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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Been to The Great Wen and back

Often I need confirmation I haven't died undramatically (Entering a department store lav, Buying printer consumables, Queueing for diesel, Waiting for a Rossini overture to end) and reappeared in a Hell resembling my event-free life. Puckish Jahweh telling me - but gradually -  he does actually exist. Not just puckish but Scottish: Ah weel, ye ken the noo.

The best confirmation occurs when I do something new, preferably technoid. Yesterday it happened. Destined for London and for you-know-where I found myself on the Newport-Paddington express, unshipping my HP tablet-ish computer, plugging it into the power socket, and  rewriting a short story that had set out to be enigmatic and had over-achieved. The two-hour journey, never a burden, slid by in an eyeblink and I have finally discovered the way to overcome the exigencies of mass transportation. Too late, alas, for those hideous 11-hour flights to NZ.

Joe né Plutarch stood up well to cross-examination on the nature of the short story (Sample: Might it be defined by its "completeness".) and then we were on to stuff that really mattered: Why are there so few synonyms for women's trousers? Are women able to rate their attractiveness to men other than empirically (ie, via the score-sheet). JnP was particularly good on this with a theory that depended on a special form of social and, I suppose, sexual unawareness. I should add these exchanges were entirely sympathetic, not in any sense laddish, and were aimed at helping me write more intelligently when I embark on Blest Redeemer's successor.
 
Assuming I bypass J's puckishness.

Carriage interior is Chinese or Canadian but you get the idea.

12 comments:

Julia said...

Rossini is a special kind of hell.

For women's trouser synonyms, online catalogs can be quite handy - jeans, Levis, [insert other blue jean brand], capris, chinos, cords, dress slacks, leg wear, etc. Crossing the Atlantic extends the language even further. And then there are the awful fashion mashups like jeggings which only preteens talk about (I hope!).

Lucy said...

My god (or not) I never heard of jeggings, they must be those hideous things I've seen on the market stretched over life size plastic legs that look as if they'd reveal every pubic hair.

But most of the words for women's trousers are the same as for men's really, except perhaps the leggings, and I seem to recall my brother referring to those thermal Heli Hansen things he wore under trousers as leggings - or was it tights?

Anyway, I think you're probably better off talking to Plutarch nay Joe about women's attractiveness and their awareness of it, than this particular woman, as I long ago came to the conclusion that I have absolutely no idea how the rest of my gender, or indeed species, operates in that regard, or many others. There's some Simone Weil (I think) quote to the effect that a beautiful woman looks in the mirror and says to herself 'that is me', while an unattractive one does likewise and says 'that is not me'. But that's not necessarily got much to do with their attractiveness to the opposite sex I suppose. I've kind of got to the stage of thinking 'that's me, live with it', at least with the mirror, though photos are a different matter.

I thought there was a broadly accepted idea that people of both sexes tend to go for partners who are in roughly the same bracket of attractiveness, or general marketability - intelligence, education, income, social confidence etc. So if you're a woman and not especially gorgeous as long as you don't pitch too high and get too ambitious, there's no reason why you can't attract plenty of blokes of about the same level of beauty/ugliness, should you want to. Ghastly way to look at the human species really but possibly accurate.

Anyway, I shall be exceeding my quota of permitted characters, and have yet to answer your very useful comment at mine.

Lucy said...

Oh, and I hope you enjoyed the brinjal bhaji...

Joe Hyam said...

After completing my own minutes of the meeting it occurred to me that you might have produced a similar document. Iam glad to see that we both appear to have been more or less at the same meeting, most of the time. Lucy's arrival as a retrospective chair adds a new dimension. But then as I was saying the other day "La chair est triste, helas..." Sorry I know she can't resist a pun either.

Ellena said...

String has not been mentioned.

Roderick Robinson said...

Julia: I particularly appreciate cords, dress slacks and capris. Now here's why I asked. The story line in Blest Redeemer covers thirty years. Descriptions of what Judith is wearing at different times often carry multiple meanings: indicating her current state of wealth, her personal confidence, and the requirements of her (managerial) jobs. They are also evidence of her developing character. As a result the words themselves must carry a sort of empathy. Thus. although she may be wearing trousers (as may other women) the word is unsatisfactory since it is not specific to women; in fact to me it evokes men too strongly. There's an analogy with poetry. Trousers may be a fact but the word wouldn't work in a poem. There have been one or two ways round this: "power dressing" being one but I genuinely suffered from being told by VR that slacks, as just slacks, (ie, trousers specific to women) were outdated and were denied me.

I knew about jeans of course but most of the time Judith was working high up the tree and the times predated those whereby managers wear casual clothes to the office.

This has been just one of the man-looking-at-women problems I've faced. I gave Judith a very specific hair style based on long hair; particularly important as an expression of her character and of her own family history. I then made several women's lives a misery at the few social events we've attended (and the life of my male hairdresser) trying to extract a short phrase that covered this style (plus technical words for its components). Eventually I was left to paddle my own canoe.

Very grateful for those new words. I have of course used Google relentlessly but there had been no significant breakthroughs.

Lucy: This is very sporting of you to respond to what is a rather personal matter. Perhaps I should have phrased the question less restrictedly: a woman's sense of social self, perhaps. Joe came up with an important (if slightly limited for me) observation in that the many beautiful women seem genuinely unaware of their looks and this unawareness adds to their attractions.

The reason for raising this topic is that male views on it are mainly useless. Males are easily duped even when the evidence is visible. The obvious example is the woman who might be said to suffer from anti-beauty defects who leaves a totally different impression of herself in her wake. Liveliness and interest in others are huge compensators and the proof can often be seen in the attentiveness on male faces on the occasions when I (as another duped male) have been able to tear myself away from a woman's performance and looked around to assess the effects.

This is extremely risky territory for me to be writing about in public but then your penultimate sentence (Ghastly way to look at the human species really but possibly accurate) describes perfectly one aspect of attempting to write a novel.

I was too apprehensive making sure I wasn't ambushed by anything cucumber-ish to pay attention to anything brinjal. The antipathy is, in any case, all in the anticipation.

Joe: Lucy's contributions here carry a sort of time warp. It's as if, as we were going at it hammer and tongs, someone's mobile had rung and it turned out to be Lucy, impatient to get these observations across. A phoned-in performance, if you like, without the pejorative overtones that that adjectival phrase now tends to wear.

Ellena: You must forgive me. My memory gets worse and worse. I know the word is significant but cannot remember why. I shall perfectly understand if you decide not to explain since there's nothing worse than making an allusive, corner-of-the-mouth joke only to have the dullard recipient require chapter and verse. I am that dullard.

Joe Hyam said...

Oh and leggings! My children used to wear leggings in the winter but the habit has now spread to grown up women.

As for trousers in a poem, Alfred J Prufock, though a man, comes to mind

I grow old I grow old
I wear the bottoms of my trousers
rolled

Avus said...

Trousers (women's)in poetry - what about dear old John B?

In the licorice fields at Pontefract
My love and I did meet
And many a burdened licorice bush
Was blooming round our feet;
Red hair she had and golden skin,
Her sulky lips were shaped for sin,
Her sturdy legs were flannel-slack'd
The strongest legs in Pontefract.

Roderick Robinson said...

Joe: I walked into that one, didn't I. My problem was that the word trousers tended to define men in my imagination, and I fell way short of the tone I was looking for. Makes me sound very picky, I admit.

Avus: I'll give you that. New to me even though Pontefract was only thirty miles away from my birth-town. I was depending on slacks to get me out of the problem I outline above. But then VR told me that women haven't ordered or bought slacks for several decades. OK for JB of course.

Lucy said...

Slacks. When we were very young slacks were those funny stretchy nylon things with straps at the bottom that went round your feet. Then something happened and the word became odious, as indeed did that particular style of legwear for about three decades, I think, re-emerging somewhere in the 1990s as ski-pants, only no longer made of nylon, which had been reborn as lycra or elastene and often mixed in with natural fibres such as cotton and wool.

I think the kind of thing Katherine Hepburn wore in the 30s and 40s were also know as slacks. Indeed, if you put the words 'Katherine Hepburn slacks' into the search engine of your choice, some really good images come up, my favourite is probably from 'The Philadelphia Story'.

But VR is right, it is not a word anyone would use now. I think it might be time to rehabilitate it however, and since the state of cool of my vocabulary is no longer of any concern to me, and since I think I probably own at least one pair of trousers that might just about fit the bill, I shall endeavour to do so and henceforward refer to them as slacks. I doubt it will catch on, though.

Lucy said...

That is to say the trousers to which I refer are more like Katherine H's loose straight linen things than stretchy ski-pants, which I own none of.

I care enough to add that.

Roderick Robinson said...

Lucy: Greatly appreciated. The trousers problem loomed larger than I managed to make clear. I couldn't rid myself of the feeling that the word seemed clumsily imprecise when describing a woman's appearance; it seemed to bring in a sense of unwanted masculinity. Never mind that others regard the word as exact. There are ways round it but they can be exhausting. Not least have a woman refer to what she's wearing as slacks, have someone else laugh at her for being old-fashioned, then have the wearer say something like "I don't care; the word trousers conjures up flannel bags. I'd rather be old-fashioned than wear those."

Etc, etc. Thanks for taking this seriously.