Monday, 13 October 2014

Another thing women can't do, apparently

Look, Tom! Medieval female celebrity chefs.


Infuriating headline of the day: Michelin-starred chef says women don't have the "fire" to make it to the top.

It amazes me that in every single career, but really every single one, there's a man saying women can't excel in it. Not in the Middle Ages, but now. 

Georg Baselitz - "Women can't paint". 

VS Naipaul - "Women can't write." 

Larry Summers: "Women can't do science." 

And most recently, this Tom Kerridge chef character: "Women can't be top chefs." 

Is there anything we can do? Ah, right, we can be muses, models and little helpers. 

You'll never make it to the top, dear, but there's something so soothing and pretty about watching you pose for my painting, help me with my research, wash my petri dishes and chop some onions for my molecular kidney pie.


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Yom Kippur in A&E


Yom Kippur was a bit different this year as my husband's appendix started bursting half-way through Kol Nidre. The good news was that he was ready to be operated on as he'd been fasting anyway. The bad news was that there was no one around to operate him as we were in a super chaotic A&E with plastic bottles of stale pee left in the corner to ferment, and nurses asking him if he could remember how much morphine he'd been given as they were worried about overdosing.

When I went off to find a nurse for more morphine, I spotted a young Hasidic couple. The Hasidim  always seem to exist in some parallel world, certainly some parallel time, with their big hats and beards and shiny black coats and, for the women, wigs and headscarves. But we were all in A&E, and all going through the same experience of dealing with the A&E chaos on an empty stomach, so I wished them a loud and cheerful Shana Tova. They stared at me as if a Martian had just opened her mouth and started speaking Hebrew.

On my way back from the nurse, they had overcome their initial shock, and after confirming that I was Jewish, started to share their woes with me. The woman was pregnant, had started bleeding a little, was waiting for someone to confirm that the baby was okay.

"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. "You must be so worried. Is this your first pregnancy?"

"No," she said, "My seventh."

By the time we had covered each of her pregnancies, births, and various other child-related subjects, my head was spinning a bit and I also remembered that poor Dan was sitting there in his cubicle, craving more morphine. The Hasidim decided that they should wish him a happy new year and generally cheer him up a bit, so they came along as well. Dan looked very happy to see me, and very surprised to see I'd brought two Hasidim with me.

Their baby was fine in the end, and they went back to Stamford Hill and their own little universe. Dan and I stayed - it took another 24 hours until they eventually whipped out his bursting appendix. We missed all the other Yom Kippur services. But somehow a hospital seemed a pretty suitable setting for atonement. After all, it's not often that you get to fast with the Hasidim.


(Note: apparently 15,000 Hasidim live in Stamford Hill! Europe's largest Hasidic community.)




Friday, 3 October 2014

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Ways of Seeing




I've started a PhD in creative writing at Goldsmiths College, which happens to be a great fit for my next novel on art and art forgers. The campus has a strong arty vibe (Damien Hirst et al went to Goldsmiths). Every time I attend a lecture or seminar there, I find myself scribbling down lots of intriguing fine art references. Last night I went to a talk on women and theatre in the 1970s. An actress read a passage on the male gaze in art by John Berger - it was brilliant and finally prompted me to look up his groundbreaking TV series, Ways of Seeing. Turns out they made pretty good television in 1971. The special effects are low-tech but very clever. I particularly like Berger's existential earnestness, the way he clarifies right away that we're not just going to be watching a programme about pretty pictures:

"We shall also discover something about ourselves and the situation in which we are living."

Enjoy!