In the Media: 5th April 2015

Cath Bore:

So pleased my “In Defence of the Smash Hits Centrefold” piece is included in The Writes of Woman’s weekly round up of women writing and featuring In the Media:

Originally posted on The Writes of Woman:

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

As In the Media seems to be growing by the week, I’ve divided it into more categories. Comments welcome on what you think of the change and whether you’d prefer different/more section headings.

The big news this week is the launch of The Pool, a free, online resource written by women, for women. Writer and broadcaster, Lauren Laverne and writer and former…

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In Defence Of The Smash Hits Centrefold

I read an emotional piece by a long time Joni Mitchell fan this weekend, about her sadness at the singer songwriter’s illness and recent hospitalisation. It’s a tale is of fandom, a love for Mitchell’s work, what she signifies as an artist, her meaning over the decades.

I get it. We all have someone like that; I have artists I love, I adore their work. If I like someone I buy their work obsessively (I was going to say borderline obsessive, but that would be wrong; it’s obsessive alright and I’m proud of it). I hate to have gaps in my collection. This why my house is crammed with books and records; my husband is the same. (We desperately need a bigger house.)

I bought this box set of Elvis cassettes last month from a charity shop. I have no cassette player, but still I bought it. Fandom logic.
I bought this box set of Elvis cassettes last month from a charity shop. I have no cassette player, but still I bought it. Fandom logic.

Fandom is a personal pursuit; we each deal with it in our own way. Some fans don’t like the label fan at all, so deride and mock it as a blind faith. But to me fandom is not that; it’s a joy, a pleasure; with no shame attached.

In the Joni piece fandom of the singer songwriter is examined from every angle; Joni love lasts forever, not like our silly teen fandom of tennybop stars, where when we  get older and know better we cringe and shudder at the memory of the posters on our bedroom wall, and the crushes we had…

Erm…hang on a minute.  We should cringe and shudder at our teen fandom?  Be ashamed of something we got immense pleasure from? Rub out and cancel a significant part of our formative years like they never existed?

I don’t think so.

Ok, it’s easy to take the piss out of teenybop stars and those who follow them. It’s not rocket science to see why it happens:

Boy and girl bands don’t stay around for long, nor do the dancing prancing boy-men trilling soppy ballads.

The music is poppy, light and fluffy, disposable, here today and ta-ra tomorrow.

Pop tarts have short careers, product dissed and dating easily.

They’re not credible,but instead a Grammy free zone.

But…so what? Why does pop music have to be classic ( a problematic notion in itself, but that’s another article entirely) to be enjoyed? Everything has to stand the test of time, or else it’s worth nowt? Really? We’re going with that, are we?

We live in a time of the temporary, fashion clothes lasting for a handful of washes at best; every household implement seems to be made out of crackable plastic with a sell by date looming ever closer but let’s not fool ourselves; trends are nothing new. Trends are called trends for a reason, spiking high and harsh then falling off the grid, plunging into a freefall of obscurity.

Adults indulge happily in trends/temporary fandom, but are not invited to mock themselves. Faith in football teams and players is no different to the hoards of girls who camp out for One Direction tickets, the sense of tribalism, being part of a gang, spending time with peers is identical. Only we don’t take the piss out of men and women who trot off to the match every Saturday, handing over £LOTS for the pleasure, do we?

And quite right too, because it’s bloody rude apart from anything else.

We should NEVER be ashamed of our teeny bop fandom. The consumption of pop music by teenage and prepubescent girls is constantly dismissed as frivolous or silly, people get offended by it. Personally I think it scares adults, the notion of girls getting together, bonding over the same pursuit and passion. I’m still working out why such a thing is so frightening (answers on a postcard, please – or the comment box below).

The thing is, being a teenager is shit. Everyone’s teenage years carry different shades and levels of that shit.  As a teenager you have to conform, your home and school life demanding different types of behaviour; you can’t stand out too much at school or else you’ll get battered (or was that just my school?) but stand out enough so the teacher thinks well of you; don’t work too hard or else you’re a swot, but if you don’t…

The GCSE pressure cooker is hell, friends aren’t always friends at all, they shift allegiances as and when.  Teenagers’ parents never understand them and no wonder; teenagers don’t understand themselves, for fuck’s sake.

Sometimes, teenage girls have one constant; teeny bop fandom.  Posters on the bedroom wall, tunes on an iPod, they’re the things always there, lifelines both and a comfort. I don’t have a problem with that and can’t understand why anyone else would. Just because teenybop pop stars are a temporary comfort takes nothing away from their value, a very precious value at that.

My own sister was a Bay City Rollers fan as a teenager. You can read about that here.

@cathbore

In the Media: 29th March 2015

Cath Bore:

So pleased my flash fiction “Opposites Detract”, published this week on The Fem, is included in The Writes Of Women’s In The Media weekly round up.

Originally posted on The Writes of Woman:

In the media is a weekly round-up of features written by, about or containing female writers that have appeared during the previous week and I think are insightful, interesting and/or thought provoking. Linking to them is not necessarily a sign that I agree with everything that’s said but it’s definitely an indication that they’ve made me think. Also, just a note to make it clear that I’m using the term ‘media’ to include social media, so links to blog posts as well as traditional media are likely.

News this week from ABC that a Tasmanian writer, Marjorie Davey, has published her first novel at the age of 95. She might be the oldest but she’s not the only woman to be published later in life; Abby Ellin’s article, ‘Finding Success, Well Past the Age of Wunderkind‘ in the New York Times includes Lucille Gang Shulklapper, first published…

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Bang Bang You’re Not Dead

When I was eight years old, my sister shot me. Looking at those words back now in black and white on a page it sounds all rather dramatic and 999 numbers panic-punched into the phone, but the incident was nothing, not really. My sister was twelve and pissed off with me, as almost-teenagers often are if they have an annoying eight year old sister. At least I think I was eight; I can’t really remember because what happened wasn’t a thing of great consequence at the time. I’ve not bothered recalling much detail.

Okay, my sister shot me with an air gun and that’s quite bad, the air pellet pinging off my belly leaving a small painful circle of cherry pink in its wake, but the mark vanished soon enough. No harm done. It happened in a 1970s summer during the long boring school holidays in a village in Lancashire on the urban/rural cusp; holiday clubs and courses for children to keep them amused were seen as exotic and a bit weird back then, so what else were you supposed to do with your time except practice your shooting? WELL?

I don’t think any of the children up my street here on Merseyside shoot their siblings, last summer they were more into the loom band thing, plastic circles spillages scattering the pavement in front of the house like multi-coloured ringworm. Young people today; they don’t know how to live, clearly.

cath bore

A more romantic interpretation of sisterhood can be found in the book Sisters Born, Sisters Found (Wordforest). I have an essay in it (my essay contains no shootings, sorry).

@cathbore

My Sister

My sister was my first heroine. As a little girl I thought my sister the most glamorous in the world. Her multi-coloured mountains of make-up on her dressing table I was forbidden to touch but did anyway, jars of perfumed cream, palettes of eye shadow bold and loud, waxy lipsticks in fluted metal, irresistible to me then as now. I wasn’t meant to read her Jackie magazine but guess what? Each week I took a lengthy peek, followed the hammy photo stories and advice on how to get a boy to like you; they gave no information what to do after you hooked the boy, which is just as well really and my sister didn’t seem to need such advice anyway. She was popular with boys already, and everyone else.

Bay City Rollers - Front

Her best friend the daughter of a veterinarian! Could that be any more ace, please? My best friend’s dad worked in an office and my own father in a car factory, not nearly as exotic or exciting as a vet. My sister had glamour by association, it handed something for me to strive for, though I never caught up. At age thirteen my sister got a newspaper round on Sundays; after that I wanted one too, desperately, but my parents wouldn’t let me. I complained endlessly but on reflection, maybe seven years of age was a trifle too young to trek up driveways with a sack of Sunday papers, spines folded sharp, tied to my back. By the time I was thirteen my parents still said no, I wasn’t old enough. The youngest child never catches up the eldest, no matter how hard she tries.

My sister got older and became a teenager, leaving me in a never ending game of catch up. I wore her hand me downs although my sister stopped at an inconvenient five foot nothing while I grew for another seven inches. My mum rattled out “You’ll grow into it” without a trace of irony, but I knew what she meant. I don’t think we ever catch up to our older siblings. No matter how hard we run, they do everything first, experts on everything until you experience the same too and even then they know better. The novelty wears off before the youngest child hits her landmarks. It might be virgin territory for us but for everyone else it’s old news, second hand like our clothes. As a teenager I was bitter and whiney about walking an already well-trodden path, but teenagers are bitter and whiney about everything they can think of, sulkily grasping anything to brandish in the air as an example of  “It’s not fair!”. I got over it.

Bay-City-Rollers

My sister was a teenager in the 1970s/80s, loved the Bay City Rollers, she even wore the full Rollers ensemble including tartan knee socks. She outgrew the Rollers and moved on to The Eagles. She was going out with a boy once, he had the Hotel California album and she hinted how much she liked the group. No loan of the album was forthcoming or even an offer to tape it for her, so she dumped him.  Mercenary some might say; I reckon it showed standards. On hearing the news another boy from a very well to do family knocked at our front door and asked her out. He did it properly with a box of chocolates and everything, impressing my mum, but my sister said no, his fringe was much too short. She took the box of Roses he offered though; even Mum was pleased at that.

My sister went to Polytechnic in Manchester UK to read French and Spanish then met her Moroccan husband on a gap year in France, moved to and raised her children there, only visiting home very rarely since then. Her mother tongue twisted and quickened to accommodate the French language freely over the decades, my sister’s English became poor and thready like a weak pulse. There’s sadness to it, but a beauty too. Going her own way was always how my sister lived it. I’ve found sisters since in the form of friends, women who’ve supported me, danced with me, drank with me, but sisters made and sisters found are very different.

@cathbore

I have an essay “Women! You’re Such Bitches”  in Sister Born, Sisters Found (Wordforest, 2015)

The Poor Kid

Dressing up as your favourite character from a book is a tricky business this World Book Day judging by the endless stream of princesses I saw going into my local primary school this morning. I saw princesses, lots of them; but spied no books.

They don't make these in my size. Gutted.
They don’t make these in my size. Gutted.

I started to wonder, what do poor kids do on World Book Day? The ones from families who are skint? Poverty clings to poor kids like a smell, it follows you wherever you go. As a former poor kid, I confirm this is true.  It is obvious to your teachers, the other kids in class, their parents (especially them), all your neighbours; every single curtain twitching one, that you are poor.  As a poor kid, you don’t anything new, or for spare. You live a life of hand me downs and free school dinners.

And everybody knows.

So on World Book Day, what’s the script for the poor kid? She hasn’t got fancy dress left over from Hallowe’en, and the whole wear-a-sheet-and-pretend-to-be-a-ghost thing doesn’t work if you’re poor. A homemade robot made out of a cardboard box is fine if it’s common knowledge your mam and dad have a nice car and you go on hols to Dubai every summer.  If they know you walk to school no matter the density of the pissing rain and a day out in Southport seems exotic to you because it’s so rare, then that fucking robot underlines your poverty; a child may as well have a neon sign above her head saying “I’m a pov”.

My friend the children’s author Trevor Belshaw has a quirky idea. Why, he asks, aren’t kids encouraged  to go to the library, take out a book they really like and bring it to school with them on World Book Day? It’s free to borrow books, anyone can do it and we need to boost activity in libraries, so…

Too radical an idea? Controversial?

Apparently so.

No, let’s not bother with such bookish craziness; we’ll go for the costume angle instead and, y’know, children can bring a book if they really want to. It’s bound to work, and if it makes the poor kids feel even shittier than they usually do, we’re on to a winner.  Well played.

@cathbore

Yes, I lied. I’m coming clean.

Oh, Beyonce. I do love her, but she gets it in the neck so much. This week it’s via the Beck vs Bey meme, which goes thus:

How DARE she?
How DARE she?

Oh dear. What sexist rubbish (you can read why here).

The truth is, that authenticity is an impossible one for us writers to claim, whether writers of lyrics or fiction, poetry or prose. Love songs are written by those not in love and those in love sing about heartbreak; what fibbers, frauds and cheats they are. Name and shame now, I say. Because, y’know, that’ll teach them.

I know this is going to upset people but I’m even less authentic  than Bey. Yes, I confess.  In the stories I write, I lie. What’s more, I do it a lot. Like, all the time. I make shit up, constantly.

For example, I have NOT:

Had an affair with a seventeen year old boy  when I was forty four (GOOD TIMES – Slim Volume : No Love Lost – Pankhearst)

Pushed my husband down the stairs (FRIDAY ROSES – Eating My Words – Gumbo Press)

Stolen an apricot from a supermarket (STOLEN – Spontaneity Magazine)

Broken up with someone because they hate summer and ice cream (OPPOSITES DETRACT – The FEM Literary Magazine)

Broken up with a man for having hairy legs (WE ALL HAVE STANDARDS – Female First)

Turned into a man and sat in my underpants while watching my neighbour cleaning their toilet via a secret camera set up by me (LITTLE BROTHER – Shadows & Light – Ansco Press)

Killed a man and dressed it up as a suicide (THE SHORT GOODBYE –  The FEM Literary magazine and Twisted Tales 2014)

These aren’t the only examples. To my shame, I lie constantly on the page. If you want to inform the publishers of these publications, I won’t stop you. Sue me now. I deserve it.

@cathbore