Saturday, 8 September 2012

Real Fairies Wear Boots, and Drink Beer

        Nice little girls. It’s a phrase I’ve always disliked. Nice seems such a passive word. It doesn’t do anything. My dislike of it was further compounded when certain friends’ mothers’ told me “but nice little girls just don’t do that.” All I wanted to do was pretend to be a truck-driver in a childhood game of make-believe. I knew I wasn’t actually a truck driver. I was just sick of playing fairies all the time, an occupational hazard of being my mother’s daughter. She used to make wings like these for a living:

     Not that my mother is flaky at all. She has little time for “wishy-washy people” as she calls them, and ran her market stall wearing a lacey fairy dress, enormous glittering wings and Dr. Martin boots. Even though her occupation was couched in the mystic and the fantastical, her business acumen and work-ethic were anything but whimsical. So I was brought up in a very women-doing-it-for-themselves atmosphere, and my heroes as a child followed the same flight path, amongst them of course, was Amelia, another woman with wings. 

     I often used to play Amelia Earhart in games as a child. Some historically enthused playfellows assumed the roles of Fred Noonan, and Paul Mantz. In our little yellow cardboard box made to look like The Canary, we were seeing imagined lands. And it didn’t matter that we were two little girls and one rather grubby little boy. We were free in the land of synaptic lightning. Amelia and her dream made our small dreams come alive, and later when I was a teenager struggling to navigate by the stars of my own impending adulthood, I looked to her again.

     This was a time when a lot of other people had definite ideas for me and my future. Conventional ideas. Safe ideas. My parents, particularly my mum, were good about not getting too involved. It was the unsolicited advice from everybody else’s parents that left me stranded on a desert island of indecision. When there are so many options, what do you choose? They said: Be sensible. Amelia said: follow your heart and see where it takes you.

      As a teenager, my heart belonged to the theatre. The people were dazzling, able to pull characters out of their own vivid imaginations and wear them. Alex, a fellow thespian, and now my husband, wore a Scottish accent for months on end and talked about turnips with excessive fervor. Bruce became a cat and pranced about on stage to the haunting strains of a kazoo orchestra. It was all marvelously silly.
The human heart is surprisingly good as a compass then, so Amelia, with her daring bravery and adventurous spirit proved to be an excellent role model. I explored the world of theatre and was rewarded with beer and love. 

 Now I intend, in the pioneering spirits of Amelia Earhart herself, to explore the world of beer.

     The world of beer, much like the world of aviation in the 1920s and 1930s is fairly male dominated. There are some wonderful Brewsters out there, of course, but even as recently as this year, a woman was told she could not enter a home-brew contest because she lacked the correct set of genitals. I can understand gender segregated competition in cases where a genuine difference in performance is observed, but for beer, it seems quite absurd, as any differences between the process a Brewer follows to make a beer and that a Brewster follows would only be dictated by personal preference. Gender segregation, or in the case of Rachel Beer, not being allowed to compete at all, only serves to reinforce the popular opinion that beer is a drink just for men. Or maybe (as I suspect to be the case) they were just jealous of her excellent surname.

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