Friday, 28 January 2011

Foul play

Andy Gray has been sacked and Richard Keys has resigned from SKY for making derogatory and sexist comments about Sian Massey, a female linesman (so that's why they changed the name to referee's assistant). They weren't able to mention her without commenting on her looks (because, of course, that's how all women should be judged), suggested the game had 'gone mad' for allowing female officials, and then cast aspersions on the ability of women to understand the off-side rule. This is disgraceful, but not surprising.

Having played and watched football for many years, I know the off-side rule as well as anybody, despite the 'modern interpretation' being ridiculous - as Bill Nicholson said as manager of Spurs, "If he's not interfering with play, what's he doing on the pitch?" (That quote is often attributed to the great Bill Shankly, but apparently he said, "If a player is not interfering with play or seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be", which is a different matter entirely, although equally valid.)

Boorish behaviour dictates that only men can talk about sport - I think we are meant to stick to diets and babies (two of the world's dullest subjects to my mind). I have been in pubs in South Island New Zealand where blokes ignore my opinions on sport because I am female. Recently I told a man who won the National Sevens (Auckland) and he didn't believe me - he had to confirm it by asking another man, who wasn't even there. Incidentally this Queenstown-hosted event was advertised on SKY with fast athletes (men running with balls), tough competitors (bruising tackles) and fantastic scenery (a close-up of a woman's cleavage), which tells you all you need to know about the sport appreciation in this country.

The International Sevens are also usually advertised with pictures of scantily-clad trollops preening for the camera and not watching the games. Admittedly, football is my favourite sport which isn't as popular in pub-talk here, but my friend, Psycho Phil, knows more than most men about rugby and can (and does) talk ad nauseum about the All Blacks - she receives similar treatment.

Sian Massey 'ran the line' in the Wolves v Liverpool game and made some excellent decisions and brave calls - my team won that match 0-3 which may fractionally influence my endorsement. To suggest that women don't know the off-side rule is sexist, ignorant and predictably lazy. It's the same casual sexism that says we can't read maps or drive. As my sister The Weevil was the World Orienteering Champion, and statistics prove that men have more road accidents than women, I refute these uninformed pronouncements.

In some respects New Zealand has led the way in promoting women’s equality, being the first country in the world to give women the vote and first in the world to simultaneously have a woman governor general, woman mayor and elected female prime minister. However, casual sexism and misogynistic remarks are rife in the laddish culture that sports commentary can breed. Programmes like these are often less about sports and more about pretending to have a personality - throw in a cheap sexist joke and apparently you're a 'character' and if you don't find it funny; you have no sense of humour.

No, I don't find it amusing when women are considered merely as sexual objects. New Zealand loves its netball - the players are rated in the paper, not in terms of ability, but in terms of 'hotness'. Nor do I find anything to laugh about when people suggest women are inferior. This supposes that thay can be treated badly because they don't count as much. Last week in New Zealand a woman was burnt alive and left on a rural road. Police suspect it is an honour killing - women can be used as commodoties because they are 'second class citizens'.

You may say that to connect these things is a giant leap, but I believe if you condone casual sexism you are taking the first small steps towards degrading and debasing women. And if you are one of these women who encourage such sentiments, I despise and pity you in equal measure.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Our Man in London: Twelfth Night

I would like to introduce a new blogger to my site. He reaches the parts that antipodean bloggers can't reach - i.e. he gets to go to theatre in London. As I get several irreverent text reviews from him that always make me laugh, I thought I would share them with you. So, without further ado...

Twelfth Night at the National Theatre, London

On a Tuesday morning in a non-Tory world I would be working, but thanks to cut backs I am just working part-time and can sneak off to the theatre. I might have to vote Tory from now on.

Twelfth Night has recently begun a stint on the small stage at the Royal National Theatre and sold out quicker than it takes Andy Gray to crack a sexist joke. But today there was a single returned ticket. Simon Callow and Rebecca Hall directed by Sir Peter Hall in a theatre which holds about 250 people sounded like a no brainer. My Plan B was to watch a live broadcast of it in the Anatomy Theatre and Museum at King’s College. This had two obvious bonuses: (1) if the production was as dull as some of the reviews claimed the venue might be a distraction; and (2) free booze was promised for half time.

I don’t recall attending a mid-week matinee play before. From my vantage point it was a sea of white hair and by halfway through the play gentle snoring. Strangely the bar was also closed.

From memory Twelfth Night is meant to be one of Shakey’s romcoms. I can’t be sure that all of the cast were aware of this. Orsino (Marton Csokas) certainly seemed to think he was performing in a tragedy. His delivery was flat throughout and he also seemed to be unaware until Scene V that he was meant to have the hots for Viola (Cesario when cross-dressing). Initially I thought I was being unfair on him because of his mullet (Chambers Dictionary mullet definition: short at the front and sides, long at the back, and ridiculous all over), but then I found out he is a Kiwi. I can of course draw no conclusions from the latter observation.

The rest of the cast…Simon Callow as I think would be expected was great and completely at home with the part. The moronic Andrew Aguecheek (Charles Edwards) was also a treat. And from all accounts Finty Williams’ Maria was not as good as this Blog’s host’s performance of that role last year.

I have noticed that Shakespeare and Blackadder have started to overlap in my mind. I was sure that the plot for Twelfth Night had similarities with another Shakespeare play. Initially I thought it was A Comedy of Errors, then I realised that Cesario/Viola is actually Bob/Kate from the second series of Blackadder.

Adieu…from Our Man in London

Monday, 24 January 2011

Big Things

Our Gracious Hostess asked me for an explanation of the picture I posted a couple of weeks ago and I like to look after my readers, so I thought I would post about this peculiar phenomenon.

Believe it or not, this is a sculpture that is meant to depict a group of fruit in honour of Central Otago's reputation as the fruit bowl of the South Island. It is situated as you enter Cromwell, and was recently re-painted so the thing on the right of the picture would look more like a nectarine and less like a giant bum on a stick.

They like this sort of thing in New Zealand. When they want to draw attention to the 'main feature' of a town, they build a giant sculpture of it and stick it somewhere prominent. They are usually made of fibre glass but sometimes concrete, corrugated iron or other materials are used. Hence there are kiwi-fruit, carrots, paua shells, Wellington boots and, of course, sheep dotted around the countryside.

Once I was arranging to meet a friend in Gore and she suggested we meet at the old brown trout. Naturally, being English, I asked if this was a pub. 'No,' she replied laconically, 'It's an old brown trout.' It was, and still is I believe.

They also like these these maxi-ture sculptures in Australia. With their typical antipodean descriptive flair, they call them 'Big Things'. There are over 150 of them and some people take road trips to take photos in front of them and tick them all off their list. Yep, those Aussie larrikins... Among the Big Things are a variety of fruit and vegetables (mushrooms; avocados; bananas; pineapples; potatoes - you can bet that looks attractive), insects (mosquitoes; ants), household implements (taps; rolling pins; spanners) and - naturally - the odd bottle of rum or tinny.

So, that's the what, but as to the wherefore, your guess is as good as mine!