Friday, 23 September 2011

The Paper Mill (Apsley) to The Fishery Inn (Hemel Hempstead) and back

In which a friend and I walk along the Grand Union Canal and discuss being chatted up, which in turn leads me to think about MILFs and Yummy Mummies.

Ordnance Survey Number: Explorer 182
Distance: 3.5 miles approx
Time: 75 minutes ish

 I met up with a friend from University whose son is 5 months older than my chap. We'd started out with the grand plan to walk from Apsley to Berkhamsted, but instead reevaluated our plans as she had to be back in her house by one o'clock to meet the man from Virgin who was coming to mend their internet after her husband tried to 'improve the connection'.

The Paper Mill pub (Fullers)
Our walk began at The Paper Mill pub, which is very prettily situated next to the Grand Union Canal and a swirly whirly white metal bridge that takes you from one side of the canal to the other.
Paper mills are apparently The Thing that Apsley is famous for - the pub is next to the site of one of John Dickinson's mills, bought in 1809 after patenting a new type of paper-making. Should paper really excite you, you can even enjoy the local Frogmore Mill as part of the Papertrail project. Go knock yourself out.

From the pub car park, cross the swirly bridge (153B) and turn left, passing on the opposite side of the canal to the pub. While we were on the subject of pubs, my friend had gone out with some people from work last Friday, and had been accosted by some roustabout in a velvet blazer who had greeted her with the opening gambit of 'I saw you come in... you're a lot more fun that you look'. She, of course, had taken it to mean that her outfit had been somewhat dour and that she must 'update her look' forthwith. I rather feel he was a forward little minx and no better than he ought to be.

There is a good, wide tow-path next to this stretch of the canal, and you can comfortably fit two walkers next to each other. It's also flat enough to take a pram, so non-baby-wearers can enjoy this walk too. As it's a tow-path, you are entirely map-reading free, leaving you at liberty to march onwards and put the world to rights.

This cad in the velvet blazer, you see - I think he's got a good line, there. It's all about social distancing; we can only be rude to people you know really well. So, just as an Australian butcher used the advertising slogan 'Eat Beef, You Bastards' as a way to immediately cut the social distance because the rudeness implies everyone is his mate, so 'You're a lot more fun than you look' is an effective line. On one side, it breaks the ice by being an insulting comment, and on the other it subconciously encourages his target to prove that she is, indeed, good fun. I suspect he has a lot of success with this line, the cheeky little whippersnapper. On the plus side, this argument also convinced my friend that she did not need to go out and buy and entire new wardrobe, so that was also an advantage.
View from the bridge - no trolls in evidence.
In due course you may walk though the delicious smell of coffee emanating from the factory on the bank, and then will need to cross the 153A white brick humpty backty bridge (upon which someone has sprayed the warning Beware Of Trolls -we were, mercifully, quite unscathed). This bridge is small but has quite a vicious gradient to it, so avoid this walk if it's icy.

You now continue along the left hand side of the tow path - we did so while having the sort of frank conversation that women who have known each other for more than a decade and have recently had babies can enjoy - the sort of chat that encouraged a middle aged men who passed by to look back with a slightly shocked expression.

Anyway, this ne'erdowell and his velvet blazer got me thinking as to the percieved attractiveness of mothers, and led me on to ponder the labels of the MILF and the Yummy Mummy.

I first alighted upon the idea of the MILF (Mum I'd Like to, ahem, get-to-know-really-rather-better) from the film American Pie . It may have been an acronym that was around before, but that's where I first met it. Culturally, some of our very worst swearwords and insults are to do with having sexual relations with someone's mother. Yet in those swearwords, it's never actually considered how the mother is involved in the act. I always understood 'Mother-um-dabbler' to mean a violation of somebodies mother, which I think is one of those activities that is universally considered to be Not Cricket. To sit in a pub and to go "Hurr hurr, wouldn't mind a go on your wife." is, in some circles, socially acceptable, whereas to turn to your mate and chortle "Hurr hurr, wouldn't mind a go on your mum." is more liable to lead you to the nearest Accident & Emergency. Is it just a generation gap? Is MILFing only a concept that has a little frisson because you're after someone who is old enough to be your mum? The whole concept seems a little offensive to me because of the passivity of the position in which it renders the woman - she is inactive, to be looked at, to be 'enjoyed', but the concept of the MILF does not present a real woman with real thoughts and passions. She seems to be little more than a blow-up doll... Very few women of my acquaintance would be happy to hear themselves be described as a MILF.
The canal also takes you along the side of the Moor of Boxmoor - there are a number of walks on this, some of which I may have to investigate at a later date. Such pretty views are unlikely to distract me from a full-on autorant, as anyone who has found me in a pub and foolishly mentioned subjects such as wedding dresses, pubic hair or the state of the nation's antenatal classes (to name but a few topics..) will have discovered.

So, MILF is perceived as pretty derogatory. Yummy Mummy, however - apparantly that's something we should all be aspiring to. It's a label you can cheerfully get stuck onto changing bags, tshirtscookbooks, even - bizarrely -  nail varnishes; I could go on, but I'd become so depressed with my googlings I had to step away from the computer. The first person I heard referred to as a Yummy Mummy was Jools Oliver, wife of TV chef Jamie. For some reason, I've remembered that, because I was probably in my early twenties and mildly taken aback by it. It's a continuation of the 'women as consumable' line - sweetie, cupcake, honey, honey-bun, pumpkin, sugar, cutie-pie, dumpling, peach, Cheesy Wotsit. All of them - well, apart from the Cheesy Wotsit, which I'm pleased to announce I have never been called - depict the woman as some sort of foodstuff to be gobbled greedily - Yummy Mummy doesn't seem to be any better.

Unlike some sections of the Grand Union canal, the Apsley-Hemel section is not down in a cutting, so every now and again the hedge next to you breaks to present some pretty little views, such as this. The pastoral idyll is somewhat marred if you look a little to the left to see a large petrol station, but looking this way is really very pretty.

So what's the difference between a MILF and a Yummy Mummy? Urban Dictionary states that the difference between the MILF and the Yummy Mummy is age -  'yummy mummys [sic] are younger than 30, while MILFs are older than 30'. Ah, so it's women being judged not only on their sexual attractiveness (again), but also their age? Marvellous. I'd also add my own addendum to this definition - as far as I an see, a MILF appears to be sluttier, more sexually available than a Yummy Mummy, who is more likely to be found driving a Chelsea Tractor. The mere presence of the F in MILF clearly indicates the speaker's intentions, rather than the more subtle implication of 'eating' the Yummy Mummy. Semantically, however, the intent is the same.

So, in short, no, I don't want to be a Yummy Mummy. I don't want it on a Tshirt or change bag, not in my house, not on a mouse, I do not like it here or there, I do not like it any more than I like the concept of MILF.

All this ranting means that you should have, by now, reached bridge 149 and the Fishery Inn, and very nice it is too. Had my friend not had to be back for her audience with Mr Virgin I fear we may have fallen to the siren call of lunch there. If you just fancy a short walk, you can give up here and divert off the canal to the nearby Hemel Hempstead station and get the train back to Apsley, but for the full 3.5 mile walk you need to turn round and go back the way you came. It's pretty enough to merit a return walk, and you can continue to set the world to rights and startle middle aged men on your way.

Things I Learnt

  • Apsley is the birthplace of the industrialisation of paper making. Will file it away until the appropriate episode of QI...
  • As a culture, it seems that it's fine to find someone's wife attractive, but once she has given birth you appear to be veering towards, um, 'Specialist Tastes'. Need to give this more thought to see if it's an argument that stands up.
  • I sort of wish that Cheesy Wotsit really was a term of endearment. At the same time, I'm glad it's not.

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