The White Witch

Summer 1979

WITH sunshine levels at least theoretically on the up, visiting season was once again upon us. What little joint social life my parents still had continued to revolve around dragging my brother and I to relatives, what few married friends they had, or to pubs. If they could visit friends and drink, then so much the better. For my father at least. He was most comfortable letting his belly rumble (his own expression) over a few whiskies, permeated by Mum’s failed attempts to take part in the conversation until she eventually gave up.

Dismissing, or patronising my mother every time she tried to add her tuppence worth was becoming increasingly common. Or maybe I was just more aware of it. She was by no means the only one to bear the brunt. Everywhere I went, every social interaction I observed, it seemed that even when a woman had something important or valuable to say, the men didn’t want to hear it. They knew better, even when it was patently obvious to anyone with half a brain that this was not always the case. For all my parents’ preoccupation with me being potential doctor material, what was the point of a woman being ‘clever’ if she was expected to keep her mouth shut all the time?

So my suspicions were confirmed. Men really were just bullies. I knew they weren’t born that way; it was just that – for some reason I hadn’t as yet fathomed – they were more easily corrupted.

* * * * *

AS IF she wasn’t long-suffering enough, my mother felt obliged to creep to the washing line on a Sunday with one eye over her shoulder for fear of being admonished by our Free Presbyterian neighbours in the Manse across the road. And she was doing plenty of it, for we were now running a bed and breakfast.

To make way for potential guests, all four of us shared a freezing eyesore of a second-hand caravan alongside the garden shed. The living room was for the sole use of the guests, unless they deigned to allow us back into the house, which they usually felt compelled to do. The dining room was no loss, since we only used it at Christmas anyway.

Mildew and a lack of decent storage ensured that the initial novelty of sleeping in a caravan soon wore off. The two single beds were hard and narrow, our only bedding pillows and nylon sleeping bags.

* * * * *

ON THE bright side, though, Britain now had a new prime minister. After all the political and economic bitterness of last winter and a bellyful of seeing grown men act like monsters or children, change was afoot. With a woman at the wheel, abuse of power and sex discrimination would soon be a thing of the past. Society at large would become more considerate; equality would reign at last. Wouldn’t it?

* * * * *

I WATCHED those first few months of Thatcher’s premiership with baited breath. I hoped and I waited. And I waited. And I waited … while things went from bad to worse …

Until the moment of final dawning that the Great Liberation was never going to come, it had seemed pretty clear to me that female villains only existed in fairy tales. I mean, my teacher was hardly Mary Poppins but she wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West either. On reflection, it looked like I might have made a serious mistake in assuming that only men were capable of doing ‘bad’ things. This good and evil mullarkey was getting soooo complicated.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2021

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