International Women's Day 2020 theme—I Am Generation Equality

Chapter 10. Happy international Women's Day. Funnily enough I've been engrossed in women's stories all week.

Monday

Anonymous tells me: aged 16 in poor rural China, her mum won a little tin award for singing. Her mum then leaves China with her little tinny Chinese voice, clutching her tin award and comes to England to become a singing superstar. How fabulous is that. It would make an epic story.

1] What happened in her mind?

2] How did she get her fare?

3] What was she thinking as she travelled?

4] Who did she contact when she arrived?

5] What did she do to try to make her dream happen?

6] When did she abandon her dream?

7] What did she settle for?

8] What has not making it done to her, besides turning her to drink?

Tuesday

I am sat in the Whitworth café. My eyes settled on the table ahead of me. There are 4 dark haired women sat around it. Aged 25 to around 40. They have working class parents: you can tell by their hair, skin and teeth. But they are educated: you can tell by the obscure academic shit they are spouting about art. Imitating middle class: you can tell by their fake posh voices.  Everything they say, even the way they eat their sandwiches daintily, is building a cage around the other.

On the table next to them are 3 women about my age, and older. Grey hair. One has on horrible old women sandals. Their cage is already made. Tight. They can’t even move their head properly. Their voices are more fake posh. And one of them says, 'If only Gordon Brown would have remained chancellor.'

I go upstairs to our room to our writing workshop. Me, Carmen, and Anthea have a few things in common: our mums drank; they were bitter; they were cruel to us. But to write their books they have to dig deeper than what is on the surface. I tell Carmen and Anthea about the fake posh twats I’ve just seen downstairs. Then I arrange 3 small round tables in a line in the shadows some distance from our table. 'These are our mothers. Carmen, yours wanted to appear a glamorous film-star. Anthea, yours was probably a writer that’s why she could see through everything. Mine could sing, she was witty, she could most definitely write. But in their time the opportunity we have here today wasn’t open to them. Plus, once they shagged a black man: bang, game over! The society who is making the 4 well-behaved-women cage each other, the society who has successfully caged the 3 older women, has a 3rd cage that kept our badly-behaved-mothers out.'

We understand. Together. They are a version of Chinese mother who never became a star. Those 8 questions could easily, equally, be applied to them. 

Thursday

I get on the bus on Thursday. The 85. This older woman changes her seat. She’s now sat diagonal from me. I’m sat on one of the odd 3 seats opposite where you park baby buggies. She’s put herself in the please-give-to-people-who-can’t-walk seats.

‘I’ve had a fall.’

Don’t talk to me, I’m thinking.

‘Bloody killing me it is. All up and down this shoulder.’

Oh, fuck off.

‘Right down here.’

Jesus Christ. I smile. ‘You need to go to the doctor.’

‘I’ve got an appointment later on today. The 3rd appointment. They cancelled 2. I went to MRI. I haven’t broken anything.’

Why didn’t I just keep my fucking mouth shut? I smile. ‘That’s good then.’

’72 at the end of this month. Had 9 falls over the last 5 months. Something’s wrong with my brain.’

‘At least you’re going to the doctors.’ I smile.

We’re passing the last block on Alec Rd.

‘I used to work in Woolworths. 1966. Bet Lynch used come in for her make up.’

‘Always reminds me of pick and mix.’

‘Oh eye, pick and mix.’

We’re approaching Loretto College.

‘My mum was a cleaner there.’

I smile.

‘See that black door.’

I look over the road at the row of houses beside St Mary’s Church, Hulme.

‘My house was right there. Me mam used to say, ‘Oh yes you are. I’ve got the roast to put on.' Every Sunday. Sunday School.’

‘I loved Sunday School.’

‘This is her.' She pulls out a key ring. ‘Dead at 61. Massive heart attack. Me dad used to cycle from here to Whitefield 1am in the morning. Every morning. To load his wagon.’

‘Why, what did he do?’

‘Delivered newspapers.’ She turns the key ring over. ‘Dead at 51.’

‘What did he die of?’

'He fell 50ft off the rig.’ That is what she wants to tell me really.

'Did your poor mum get compensation?'

'No not in them days, love. I carry them all with me. My sister. Eldest sister.’ She takes out another key ring.  ‘Died of cancer.’

‘It’s my stop, love. Lovely talking to you.’ I get off the bus.

Look at how many interesting stories I’ve just told yer: each has at its heart women who are usually ignored. These stories if published would be cathartic for the woman telling it, and relatable for the woman who has experienced it. But instead, so far, the caged, educated women squander the cash on obscurity, that could produce these female stories, in order to sidestep their own heart.

And I intend to put an end to it all. The Reno memoirs were the beginning. The filmed memoir will still have value. But what I now want to see is shelves of our stories. Books. Our art. That we write, and we pay for, and when we are finished we put the book down next to our cup of tea, spliff, gin, ovaltine and think wow that woman was just like me. You may even look at that back cover again and think fucking hell what a journey she had. What a journey I had. My life, her life, has value to me.

Images by Karen Rangeley. Our podcast this week 'I Lost My Mind On The Wine' is women heavy, deciding on the artistic future they are gonna carve for themselves.  https://anchor.fm/oneconversationplease/episodes/Episode-7---I-lost-my-mind-on-the-wine-eb6vn1/a-a1k9tju?fbclid=IwAR3ibBmf7L2PmSos4Aaua74-eyUhAY8VpOsKuzMqsFLhVgE5sF6QvO4me4I 

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