Sunday, 1 November 2015


Fran├žoise Gilot, one of Picasso's women, has been upsetting people, especially feminists, by saying that we should not be offended if a man whistles at us in the street or passes a comment on how we look. According to the 93-year-old, it's a matter of relaxing into taking it as a compliment. We spend time making ourselves look good and then get cross when men notice! Why? 

Up to a point, up to quite a far point I agree with her. My daughter thinks it's rude when a man whistles at her in the street. I say you should just smile, mostly to yourself, and walk on. It's a different story if the whistler than starts to harass you with comments that stop being compliments. It's a different story as well if a carful of blokes drives past and they shout sexist remarks at you. But surely we should not feel threatened just because someone looks us up and down and shows polite appreciation. Maybe we should simply learn to accept the compliment. Maybe we should start whistling back! 

It's another aspect of our confrontational but overprotective society. Related to the over-reaction if you take a photo near a children's playground. Of course I know that there are oddballs out there but most people are innocently taking pictures of the scene. Surely it should be possible to tell the difference. I am fully away that my daughter will not agree with me on that one? 

At the other end of the scale, it's odd how the overprotective society allows bunches of children to go and knock on complete strangers' doors and ask for sweets. Which is what happens on Hallowe'en. A group of children I have never seen before in my life knocked on our door and cried, "Trick or treat!" They weren't even particularly ghoulishly dressed. If you are going to send your children begging, you should at least make them put on the fancy costumes. 

As a child I got quite annoyed with my parents because they would never let us drag our guy (ready to go on the bonfire on November 5th) round the neighbourhood asking for a "penny for the guy". My mother was not having her children begging and that was that. Nobody went trick-or-treating. We might have had a hotpot supper at the local church hall, all decked out with pumpkins, and done things like ducking for apples but that was as far as it went. The tricking was reserved for Mischief Night, November 4th when you went round posting bangers through people's letterboxes (really!) and tying tin cans to cars. My mother wouldn't let us do that either! 

Our neighbour combined Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night this weekend. Her grandchildren dressed up as ghosts and ghouls and witches and such and ran around the garden screaming. There was also a bonfire of sorts, a large metal container with stuff burning in it. And there were fireworks. The grump in me harrumphed at crowds of children getting overexcited and consuming too much sugar but it was probably quite a good idea, given that this was the end of the half term holiday and Bonfire Night falls on a Thursday this year. 

We used to organise bonfire parties in the same garden when our children were young. Crowds of children getting overexcited and consuming too much sugar! 

The garden must have been better drained at that time though as I do not remember it ever being quite so muddy. Or maybe there is just more rain nowadays!

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