Elections have figured recently on our agenda in the Old Doom Bar. The most significant being that of Ukraine being voted top Eurovision nation in a clearly politically inspired coup against Russia. No-one could work out why joint hot-tip Australia was in the contest until it was suggested that their population was full of former Yugoslavs. This turns out not to be true so it must be in a vain effort to bolster the meagre European pro- UK vote from the Anglophone diaspora that predominates in the Antipodes.
Other democratic manifestations such as contests to be mayors, councillors, police chiefs have not been very relevant – other than our new police and crime commissioner being investigated for malfeasance at the General Election. So far she has refused to stand down pending the outcome. Many of us are relieved that it is a woman involved thus showing that bad behaviour and denial thereof is not only a male tendency.
There is some resonance in these democratic exercises as precursors of the Referendum. Amongst us regulars, advocates of remaining in the EU are listened to politely and the discourse is good humoured. But we are all careful to see the other side’s viewpoint.
Round the bar, we’re all amused and bemused regardless of gender, by the ‘high heels at work’ brouhaha. Whoever the employer was – seemingly an agency providing outsourced staff to a posh accountancy firm – they had clearly had some way to go in their duty of gender sensitive care to employees. All media covered the issue and the Guardian 14 May had some reportage on how uncomfortable it was to be active all day in such footwear. What wasn’t noted – until the women of our group mentioned it – was that high heels were always not merely about ‘fashion’ but specifically ‘improving’ the profile of the leg. Our resident fashion historian noted that men used to enhance the appearance of their legs in the C18th until the trouser. Women hid legs and flaunted breasts. Then after the 1st World War and the fashion for shorter skirts women became more involved with the appearance of their lower limbs (and bound their breasts). The happy resort to factual history and freedom of choice confirmed our consensus about sensible rules rather than lurching into poorly informed feminist debate.
Without drawing attention to the variety of leg types in present company we were all able to note the value of ‘legginess’ and how it was exploited by women in the public eye. Older ones among us recalled newsreader Angela Rippon and her dancing. Intellectuals noted that Cathy Newman on Channel 4 liked a high heel. No-one was sure about Fiona Bruce and Natasha Kaplinski’s choice of shoe but we all felt they must be great on the leg count as in every other respect.
Interestingly, it was one of the girls who suggested that Natalie Bennett had resigned as Green Party leader following indifferent election results caused by her lack of sex appeal. Unlike the former leader Caroline Lucas MP whom we all agreed was a bit single issue and not very agricultural but with her heart in the right place and personable. We suspected that she had good legs – even if we disagreed with her – rather like Margaret Thatcher. It was obvious that personality was important for all election success: but legs and possibly bums? The women said a good bum – or its possibility, was relevant in a man but not very obviously central to electing a politician albeit being a metaphor for sex-appeal – which might possibly be significant. Hence Cameron’s win over Miliband in 2015.
Many of us had watched the song contest. Other than the politics it was notable for having very few Beyoncé wannabes on the costume front. Most of the females, including the winner opted for the flowing and ball gown look. We briefly debated whether this was somehow related to a rise in ‘modest fashion’.
It felt like taking us into darker waters than we wanted so the women started to talk about upcoming weddings and dresses and the men reverted to discussing in a general way whether we fancied any of the female political figures of recent years and wondering about Christine Lagarde’s legs which we expect are stunning.
Sadly, none of the leading national protagonists in the upcoming Referendum had qualifications or credibility in the leg area. Had there been one, we might all have voted for her.