"It is required you do awake your faith"

For a fortnight, along with much of the rest of Britain, I lost my snark. I watched the Olympics (and shut out as many of the  c*** Oily MPs as I could) and was overtaken by a sense of awe. Firstly at Danny Boyle's opening spectacular, thumbing his nose at his LOCOG paymasters and creating a vision of Britishness that connected with far more than  just the  flag waving jingoist few that many feared it might, then at the feats of the sportswomen and men taking part in the games themselves.

Awe is entirely the right word. I can barely comprehend the commitment and dedication the athletes and competitors showed in order to compete. Gruelling ritualistic training. Nutritional control. Hours and hours of repetition, drills, practice. For some, reaching the games was its own reward. To be able to compete with the sporting elite as an equal in front of a crowd - and what a crowd -  made the pain worthwhile. For others, nothing less than victory would do: you could see them crumpled and spent in defeat, husks of women or men, a hollowness in their eyes even when holding on to their silver or bronze medal.

I can't pick out a single moment as the greatest. It seems to cheapen the effort of all the other participants. But there were moments of greatness, lasting greatness, where people pushed themselves to the limit and saw those limits crumble. Redefining moments. Londoners, known for surliness, became friendly and welcoming; British sportswomen and men, known for defeat, became champions; emblems of aggression - that damned, sullied, right-wing hijacked union jack -  became benign.

Danny Boyle's opening borrowed from Shakespeare's The Tempest (not Prospero, but Caliban -  slave, illegitimate, unmagical, human), "be not afeard, the isle is full of  noises" but for a fortnight at least, Paulina in The Winter's Tale seemed more appropriate to me. Revealing the living breathing Hermione (disguised as a statue) to her husband who believes her to have been dead for 16 years, she prepares Leontes, "It is required you do awake your faith." Likewise, grey old Britain was revealed as vibrant and hopeful -  but only as far as sporting achievement is concerned.

Monday hit hard. The news bulletins returned to murder, war and crises; tax dodging and backhanded contracts; recession still holding us vice-like; our Government still self-interested, venal and toxic; big corporations and bankers still holding all the strings and us still seeming like puppets tied to our puppet masters. We have no faith that any of them at all know how to get us out of this mess.

For a fortnight, we saw nothing but good -   and  there is hope - and I don't just mean the Paralympics (which I await with an unexpected eagerness). If we work together, if we share our common good, if we celebrate the achievements of others and work together to help others achieve, if we believe we can be better and work hard to be better, then we can make a Great Britain out of this selfish, self-serving mess. However, it is required we do awake our faith.

Have The OilyMPsc Games Commenced Yet?

And  not forgetting

Jeremy Hunt almost hits woman with Olympic bell end 

Pavlov's Daughter

One Monday a couple of weeks ago, maybe ten minutes after I’d got home, the phone rang. It was my father.
“Now, don’t worry, but…”

That phrase guarantees a Pavlovian response.
It would seem that my father had woken up and found himself on the floor, unable to get up and with no recollection of how he got there. After a couple of hours, he’d managed to drag himself to his front door and get the attention of a neighbour. It had shaken him a bit, but he ignored it until he woke up a couple of days later unable to get out of bed. He was phoning to let me know he’d got himself an alarm button and a key safe, so if a stranger were to call me about him, not to be worried.
My father is not a likeable man. He is also not a good man (for several reasons, none of which I want to go into here). As a combination, it’s probably fair to say he is isolated and for the most part, that’s not a bad thing.  I speak to him a scant twice a year, and even then I feel angsty. Nonetheless, I don’t want to ever receive the phone call telling me my father’s remains have been found in an advanced state of decomposition, so in part I felt an immediate sense of relief (at least someone will be checking in on him) and the kidney punch of guilt (it’s supposed to be me).
Continuing with my reluctant daughterly responsibilities, I asked him if he’d seen a doctor. No, he said, he hadn’t. The Pavlovian worry thing kicked in once more - because of course temporary paralysis and memory loss are perfectly normal things to experience! Why would anyone want to see a doctor about those? I did my best to convince him to see a doctor. He reluctantly agreed. I asked that he let me know what the doctor said. He promised he would. I put down the phone and sat for a bit, contemplating what the hell I should be doing. Should I be doing more? Should I be doing anything at all? Is there really a should in this?
A few days later and still he hasn’t phoned, so I call him. He sounds frail and wavering. He’s not pleased to hear from me. I ask if he’s seen a doctor and he says he has, but I’m not convinced. I ask what the doctor says and he says nothing much. He needs to lose weight. And that he might have “a touch of Parkinson’s”.
This sets alarm bells ringing. My medical knowledge is as good as any online hypochondriac, but even I know that if you are suspected of having developed Parkinson’s disease it is not generally diagnosed as “a touch.” I ask further questions; any tests or assessments planned, follow up appointments, can you still drive? The answers? No, no and yes. I am now more certain than before he hasn’t seen a doctor, or if he has, the doctor is in idiot. He ends the conversation hurriedly and I am stuck with another round of what should I be doing? whirling in my head.
Another few days pass and I get home to a message on the answering machine: “Hello, I’m calling from Community Alarms. It’s about Dad…” My heart sinks.
My immediate response is, “-whose dad? Yours? Mine? The man has a name: calling him “Dad” is making a whole heap of assumptions I don’t really want to debunk right now. Who trained you not to use a person’s name? To attribute them to a role that they may or may not fulfil?” This makes me angrier than I could have imagined. I have no idea why that of all things is making me angry.
The news isn’t quite as bad as I’d immediately feared, but nevertheless worrying. He’d used the alarm service three times in a day, unable to get up and feeling dizzy and shaky so was waiting for a non- emergency ambulance. Might be a few hours. Not to worry.
Still, I phone my father and he’s still waiting. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He hangs up quickly.
What should I be doing?
My father phones me later to let me know that they’re not keeping him in, he needs to eat more regularly, maybe speak with the doctor about side effects to the new medication he’s been put on (yes, he’d missed that bit out each time I’d asked ). He’ll be sleeping in his chair tonight as he pulled the curtain rail off when he fell. He’s fine. No need to worry. Yes, of course he’ll see a doctor. He’ll keep in touch.
That was over a week ago and no word. I know I could call, but I still don’t know if I should.
Needless to say I am, of course, still worried.

But what would Hippolyta wear?

The Amazons of mythic fame were renowned warriors. To improve the accuracy of their archery, they severed one breast to allow them to fire arrows with greater ease. Me? I must be a modern descendent of the Amazons -albeit quite naturally: I have one breast far, far smaller than the other -  and I don't mean a bit smaller, I mean at least 3 cup sizes smaller, maybe more. (Yes, I see what you're doing with your hands...that much smaller.) Oh, and the other one? Well, it's big. Not "Jordan" big, but if it were to form the template for a soup bowl it could feed a family of four. Quite.

Until recently, I have had little choice but to wear bras that can only really be described as middle aged and miserable. They come with despair drenched names like "Doreen"  and descriptions such as "Soft Cup Firm Support". The colour palette is a uniform black, "nude" or white- the sexiest thing about them is arguably the box. (Alternatively, the sexiest thing about these miserable bras is what fills them, but I digress...). They also have a sort of drooping sadness about them (-the bras, not the breasts. They have a more resigned mien, not sad per se, but life-worn, which they are I suppose, so it fits....). Nothing pert, playful or perky can reside in these fabric fortresses where everything is locked away and safe from wandering hands or prying eyes.

I'm not perhaps the vainest of people. I think a fair number of  my clothes are older than my friends' children, I have shoes from the previous century and a haircut that is reminiscent of that shorn from a DJ in the late 80s. The last time I wore make-up on a regular basis was when I was in 6th Form (and even then it was a shit, proto-goth monochrome). But there remains part of me that wants to wear sexy underwear, that wants to be have a girly side to show off to my best girl, that wants to have age appropriate lingerie while I'm young enough to appreciate it (and for that matter, while I'm lacking in impairment enough to put the buggers on without mechanical assistance...)

So, with some light encouragement from my wife to be, I set out to attempt to buy a bra that didn't fill me instantly with doom. To continue the mythic theme, Odysseus would have balked at such a quest...

I'll spare you the details of the changing room puppy wrangling, the game of "guess the size" and the improvised prosthetics manufactured to try to create a sense of equilibrium - but you get the picture. It was not easy and it sure as hell wasn't fun. I have, however, ended up with a sort of sexier underwired number (in *gasp* crimson) that means I have breasts that appear far more "up and at 'em" than they did previously. Through the magic of modern manufacture, the balancing prosthetic (not so much a chicken fillet, more a whole chicken...) isn't noticeable, or worse, moveable and so, for once, I look less like an Amazon and more like amazingly average (ish).

But, (and here comes my point...) I know I'm not the only woman in the country with different sized breasts. Indeed, for most women one breast is larger than the other (most commonly the left is largest, trivia fans) and yet there are no off the rack (no pun intended) bras to accommodate us asymmetrically busted beauties. There aren't even that many bespoke services -even the bras available to women who have undergone mastectomies are woeful. For many women breasts are emblematic of female sexuality. They are an outward signifier of femininity.They are more than just functional, they are fun -but where is this reflected in the choice of bras available to the "imperfect" body?

I've never hated any part of my body -  it's mine, it's the only one I've got and although I might misuse it from time to time, my mind and body have grown to have a comfortable understanding - but I do hate how fashion makes me out to be a freak, unworthy of clothes that make me feel good, just because I don't fit into their mould. Trying to find a less oppressive bra has made me into an angry bird (*groan*)  but I'll continue trying not to let it get on my tits.