What comes to mind when you think of a Big Blonde Bombshell? Diana Dors? Russ Meyer?Jayne Mansfield? Mamie Van Doren? Marilyn Monroe?
This creature is an archetype, slightly old-fashioned, a sex symbol of the cheesecake generation, big hair, big boobs and big hips. She’s a ‘fun loving’ girl that you wouldn’t take home to mama. She’s not known for being either wholesome or intelligent. The original movie “sex symbol.”
What has that got to do with the 19.15 train from Waterloo?
I’m minding my business on the 19.15 from London Waterloo. This commuter service is packed to the rafters from the first stop, so I’m sitting in First Class, after another stress filled, busy day, with more work to do on the train. Sod the expense of the upgrade, I’m depressed, exhausted and just need to sit down.
I notice, among the mainly charcoal suited throng, an elderly man, in full Highland Division uniform, complete with red tartan kilt and enough medals on his chest to set off metal detectors for miles.
He’s accompanied by a banker type, typical ‘Haslemere Hooray”, pale grey suit, slightly greasy, pale grey hair, shiny handmade shoes and a neat black briefcase. He has ‘married but up for it’ all over him like a neon sign. And I know he’ll be married to a Haslemere Harpie, cropped, stripy highlighted hair (or stringy blonde bob), pastel coloured corduroy skirt, loud Boden top (think pink or aqua polka dots), opaque tights (sometimes an incongruous colour) and either twee wellies with flowers on them or sensible ballet pumps. There will be two children with the names of French prostitutes or Victorian English Serving maids. (Meet Mimi and Edna).
I digress, but I have commuted on this line for so long, I have great groups of people categorised with their lifestyles and families fully imagined. Some of the regulars have names and great swathes of them are dismissed as an amorphous tribe, due to their boring similarities. Amazing what you do when you’re bored.
The Wankers of Woking are earnest, bespectacled, junior management, with cheap suits, dirty shoes and rucksacks and PC’s which they use to bludgeon themselves out a space in crowded carriages. Too poorly paid to live in London and desperately suburban and unimaginative, they choose satellite towns like Croydon and Woking and live in tiny new build flats with a balcony and a miserable partner who works in the local building society. They are invariably rude and uncouth.
The Gits of Guildford, however, are a little further up the food chain, but not quite enough, they aspire to be further down the line in a smart London suburb or further up the line in stockbroker country, but they are stuck in the middle. On the unprepossessing outskirts of Guildford or Basingstoke.
They’ve upgraded from the steel-rimmed spectacles of Woking Wanker, to Specsavers’ “designer range” (designer is a very loose term in this case, it means a job lot made cheaply in the Far East, stamped with a mainstream fashion brand’s naff logo) they are invariably heavy rimmed, angular and black. They would make anyone extraordinarily ugly. You know the type.
The Guildford Git is worse than the Woking Wanker, because he’s further along in his IT (sorry, “digital”) career and just hasn’t made it. Worse still, he married the miserable bitch from the building society, she’s popped out a couple of kids, to his alarm, and has mortgaged them both up to their necks in a modern house with a conservatory in the outer reaches of the town, nowhere near anything useful.
She has also stopped working, insists on having a nanny for the children and he has no idea what she does all day, except make serious dents in their joint bank account. She spends so much, one would expect her to have a crack habit, but she’s neither that imaginative nor interesting. Her idea of female emancipation is to bleed a man dry, one of the lower life forms of the genus “Parasite Wife”.
Understandably, the Guildford Git is a bitter man. He exacts his revenge on the world by being vile to work with, pushes and shoves other passengers and tries to display what’s left of his manhood by sitting open legged, putting his rucksack/sports bag/carrier bag combo across as many seats as possible and makes a pathetic grab for territory.
He scowls at anyone with the temerity to ask him to remove his belongings and exacts revenge by playing mobile games or dreadful music through his cheap headphones, so that the whole carriage must endure it. He’s in his forties and should know better, but he clings to this last shred of defiance, like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood.
I hate them all.
Back to the Bombshell story…
It appears that our Highland Veteran is a little worse for wear, “pished” as he might say, as he lurches into First Class with the Haslemere Hooray.
He stops mid carriage and announces in a loud and resonant Scottish brogue:
“I want to sit next to the Big, Blonde, Bombshell!”
The entire carriage is silent, moribund captains of industry raise their somnolent, jowly, heads and there is a sudden air of interest.
I take my eyes off my book and peek out into the gangway to see who this “bombshell” might be. I’ve never seen one on this train before (Hampshire has a dearth of bombshells) and like my fellow passengers am keen for a break in the usual cast of characters.
The Scot starts up again, more insistent and louder:
“I want tae sit next to tha Blonde Bumshell”
(that’s how he says it, I think Bumshell is possibly a better descriptor)
The commuters do that unheard of thing, we make eye contact (!) *and there’s a low murmur and much rustling of The Telegraph and “highly confidential” business documents, as everyone leans forward to take a look at the, now weaving unsteadily, elderly, Scot.
I catch the Scot’s rheumy, spirit ridden eyes and a horrible realisation finally dawns.
Holy Fuck, he means ME!
Everyone is now staring as the inebriated veteran slides into the seat facing me, looking like all his Christmasses have arrived, accompanied by the oily Haslemere man, who plumps his bloated frame in next to me, his hot thigh pressing against mine.
A Big, Blonde, Bombshell!
I thought I’d heard it all. My hideous embarrassment is heightened by Scotty introducing himself and kissing my hand and Oily Haslemere leering into my left ear. I’m effectively trapped and know that my fellow commuters have a whole load of new ideas about me, which I’d rather not think too much about.
The rest of the journey went painfully slowly, with Scotty reminiscing about his military career, between trying to chat me up in a style that may have turned a naïve girl’s head back in the 1930′s, while oily made every polite response I made into a sexual double entendre. The rest of the passengers watched the show, with visible enjoyment.
I got off a stop early to get away from all of those eyes and felt like an older, plumper version of Marilyn in that iconic train platform shot in Some Like it Hot when she is compared to “jello on springs”.
It’s like I have travelled back in time, when a ‘decent’ woman wouldn’t travel without a chaperone and ideally I would be making a cocktail for my husband’s return home, before dinner.
The years of female emancipation had fallen away, my studies, my career, any achievement I had ever made.
I was an object, finally, a Big, Blonde, Bombshell.
A cartoon character designed for male fantasy.
I was no longer a woman.
I was an object, prey, scurrying away out of the spotlight, out of the sight of leering eyes.
* Eye Contact. An invisible rule in First Class on British trains (and all other forms of transport), thou shalt not look another passenger in the eye unless:
a) there is a terrorist attack
b) someone commits suicide
c) any other Armageddon type situation
- Rush Hour-Crush goes in search of charity worker who caught blonde bombshell’s eye (metro.co.uk)
- Blonde bombshell Jean Harlow back on DVD (miamiherald.typepad.com)