He hadn’t seen the children since her funeral. Nora and Catalina had husbands in towns too far away for them to visit often and Kurt had joined the navy. No – it was just him, Henrick, alone on the shore. The son of a fisherman, who had been the son of a fisherman, and so on for as far back as anyone could remember (to the point where his family might simply have washed up with the seals there one winter, a thousand years ago, and decided to stay). He was alone in the house that he had grown up in; had loved his wife in; had seen his children born in and watched his wife grow ill and die in – remembering, for years he didn’t bother to count.
He was alone after Frieda’s death until he killed a seal hunter. Then some of his cousins grew concerned.
“Don’t you care that they think you’ve gone mad?” asked Sigrid, who was the son of one Henrick’s mother’s brothers; a man in his late thirties, with a face like a mudflat. He now ran the farm that Henrick’s mother had grown up on, and the only notable thing about his existence was the fact that he had a very beautiful wife (so Henrick had heard, anyway).
He didn’t answer Sigrid’s question.
“I mean, really, cousin…” Sigrid was standing by the door, trussed up in his Sunday best like a chicken ready for roasting. “This is the 19th century – we don’t just kill people anymore…”
“He was on my land.”
“They were only hunting seals – ”
“I don’t want them doing that here,” Henrick informed his cousin, bluntly. “If I can stop them, I will.”
“So you beat one of them to death?!”
“I suppose so,” Henrick answered him, whilst thinking that he hadn’t meant to kill the man. It was difficult to be sure of one’s own strength, these days; he’d imagined that he must have lost a little, now that he was in his sixties and his body was beginning to be full of little aches in the mornings and he could no longer get up and down the sand dunes as quickly as he had done when Frieda was alive. But apparently, he was still capable of delivering a club to a man’s head hard enough to prove fatal.
Sigrid opened his mouth as if to speak again – then abruptly snapped it shut, exasperated. “You are in a great deal of trouble, Henrick.”
Henrick asked him to leave.
He remembered the glorious mystery of Frieda’s thighs – running his hands along the skin, wet with seawater, peppered with sand caught on the downy hairs of her legs. He remembered her fingers, clever on his skin, hardened amongst clots of earth as she was digging in the garden, or softened to sponges in the children’s bath water; combing her hair, dressing the babies, absently caressing her pregnant belly. He imagined the pucker of her frown at him now, from the corner of the room, where she would be darning socks by the window. She wouldn’t have approved of him killing someone.
They didn’t charge him, though, in the end. It seemed that his cousins, between them, had too much land and too much money for one of their kin to be seen in court for murder. Unspoken was the promise that if it happened again Something Would Have To Be Done – but for the moment, Henrick was safe.
His cousins were still known to be the relatives of a madman, however, and it didn’t do to be known to have a mad relative abandoned on the shore.
So Sigrid sent his wife to cook meals for him.
Tall and tired looking, with hair that bristled against the pins meant to keep it in place and a bruise about her wrist, she was not as beautiful in person as rumour had made her out to be.
“I can’t cook,” she informed him, upon first arriving in his kitchen, “I feel I ought to warn you.” Then she added, after a moment, “They say you’re mad, in the village.”
I confess – I was going through a teeny-bopper stage when Popstars: The Rivals aired and was a slavish fan of Girls Aloud for the first year or so of their existence.
The point is that, despite no longer having any interest in the band (I swear) the memory of being enamoured with them all is enough to glue me to the screen when one of them appears on TV. It’s what convinced me to start watching X-factor; it’s what sent me running to the box office when Sarah Harding appeared in the new St Trinians movie.
So when Nicola Roberts (that’s the pale redheaded one who never smiles, for all you Girls Aloud novices out there) cropped up in her own documentary on BBC Three entitled, Nicola Roberts: The Truth About Tanning, I knew I was going to end up watching it, in spite my best intentions.
Although it doesn’t tackle all the issues associated with the subculture of young women who over-tan particularly affectively, what this film does do well is make clear that there is an entire sub-culture surrounding teenagers and young adults who are constantly, unnaturally tanned. That there are young women who are obsessed with being tanned to the extent that they are willing to damage their health to do it. And, like any sub-culture, outsiders are, at most, merely bemused by and dismissive of it – and at worst just completely oblivious to its existence. Which doesn’t make it easier to help young women who are exposing themselves to the severe health risks associated with over-use of sun-beds.
The film uses Nicola Roberts’ own experience as a starting point – and it makes for compelling viewing largely because she makes for such a personable, sympathetic guide throughout.
However, perhaps because Nicola Roberts herself hasn’t intellectualised the issue enough, or simply by accident of the editing, the problem with the documentary is that it completely fails to tackle the rout cause of women who over-tan.
What’s obvious from the various people featured is that they tan obsessively because they don’t feel as if they live up to some imagined standard of beauty as they are. It’s disappointing that the film failed to try to delve a little deeper into the psychology at play here. Is it because they have low self-esteem? Aggressive marketing campaigns for products by the beauty industry? Unrealistic standards of beauty set by celebrities in glossy magazines? Some, all, none of the above?
This film really wants to be about beauty standards, but it never quite embraced the issue as a whole, so failed to really say anything significant aside from the bog-standard ‘sunbeds will kill you; not having a tan wont.’
In better news, ITV’s Law and Order: UK had an excellent week with its latest episode. Of course it still bemuses me that ITV are insisting that this is a second series when the reality is that they filmed it with the rest of series one, intending to air all twelve episodes as one series (which they did in Canada, but not here). Odd.
But oh well – it’s back, we’ve already been promised a ‘third’ (…second, technically?) series, Freema Agyeman is fabulous, and this episode was the first one not adapted from the American series but specifically written for the British one so all is well.
If nothing else this proves that the show is deserving of its own writing from here on in, because to me, at least, the various elements managed to sit together far better than they have been doing. The grit of the murder investigation, the slight quirkiness of the guest characters (particularly the awesome, Irish ‘numbers lady’), the occasional moment of dark humour, and the occasional personal moment between the characters. Particularly enjoyable was the moment between Alesha and James Steel when he’s asking her what he should do whilst his son is visiting – it all feels much more like something with a British psyche behind it, rather than material that has been cobbled together from something never originally intended for a British audience.
Next week? Oh… keep an eye out for Being Human, of course (shit looks to be getting real – although when is it not, on that show?) and, if you must, the heaving twin monstrosities of Hotter Than My Daughter and Snog, Marry, Avoid are back on BBC Three. Morbid curiosity keeps me tuning in, I swear – and possibly the weird sexual tension between Snog, Marry, Avoid’s presenter, Jenny Frost, and POD, the weird floating purple CGI device they inflict on the show’s haplessly orange participants. What, you don’t see it? POD wants to make the whole world look like Jenny Frost – if that isn’t love, I don’t know what is.
This is the hard truth for progressive men who care about gender-based inequalities: When you leave the public fight to others, you’re leaving it mostly to women—which, I don’t guess I need to point out to the intelligent and thoughtful men reading this site, is itself a perpetuation of gender-based inequality.
I’ll give you a moment to contemplate the many ways in which treating feminism as “woman’s work” is some fucked-up irony, right there.
Now here’s the other thing about leaving the rectification of gender-based inequalities to the ladies: Misogynist men don’t respect women. They don’t listen to women; they won’t acknowledge a woman’s authority on her own lived experiences; they’re not going to learn anything from women, and certainly not feminist women.
Men who think women are less than need to hear that they’re terribly, infuriatingly, and demonstrably wrong from other men. Publicly. Passionately. As loud as the loud, so very loud, voices on the other side. One of the ways their self-reassuring bullshit works is via the effective void of male dissension, which supports their erroneous belief that they are the “objective” arbiters of womanhood. Well, if we’re so wrong, where are the other people [men] to say so? they wonder smugly.
They count on feminist men never showing up en masse for the main event.” —
Shakesville killin’ it as usual.