Thursday, 8 March 2018

Hello Dolly, it's International Women's Day

It's International Women's Day today, a day that takes on more significance this year as women across the world press for change.

The history of this named day is interesting if you want to find out more. But I've taken to the blog today not to talk about the women who inspired me (my mother, my teacher-aunts, my big sisters and Anne Boleyn. Anne Boleyn? Yes, I always did back the underdog) but to talk about the companions of my childhood in the 1960s.

Dolls.

I still have two of mine - Holly and Milly. The latter was named after the My Boy Lollipop singer.  I hadn't taken on board that, unlike me, she was black. She was just my doll.



I had another doll called Abigail who came from a toy shop in Ilminster (as did Randy, my teddy bear named after the cowhand in The Virginian). But Abigail was not made from as stern a stuff as Holly and Milly. She finally went to doll heaven when I was in my twenties.

(As a Somerset girl, I used to pronounce the word 'doll' as 'dawl'. But that's another story.)

My most favourite toy was a troll I called Pilly. Recently, my sister tried to replicate Pilly by giving me this pink-haired interloper.

I had a Sindy, her sister, Patch, and a second-hand Tressy ('Her Hair Grows') She had a hole in the top of her head from which her hair came out when you wound a circle in her back.



Dolls to me were a means to an end. They were all just characters in my made-up stories. Teddies, trolls, dolls, Britain's toy farm animals, they all had a role to play. 

I read yesterday that Mattel are bringing out fifteen new Barbie dolls based on inspiring women. The first three dolls are Mexican artist Frieda Kahlo,  aviator Amelia Earhart and Nasa mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was depicted in the 2017 film Hidden Figures.



One of them is styled on UK boxer Nicola Adams, who is delighted. Her hero when she was growing up was Muhammad Ali.

'Barbie hopes to encourage girls to pursue their dreams,' Mattel said. 

The company didn't mention that you need a tiny waist, extraordinary long legs, identikit long and straight tresses, a perfect nose and Disney-style eyes to exceed in life as a woman (well, it works for Barbie) but the new range is to be commended, even if it's just a publicity stunt.

At my tiny, rural primary school, my teacher's motto was always: 'There's no such word as can't.'

I've never forgotten that.  Actually, she was pretty inspiring herself. She used to cycle twenty miles a day to work and back, straddling her saddle in a tweed skirt. She never missed a day, whatever the weather.

When a child plays with a doll, teddy bear or farm animal, it's all about imagination. And dreams. 



Meanwhile, I look forward to seeing the inspirational trolls range. Although perhaps Justin Timberlake has, like, been there, done that



So maybe gonks. Whatever happened to them?

That's about it.

Love Maddie x
PS My back is on the mend! Thank you for all your kind messages. But no dog walks for me for the last week.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The snow strikes Britain - and it hurts

'Isn't it lovely?' I said, smiling to a young girl.

She was going back home to get into warmer and waterproof clothes, ready for a bit of sledging down the hill with her friend.

By the time we got there, Arty and I, most of the sledgers had gone. My dear dog ran around in it, never having see snow before, and then met her old friend, Ted, for a quick swoosh around the slopes. 
She looked like a woolly mammoth without the trunk and tusks.
'It's great, isn't it?' said one of my neighbours, coming up the hill to find his daughter. 'Everyone's talking to each other and smiling.'
It was true. This long-awaited snow reached us on Thursday afternoon. We'd had plenty of warning and were ready and waiting. We'd be snowed in for about two days, we reckoned, and that blitz spirit would see us through until the weekend.

The red of the village phone box stood out against the blizzard, a beacon of Englishness in the village square.
Our cosy cottage looked so picturesque.
That evening, we gathered with friends in the pub, with its log fire crackling and kitchen busy, and then left later that night.

Suddenly, whoosh. I slipped on a stone step, banging my back on the edge of the step above. I got up quickly and went home. And then was in bed for two days.

The thing is with pain is you forget what it's like until you have it.

As I tried to turn over in my sleep, I dreamed that a chap in the next village (who is actually a judge) was dressed in the green scrubs of a surgeon and was scraping my heart with a potato peeler - without anaesthetic. His eyes peered sadistically over his mask as he said: 'This is going to hurt a bit.'

I don't think Mr Grigg has ever heard a scream that loud, other than in a horror film.

I'm up and about now, because moving around is the best thing for a bad back and the pain has subsided a little. But Friday and Saturday were wiped out. I couldn't sit down, I could barely stand up. If I made a sudden movement, twelve thousands razor blades sliced through my lumbar region. I was crying out in pain, which was relieved only by Ibuprofen and Tiger Balm.

Today, I'm up and dressed and sitting, rather gingerly, at my desk, and trying to ignore the fact that the house is filthy and there's furniture everywhere because we've just finished decorating. This morning, I couldn't put my socks on and really struggled with my knickers. I've binged watched Derry Girls and Young Offenders and read half of the book club's read, Swing Time, by Zadie Smithin between bouts of weeping. While writing this, the 'warning, battery low' has flashed up on my laptop and I've had to use my toe to switch on the wall socket.

If I move the wrong way, the razor blades come back. There's no way I can drive a car. I was due to go to a school reunion this week. I don't think I'm going to make it. And the hula hooping workshop I was booked into on Saturday will have to wait another day.

Reading the NHS guidelines, I think I've torn a ligament in my back. It takes three to six weeks to heal. Good God, I'll be climbing the walls by then. Or at least I hope I am.

Never again will I gaze at snow in the child-like way I've always looked at it in the past. Having heard of a village mum who needed nine stitches in her head after careering from her sledge into sharp ice and then the man who used to live in the house door to her being stuck in sub-zero temperatures in his car for 15 hours on the A303, well, I think I'll stick to watching Frozen on the DVD and messing around with snow globes.

And now it's torrential rain.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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