Not the Lover that Rhymes with Cover…

I’ve begun to notice interesting developments on social media recently. Some conversation threads have started to engage and pull in Facebook contacts from different spheres.

Take, for instance a news snippet concerning Lover. Lover [correctly pronounced Low-ver and rhyming with Dover] is a tiny satellite hamlet and part of a much smaller village called Redlynch, in the county of Wiltshire, England. For many years Lover post office has cashed in on its oft mis-pronounced name whenever Valentine’s Day became a distant speck on the horizon of February. Would-be beaux, belles and partners have made a habit of flocking to this backwater to post their cards and declarations of love in order to have ‘Lover’ stamped upon the outside of their envelopes.

In 1957, at the age of four I began school life in Lover, walking down through the village with my mother on the very first day only and after that having to accompany my brothers. There was no soft, part-time option, no lollipop person to see us across roads [there was no traffic either], no inside toilets-[a bucket under a wooden seat in a building across the playground sufficed], only two classes-infants and juniors-and thirty seven or so children altogether. We played all together in the playground [schoolyard], did country dancing to the accompaniment of a wind-up record player and played rounders on the field at the back which was shared by a farmer’s dairy herd. Anyone succeeding in attaining a rounder would have to run the gauntlet of cow deposits as well as fielders.

I loved my infant teacher, Miss Hunter with a devotion matched only by my fear of the head-teacher and junior class teacher, Mrs Reardon. Miss Hunter taught us fractions by bringing in a beautiful Battenburg cake that demonstrated halves and quarters. Mrs Reardon violated my fragile confidence by shaming me in front of the class for my ignorance in the mysteries of tracing. Miss Hunter took us for nature walks, holding hands with our partners in a long, snaking crocodile as we learned the names of trees and wild flowers. Mrs Reardon applied soap to the mouth of a small, swearing boy so that he ran around the playground crying and frothing at the lips.

I was in the junior class for a short period, probably no more than a year and yet I spent a good deal of it sitting by an older girl to help her with her grey, English workbook-mortifying for her and tedious for me. Distractions were provided by newts inserted into inkwells [we had to dip our pens into them, never managing to write without the inevitable blot] or someone’s misdemeanour prompting a few whacks across their palms. I laboured over sums involving pounds, shillings and pence or stones, pounds and ounces or yards, feet and inches.

At age seven my family moved to a different part of the country for my father to take up a promotion. There I attended another two-class primary school in a rural area-this time almost remote enough to be another country-but that is altogether another story…

February 14th and all that…

Happy Valentine’s Day! It is a day we like to mark in our house, by cards, small gifts and dining out, and judging by all the marketing that’s going on, supermarkets, card outlets, underwear manufacturers and restaurants intend to enjoy it too.

                However commercialised it has become, it is an opportunity to remind ourselves of why we are with the partner we chose and it helps to cement the foundations, so to speak!

                But while we’re raising our glasses to each other and putting our cards on the mantelpiece we should also remember that in many parts of the world partners are not necessarily ‘chosen’, that marriages are not, and can never be happy and are, in fact an institution wrought with subjugation and violence for large numbers of women and girls. Around the world, women have chosen this day, February 14th, to stage a peaceful protest to denounce violence against women. This campaign is called ‘One Billion Rising’.

                We may consider ourselves lucky, here in our cosy, westernised corner that we live in a more lawful, emancipated society, but the UK is not without its own incidents of domestic violence. While women continue to be objectified the element of disrespect will also continue, which is why it is a small step of progress that Murdoch is ‘considering’ swapping topless girls on page 3 of the sun for ‘fashionistas’. Are there to be both men and women in this section, then? And are they to be clothed? Or by labelling it ‘fashion’ will it be a [barely [!]] concealed version of the topless models that have graced the pages for so long?

                When labour MP Clare Short was campaigning against the portrayal of page 3 models in the 1980s she had to put up with horrible insults to the effect that she was jealous, being unattractive herself. I wonder what has changed? Of course, for one thing, porn of any sort is readily available on the internet. In fact all proclivities are catered for. If you have a hankering for Alsatians, yiaourtiphilia [sexual attraction to yoghurt] or get excited about teddy bears [yes, there exists such a penchant] it can be sought out on a computer.

                Having never been of a prudish nature, I’m all for anyone pursuing their own desires, however odd to others, provided it does no harm to anyone else. Internet porn is here to stay, and undoubtedly addresses the needs of many. But don’t tell us, Sun readers, that Page 3 nudity is ‘harmless fun’, because it does devalue women and puts over a message to young girls that this is what they are worth.

                Lecture over. I’m off to try on my lingerie.