One of the many and varied english language assignments we were given for our GCSE coursework was to write a horoscope once a day for a week. The brief this time, was to use it aspirationally to describe a desired life event. I suspect as the week went on, the teacher (tall, enthusiasic and a fellow ginger – I loved him for it) Mr Cuthbertson had another agenda (ie horoscopes are bollocks and PS don’t believe everything you read in the paper – a life lesson on him, for free).
It was a memorable assignment in that, at the time, I was interested in all things esoteric, including astrology, although in the back of my mind a healthy dose of scepticism lived. It’s an interest I’ve carried with me all my life actually. Happily, the sceptisism also remains and the point of this anecdote will be apparent imminently.
But hopefully first, to permit me to set the scene, you will forgive me for another slight digression.
It’s been a week of accidental feminist ‘issues’. A couple of weeks ago, I spared you a rant regarding an article in ‘Surrey Baby’ magazine regarding an expected return to sexual relations with your husband (note!) after having a baby. In it, the journalist announced almost gleefully that twelve weeks was really enough time for you to recover and his libido to take him over the edge. ‘Once twelve weeks are up’ she said ‘then you just have to deal with it. If you are lucky, it may happen spontaneously, otherwise just get it over with’.
With that fresh in mind, on a return train from Waterloo on Saturday after a wonderful evening people watching in London, G and I overheard a conversation taking place on the seat quartet in front of us. ‘Well, I never understand why women refuse to take their husbands name when they get married’ said one lady. ‘Call me old fashioned’, she said ‘It’s just so disrespectful to his parents’.
We then enjoyed a long discussion on the lament of standards in marriage and society generally in that vein. I could almost hear the desiring the return of the word ‘obey’ in the marriage vows.
They could have written numerous articles for Surrey Baby magazine.
As I gently seethed, G placed a hand on my knee with a gentle pat, as if to stop the spontaneous combustion about to occur. ‘You can have a five minute rant for free when we get off’ he whispered (usual charge £10 per minute). Then he looked at my face, ‘ok, ten’ he said, took a moment to reassess, ‘maybe 15 then’ he laughed.
The day after, I started a Sandi Tosvig tomb I’d picked up from the library. I like her, she is honest and generally makes me laugh. A well written book is a thing of beauty and hers are normally beautiful enough to feel like being snuggled in your favourite chair when the weather is pants outdoors.
In it, she revisits school friends she made in New York State in her childhood. The are many recounts of friends all grown up and laments of women putting their lives on hold to raise children. But the saddest account of all was her sat, invisible in a bar while trying to catch the waiters attention.
I’m generally not a big ‘labels’ fab. But, I’ve come to realise that I am a feminist, although generally a quiet one. And this week, I have come to the conclusion that women are very often their own worst enemy. In an age of apparent equality, despite the triathlons, and the strength training I normally find so empowering, I had never felt further from being part of an equal sex.
On Monday to cheer myself up, I went for a bike ride with Penny. We had pre scheduled the ride in anyway, we needed to get round the Bacchus course to check the condition of the route. A yellow weather warning for rain was in place. The Met Office needn’t have bothered, the rain had announced itself, torrentially.
I made tentative cancellation enquiries with Penny before the ride to see if she would bite ‘It’s godawful out there’ I text. ‘Positive thinking, it could be blowing a hooley too ;-)’ she replied. Damn that bloody woman and her love of crap weather!
Still, if there is anything more empowering than two middle age women riding their mountain bikes in awful weather (and enjoying it), then I don’t know what it is. And more importantly, I had a new (to me) mountain bike to take out.
We had a wonderful time. The course is in really good nick and apart from a bit of surface mud and a bicycle that is a bit frisky on the back wheel occasionally, it was a steady ride. We nearly got back a tad drier than we started out. But on the final exhilirating descent down the North Downs Way back to Denbies, the rain returned in cats and dogs with buckets and we schlepped into the conservatory at Denbies for a cup of coffee, a tad soggy and leaving a trail of mud behind us.
After an enervating start to the week, I returned to form on Tuesday by forgetting my house keys. I didn’t discover the fact until I tried to return home to pick up the van to head out for a dinner date. Typically, G was on night duty.
I spent my last fiver on a train ticket to Ashtead to meet Alan at the Mogul. He greeted me with a horoscope from Jonathan Cainer obviously rescued from a newspaper. “I know its the Daily Mail” he said, knowing my delight for horoscopes would out rank my pique for the ‘newspaper’. “But, I thought it would make you laugh”.
Since, Alan is not normally one to peruse the astrological section of any newspaper, my instant thought was the assignment above I had been given as a child. What aspirational life message could it contain? I unfolded the paper to the requisite horoscope and started to read…
Sagittarius (Nov 23 – Dec 21):
Watching Sagittarians is a surprisingly popular sport. You’d be surprised how many secret observers follow your progress from a distance, discreetly discussing your adventures with fellow fans. They don’t want you to know how in awe they are of your courage, confidence and charisma. They figure you hardly need more encouragement. Right now, they’re rooting for you, even if they look as if they’re getting exasperated. When things take a turn for the better, as they will soon, they will be almost as pleased as you are.
Locked out and facing a night on the floor of the shop while already tired and emotional, Alan’s kindness had the opposite effect, I burst into tears.
After a week feeling lonely and outcast, it was all the optimism I needed. I found that actually, I was rooting for myself too. It was a cosmic reminder that things always work out in the end and while the medium of delivery was a tad strange, I was very grateful.