I went out for lunch yesterday. I love going to lunch. It feels so much more interesting than going for tea. If you go for lunch, it’s like you can still go out for tea as well. In fact, I did. We went to a fabulous little restaurant on the bank of the Charente at Chateauneuf-sur-Charente. It was amazing. The food was wonderful – I judge everything by Le Cheval Blanc in Luxé which is superb – and whilst it wasn’t right up there, it was definitely on a par with a few others I’ve been to, like Le Vieux Moulin at Chabanais. And for 16.50€ for wine, apéros, coffee and a three-course meal, you can’t go wrong. The Cheval Blanc is 19€ for a five course lunch and if I could and I didn’t get massively fat, I’d eat lunch there every single day.

I’m not sure where I stand on lunch. I don’t eat much in the morning and I only usually have a sandwich for lunch, so a proper lunch always puts me in a food coma. Luckily, that didn’t happen yesterday. I managed to keep up my end of the conversation.

What I mostly like about it (apart from sitting next to lovely ladies) is that it’s so anti Samantha Brick. If you recall, Sam Brick is the somewhat controversial lady who wrote a column about how she has no female friends because she’s beautiful and therefore everyone hates her. We must have been at the ugly table then, because all the women there were delightfully non-bitchy. Funny, since I’ve not seen so many glam women for a while – but then again, I’m not used to seeing made-up faces. The lunch party really was super-glamorous. I’d worn jeans and I felt a little under-glam, although I confess I’d put my make-up on. Like I said before, confidence and happiness are the two things that make a woman beautiful, and the company certainly was that.

I also would like to hold my hand up and say I put a bit of a foot in it – well, a toe, maybe – with a ‘friend’ of Mrs. Brick’s. I know. I thought she said all the women she knew hated her….

Anyway, this person had posted a link to a follow-up article of Mrs. Brick’s, in which she says out of the five English couples who arrived in her village at the same time as her, only her marriage is strong and all the rest have fallen apart. Mostly, she seems to blame this on their lack-of-preparedness for French (country) life. I thought she was very remiss in not shouldering some of the blame herself, since apparently, ALL men fancy her and therefore that must surely cause a lot of marital distress. I like how she left out the unnecessary explanation that no man in his right mind would leave her. To be fair, the article wasn’t that outrageous, even if one of her ‘sources’ was her husband. But I accidentally looked through her back issue articles, I realised she’s one of those ‘anti-women’ who hate women and blame them for everything wrong in their life.

Now, that, I can’t stand. As if I hadn’t got enough of this picture before, here she is in all her full-fledged mean-ness and misery. Women are the reason her business failed. Women hate her. She has no friends.

What I dislike is that I’m only one generation up from Women’s Lib. It’s not even 100 years ago that women in England got the vote (and the same for a lot of men, I know) and I am proud I went to a school where girls did physics and chemistry alongside biology (having worked with a science consultant, I know how few female physics teachers there are – so I feel a little privileged that my school had three…) and where no career option was out-of-bounds. I am proud that it made us all amazing, unconstrained women who never felt that they should do domestic science instead of electronics. We had this bus that came round  – the WISE bus – women in science and engineering – and it never even crossed our tiny minds that women wouldn’t have careers in science or engineering. I think it made us great women, not having boys in class. We lived in a world of women who were glamorous and educated and worldy-wise. And yes, we bitched. We bitched and we fell out. Girls do that. Boys do too. But I’m immensely proud of being a woman, and I’ve got a strong sense of sisterhood. My sisters, even those from another mother, are the biggest part of my life.

So I’m pretty glad I come here and I see amazing women doing amazing things – not least of which is bringing up a family – not unlike herding cats at some times, and not unlike soothing angry tigers at others – running businesses, doing everything with flair and a bit of wow! And I remember that I grew up in a time where most mums I knew stayed at home and didn’t have careers and only worked if they had to, or had ‘little’ jobs in shops or hair salons, in offices or as secretaries. I’m only one generation out of oppression – I’ve never known inequality because I’m a woman. Nobody ever paid me less, or asked me if I planned to get pregnant in a job interview (well, not getting pregnant IN the interview… some time afterwards) but I remember wondering if it would be appropriate to wear trousers to a job interview.

So I don’t really care if my mutual acquaintance tells Mrs. Brick I disagree with her, or if Mrs Brick sees my comments on her friend’s page (I was very diplomatic, too! I said I thought the article was quite sensible, despite my feelings about the author…) and if this mutual acquaintance can get past her jealousy of Samantha Brick’s beauty, then maybe there’s hope for us all. I don’t think I would like to be friends with a woman who admits her husband would divorce her if she got fat. I think I’d want to tell her to divorce the husband for being an idiot. He bought her an exercise bike and she took to it. I’d punch that husband and then run away. I hope all my friends would too.

Maybe I should have a little test to carry around with me, just so my new acquaintances can fill it in.

Would you be with a man who’d dump you if you got fat?

Y?

N?

Then I can decide whether they’re good people to be friends with. Anyway, none of the women I was with yesterday would have ticked the Y button, and that’s a good job because that food was delicious and I’d rather eat lovely lemon curd cheesecake than be a size 8, and I think the women with me would agree on the same thing – skinny as some of them are!

And that’s what I liked best about yesterday. The sisterhood. And we’re funny and wise and smart and cool and we make a lot of noise. But that’s the fun of it. I think I love France more and more, the more ladies I meet like these!

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