Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Joy in the afternoon.

"Why don't we do it in the middle of the day?" says my friend.

"What!" I say, "We can't do that."

"Why not?"


I can't really think of a reason not to, to be honest, so we did. Sod it, I thought, it's tricky in the evenings because I always have to cook the dinner, as you know, like Cinderfuckingrella, and it means leaving the boys and Husband home alone, so we went midday, mid-week. Proper naughty. Joy in the afternoon, you might call it. Well, it wasn't on in the evening, lunch time was the only time it was still showing at Clapham Picture House, and we really wanted to catch it.

I have to say there wasn't a lot of Joy in it, but maybe that's the point. There was rather a lot of downward spiral and not enough on the up and up. I got a bit fidgety and impatient, starting muttering things to my mate, which I wouldn't normally do for fear of disturbing other audience members but there were only half a dozen silver surfers in there, who were probably hard of hearing anyway. (Is that ageist? Mildly ageist? No doubt someone will tell me if it is.)

"Can something go right for this stupid character! She's a disaster! Oh great! At last! Her invention is a success and she's going to get laid by Bradley Cooper!" were some of the things I said.

But it wasn't, and she didn't. Not that I want to give too much away in case you see the movie yourself, and I'd recommend it, it's good. A bit over-long maybe, but Jennifer Lawrence is mesmerising.  I loved her in Silver Linings Playbook, which is a much better film. She's reason enough to see it by herself, her and Robert De Niro. Bradley Cooper? Not so much. He's okay. I've said what I think about him before. Bit young. I like older men. Grumpy ones. Like Bill Murray. That's my niche.

Then, less than 48 hours later, I see this same friend again at a dinner party one of our mutual friends is throwing, on Saturday night. "We'll have to stop meeting like this," I say. There are no husbands, women only, so we all get drunk and talk about sex, of course, as women do, and then about sheets, in some detail. I'll come to the sheets in a minute because it's interesting (well, I think it's interesting) but obviously not as interesting as the sex, which interests everybody. 

So a few friends say they know married people who have separate bedrooms.

"Don't be stupid," I say, "who has separate bedrooms in this day and age?"

"Oh loads of people do," they say. "It's a modern thing."

"You're thinking of Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter," I say, "who had separate houses, next to each other, and bragged on about it for years, about how fabulous it was and how it worked really well, and then split up."

"No, no," they say. "We're not. Separate bedrooms. Loads of people do it now. They have snoring rooms."

"Get away," I say. "How would they... you know... So, how would that work?"

"They'd make a date," they say. "Take a little trip down the corridor. More romantic."

"Really? That's romantic?"


So then the conversation turns to ironing (listen, don't scoff, these are things women genuinely talk about when they get together) and it turns out that a lot of my friends iron their sheets. I'll just repeat that in case you missed it. They IRON sheets. So that's two sets to iron if there's a husband down the corridor. And they spend a fortune on them too. £100, one person said. £100? On a sheet!  So that's £200 on two sets, with one for the husband down the corridor.

If life's too short to stuff a mushroom (and it is) then it's sure as hell too short to iron a 5000% percale cotton sheet (and what the hell is percale anyway?). They also iron tea towels... and pants! Who irons pants? I don't even put pants away. Who would see your ironed pants? Apart from your husband… and not even him if he's in a bedroom down the corridor, then he'd only see your pyjamas, if you were a big enough loser to own pyjamas, and wear them. Mind you, if you're the sort of person to keep your husband in a bedroom down the corridor then you're bound to be the sort of person who wears pyjamas. So what is the point of ironing pants? And what if your pants are not from Marks and Spencer or Primark, but from Ann Summers or Agent Provocateur? They'd melt under the iron.

Any road up, as they say where I come from, and where they most definitely buy pants from Marks and Sparks, and iron them as well, this brings me to Part Three of my tale, when the next day - Sunday - we go to see Youth at Clapham Picture House. Husband and I go in the afternoon, again, (getting to be a habit, must be our age, getting ready for our empty nest) and we're there with two mates, and one of the mates is the one I saw Joy with, and bumped into the night before at the dinner party. "We'll have to stop meeting like this," I say, again, and the four of us watch an ageing, brilliant and slightly reptilian-looking Michael Caine do an impression of a guy who is ageing, brilliant and slightly reptilian-looking. Brilliantly. A grumpy old man, in fact. Not that I fancy Michael Caine, just to be clear.

Husband actually stays awake because it's the afternoon and because there's light humour and some spectacular female nudity (brief). And afterwards I'm sitting in a toilet cubicle, drinking beer, thinking: someone pulled down his ironed or un-ironed pants here, in this exact spot, and took a dump, or worse. Realising that despite my best protestations last week, I’ve somehow ended up in a basement bar (called WC, site of the old public loos below ground at Clapham Common tube). And the husband of the mate I keep bumping into tells me it's a thing that when women get together they only have conversations about men and sex, in real life, and in films.

"Really?" I say, "in films?" Because I'm keen to have a go at denying that second part. "Are you sure about this?"

"Completely sure," he says, several times. 

"And who thinks this?" I say, "Men perhaps? Self-absorbed ones?"

"Film crit people," he says, "feminist ones."

"Okay," I say, "so what about in that suffragette movie?" Before realising the whole film is women talking about men: how mean they are, how capricious they are, how they like to control women. Blah, blah, blah.

And he says, yes, really, name a film where two strong female characters sit around talking about something other than men. 

"Thelma and Louise!" I shrill, before realising that whole movie is a conversation about men: how mean they are, how capricious they are, how they like to control women. Damn it. (Great film.)

So then the waitress rocks up while I'm trying to think of a better example (I was half expecting to be served by Ron Davies, to be honest, or Kevin Spacey) and lays on a bountiful array of carcinogenic charcuterie, and beer, and the four of us eat, and become intoxicated also, while unsuccessfully trying to think of a movie that doesn't have female characters talking about men (I honestly do not have an alcohol problem, despite the impression I am giving on this blog) and then the lovely waitress comes back with the bill. 

"Jesus," says Husband, studying said bill, and going white as a 5000% percale cotton sheet, an ironed one.

"But it's so great down here," I say, "whatever it cost, it's been worth it." We all say this in fact, not just me.

It might be an abandoned, low-lit toilet, full of fragrant hanging sausage, but also it's flatteringly dark so we look our best under the glow of the candlelight and we somehow manage to turn into fabulously fun, witty people down there (briefly), without worrying that we're disturbing anyone because we have our own booth and we're below ground. So, I think I'm coming round to the idea of life as a troglodyte... just as we're heading for the stairs.

“Yeah," says Husband, as we climb up to street-level, and daylight, "only in Clapham. If this place opened in Hull it wouldn’t last a week,” and we all laugh, because that's a joke.

Love E x


P.S. If you can think of a film where two strong female leads have a conversation NOT about men, or a man, or sex, or ironing, do let me know. I'm not going to have one for a very long time, if ever, just to prove a point. 


  1. It's the Bechdel test. Die Hard and No Country for Old Men both pass. So does Pulp Fiction.

  2. Thanks lovely Jim. Not just a comment, but a well-informed one as well. Spotlight?
    E x