Monday, July 31, 2006

Fish lover's anger ends eel event

Purse-lipped Britain again: You must "respect" a dead fish?

Can it really be disrespectful to swing a dead 20lb fish at a group of men to raise money for lifeboats? Somebody in Lyme Regis, Dorset, thought so and their complaint has now put an end to the 40-year tradition of "conger cuddling" in the town. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has deemed that using a dead conger eel to try to knock down some of its members is "inappropriate". The event, traditionally held in Cobb Square in Lifeboat Week, is no more. The eel has been replaced with a mooring buoy.

"Conger cuddling", which attracts up to 3,000 people every year, is not dissimilar from a game of skittles only it is on a larger scale. Nine humans prepared to do battle with a huge, slippery eel replace the skittles. Andrew Kaye, from the RNLI, said: "The whole idea was to raise money for the lifeboat. It has been very successful over the last 40 years. "I think we raised 26,000 pounds last year during Lifeboat Week and it has been rising year on year. "An email was sent to the RNLI - we understand someone was upset and thought we were being disrespectful."

The buoy, which has replaced the offending sea creature, had its first outing on Friday. "It was not quite the same," explained Mr Kaye. "We are thinking of having a plastic eel made. "We think it is a shame because its a local tradition and everybody looks forward to it - local children come down with water bombs and people throw buckets of water from the windows overlooking the square. "Its a wet affair and its great fun."

Retired publican, Richard Fox introduced the people of Lyme Regis to conger cuddling in the early 1970s. After the 66-year-old joined the RNLI, he was asked to organise events for Lifeboat Week. He modelled conger cuddling on mangle dangling with flower pots, a sport played by farmhands in Somerset. Mr Fox said: "I cannot see how it can be cruel to a fish that has been dead for two months. "The whole argument is pointless. "If it were a salmon bought from a supermarket would there be any complaints? "The public loved it for 40 years and everyone has a hilarious time. "I think its all absolute rubbish."


Primal comfort of having a real man to do the job

By Caroline Overington

I was as round as a planet when I was pregnant. "Look at you," a neighbour said when she saw me standing on the veranda, feet wide apart. "You're huge." "Yes," I said, "but I am carrying twins." "Are you?" said the neighbour, delighted. "You should go down to No.44. She's expecting twins, too." A few days later, I waddled down there. Another girl, as round as me, opened thedoor. "Twins?" she said. "Twins," I agreed. We bonded over a cup of tea, the saucers balanced on the mountains under our chins.

I asked her: "How does your husband feel about it?" And that's when she confided: in the seven months since she'd become pregnant, they'd broken up. "But how will you cope?" I said. "Oh, it's OK," she said. "I'm with somebody else now. I'm with the builder." My neighbour had fallen in love with the guy who'd come to put on the extension, who had built the rooms for the babies she was carrying.

I was speechless. It was the first time I'd ever heard of anybody: a) cutting and running when pregnant; b) especially with twins; and c) shacking up with the builder. Six years later, there's an epidemic under way. The New York Times last week published a story headlined, "The allure of the tool belt", and it was all about the wives - not necessarily pregnant but very definitely frustrated - who had run off with the guy who came to fix the leaky bathroom taps or replace the kitchen benchtops. The reporter concluded that women liked builders because: a) they can do stuff around the house; and b) their husbands generally can't. "Once a lightbulb broke and the glass part was still in its socket," one woman said. "I didn't know how to get it out and I asked my husband and he said, 'I don't do light bulbs. Go hire somebody."'

Builders also listen to women, perhaps in a way their husbands do not. A carpenter who'd had his share of attention from wives told the Times: "Say you have a woman who's a baker. You're setting up special counter tops. You're going over what's involved in making them." The conversation can swiftly move to what kind of home and home life a woman wants, the nooks and crannies she'd like to create for the sewing machine and the children's homework: in other words, the things that are important to her. The carpenter added that in 75 per cent of projects where he dealt mostly with the wife, he could detect an element of "sexual desperation".

But perhaps it's not quite that. Perhaps it's a simple yearning for an old-fashioned type of guy. A friend in Manhattan - she sent me the story about the wives running off with builders - is married to a locksmith. He has many fine qualities but she particularly likes his heavily laden, cream-coloured toolbelt (which he doesn't always take off at night). Beyond the aesthetics, she says it's a fine thing to have somebody around the house to change the locks and secure the windows.

My husband is a bit like that: he's a guy with a toolshed and a hammer drill. He put up a tree house for the children, he also tore out the old fireplace. When the lights blow out, he knows where to find the fuse box. It is a primal comfort to me. But, if best-selling American writer Caitlin Flanagan is correct (and on the subject of domestic politics she often is), too many modern husbands are too frightened to let out the lion inside - and an epidemic of sexless marriages is the result. "Pity the poor married man hoping to get a bit of comfort from the wife at day's end," she writes in her new book, To Hell With All That. "He must somehow seduce a woman who is economically independent of him, bone-tired, philosophically disinclined to have sex unless she is jolly well in the mood, numbingly familiar with his every sexual manoeuvre and still doing a slow burn over his failure to wipe down the counter tops."

Flanagan says men should be encouraged to be their blokey selves. They should assert themselves in the household, just as builders do on the job site: as confident, responsible and strong, able to lead when life's calamaties roll in, and keep their family sheltered and secure. In case they're no longer sure how to do that, there are groups out there to help them. This weekend, Christian City Church at Oxford Falls in Sydney's north is hosting a "Real Men" conference for thousands of blokes who want to be strong husbands and fathers. Anecdotally, I hear women are sending their menfolk along in the hope of giving them a push towards a more masculine style. Because really, it's a bit tragic that there are all these desperate housewives out there hitting on the builder.

You may think, well, maybe it's just an American thing, bought about by television shows such as Desperate Housewives. But my brother, who is a father of two and a roof tiler in Queensland, says that, through the years, about four in 10 married women have answered the door for him wearing only their underwear. "And what do you do?" I asked. "I run a mile," he said. "All I want is to lay the tiles."


Restroom humour in Australian beach resort incorrect

Toilet humour is alive and well in the Whitsundays but not everyone is laughing. A mural in the men's section of a new toilet block on the Airlie Beach foreshore has divided opinion in the tourist town. The mural depicts four young women above the urinal - an office type peering over her spectacles, a Jennifer Aniston lookalike stretching a tape measure, a blonde taking a photo with her mobile phone and another so bored she's blowing bubbles.

Some residents including the local newspaper editor are up in arms at the cheeky artwork. Airlie Beach local PR consultant, Tom Coull, who with newspaper editor Linda Brady has railed against the images, described them as "cheesy, tacky, not original and definitely sexist" and worried about explaining the images to his young son. Another resident. Lesley Campbell, reckons the murals are "disgusting, unnecessary and extremely suggestive" and gave a negative reflection of the town, even suggesting they encourage rape and sexual assault.

But most see the funny side and reckon it's a great idea. Fish D'Vine restaurant's Kevin Collins said many of his customers commented favourably. "They think it's cute, light-hearted. They haven't been offended at all," he said. "People have taken pictures with a mobile phone and they've been sent around the world in emails. "There can't be too many toilets that give this sort of publicity to a town," Mr Collins said....

Whitsunday Shire Council's corporate and community services executive manager Royden James said public feedback had been overwhelmingly positive, with only one negative response from the community. "If anything, most criticism has been that there is nothing similar in the women's toilets," he said in a statement.

The excerpt above is from an article that appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on July 30, 2006. There is an earlier report on the same subject here

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