ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

HIVINE is written by HIV positive women but still with a sense of humour

Archive for September, 2008

Boldilocks and the three heirs

It was my birthday yesterday and in the slightly hung-over aftermath I find I am given to nostalgic introspection, in other words I am feeling a bit grouchy and sorry for myself. Birthdays as one gets older can be traumatic as well as celebratory occasions because aside from the physical reminder that you no longer have the capacity to recover from a hangover, they also serve to remind us that time is rapidly passing by – yet another year has slipped through life’s capricious net and we must gather ye rosebuds while we may – knees and hip replacements permitting.

Incidentally, you can avoid all that painful bending, stooping and crawling around whilst gathering ye rosebuds if ye must by purchasing a Garden Hopper, which looks a bit like a miniature Noddy Car and can also be used, according to the advert, whilst waxing your car (hello?) painting baseboards (double hello?) fixing your bike or going round to call on Big Ears – now that’s more like it. Mounted on the Garden Hopper you will find yourself seated at a comfortable 12-1⁄2″ off the ground, states the advert, with all the tools you need close to hand, even a canned beverage. You could even carry an extra can or two for Big Ears who I believe is partial to a few lagers when he’s out on a night on the toy town. Although you’d better warn him in advance that you’re thinking of popping round, because ol’ Big Ears can be a bit antisocial at times, at least according to the age old joke, which if you remember, and I’m sure you do, goes like this –

Noddy is on his way to see his best friend Big-Ears, so he puts on his special blue shorts, red hat and red jacket to match his little red shoes and leaves his house.

He meets the Postman.
He says excitedly: “Hi, Postie, I’m off to see my best friend Big-Ears.”
He meets the Milkman: “Hi, Milko, I’m off to see my best friend Big-Ears.”
He sees a delivery man: “Hi, Van Man, I’m off to see my best friend Big-Ears.”
He arrives at Big-Ears gate and cannot wait to surprise his friend.
He knocks on the door and Big-Ears opens it and says:
“Not you again! F*** OFF Noddy!”

Mind you, they’re all a bit odd and prone to antisocial behaviour in toy town if you ask me. There’s those two yobbos, Sly and Gobbo for example, who are always trying to steal Noddy’s car, although they get around those two and I’m sure I’ve seen them hanging around in Blackburn town centre eyeing up the cars on the car park. But luckily PC Plod, who apparently Arnold Schwarzenegger based his character for kindergarten cop, is always close at hand to slap an asbo on them. Then there’s that Dinah Dinah show us your leg, who runs the market stall, where according to toy town gossip, whatever you need Dinah’s got it – and I’m sure she has if she keeps showing her leg to every Sly Dick and Gobbo.

Being one year older is both a good thing and a bad thing in relation to HIV, because if you’ve been positive for six years or longer, as I have, you are classed as a long term survivor. I can now join the Long Term Survivors club, although the only club I thought I would be signing up to when I reached this ripe old age would be the OAP’s club or getting my bleary eyes down for a full house at the local Bingo hall.

Surviving another year living with HIV I feel I can give myself a well deserved pat on, as my positive African girlfriends would say, my buffalo hump and repeat the mantra over and over again to myself, I am a survivor and hopefully with the help of the medication I will continue to survive.

I will survive, the Gloria Gaynor classic favoured by karaoke aficionados and drag queen’s and probably even our very own queen, Her Royal Highness herself, who probably sung it through her annus horribulous – although her mouth might have been a more appropriate option.

Now, ‘ I will survive,’ is the anthem for all us long term survivors, although with poetic license and Royal copyright permitting of course, the words would need to be adapted slightly –

First when I was told I was petrified
kept thinking I could never live with HIV in my insides
I should have changed that stupid lock (change the L for a C)
opted for celibacy
If I had known for just one second
I’d end up with HIV

But HIV aside, Mother Nature is a cruel mistress and does not take the trauma of ageing into account. Anyway, what is it about getting old; there is absolutely no logic to it. Take hair for example, you start to lose your hair at a time when you need it most, to keep warm – why then does it suddenly decide to move off your head, exposing you to the winter chills and leaving you a boldilocks and migrate to other parts of your body where you don’t need it for insulation, such as your big toes for example. Who needs hairy toes? That’s what those furry slippers were invented for isn’t it?

And why would you need three hairs under your armpit or just a couple under your chin, what earthly good would they do to keep you warm. Never mind giving pensioners a Christmas bonus towards heating bills, they should give us a free fur coat – fake fur of course, unless you want to be pelted with raw eggs or subject yourself to involuntary euthanasia by the animal rights brigade. Not that I am a pensioner yet, but am rapidly heading that way and although I don’t want to pop off just yet, I wouldn’t mind a fur coat, fake or otherwise – and the eggs would come in very handy in these financially stretched times.

Gordon Brown in his recent speech at the Labour conference in Manchester promised in view of the energy crisis (which is a syndrome people living with HIV experience every day) to help people with their fuel bills, so why doesn’t he give us all a fur coat instead with a matching Davy Crockett hat and think more green – although I would prefer to think more neutral myself as green doesn’t become me, especially if its furry.

I know Gordon Brown is as Scottish as they come and studied for his degree in Edinburgh, where the saying goes if you are the type of person who puts on a lot of airs and graces, that you are all fur coat and nay knickers. Just a thought here – If dear Gordon did give all the pensioners a fur coat, especially if they came from Edinburgh, they could always supplement their meagre incomes and lack of knickers by working as stripogrammers – or strippograndmas.

The other thing about hair is why does it suddenly lose its colour and start turning grey? It’s like the ink running out of your printer – warning, ink levels are low. I know my parting, rather like the red sea, is getting ever wider. At this rate the only hairs I’ll be left with will be to my family fortune, which is thinning as fast as my locks. Talk about hair today and gone tomorrow. But looking on the bright side, even though I don’t come from Edinburgh at least I’ve still got my heirs and graces to fall back on and my M&S knickers of course. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, although that wouldn’t be strictly applicable to pubicly challenged pensioners. Anyway, Gordon Brown, being Scottish, would be more likely to say a midge in your hand is worth two up your kilt.

Well, I’ll just have to be patient and wait for him to buy me my fur coat I suppose, although I might have to wait a long time, because aside from being a politician and therefore likely to renege on his promises, the Scottish are notoriously tight – as well as having totally incomprehensible sayings. For example this often quoted puzzling toast about hairs.

“Hair’s tae us! Wha’s like us? Damn few, and their all deid! More’s the pity.”

Mind you, the Scottish have many confusing sayings, such as “Lang May Yer Lum Reek…” which translated means, long may your chimney be hot and fed with good coal…”

I do hope Gordon Brown is familiar with that particular saying. He did mention chimneys in a roundabout way at the Labour Conference and helping working mums, but perhaps I misheard him and he said reeking lums. Then again he might just have been slagging off the Tories. Anyway, whatever he said let’s hope he does what he says he will.

So, on the aftermath of my fifty ninth birthday, aside from along with Gordon Brown wishing everyone a reeking lum, I would like to quote this final confusing toast to all my loved ones, especially those who are already confused dot com and suffering from short term memory loss. In order to confuse them even further I raise another hair, as in hair of the dog and say –

“Here’s to all those that I love.
Here’s to all those that love me.
And here’s to all those that love those that I love,
And all those that love those that love me.”

And I’d just to add my own special dedication –

Especially those living with HIV

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Losing it

Of late, usually very late and often well into the early hours, I have been burning the midnight oil whilst over taxing my dubious computer skills trying to improve the look of the hivine website. Regular hiviners might have noticed that in the process some things might have gone a bit awry at times, like my blog roll for example, which like its counterpart Andrex the never ending bog as opposed to blog roll, rolled right off the page at one point and disappeared into cyberspace. Talking of bog rolls, do you think that singer Lou Rolls called himself after a roll of Andrex on purpose? It’s only just dawned on me, but I can be a bit slow at times, especially where computers are concerned.

Luckily, without the help of a cute golden Labrador puppy or even a Labradoodle, I eventually managed to retrieve my blog roll, only to find some things had mysteriously duplicated themselves and when I tried to delete them, they all disappeared, Tommy Cooper style – just like that. I always believed this kind of thing couldn’t happen on a computer and that nothing was ever truly deleted, or lost, but not so. In fact I got a telling off from wordpress my blog host – you were warned that if you delete a post or link on your blog it will be lost forever.

Was I? Like my ageing lap top I must be out of memory at stack one – whatever that means.
Stack of what? Well stacked in slang terms means a woman with big bosoms, which thanks to lipodostrophy I may well be, but big bosoms are more of a hindrance than a help, especially when it comes down to computer skills where they are no earthly use whatsoever. Someone recently emailed me a poem by Pam Ayres entitled, “Oh, I wish I’d looked after my tits,” which in one verse goes like this –

“Cos tits can be such troublesome things, When they no longer bounce, but dangle and swing
and although they go well with my Bingo wings, I wish I’d looked after me
tits.”

I know exactly what Ms Ayres means.

The reason I started the whole tortuous procedure of trying to improve my blog in the first place was because a regular hivine reader mentioned that the lay out of my posts made them difficult to read, especially for someone with bad eyesight. So rather than tell her to go and get her eyes tested, I had a look at the other wordpress themes available to me. However, the one I use is the only one with four columns, which meant if I decided to stick with it, I would have to start messing around with my widgets.
Because my sister originally set up this site for me, I didn’t really know what a widget was to be honest and always thought it was some kind of gadget in a beer barrel or something that put the fizz in Guinness – or was that a penguin?

My sister, when she calls me on the phone, now refuses to talk about widgets, or even to me if I mention them, or in fact anything at all to do with the computer. So I was forced to twiddle with my widgets alone and finally managed to add some mysterious headings that seem to have no purpose in life, (rather like love) other than to disappoint, because when you clicked on them nothing appeared -and still doesn’t.

I have since written my own version of the Pam Ayres poem, “Oh, I wish I’d looked after me tits,” in relation to widgets –

“Oh, I wish I ‘adn’t twiddled me widgets
I should have sat on me fidgety digits
Cos with one flick of me finger
I hit the wrong pinger
And lost the whole bloody thing-er”

The burning (although not of CD’s) question still is, whether to change themes or stay with the devil I know. As you may have gathered from my previous blogs, being a Libran I am highly averse to change and therefore at times can be a decidedly unpositive (I wish) woman. Sometimes, as my mother always said, it is best to leave well alone and in the case of playing with my widgets, or anything else for that matter, she was probably right. There are some things I would like to change of course, like the weather for example, or my sticking out tooth, not to mention my positive status – and now and then my only son, who at times can drive me mad. In fact, he is so unlike me that I sometimes wonder if we are related at all. If it wasn’t for the fact that he is the living reincarnation of his father, without even having the dubious pleasure of having him around to act as a role model, I would be seriously forced to consider the possibility that he might have been a changeling.

A Changeling according to ancient folklore is the offspring of a fairy, elf or troll that has been secretly left in the place of a human child. A troll is described as being a fiendish giant who lives undercover, either in caves or underground and are easily recognizeable by their oversized ears and noses, which just about sums up his dad, especially in relation to having to live undercover. According to Nordic literature most trolls live in a far northern land called Trollebotten, which I believe is twinned with a small village in Yorkshire, which funnily enough is from where his dad originally heralds.

But beware – trolls are not only fiendish ex husbands from Yorkshire or any other northern county for that matter, they can also live in cyberspace. To “troll” means to allure, to fish, to entice or to bait, so not only are they living in cyberspace they are also walking around in our midst cunningly disguised as fishermen, in which case watch out next time you meet a man in waders, especially if he starts slinging his cyber hook in your direction.

Internet Trolls can inflict a great deal of damage, one website warns, such as disrupting your email list or online groups, stealing money or the rather quaintly put caddish behaviour of building false hopes. The term “troll” can mean a number of different things, but in essence, a troll is a person who aims to have ‘pleasure’ at your expense. Yet more caddish behaviour forsooth.

There are also “psycho trolls”, people who pretend to be someone that they are not – and I’m sure we’ve all met our fair share of those in our time, whether in cyberspace or sitting on the banks of a canal (or Canal street for that matter) looking for bait. Then there are the “Playtime Trolls”; so not even the school playground is safe, in which case try to keep a healthy distance from dinner ladies and lollipop men, not to mention keeping an eye out for the Domination Trolls, who are also most likely to be found on Canal Street – unless you like having your bottom smacked of course.

Just as in a park or a zoo where you see the sign, “Do not feed the animals,” on the web you might come across the warning, “Do not feed the troll” as part of a follow up to troll postings – so best to save your stale bread for the ducks and not your lap top.

In days gone by it was most often thought it was faeries who exchanged children for changelings, and simple charms, such as an inverted coat, were thought to ward them off. Well, it’s no good finding that out now. Why didn’t someone tell me sooner. It’s far too late for me to start wearing my coat, my cardigan or even my pyjamas inside out. Although it has been known.

The best way apparently to get rid of a changeling if like me you think you may have been saddled with one, is to make them laugh. Although, in my son’s case, I fear this would prove to be an impossible task, especially first thing in the morning.

There is a legend in the north of Spain about the Xana, who were female fairies who could deliver babies, or “xaninos,” that were sometimes swapped with human babies. So that’s what Abba were singing about in their song Xanadoo. The legend says that in order to distinguish a “xanino”, or in Abba terms a “xanadoo”, from a human baby, some pots and egg shells should be put close to the fireplace. A “xanino” or a “xanadoo” would then say:

“I was born one hundred years ago, and since then I have not seen so many egg shells near the fire!”

Which if you think about it sounds very similar to another Abba song, “Knowing me knowing you – ah ha.”

“I was born one hunderd years ago – ah ha -and since then I have not seen so many egg shells near the fire – oh ho o.”

I know the words don’t quite fit but it might be worth trying to sing along with them at your next kareoke session at your local pub or at the cinema when you go to see ‘Mamma Mia,’ especially if you are a mamma who wants to get rid of a changeling – or even if you don’t.

I don’t think my particular changeling would sing along to anything as he only likes techno and hates Abba and on seeing the egg shells would be more likely to remark, “ Mum, I told you I wanted boiled eggs and soldiers.”

If you are having similar doubts about any of your own offspring being changelings, according to the
website, changelings can be easily identified by their voracious appetite, malicious temper, and other unpleasant traits – although that sounds like any normal teenager or obnoxious child to be honest. Changelings can also be identified by a greenish tint to their skin, but that’s usually after drinking ten pints of lager or the equivalent number of alcopops.

Changelings are apparently picky eaters unless offered something they like and they also dislike shoes. Well that rules out my son then, as he lives both for and in ridiculously expensive trainers.

Changelings allegedly are also very wise and will talk with highly intelligent words when they do speak – so that rules him out as well.

You can also identify one by their hair which is usually very messy – no doubt whatsoever there though.

In one tale of the Brothers Grimm there’s an account of how a woman, who suspected that her child had been exchanged, started to brew beer in the hull of an acorn. The changeling uttered: “now I am as old as an oak in the woods but I have never seen beer being brewed in an acorn”, then disappeared.

Changelings speak quite posh don’t they – but my problem is, I’ve got a can of lager, but where can I find an acorn?

In Wales the changeling child (plentyn newid) initially resembles the human it substitutes, which I would imagine would be very confusing, especially if it calls itself Jones, but like many Welshmen, or men in general, it gradually grows uglier in appearance and behaviour and is often bad tempered and given to screaming and biting – especially whilst playing rugby. The common means employed to identify a changeling in Wales, according to the information I acquired on the net, is to cook a family meal in an eggshell.

How, pray, does one cook a meal in an eggshell? I will have to consult my dear cousin who lives in Wales and is married to a Welshman, who I hasten to add is neither ugly nor bad tempered. Perhaps Jamie Oliver could shed some light on the matter, or Nigella might know. That Delia’s no good because she openly admits in ‘How to Cook: Book 1’ – that she can’t even boil an egg, thereby publicly admitting that she knows nothing about them and even less presumably about their shells, so for all she knows she might well be catering to a whole nation of changelings. After presenting the meal to the changeling child, it will then allegedly exclaim, “I have seen the acorn before the oak, but I never saw the likes of this,” and vanish, only to be replaced by the original human child.

Alternatively, if this doesn’t work the age old advice is to mistreat the child by placing it in a hot oven or by holding it in a shovel over a hot fire, as the fire would cause it to jump up the chimney and return the human child, but please don’t try this at home or you might find social services at your door. On saying that it might kill two birds with one stone as they would presumably take the changeling away and put it into care.

Another ancient remedy was to bathe the changeling in a solution of foxglove. I haven’t got any foxglove to hand but I’ve got some Radox and I think there’s an old bottle of Badedas in the bathroom cabinet – do you think that would do? Maybe that’s what they meant in the advert- things happen after a Badedas bath. What kind of things I always wondered and now I know.

When changelings are detected in time, their parents have to take them back. Unfortunately, if like me you would desperatley like to take yours back, the website didn’t give me an address.

Dream a little Dream


picture:marinella©adrienne seed

For all the brave and inspirational people I had the privilege to work with over the last few weeks completing our initial training as Positive Self Management Programme Course Tutors at Body Positive North West in Manchester. And for anyone else who is following their dream –

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.”

And for those who were on the course with me –

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” – in other words an action plan!

Cover Girl

You might have noticed if you have clicked on the ‘Positively Women’ site recently, that I am this season’s cover girl. It’s not often that one (at least this one) gets asked to be a cover girl, so I agreed to be the public face of ‘Positively Women,’ less for reasons of vanity than for awareness raising purposes. Seeing as it was the first and probably last time I would ever be asked to front a magazine, I asked my good friend and neighbour Willo, who as well as being an accomplished artist and sculptor is also an experienced graphic artist, to digitally enhance me.

“I don’t suppose you could do something with my crooked tooth whilst you are at it, could you?” I appealed to the graphic artist in her. Throughout my life I have been tormented by the fact that one of my front teeth sticks out more than the other. This is because the day before me and my family moved to Singapore, my grandma stood on my brace. Ever since then I have always been envious of anyone with straight teeth and feel my grandma deprived me of the gleaming straight toothed Simon Cowell like smile that was my right. But when you have a friend who has mastered Photoshop, who needs braces, I say, invisalign or not, which cost thousands of pounds – although I have considered it, even though I would look ridiculous in braces at my age, especially the ones that hold your trousers, or worse, your socks up.

Encouraged by the literally ‘uplifting’ mental as well as visual results of Willo’s airbrushing (which is not Lancashire for doing my hair) I asked her to enhance my Heidi photograph for the Mexican blog, which I also wanted to put up on face-book. Because of this, Willo has now become my professional toucher upper and recently made the following slightly put out comment, “I spent over two hours last night touching you up,” which could have been taken the wrong way if unsuspecting ears had chanced to eavesdrop on our conversation. I consider myself extremely lucky that I have a friend and neighbour who is prepared to spend that amount of time touching me up, as I never found a man prepared to invest that amount of time on foreplay, digital or otherwise. Of course, anyone who knows me well, such as close family and friends, or for that matter anyone who has been close enough to me to witness my true crows feet, are under no illusions that my unaccustomed wrinkle free likeness had not received the benefit of a bit of airbrushing.

Talking of close friends, another friend of mine, who is also positive herself so should therefore know better, made the following unfortunate remark the other day when we were discussing how I was doing on my new meds.
“Anyway, it was the right time to change meds and it’s a good job really, because you were starting to lose your femininity.”
A stunned silence whilst everything I held dear, like my unquestioned womanhood, was forever challenged.
“What do you mean exactly?” I asked her through gritted real life un-digitally enhanced sticking out teeth.
Good job, more like, that I hadn’t resorted to wearing braces then, especially on my pants.
“I could see that you were losing your femininity,” she continued blithely, some people just don’t know where to stop, do they; “There were visible signs.”
“What kind of visible signs?” I demanded to know.
“Well, your neck was starting to thicken up for example.”
Grotesque Images of me as Frankenstein or worse a rugby player flashed through my mind.
”You said yourself that your body fat was starting to change,” she persisted, “So you know what I mean.”
No, I didn’t know what she meant. The fact that I was developing a rugby player’s neck was news to me, so what else had she noticed. I knew that lipodostrophy had caused me to lose my bottom, but then again, all my bottom fat seemed to have gone directly to my bosoms and big bosoms are the height of femininity, are they not, at least in the eyes of most men?

Her unsettling comment chunnered around in my brain all the next day – losing my femininity, how do you lose your femininity? You can lose you virginity, you can lose your wallet and your house keys, you can also lose your figure, your looks and your youth, not to mention if you are HIV positive your bottom. I had slowly grown accustomed to the indisputable fact that we must all grow old – show me a rose that never fades and dies etc. (not that I am comparing myself to a rose), but my very womanhood had been severely challenged and I hadn’t even had my hysterectomy yet. What would happen when my women’s bits had been taken away – would I suddenly transform, if I didn’t play my cards right, into Bruce Forthsyth?

To make matters even worse, that very same night when I logged onto face book, there was a comment posted on my wall under my Heidi photograph by another so called close friend, although I do forgive her as she was only making a joke, I hope.
“Adrienne, that’s sooooo camp, are you sure you’re not really a gay man in a frock?”
My gender was once again being questioned and I was now beginning to have serious doubts about my fashion sense.

Then came the third and final blow – I went to a Gay Pride party that weekend at my friend Peter’s house, where admittedly most of the men were gay, but a straight neighbour popped in with his wife and when introduced to me said, “Hello luv, are you one of those trannies.”
Now I’ve been called a ‘fag hag’ in my time, which is the slang term for a woman who either associates mostly or exclusively with homosexual men, but never a transvestite. However nowadays, the fag hag reference would be more likely to appertain to my dismal attempts to give up fags not hang around with them and the effect a lifetime of smoking has had on my wrinkles.

The male counterpart of the fag hag, in other words men who have similar interpersonal relationships with lesbian women, are called dyke tykes, or Dutch boys; furthermore people who associate with gays, lesbians, and bisexuals may be called fruit flies regardless of their sex. The foreign equivalents of the fag hag are the Spanish “Mari Pili”; the “Mari Liendres” (“Mary Nits”) and on a more pejorative tone, the French: “Fille à Pédés” (“fags girl”) although no self respecting French girl would describe herself as such, apart from Bizet’s Carmen I suppose, or even though I’m not French, me. Then we have the German: “Schwulenmutti” (Gay mommy), which reminds me of the old butterfly joke.

Frenchman discussing language with German man –
Frenchman – German ees very ugly language.
German man – Vot do you mean?
Frenchman – take zee word butterfly, in French it ees pappillon; in English it ees butterfly; in Greek it ees petaloutha and in Spanish it ees Mariposa.
German man – And vot is wrong with Smetterlink?

Incidentally, the Japenese equivalent of the word faggot, which is the deroggatory term for a gay man is “Okoge”, meaning burnt rice that sticks to the bottom of a pot. Not sure what to make of that one.

Anyway, that did it, I was now seriously depressed as even wearing a frock and lots of jewellery didn’t seem to detract from the fact that I was, heaven forefend and unbeknownst to me, turning into a man. Direct action obviously needed to be taken in regard to my appearance so that I didn’t metamorphosis overnight, against my will, into an Action Man.

First course of action was to take the masculinity/femininity test on HelloQuizzy.com.
After a nail biting wait, my results flashed up on the screen.
Logical Female.
Phew! Relief that I was definitely a female, but a logical one?
Wasn’t aware there was such a thing – and if you listen to men there definitely isn’t.

The next part of my action plan was to have a surf on the worldwide web to update myself on the latest fashion trends to make sure I hadn’t been left behind style-wise in a bygone era. Here, according to an up to the minute fashion article in the American Tribune, I found to my horror that in order to look feminine, bows were back – and back with a vengeance if the article was to be believed.
“A bow is one of the first accessories for a woman. It’s the rare baby girl who hasn’t worn a bow in her hair. Expect to see more adult attention to bows as the trend gains momentum. Bows also help provide the perfect accent to a more masculine piece of clothing, such as a motorcycle jacket or pin-striped suit. The trend won’t be going away anytime soon. Expect more ahead in fall and winter fashions.”

Oh no – please spare me. I can’t be doing with bows and age wise, there is a definite time to stop wearing them if you don’t want to look like, “Whatever happened to Baby Jane.”

The re-emergence of the dreaded bow was bringing to mind Oscar Wilde, which wasn’t exactly helping matters – but maybe that was bells. I was now forced to step up my research into femininity and take it to a deeper level, during which I came upon a website called eHOW – How to do just about everything. I clicked directly on the instructions on how to look feminine, which were described as being in terms of difficulty; Moderately Easy.

Moderately easy for some no doubt, but obviously not for me, nevertheless I would give it a go.

One of the first steps was to wear shoes with pointed toes and high heels because they make a woman look more feminine – so out with the sloggies and M&S comfort shoes then.

Step 3 was to wear a blouse because a blouse screams femininity.

Does it really? That was indeed news to me

Step 4 – try a new style with tasteful shorts. Complete this outfit with a frilly silk blouse. Show a little cleavage.

Screaming whilst wearing a frilly blouse with your bosoms hanging out and wearing hot pants didn’t sound very feminine to me, coupled with the ultimate step of wearing a flower in your hair, batting your eyes, whilst not forgetting to smile – but what did I know.

I then clicked on another site called positively feminine, as opposed to positively women, to get the religious slant on femininity. Femininity; A Biblical Perspective. If anyone knew how to define the word, God surely would, as he created us, or at least according to Carolyn Mahaney who declared – “The God who created femininity has a beautiful purpose and plan for women.”

What was it? Whatever it was I wanted to sign up before it was too late and I had transformed into a reincarnation of Bruce Forthsyth.

“Without God’s Word as anchor, modern women drift to extremes. Secular feminist Susan Brownmiller evidences the confusion in her book, Femininity: “Women are all female impersonators to some degree.”

This was not helping one iota.

“The Lord said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Gen 2:18). God created Eve from Adam, indicating that she was created to help him in the task God had given him. Although femininity looks different depending on one’s marital status, all women are called to display their femininity in a variety of relationships. I encourage single women to ask the Lord for creative ways to inspire men to lead. Meanwhile, wives, we all have the same job description: Our husbands’ helpers. When wondering whether to pursue some particular endeavor, ask yourself: Does this help my husband? Usually, that one simple question will make your decision clear.”

Is that where I went wrong?

Under the heading ‘Made to Nurture’ she writes – “As women, we are created to be life-bearers. One way we express our femininity is to embrace gratefully every stage of childbearing, receiving and nurturing each child as a gracious gift from God. But motherhood is a huge responsibility, an enormous task. As one author wrote, “It can be back-breaking, heart-wrenching and anxiety-producing — and that’s just the morning!”

In regard to Domesticity — “Devotion to the quality of home life is an essential facet of femininity. Single women, may I advise you not to wait until marriage to cultivate this? I have talked to many married women who admitted they didn’t value domesticity before they were married.”

And presumably even less so afterwards.

She then goes on to give some Biblical examples.

Domestically Feminine – “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
-Proverbs 31:27

Frugally Feminine – “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”
-Proverbs 31:18

Sounds like a hooker to me.

Maternally Feminine – “Her children arise and call her blessed.”
-Proverbs 31:28a

Mine doesn’t.

Well, that was the spiritual and fashion version of femininity taken care of, stop eating idle sandwiches, making sure I never ran out of light bulbs, wear a frilly blouse adorned with bows if I felt like screaming. Now all I had to deal with was my actual physical attributes, such as body shape. In relation to this I chanced upon an interesting article on the Sky health page on how to get a great body by incorporating sexercise into my daily regime. I read on with interest, even though there is no current man to practice with, but its always good to keep yourself informed, just in case.

“Having sex uses every muscle group and is isn’t only good for toning up; it releases mood-boosting endorphins that are highly effective painkillers. The NHS even recommends it as a way of combating heart disease and reducing blood pressure.” All well and good, but then they go and spoil it all by adding, “Not only does sex aid a healthy body, it unleashes tension and boosts testosterone the hormone required to create sexual tension.”

Isn’t testosterone that hormone that makes women start growing a moustache or a beard? Perhaps that’s why I was having trouble with my femininity, trying to impersonate the painter Frieda Kahlo who had eyebrows that met in the middle and a clearly pronounced black moustache.

Before embarking on sexercise however, we were offered the following helpful advice.

“You and your partner may want to warm up before you start, by stretching and working up a sweat together, which can be a real turn on and is great foreplay and helps you limber up for more adventurous sex. You might need to persuade your partner to give it a whirl,” they advise, “But what better bribe is there than the promise of sex?”

A nice cup of tea and a cuddle perhaps.

No chance of that, you have to sit opposite your partner holding hands, with your legs open as wide as you can (hip replacements permitting) and your feet touching, then one person leans back and in doing so pulls the other one with them. This must be repeated at least ten times.

Sounds like something we used to do at playschool whilst singing – row, row, row your boat gently down the stream.

If you don’t fancy rowing you could try bikram yoga, which has got nothing at all do to with riding bikes, but which could apparently add a whole new dimension to your sex life. The room must be heated to at least 40 degrees, which oils the joints and muscles so makes it easier to contort yourself into new and unusual positions you might otherwise struggle with, such as the wide legged forward bend with legs wide apart leaning forward as far as you can. I’m sure there are some serious health and safety issues in question here. Make a note though, it might be prudent to consider that in these days of ever rising fuel prices this will considerably raise the cost of your fuel bills, not to mention a lengthy delay whilst waiting for the NHS to offer you a hip replacement – so is it really worth it.

Aerobic exercise is recommended to get rid of any love handles, but be careful who you pick up to try it with! “Once you’ve burnt off the excess fat you must work on spot toning them by exercising your oblique muscles (whatever they are). If you want to be more adventurous with positions you are going to need some strength in your upper body – so do ten push ups in the morning.”

I already do this every day without fail trying to get out of bed, first I push up and then I lie down again.

We are also encouraged to take up dancing and picking up for example a few salsa moves (or better still a Cuban) to take home to our partner, although your partner might object to the Cuban. This they advocate in sexercise terms could be a great start to a fun evening in bed – a more fitting term would possibly be pyjamasize, although admittedly it doesn’t have quite the same panache.

Size this size that – I thought size wasn’t supposed to matter, but it could possibly be a deciding factor in whether or not you decide to involve the Cuban.

Sad news, however, for us women who are not lucky enough to indulge in regular sex, as the sex muscles, or pubococcygeal or otherwise known (PC) muscles lose tone with disuse – so that’s what they really mean by being PC, although I fail to see what political correctness has got to do with vaginas, unless you are Christine Keeler or Monica Linsky of course.

But do not fear, they inform us, because you can soon whip those flagging muscles up to shape with some Kegel, which is designed to firm the muscles of vagina, the ones used to stop the flow of urine. I always wondered what the K stood for in ‘Special K’ and now I know, as they say it can be done eating your breakfast or anywhere for that matter, although presumably you would also need a handy bowl. After a month of Special Kegel we are promised we should feel the results and be able to wear a red swimming costume or a tight red dress.

So, there we have it, the answer to my problem is to eat boxes of special K whilst wearing red bows in my old ladies plaits instead of my Heidi headdress, exercise my PC by taking it to the toilet with me whilst practising on my Wii, do salsa in my pyjamas, contribute to global warming by turning the heating up to top notch whilst practising for the next Olympics by row, row, rowing my boat gently down the stream, wear hot pants at all times coupled with a frilly blouse if I feel the need to scream – that’s if I don’t want to be mistaken for Ken instead of Barbie – and keep taking the new meds of course.

Adios Amigos – Mexican Diary

Met very nice, very eccentric Mexican man called Mauricio at smoking point today and whilst enjoyed chat and fag together, Mauricio rested paper bag filled with propaganda brochures, info etc. on wet surface from yesterday’s daily thunder storm, resulting in bottom disintegrating (bag not his) and flurry of soggy papers plus vital information scattering everywhere. Because had formed lifelong bond by this time, albeit in relatively short space of time, ignoring tried and trusted rule of never trust a stranger, leant him own highly treasured red conference bag, crammed with own propaganda and lecture notes, plus (cringe cringe) personal diary. Can only hope English of new life-long amigo is not up to scratch. Kissed our fond goodbyes as new life-long amigo joined queue for cut and blow job at Hairdressers for AIDS booth, promising would bring bag straight back after having unruly jet black locks restyled. Waited rest of day for new found amigo to turn up and to admire new hairstyle, but didn’t show – have now lost all faith in Mexican human nature. Fear is case of adios amigo as well as adios highly treasured red conference bag.

Next day, walked all way to adios amigo’s stall in enormous conference centre in hope of retrieving red bag. Red bag was there but no amigo – and bag was empty. Apparently adios amigo had taken contents home to keep safe. Felt bereft and suitably traumatised – especially about not getting chance to witness adios amigo’s new hairstyle (as thinking about getting own locks restyled) – not to mention losing possibly highly incriminating diary.

On way back caught Mary Robinson’s brilliant speech for human rights. Legs were aching and feet nearly dropping off from red bag hike and trying to seek out, ‘they seek him here, they seek him there,’ long lost amigo. Didn’t think poor feet could manage positive women’s march, although feet and heart were with them in spirit. Popped by ICW booth and women’s networking zone, which has been lively venue for workshops on topics of relevance to lives of women. Great stuff going on there – visit ICW link to see photos and updates about conference.

That night, got done up (i.e. slapped on some foundation and powdered nose) to attend conference of drug company sponsors, followed by very posh dinner, where was sitting next to positive doctor man, who although older than me, did not have one single wrinkle – even when put glasses on to double check. Doc looked sympathetically at mine, which although heavily disguised by makeup were obviously still very much in evidence, because kindly doc offered me the more effective remedy next time I was down in London of a course of new fill.

Following day, as was last day on stall, had to pack up remaining unsold tee-shirts. Proud to say sold every one of HALO project tee-shirts, along with offers of ongoing support from buyers. Surprise, surprise, the illusive Mauricio had turned up before I’d got there with red bag, contents intact, so faith in human nature, Mexican or otherwise, well and truly restored.

Final day of conference. Got up at dawn’s early light to catch inspirational closing plenary with speakers Bruno Spires and Edward Cameron, Justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa and author of the price winning memoir, ‘Witness to AIDS,’ who has been living with HIV since 1986. The main focus of his speech was the decriminalisation of HIV, his statement being that HIV is a virus, not a crime. He urged the audience to focus on ending the unnecessary deaths from AIDS, on ending stigma, on ending discrimination, on ending unnecessary suffering and on ending criminalization. “HIV criminalization,” he told his avid and adoring listeners of which I was one, “increases stigma. From the first diagnosis of AIDS 27 years ago, AIDS has carried a mountainous burden of stigma. This has been for an overriding reason which is that it is sexually transmitted. No other infectious disease is viewed with as much fear and repugnance as HIV is. Because of this, stigma lies at the heart of the experience of every person who lives with HIV.”

A huge round of applause – especially from me.

“Criminalization assumes the worst about people with HIV. And in doing so, it punishes their vulnerability. The human rights approach assumes the best about people with HIV and it supports empowerment. The prevention of HIV is not just a technical challenge for public health. It is a challenge to all humanity to create a world in which behaving safely is truly feasible in which it is safe for both sexual partners and which it is genuinely rewarding. When condoms are available, when women have the power to use them, when those with HIV or the risk of it can get testing and treatment, when we are not afraid of stigma and ostracism, then we are far more likely to be able to act consistently for our own safety and for that of others. The global consensus on human rights and the enabling environment captures this positive vision of HIV prevention. Let us do. Let us take away from this conference the start of a campaign against criminalization. Let one of the conference outcomes be a major international pushback against misguided criminal laws and prosecutions.”

You can find a full transcript of Edward Cameron’s inspirational speech under Mexico International AIDS conference 2008 on blogroll.

Checked out of very posh hotel and moved into scruffier more down market Mexican version for last two nights. Public computer at reception didn’t work of course, so still out of contact with nearest and dearest. Philomena, alias Pat Butcher, or my jefe the Spanish word for boss (pronounced Heffa, which boss lady doesn’t take too kindly to), and my good knackered self, set off on a determined search to find Frieda Kahlo museum, which turned out didn’t exist. On way to non existent museum, walking through cool, leafy park, came upon huge May pole, with men dressed in long white tunics wearing bright coloured headgear, spinning slowly round and round, upside down, playing flutes. Amazingly, brightly coloured headgear defied gravity by staying in place – would not like to have to do that for a living, head already spinning round and round from all information gleaned at lectures.
Far too much to take it all in.

Staggered with Heffa round museum and exhibit of works by unknown surreal artist, but was so mentally challenged by this time, thought Col Particular on plaque under each painting was name of painter, not private collection. Even asked museum guard about unknown artist – how stupid can one get? Told Heffa boss lady Pat Butcher about faux pas, with firm promise would never tell anyone else. Not sure I believe her.

Met two amazing American women on bench outside, resting weary legs, who had been presenting abstracts at conference (in this case at least didn’t make worse faux pas of thinking was art related). American women also in search of Frieda Kahlo, whose only presence could find any evidence of was on postcards and pinnies in gift shop. Teamed up together and went off in search of sustenance instead of Frieda. Frieda as in refrieda beans perhaps. Hailed taxi on street (according to tourist guide strictly not advisable) and got nice friendly taxi driver called Hector, who recommended true Mexican restaurant, not just expensive tourist rip off. After general consultation with Heffa boss lady and American abstract deliverer ladies, decided to put trust in Hector and turned out to be good decision. Was brilliant. Atmospheric, real Mariachi singers, two lots, one dressed in gleaming white tuxedos with diamante sparkles and white sombreros and other lot in brown with gold adornments. When one lot stopped, other lot immediately took over.

Young boy came round with little white bird in coloured wooden cage. Bird hopped out and pecked out piece of paper with tiny beak with fortune written in Spanish – mine said must continue to keep speaking out and fighting for the cause. Very apt.

Asked for request from white diamante covered mariachi’s – at extra cost of course, paid in hand. Did not ask in usual tourist fashion for ‘Guantalamara – kwantellamara whackheela kwantellamara,’ instead little known Mexican ranchero about crying tears of blood from my corazon (heart) which I am proud to say, could sing along to. Mariachis not impressed! Was crying of course, (although not tears of blood although eyes by this time decidedly bloodshot), as they sang to me, thinking of my mum and how much she would have loved to have been there and no doubt happy, wherever she was, that that I was there and doing what I was doing. I know she would have been proud of me. As if it was planned, at that very moment the waiter approached our table with a tiny candle and put it in front of me – that was the candle for my mum that I never had time to go to the cathedral to light.

Next day, as previously arranged, Hector dressed in his Sunday best, arrived to take us on a grand tour of the real Mexico. Went to imposing museum with hairless, toothless, black dogs, like shiny pigs, then back in taxi and on to market at Xochimilco (pronounced cock y milcho) and a trip on the flower boats – first had to buy some meat from barbeque where insistent hands thrust greasy ribcages of dubious animals over our heads, which according to Hector had to be accompanied by bag of blue tortillas which he said were the best. On this occasion Hector lied. Sailed along murky green river on brightly painted boat with long wooden table and rickety wooden chairs, chomping on blue tortillas – passing boats selling rugs, ponchos, jewellery, mariachi bands and gleaming trumpets in competition with each other. Hector had insisted on accompanying us on boat, so were forced to keep him supplied with cold beers out of fridge i.e. ice filled bucket and chat to him in Spanish. Think he likes me, although is constantly advising me to keep in better shape for my age, like him, by putting honey on wrinkles every night. Aside from wrinkle inference was just totally brilliant experience and got off boat brimming with happiness. Absolutely love Mexico- now know why they are always singing about it. The sad fact that there are no songs written about Blackburn, speaks for itself.

Faithful Hector, who I think by this time, had developed an unhealthy crush on me, came back in dead of night to drive me to airport. As he sadly kissed me goodbye and crushed me to his taxi driver’s pot belly, offered me a last reminder to put honey on my ravaged face every night and said he would come to visit me in Blackburn – managed to extract address from me by promising to send film in throwaway camera allegedly had purchased especially to take snaps of me and Boss lady on river boat. Camera was probably devoid of film – but hey!

Got home totally knackered, but all in all, trip of lifetime and know in heart and reactivated activists soul that good things will come out of it.

Normal blogging will now resume as soon as is humanly possible.