Tuesday 31 August 2010

Midlife Crisis

John O’Connell, Jessica Cargill Thompson
Times, 28 August 2010

Chutney fantasy” is a generic term for escape-route dreams, many of which genuinely involve the dramatic quitting of a job in order to forge a new career making artisanal chutney over open fires in copper pans reclaimed from National Trust properties.

Typically, it takes root shortly after the onset of midlife, growing and growing until suddenly you’re phoning up banks to ask about business development loans. “It will be really special chutney,” you say. “Pear and ginger, but with prunes, too. We’ve got this idea for specially shaped jars, a bit like that St Peter’s Ale which comes in replica 18th-century beer bottles.”

You explain that it will be a premium product, designed to be sold in the sort of delis where people won’t mind paying £6.95 a jar. Yes, it is a lot, but start-up costs will be high. And obviously you’ll be paying yourself the salary you were on when you were doing crisis PR for Tesco.

Other popular chutney fantasies include:
Opening a B&B, but a really good one. “People get it wrong. The trick is making sure the sausages you serve at breakfast have a high pork content – nothing less than 75 per cent will do.”

Writing songs. “I’m 48 so pop stardom is no longer a realistic goal for me. But professional songwriting – that’s a piece of p***. If I spend an hour mucking about on GarageBand and drop a CD off at EMI Music Publishing this afternoon, I bet you they’ll have got back to me before the week’s out to say Cheryl wants the track for her new album...”

Landscape gardening. “I read this great biography of Capability Brown. He was amazing, the way he tamed unruly nature, moving trees around and stuff. I could do that. And I’ve found these great ‘gardening’ trousers on the Jigsaw website.”

Teaching. “I know people say teaching’s hard, but it can’t be harder than managing the supply chain at a small Leeds-based manufacturer of burglar alarm components – and I’ve done that for 15 years! It’s time to put something back... Kids just need to be inspired and reassured that they can really do something with their lives.”

Starting a greetings card business. “People are looking for something different, something tasteful. But cheerful, too. I could use fun images like cupcakes and buttons. I always felt I was artistic, but I’ve never found the right outlet. I thought I could sell these online. They’d be ever so popular – especially with the other NCT mums.”

Setting up a market stall. “Selling pretty knitted things. Or handmade jewellery – I learnt how to do it on that weekend course at our local art gallery. The other day I saw this really cool retro Citroën van for sale. We could convert it and take it round festivals selling proper coffee! And gourmet pies! And that artisanal chutney my mate makes!”

© John O’Connell and Jessica Cargill Thompson. Extracted from The Midlife Manual (Short Books, £12.99)

Friday 27 August 2010

My Predictions for 2011

Girls grow up too fast

A fairly well-known person will perpetrate an elaborate media hoax and the media will become hysterically over-excited.

There will be a children’s craze involving an expensive toy.

There will be a children’s craze involving something electronic.

Adults will drone on about their own wonderful childhoods playing in the (free) natural world with a (free) bit of string and a (free) stick.

Teenagers will invent their own language incomprehensible to anybody over 20. Adults will predict dire consequences, and several people will say "Language has got to evolve".

Young adults will discover a technological way of interacting. Two years later, broadsheet columnists will catch up and moan about it. Three years on, the broadsheets will run regular columns on it, picking up on its lamest features.

Someone will publish research showing that girls reach puberty earlier than they did in 1840, giving the media a chance to recycle usual hand-wringing about girls growing up too fast these days, or as we now say, “becoming sexualised too early”.

Girls will outdo boys at GCSE. The press will report as if it was a BAD thing.

We’ll be promised a “new ladylike look for autumn” as a corrective to the tarty chav clothes we’ve been wearing all summer.

A politician will suggest restructuring the NHS.

The media will tell us that:
Welfare money lies unclaimed because people don't know what they're entitled to. If they do know, the claiming procedures are so Kafkaesque they give up.
Police don't interfere in "domestics".
Masculinity is in crisis.
Rape victims
should get better treatment.
The January "detox" is just too hard.
Spousal abuse happens in all levels of society.
Fashion houses are making bigger sizes and using larger models.
The pale and interesting look is back – and so are knitting and zeppelins.
People expect too much from marriage (“it’s not happy ever after”).
Internet dating has lost its stigma.
X% of women are wearing the wrong size bra.
It’s OK to be single – and holiday at the seaside.

Movie Critic Cliches

What the movie critics really mean – by Doug Saunders of the Toronto Globe and Mail. Cliches from The Deep here. More cliches here, here, here and here. And also here.

demanding unwatchable

rigorous tedious

playful stupid

unabashed shamelessly stupid

aspires, aims fails

subtle emotions no acting whatsoever
beautifully rendered images very, very slow

epic very, very long

provocative sex scenes

tender nudity

effervescent vapid

ambiguous underlit

gritty underexposed

raucous overacted

outrageous performances really badly overacted

raw unedited

simple story underwritten

fluid camera style rock video

vibrant at least one nonwhite actor

urban all nonwhite actors

transgressive all gay cast

flamboyant transgressive, in drag

uncompromisingly transgressive male-male kissing

frank lesbian cast

delirious amateur

hybrid appeals to fans of neither genre
majestic dull

mood piece plotless

moody suicide inducing

sly snide

surreal random collection of shots

uplifting naïve

warm, charming inane

heart-wrenching sappy

seamless sleep inducing

oblique opaque

challenging absolutely unwatchable

intimate home movie

meditative endless

rich overstuffed

original gimmicky

eerie depraved

unsettling nauseating

understated no dialogue

impressive director managed to finish it

Monday 23 August 2010

A Pedant Writes

Peter Coates writes from Hove [to The Times]: “Is it not sheer affectation to use foreign words when there are perfectly good English words that may be used? In a recent leader there are two glaring examples. First it says ‘under an internationally brokered deal to end the civil war . . .’ Brokered is a typical Americanism, for it adds an unnecessary syllable to the English word, which is ‘broked’. Broking is a dealer’s trade. If it were brokering, he would surely be a brokerer. Second, the victims of Charles Taylor’s brutal regime in Liberia were said to have had their limbs lopped off with ‘machetes’. This is a Spanish word, which is often mispronounced by English speakers, but there is a perfectly good English word, ‘matchets’, from which, no doubt, the Spanish word is derived.

“May I suggest please that where English words exist, they are used to the exclusion of foreign translations or derivatives, thus avoiding the possible stigma of affectation.”

Hang on, Mr Coates. First, while there is a verb “to broke”, it is archaic; the modern English verb and noun is “broker”. Second, my dictionaries suggest that “matchet” derives from the Spanish “machete”, not vice versa; would it not be an affectation to use a rarely seen anglicised form of a perfectly good Spanish word? Third, is not “regime” a French word, and does not “stigma “derive from Greek? Virtually every word in everyday English use is a foreign translation or derivative acquired through centuries of invasion and assimilation, as we have discussed before in these columns; and our language is the richer for them. Case not proved, Sir.

Sally Baker Aug 21 10

Friday 20 August 2010

Protest the Pope!

Benedict XVI and friend

Why are we (in the UK) being urged to "Protest the Pope!" instead of "Protest against the Pope!"?

We used to spark off a conflagration – now just just spark it. Why?

Have Americans decided to junk all prepositions? I know they’re scared of using a preposition to end a sentence with (sometimes it’s inelegant, but sometimes you have to). Losing the preposition may make for a neater look, but sometimes it changes the meaning. If you “cobble” something, are you cobbling it up (quickly constructing it out of spare parts) or cobbling it together (tying it together with odd bits of string, clothesline and elastic bands)?

Where will it all end (up)?

Lost Prepositions

appeal (against)
bail (out) (Her boyfriend recently bailed on her.)
block (from)
blot (out)
bolster (up)
brew (up)
buckle (under)
build (up)
buoy (up)
calm (down)
cancel (out) (If you just cancel, you break a date.)
cater (for) “contract ... to cater 55 Marine mess halls”
cave (in) (or, weirdly, “crater”)
check (in)
chicken (out) The film Marnie 1963: “You shouldn't have chickened.”
chill (out)
chuck (out)
clear (up) (clear the confusion)
clog (up)
cobble (together, up)
conjure (up)
cool (down)
crank (up) “The music is cranked.”
debate (with) “I have debated many graphologists...”
deprived (of)
disabused (of an idea)
escape (from) (Escape Alcatraz, Escape New York)
fit (in) (it fits with)
fizzle (out)
flail (around)
flash (up/at/past) “His idea flashed a year ago at Lord’s cricket ground...”
flashed up? flashed past? flashed at him?
freak (out)
gloss (over)
hang (out)
hang (up) my hat
hark (back)
intersect (with)
issue (with)
keep (on)
knock heads (together)
lag (behind) (if you lag something you wrap it in insulation)
larking (about)
lord (it) over
make (it) clear
map (out)
mill (around, about)
mull (over)
pep (up)
phase (in/out) “The proposal, thought to have been phased over many years...”
Guardian July 13, 2004
play (off) one against the other
present (with)
protest (against, about)
provide (with)
provide (with, for)
pumped (up)
rev (up)
round (up/down)
rub (up) the wrong way
settle (down/for less)
shoot (up)
shoot your mouth (off)
show (up)
shy (away) (never one to shy from the limelight)
sieze (up) (before the engine seizes on our first day's rummage)
sign (up)
skirt (around)
slag (off)
sort (out)
spark (off)
spruce (up)
spur (on)
steamed (up) (If you’re steamed up, you’re like a steamship ready to go; if you’re steamed, you’re like a Chinese dumpling)
stir (up) trouble, opinion, interest etc
stoke (up)
strike (up) friendship etc
sweep (across)
swerve (past, around) Obituaries swerved the issue of his sexuality (Guardian caption May 08)
toss (out) (Judge tosses main charge in Stewart case.)
trail (behind)
turn (out)
usher (in) (you can also usher people out)
vie (for)
vote (for) (To vote your choice in our online poll...)
wait (on) tables
warm (up)
wash (out) (It was a wash.)
weigh (up)
wrap (up)

Thursday 19 August 2010

Clichés from The Deep

1,000 things we have learned from current BBC series The Deep from imdb.com More clichés here, here and here. And here.

1) Russians are very good at welding.

2) Sasha Dhawan can't act for toffee.

3) Nuclear reactors have windows in them so you can see the core.

4) 'Lurch' is a really cool name for a submarine.

5) Being on board a submarine negatively affects everyone's acting ability.

6) nuclear reactors have old manual dials. When they go into the red, the reactor explodes.

7) old abandoned submarines are warm enough to walk around in.

8) Minnie Driver doesn't know how to act as a captain of a submarine.

9) The Russian girl can't act.

10) The young guy has done a great job of taking over from the annoying girl in episode 1 as the person we most want to die.

11) If you get kidnapped and trapped in a Russian sub, its worth looking out the porthole just in case your hubby is floating past.

12) Motherboards are all the same and are dead easy to install.

13) Arctic research stations have one room that looks like a cheap set from Blakes 7.

14. Airlocks are optional – they can be a vital plot point on one vessel, and completely forgotten about on another.

15. Giant submarines operating at -200ft can be pressurised enough to have permanently open moon pools.

16. UN sanctioned submarine crews are allowed to drink beer on board. Evian will be provided for the non-drinkers.

17. If you are one of a two-man crew at a remote outpost, you can threaten to kill the other crewman to hide your crimes, without worrying that there may be a shortage of other suspects afterwards!

19. If forced by "kidnappers" to undergo a form of Russian roulette, it's best to just accept your fate and agree to it, despite both outnumbering and surrounding the kidnappers, who aren't always too alert with their guns.

20. Being held captive deep under the sea is obviously hugely exciting and entertaining because despite having a view of nothing but pitch blackness, when something actually comes into view outside your window, it's not worth looking at for more than a second.

21. If you have long hair, always cut it shorter when away for long periods, just to make sure your other half doesn't think he's imagining things when he catches a glimpse of you. It doesn't matter if you've "always had long hair", you must cut it shorter. Or vice versa, if you have short hair, put on a wig.

22. Don't be fooled by the following week's trailers. The following weeks ep will not be half as exciting and you will actually find it gets worse.

23. The most important "failsafe" on a Russian nuclear submarine needs someone to die for it to work.

24. Every circuit board is a motherboard. And they're all interchangeable - no need to count.

25. The more times you fail to keep in contact with your crew and *beep* them over, the more you'll be entrusted with the most critical missions.

26. If you speak and read Russian and English, you'll be put in charge of the British minisub and if you only speak and read English then you'll be given the Russian one.

27. You will be able to insert rods into the core of a nuclear reactor successfully without being shown how.

28. If you're on a life-or-death mission to save yourself and your colleagues being blown up in a nuclear explosion, the sight of a hag fish will be enough to distract you from the mission in hand and make you reminisce.

Friday 13 August 2010

More Good New Metaphors

...and figures of speech. More here, here, here and here.

Bibley: I'm not a big fan of shows that get all God and "Bibley" on you.

boreathon Chris Campling on modern pop Mar 31 10

Clement Atlee: on the Richter scale of charisma the needle didn’t even flicker. Radio 4 July 10

cultural McCarthyism dividing ethnic music into Frinton versus Clacton (folk v country – it happens all over world)

dampen expectations (please use instead of defuse)

egos: Squads arrived in South Africa “with egos clanking together”. Jonathan Northcroft Indy July 10

foolhardy updating: I braced myself for the whizz-bang terror of a foolhardy contemporary updating (of Oh What a Lovely War!) Daily Telegraph Mar 25

glutinous harmony "There is almost sickening glutinous harmony between me and Dave" on all London-based issues (Mayor Boris Johnson on Crossrail). April 15, 2010

Hell on wheels (Wyatt Earp’s opinion of Wrangell, Alaska)

inadequacy meter: And his fluency in creating agréments in his second passes totally peaks out my inadequacy meter. youtube on pianist Andras Schiff

saltwatery grave [Farmland birds] will be sent to a saltwatery grave [if the land is flooded]. farmer on Countryfile BBC April 11, 2010

Slightly kind of Rasputinesque, yeah. (Derren Brown)

Think tank patois (Matthew Norman)

We’re in the same lane. (schoolboy on Breakfast July 10)

Sunday 8 August 2010

Mixed Metaphors Part Two

Glacier is tip of iceberg

"It's a poisoned chalice. If you open it, where do you draw the line?" John Mottram, commentating on the World Cup June 2010, confusing the chalice from the palace, Pandora’s box, and a map showing the borders of Luxembourg.

Glacier collapse in Greenland may be tip of iceberg, literally, destroying W European climate. @SandrewDKos Well, no, it’s the tip of a glacier. It may be metaphorically the tip of the iceberg, but that’s a too-appropriate metaphor.

Goldman Sachs, Fabrice Tourre and the complex Abacus of toxic mortgages Apr 16 Daily Telegraph 2010

Plankton are the cog at the bottom of the food chain that keeps the whole machine going. Gordon Buchanan, Springwatch BBC2 May 20, 2010

Spanish border toll rocks the thaw on Gibraltar/The measure appears to be designed to undermine a dramatic thaw in relations... OK, so they wanted “rock” in the headline. But you can only slow or reverse a thaw. And you certainly can’t undermine it. Times July 21, 2010

They held a smoking gun to my head!

Unleashing a slow relentless stranglehold on our planet… Eden

More mixed metaphors and garbled cliches here, here, here and here.

Saturday 7 August 2010

Geological Terms

Refrigerium Interim

Geologists, geographers and meteorologists must have fun naming eras and features.

Atlantic Façade (seaboard)

Last Glacial Maximum

Little Climatic Optimum (followed by the Little Ice Age)

Maunder Minimum of the 17th cent

Messinian Salinity Crisis

Mohorovicic Discontinuity: The Mohorovicic discontinuity, which often is called simply Moho, is the boundary between the earth's basalt rich crust and the planet's underlying, iron rich mantle.

North Pacific Central Gyre (a confluence of ocean currents)

Oloololo Escarpment

Pontesford-Linley Fault

Refrigerium Interim (not an ice age, but the era between your death and the Day of Judgement)

Storegga Slide

Younger Dryas (also known as the Big Freeze) The Younger Dryas stadial, named after the alpine/tundra wildflower Dryas octopetala, and also referred to as the Big Freeze, was a geologically brief cold climate period following the Bölling/Allerød Interstadial at the end of the Pleistocene and preceding the Preboreal of the early Holocene. In Ireland, the period has been known as the Nahanagan Stadial, while in the UK it has been called the Loch Lomond Stadial and most recently Greenland Stadial 1. wiki

Excuse the pun!

High form of flattery

If you want to look like an amateur writer, sprinkle your prose with the words “excuse the pun!” Make sure to add it to everything that isn’t a pun.

I don’t know why people think they should apologise for puns. And I don’t know what these people think puns are – they seem to shove in an apology after every metaphor or cliché (I'd accept an apology for those as long as you go and sin no more).

Genuine puns

These are from Christmas crackers:
A man's home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.
In democracy your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.
If you don't pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.
With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
A plateau is a high form of flattery.
Once you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.

And these are more recent:
The malady lingers on.
One man's meat is another man's poisson.
We pine for wooden houses.
That was Zen, this is Tao.
Slow shore exit as Hurricane Isabel flies in” Guardian headline, September 18, 2003
If that's the call of the wild, I think I'm just going to let it ring. (Incredible Hulk)
Rare flower found on site is a plant, says developer (Guardian headline July 11, 2006)

And here are some atrocious “excuse the puns”

“Would we have Einstein rammed down our throats for an hour or would there be mention of time slips and Dr Who? Excuse the pun, but only time would tell.” FT, Gordon Rutter, Aug 03 (For an Einstein/Dr Who/time travel pun surely you’d have to bring in Sutton Hoo, wild thyme etc)

In Support of Suspenders (You Should Excuse The Pun) Now that suspenders are all the rage among women, I'd like to say a few things in support, excuse the pun, of suspenders for men. (feeble pun)

Wristies are taking the world by storm (excuse the pun) with people wearing Wristies for all sorts of reasons. Mostly people like them because they just help them keep warmer. (Inappropriate cliché, not a pun. It's hard to imagine an army of belligerent wrist-warmers storming the castle battlements.)

Does anyone know *for sure* what language Scriabin wrote his text for the Prefatory Act in? I think that Russian would probably be the more logical choice, since he would have been able to communicate more fluently in that language and express difficult concepts more comprehensively, not to mention poetically. But, knowing his fondness for the poetic quality of (his poor) French, he may have used that too. So, does anyone have some insight into this mystery (excuse the pun)? (It's a genuine mystery why the writer thinks this is a pun.)

The King of Comedy is a pun, because the King is about to lose his crown. Amazon review (I think the writer meant "misnomer".)


Amphiboly is a figure of speech that produces a statement that can be read two ways, or even three. Do dogs have worries? Or should we worry about them?

Dogs Found Worrying Will Be Shot
Bishop Lifting Service
Boring Machine Ahead
Brake and Clutch Parts
Caution: Do not run on the stairs. Use the handrail.
Dogs Must Be Carried
“Dragon” academy teaches teenagers who quit school to become tycoons (headline in Observer May 10 09)
Elephants Please Stay Inside Your Car
Fish and Chips Left at Lights
Flying Insect Killer
Help save the world from your desktop!
Incest More Common than Thought in U.S.
Insert finger under flap and move from side to side
Man Not Responsible for Global Warming
Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink
Monster Man Eating Shark
patientslikeme (patient mutual support site, not doctor claiming his bedside manner is the best)
Pedestrians Look Right
Print friendly statement
Save soap and waste paper
Sheep, please keep dogs under control
Slow children crossing
The Society for Visiting Scientists
Toilet Out of Order, Please Use Floor Below
Wildlife Drive Slowly at Night
William Blake pictures found in train timetable bought by Tate
Youths held over body at hospital (yahoo news July 5, 2009)

More here.


Overwrought barbecue recipes

exasperatingly vapid (Letters to Juliet)

insultingly preachy @IntervalThinks on Earthquakes

A woman who needs only a piano and a microphone to amaze has gone all Mariah: reduced to singing while performing lumpen dancing in indiscreet clothing. SS on Alicia Keys July 10

Overwrought barbecue recipes time.com July 2010

plodding earnestness largely prevails. Daily Telegraph on RSC’s Morte d’Arthur, July 2010

self-important, pompousexcruciatingly self-important and really quite staggeringly boring in the way only a deeply personal film from a deeply important film-maker can be.” The dialogue consists of “pompous philosophising about art, life, creativity and genius” Peter Bradshaw Guardian June 2010 on Coppola’s Tetro

vain Charles Pooter is vain, naive, prim, mean, pompous, gullible, snobbish, conceited and unbelievably gauche but at the same time hard-working, loyal, decent and honest (from intro to the Penguin edition of Diary of a Nobody)

More adjectives here and here and here and here.

Friday 6 August 2010


Curate's friend

Kennings, invented by the Vikings, are riddling ways of referring to things. The sea was the whale’s way, and a sword was a – blood onion? (They're always popular at the beginning of the school or academic year – they must be on a curriculum somewhere.)

More from the imaginative Vikings:
war leek: sword
gannet’s bath:

Love thy neighbour:

ankle-biter, rug rat: child
bog trotter:
bookworm: avid reader
brainbox, egghead: intellectual
brother of the quill:
carrot cruncher:
person from the Southwest of England
castanet clacker: Spaniard
clod-hopper: bumpkin or yokel
fang snatcher: dentist
garlic muncher:
French person
gate crasher: uninvited guest
hash slinger:
jailbird: prisoner
knight of the road:
left-footer: Catholic
muesli muncher:
sea dog: sailor
sky pilot:
tree hugger: lefty, hippy

Adam’s ale:
beetle-crushers: heavy shoes or boots as worn by policemen
big sleep: death (Raymond Chandler)
boneyard: cemetery
bunfight: tea party

cherry picker: lorry with elevated platform
cloud-splitter: Icelandic for skyscraper (skýjakljúfur). In French it’s a “gratte-ciel”.
cow catcher: grid on front of old American train
curate’s friend:
three-tier cake stand

devil's dandruff:
dumb waiter:
rotating tray, or lift for dishes
flywalk: the cut end of the loaf
hot seat: electric chair
idiot box/idiot’s lantern:

last roundup:
le rasoir national: the guillotine (the national razor)
long goodbye:
death (Raymond Chandler)
mother’s ruin, rot-gut:
necktie party:
lynch mob
one-armed bandit: gambling machine

passion killers:
long knickers
pine overcoat:
puddle jumper:
small plane

side-splitter: hilarious joke
skyscraper: tall building

the devil’s lettuce:
the Grim Reaper:

Thursday 5 August 2010

80s Commandments

1. Nurture, not nature.

2. We create the world through language.

3. Men and women are equal so they must be identical.

4. We can never really know anything. Truth is just perception.

5. There’s no such thing as talent. Everybody can paint, sing, dance, act, play an instrument – all you have to do is “empower” them.

6. Don’t teach anybody anything (Illich).

7. Nothing is what it seems (Freud).

8. There’s no such thing as illness (Szasz).

9. There’s no such thing as madness (Foucault).

10. There are no rules (so you can’t teach grammar, or music theory).

11. Be here now. You can’t even plan your evening.

12. Feelings are more important than thoughts.

13. There's no such thing as the self. The psyche comes in several parts.

14. It doesn’t matter if it’s true – is it left wing?

Eighties Relationships
The Eighties Continued
Quotes about the Eighties
Eighties Decor
The 10 80s Commandments 

Sunday 1 August 2010

Eighties Relationships

Feminism dominated relationships in the 80s. As usual, in theory it made life better, and in reality made it impossible.

The theory said that men and women were equal. They weren’t. They still aren’t. But you had to pretend they were.

The feminists behaved as if they had already won, and they policed the language and behaviour of their “sisters”. There were so many things you couldn’t discuss – couldn’t even say. You weren’t even allowed to see obvious differences between men and women – men like sport and keep their CD collection in alphabetical order; women like knitting and gossip. This would have sent the wrong message. Everything you said and did had to be propaganda (more later).

The feminists wanted to “liberate women from sexism”. (Did we really talk like professors the whole time? We did.) They did this by imposing a whole new set of restraints.

Perhaps they secretly admitted that men were never going to become more like women – so we had to become more like men. Girliness was not allowed – you had to be rather mannish, despite a lot of rhetoric about wimmin having their own way of doing everything that was just as valid as men’s.

The feminists would help you do anything you wanted – but not if what you wanted was “get married and have children”. Housework was demeaning slavery so you couldn’t be houseproud. “How can you be a feminist and knit?” “How can you read Woman’s Own – the stories are terrible!” (Ie they were stories about women falling in love and getting married.)

They talked as if gender inequality was going to be sorted in about six months. They’d say “Women still can’t ask men out”. (40 years on they still can’t.)

We were leading the way – the institution of marriage would soon disappear. “It starts when you sink into his arms and ends with your arms in his sink, ha ha ha!” They had a point in the 70s: marriage had drawbacks for women, but most of those inequalities have been removed.

No-one would talk about marriage – and they certainly didn’t talk about love. They wouldn't use the words "girlfriend" and "boyfriend". If people got married it was after much “discussion” about what it meant and use of the word “commitment”. I suppose if you make a commitment you’re a free agent. God forbid that you should get married just to be like your friends.

They claimed women didn’t need men any more now that they could have jobs and careers (ignoring the working-class women who had worked down mines, in shops, in factories, in the fields, in other people's houses since time immemorial). But living alone costs £250,000 over a lifetime.

You weren't allowed to worry about a lonely future on a single salary with no-one to look after you and no pension (or house, or dosh) to inherit. Women – feminists – fought for decades to make marriage a fair deal for women, including rights over your own children and property. Now we have a system of insecure, undefined concubinage which gives cohabitees no legal rights at all. Which is nice for men! Weren't we fighting to stop stuff like this?

In the place of marriage and children – in place of warmth, affection, love, companionship, social acceptance and security – they offered "strength". On your own you were a "strong woman". Well, thanks a bunch! They condemned romantic gestures as “patriarchal”. Or were they just towering snobs?

And why, if men and women were (or were about to be) absolutely equal, was I always being told: “Oh, you can’t say/do that – men might find it threatening.”

Eighties Relationships
The Eighties Continued
Quotes about the Eighties
Eighties Decor
The 10 80s Commandments