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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Northerly winds, wintry showers, and a persistent head cold. I am not enjoying April as much as I would like to. This is yet another weekend when we would have hoped to hop on our bikes and get fit for Norway, but it’s very hard to generate the required enthusiasm when the clouds gather and the sleet comes scudding in from somewhere north of John O’Groats.

However, Nature battles on, and pretends that it’s business as usual, even if the new-born lambs have to be kitted out in plastic raincoats. The trees continue to send out hopeful shoots, more in response to the length of the day than the temperature, I suspect. My favourite moment in any spring season is when the sycamore flowers finally hang from the branches, and already they’re starting to emerge…

…while down in the shadier parts of the woods a few larch leaves are sprouting:

But yesterday’s walk was short: it just wasn’t very nice out there.  No matter: in the evening we had a date at the Sage in Gateshead with feminist icon Germaine Greer, who has been on tour, talking to audiences about “Forty Years of Feminism and Fun”. I was very much looking forward to seeing her, not because I am a fan of her written works (I haven’t ready them), rather because I so much enjoyed her sharp, witty and unpredictable responses to all manner of books, films, plays and artistic events when she appeared on those late-night review shows on BBC television.

I was hugely disappointed. She rambled, she tried too hard to be funny - although to be fair, her audience (her fans), did chuckle, especially when (dear oh dear) she let loose an f-word or two. But beyond that I found it hard to take her constant, sweeping generalisations about the genders. She is still tossing off casual put-downs about men not doing the housework, for God’s sake. On  the one hand she contends that men have never been a part of family life - not a real, constant presence, that is - and then on the other she feels free to lambaste them for getting it all wrong when they do try. And she did all of that without talking about traditional working practices, the industrial revolution, and the way that men have been conditioned to see the working sphere as the place they fulfil themselves. She did concede that men have more fun in each other’s company; in fact, she insisted that they did. Give them a spare few hours and they’ll grab a bite, hurtle off to the pub and play, she said. Give women the same space and they’ll start cleaning. Not my experience, I have to say, but I am trying hard not to generalise. She had no such qualms.

She had opened her talk by bringing up the case of Samantha Brick, the woman who wrote a piece in the Daily Mail bemoaning the fact that women hated her for being so beautiful. (I cannot comment; I have never set eyes on the gal.) But before she’d got further than the first line or two she took a huge detour - which was a pity, because when she eventually got back to base she would talk with some passion about women’s misogyny vis-à-vis their own gender. However, the detour: she has a problem with the name Samantha; she has (or had) a cat called Samantha; it was a better bed-mate than any man she’d ever had…. In between yawning, blotting out gruesome images of a cat in a bed (doubtless licking its own crevices before nuzzling up to Ms Greer), and trying to remember what the hell this was all about, I found myself wondering how she would react if a man said such a thing about his cat, and his previous lovers. It seemed such a cheap, hackneyed kind of gag; but the fans loved it. Ro-ho-ho. I must say I was perturbed by all this talk of women’s own misogyny after she’d kicked off with a reflection on the day’s big horse-racing event, the Grand National, and some barbed comments about what the Liverpool lasses were wearing on the big day. She disapproved, clearly - and as someone who used to work at the Grand National course and witnessed some eye-popping sights I probably share her sentiments. Well… maybe the two views aren’t entirely incompatible.

No, the fact is I felt all out of sorts after those early ramblings, and left feeling that we’d been sold short. But perhaps, if you’d read all her work, and followed her career more closely, you’d be ready to sit and enjoy a bit of loose talk.

Well, looking through the window I see that we are between showers. Maybe it’s time to wheel the bikes out.

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