A Public Tongue Goes to Work

So, I say, Beatrice is a feisty girl, what happens to her?

I apologise if Shakespeare keeps popping up, I know some people are allergic, but he’s largely my bread and butter. Well, perhaps it’s mostly the adults he brings out in a rash. Not so much my younger students, who have recently been inoculated against him at school.

They smile at me indulgently, looking up occasionally from their iphones to humour me.

She gets married, Sophie says charitably ( names have been changed, of course, to protect the indifferent). Her mouth is stopped with a kiss. Sophie beams, she has been learning her quotes.

Exactly! I say. I am walking up and down now, trying to wake the room from its comatose state. They are not at their best in the morning, having only very recently crawled out of bed. Or in the afternoon, when they have just eaten. I suspect I never catch them at their best, as at that hour I am sleeping soundly. Or lying awake fretting about my marking mountain.

So, what does that tell us about women’s lives?

Not good? Jack – our One Boy -offers, hoping this is enough to keep me happy.

The girls look on kindly. Don’t worry Mrs W. they say. Like, who gets married now anyway? That Shakespeare stuff, it was all ages ago, wasn’t it? Our conversations largely take place through telepathy.

One or two look sternly at Lois who recently announced she couldn’t be a feminist because she likes to wear make- up. ( Reader, I wept. But I am a woman of my time, the tears were virtual.) Zip it, they warn her. Mrs W’s W stands for wasp. She can be a stinger if you goad her.

Ages ago? I wave my arm in the direction of our Moodle board cataloguing hair-raising, blood-chilling, toe-curling horror stories about women in our world. Really, I ask, have women’s lives got better?

Jack is looking a little uncomfortable. No, no, no, no, NO! he is thinking. Do NOT let her start on FGM again. I had a bacon butty before I came in here.

One Boy moves to deflect me. Didn’t we have a woman Prime Minister once? he says. He’s attempting to be topical, I’ll give him that. But then again my dad says she was a right witch. Total disaster.

Oh Maggie, who art in the great Cabinet in the sky, look down on thy legacy, and weep.

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