Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Cover

will look like this:

The Fifties Mystique
Jessica Mann
Pub Date: March 2012
ISBN: 978 0 7043 7255 9
PB • 196pp • 216x138mm • £12

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Bubblewrap Kids

Now that the Sunday Times has a pay-wall I can't direct you to an article in today's edition - but do want to mention a piece by Eleanor Mills called “ Just be glad, my little angels, you’re bubble wrap kids."

It's about what she calls last week's Internet and tabloid sensation -which passed me completely by – a “rose tinted eulogy" about the joys of an old-fashioned childhood in the 1950s. Since growing up in the 1950s is precisely the subject of my new book (The Fifties Mystique to be published by Quartet on 26th April) I'm fascinated to discover that the organisation sending out these inaccurate eulogies was the BNP!

Growing up in the 1950s seemed fine at the time and most of us were perfectly happy doing so  - but only because we didn't know any better. Who could now possibly wish to return to that era?  Wrong about this as about everything else, the BNP can't bear to think that (to use Eleanor Mills’ words) we are all in a much better place. But we are.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Fair shares

Did everybody else already know that unemployed people are being sent to work for free in supermarkets and high Street shops? It may be good work experience for some of them,  but it's an even better deal for their - I was about to write  employers. Beneficiaries would probably be a better word. Why on earth should profit-making commercial organisations be enabled to stop paying wages because their  workers are being paid by the DSS – ie, my taxes and yours?
And at a time of high unemployment why do we treat work  as either all or nothing? Isn't it ridiculous that the  employed workforce has to do  long hours every day of the week while the unemployed have nothing to do at all? Wouldn't it be more sensible for part-time work and job sharing to become the norm? Fair shares for all!

Taking my own advice

I recently  took my own advice.
Having sent an article on spec to Standpoint magazine,  which rejected it, I made myself boldly offer another. It  was accepted and appears this month.
Meanwhile, with (believe me!) uncharacteristic bravado, I posted off the first piece to The Oldie, which asked me to cut it to half the length, and printed it as the monthly “rant.”
The Standpoint article  is on a subject we have been discussing here, ie the male-female imbalance  in print. I suggest that women writers or women who aspire to anything else, shouldn’t treat rejection as a permanent state, and mustn’t let themselves be discouraged. .
Question: Why?
Answer: see above.

Friday, 10 February 2012


Lots of discussion about how to solve the problem of having too few women on the boards of public companies. Should there be a quota system, as there is in Norway? It would be difficult to enforce at present since nominations for board members are largely made through “ headhunters” - which means, companies specialising in Executive  Search. And the places  such companies search in are  similar big public companies, using the principle that new  recruits to boards should be at home in the world of big business. I rather think that may explain  what has gone so wrong with British industry, banking, and public life. Having spent much of my other – non-writing - working life in as a “lay member” of boards and committees, most of them quangos, I was in every case an   outsider, and to start with at least an ignorant one. And that was what made me useful to them, because I asked the questions which professionals either didn't think of or didn't feel able to pose. One chairman said that I and my questions were the grit in the oyster; irritating, unwelcome, but likely to develop into a pearl. For those simple questions – why are we doing it this way, what’s it for, how will it help, what does this mean? – often proved very hard to answer. And if you can't satisfactorily explain why you're doing something, then you shouldn't be doing it.

I can't help feeling that appointing outsiders to the boards  of banks or  public enterprises would mean that unanswerable questions are asked,  about bonuses and salaries,  early enough  in the process to make people think again. And where better to look for outsiders than amongst the women?

Friday, 3 February 2012


Isn’t it fascinating how bandwagons roll and balloons expand – and haven’t we all seen, only too many times, how ineffective they are, and  how temporary the effects?

Just now our familiar complaint, see above, of Not Enough Women, has expanded into Not Enough OLD Women. Actually at least as far as acting is concerned I don't think it's justified.  The Dames are drafted into almost every drama; we often see Judy Dench, Helen Mirren,  Maggie Smith and many,  many of their contemporaries on the screen. It's true that there are fewer older women in other programmes.  But the fact is that in the generation now in its 60s or older, there actually is a small proportion of women that made it to the top or near to the top of industry or politics or academia. Those who became used to being the token woman might like the chance to appear as the token old woman; at least those who are without a shred of vanity. Anyone else perhaps hesitates to display her  wrinkles on Question Time. It would be interesting to know how many women of the older generation are invited to make such public appearances and say no.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Publication date

Quartet Books have now decided  the publication date for The Fifties Mystique. It comes out on  Thursday 26 April (coincidentally, my husband's birthday.) I can't decide if I'm more excited or nervous, because nothing I have written before has been quite so provocative. I hope there will be discussions and arguments - but  not  fights and quarrels. Not, at any rate, with me!