Today, I've published here on this very site, the first part of a little something I've been working on.
A while ago, my Grandmother gave me a book titled Captain Gentleman. Published in 1942, it was the first present given to her by my Grandfather at Christmas the following year.
It tells the tale of a young lady by the name of Joyce who, upon her father's death, goes to Trinidad to live with her uncle: a man of ill temper and no time for his new charge. Thus able to do as she pleases, our heroine makes the acquaintance of a swordsman from whom she learns the art for herself.
It was strange, however, that my Grandmother only gave me this book once I had told her of my starting to write of Peg. She at once recalled it upon hearing my plans to devise a swashbuckling heroine who disguises herself as a boy to fight and live amongst men.
It pleased me immensely to begin reading Captain Gentleman and immerse myself in such wholly realised characters - full of vim and vigour, and ripe for inclusion in new incarnations into my own tale.
Part II is nearly finished and will soon be published here. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Part I, and allow yourself to get lost in Peg's world of heroes and villains, booty and danger and a life out on the open seas: guided by wind and tide.
The Chronicles of Pirate Peg: Part I
I watched a somewhat depressing saga unfold in the gym changing room today. It took place between two young women of, roughly, eighteen to twenty years old. I surmised they were around that kinda age as I listened to them discuss a variety of subjects including their forthcoming holiday to Magaluf, Gina's "dickhead" boyfriend who'd just dumped her for a younger model of seventeen and how difficult it had become for one of them to get insurance on her car because she'd had five accidents in the past twelve months and her mum no longer wanted her as a named driver on her policy. From what I could gather one particular incident had occurred whilst she'd been tanked up and had to move her car round the corner from outside Gavin's house to ensure a character by the name of "Nozz" didn't get wind of the fact that she was now using Gavin as some form of sexual activity centre.
Just as I was hoping to Christ that Miss Accident Prone hadn't parked anywhere near me, the topic veered onto an altogether far more serious note: "Come on then," said one, "let's 'ave a look at these cut-offs".
A pair of denim shorts were whipped with an embarrassed flourish from the locker. "Oh ma facking gawd", exclaimed the recipient of her friend's hastily-razored jeans, "you've facking butchered 'em"!
Miss Accident Prone looked suitably admonished: "I know, they're a propa old mess ain't they"?
They both stood, gazing forlornly at the offending article for a moment or two, a tableaux reminiscent of Caravaggio's Judith and her maid looking upon the ragged, bleeding stump of Holofernes neck, pain etched deeply on their faces, still to realise the full severity of their actions.
Miss Accident Prone rifled through her locker, producing a pair of scissors which she handed to Miss Potty Mouth: "can ya do anyfing wiv 'em though"?
Miss Potty Mouth took on the all-powerful guise of a mechanic debating whether or not to go for the jugular and announce it as a head gasket job. She stroked her chin, then held the sorry scrap of slashed fabric aloft in an acrylic-nailed grip before grinning like an orange shark: "Yeah, I reckon so, c'mon get 'em on".
By this time, I was dressed and ready to go, but rooted to the spot. I was compelled to see the saga played out to completion.
Miss Accident Prone was in the shorts in a flash as Miss Potty Mouth went to work with the scissors, cutting and snipping until she was satisfied that the majority of Miss Miss Accident Prone's backside was fully available to the breeze.
"Oh no!" I thought, "she's going to do her nut. This is brilliant".
How wrong I was.
"Aww, that's wicked, fanks, Mands". Miss Accident Prone was twisting this way and that, looking at her barely covered arse in the mirror and actually thanking her scary orange-faced chum for making it seem as though she'd blown the rear out of her shorts with a particularly violent... well, you get the picture.
Miss Potty Mouth, who by this point was looking pretty confident that Tom Ford could go fuck himself, shrugged nonchalantly. "No worries, I did Cassie's the uvver day an' all. Magaluf 'ere we come"!
Maybe I'm just getting old or perhaps my view of what constitutes great style hinges on a garment providing just a smidge more coverage of one's derrière than, say, the average nighttime sanitary towel. I understand that my taste may not necessarily be widely acclaimed by the majority - and that's just as well for who wants to be a clone, slavishly following trends whether they suit one or not?
But, when did showing SO much become SO acceptable? Is it really an age thing? At the risk of heralding my arrival at the gatepost of middle-age with a trumpet call of "she'll catch her death in that", I'll fight my corner and say age has nothing to do with it.
The arrival of the miniskirt, met as it was with fervent horror from some quarters, arrived during a time of unprecedented social, political and cultural change. It was less a symptom of encroaching permissiveness, and more a reaction to how women felt about opportunities now available to us - both at work and play - following the "proof" of our equality during the war years when we stepped up to take the places of men in many different industries. In as much as women may have felt they'd "earned" the right to dress as they wanted, the miniskirt was perhaps more about a sense of natural freedom from dragging acres of skirts around than overt sexuality: one couldn't do "The Shag" in a lawn dress. Actual shagging was already pretty high on the agenda thanks to the Pill, miniskirt or not.
I've no issue with showing some skin, but I've always tried to do it a) in moderation and b) fitting of the occasion. It's not nudity or overt sexuality I have a problem with, but rather a lack of elegance and the idea that women should appear "fierce" (a repellent notion, in my oh-so humble opinion) in order to be seen as fashionable. There is no elegance in strutting down the street with one's arse on show: regardless of how many times Rihanna does it on stage, honking in the manner of a randy goose in her inimitable, tuneless manner. Like haute couture, some things will just never translate to the high street, no matter how convincingly style analysts and trend-spotters sell their ideas to River Island or Miss Selfridge.
Fashion, schmashion. No wonder "retro" and "vintage" are enjoying such a thumping resurgence: not everyone wants to put their bottom on show for the world to gawp at.
Oh well, I'm off to buy a gold chain for my glasses and search for the perfect twinset - a task as Herculean as attempting to find a balconette bra in anything above a 34C, I might add - so if anyone does know of a Miss Marple-esque ladies outfitters with a staggering stock of multi-hued cashmere, you will let me know, won't you?
random rants and rambling reflections.