The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

String, sewage and the meaning of Ms

The lady from ChemDry got off to a bad start.

‘Is that Mrs Bell?’

‘Ms Bell, actually.’ (said in a smily way, honest)

‘Sorry, Miss Bell.’

‘Ms Bell actually’ (said in a slightly less smily way).

‘Sorry M… er… How do you spell your surname?’ (I get this a lot, weirdly).


It wasn’t her fault I was grumpy. I’ve been waiting more than a year for some work to be done on my former home in Stratford, which filled with water and sewage during last year’s floods, tempests and plagues of frogs. At last something is happening, though I’m not sure what…. For the record, Ms is just the female equivalent of Mr. It can be used by a married or unmarried woman and means, ‘you don’t really need to know whether I’m married or not.’ Because you don’t, do you?


He can do it with his eyes closed...

He can do it with his eyes closed...


Sound man Rob (above) recorded my podcast, including a poem from last week’s re-wedding. I also showed up virtually on Radio Wildfire, and in person at Poems and Pints in Cheshire. In National Poetry Day circles our guest poet is arranging flights, our new fundraiser is thinking great thoughts about money, steering committee members are getting ready for a meeting next week and I’ve written an article for Poetry News. The nice people at Amazon are thinking about how to help, and groovy e-cards are being designed – watch this space. And don’t forget the humumenting competition is still open – make your entries via ‘comments’ above.


Artist chum Kate Genever opened an exhibition at the Old House Museum in Bakewell this week. With collaborators Steve Pool and Caroline Knaggs, she hid objects and artworks around the place: a ball of string here, a drawing there. These little museums of Britain – the droopy, the quaint, the under-funded and not-too-polished – preserve a sort of village antiquarianism. Perhaps it’s not best conservation practice, but it’s full of love and a proper value for the things that give a place its meaning. You get a sense of local distinctiveness far stronger than a ‘better’ museum can give. Knowing a place well, with all its quirks and local dishes and dialect words, is essential to our identity and to feeling at home. Have a look at Common Ground, a fantastic organisation who already know this. I can’t believe I haven’t told you about them before…


The week ended with a gathering of friends of Arthur Gardner; dear chum, great Aga-toast-maker, poet and Motor Neurone Disease victim. Arthur’s wife Julie – ‘not quite a merry widow yet’, she says unsurprisingly – joined us. Without Arthur, there wasn’t quite the same pressure to produce magnificent edibles – he set a very high standard – and of course it was raining so our picnic happened on the boat (below). We read poetry, had a little think and generally enjoyed being alive and being together. Go thou and do likewise.

Missing absent friends...

Missing absent friends...



2 comments on “String, sewage and the meaning of Ms

  1. Pauline Rowe
    August 19, 2008

    I like to know if people have partners because coupledom has its own tyrannies – and it’s good to be prepared in advance if this might be a possibility – although I would never question anyone using Ms. But am I colluding in the oppression of the Ms-es by using Mrs?

  2. jobellonline
    August 20, 2008

    Aha. Yes, I hadn’t thought of that. It’s not a feeling of oppression, just bloody irritation when people look at you as if to say, ‘Oh I see, you’re one of those AWKWARD women….’ Was at the Dead Good Poets do in Sandiway last night – awfully good!

Comments are closed.


This entry was posted on August 11, 2008 by in Writing exercises.
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