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The Warp

Beauty race

Those were the days before feminism and the sisterhood, when women were still perceived as competing with each other for the favours of men. An institution called ‘the inches war’ was said to be raging in our midst, in which women tortured themselves and vied with each other to achieve slimmer waists or plumper busts.

I wrote a prose poem called The Beauty Race about this phenomenon. It was based on an actual event, organised and photographed by a magazine.

The Beauty Race

Three attractive girls have been selected to cover a tricky course. Points will be given not only for speed but also for pin-up appearance and general sex appeal.

And there will be no full-scale stops for freshening up.

It’s 10 a.m. Here is your programme for the day’s events.

Sidling up to the starting post now comes Bev. She’s wearing a red and yellow jazzy blazer, teamed with sporty low-heeled shoes.

Carol is our second contestant. As she trips up to the post she’s wearing a white wool sweater and little-heeled white shoes.

What a picture!

But will white keep its pristine looks?

Zandra, our third girl, looks a little harrassed, although attractive, as she arrives.

She’s wearing a slim dress in lined terylene and cool, strappy sandals with high heels.

A useful filly.

However, she’s made one mistake. Her handbag, which has wide horizontal stripes, looks rather heavy.

And indeed it is.

It contains a creased up poplin mac; big hair-spray; false hair-piece; three Bath buns; cosmetic bag crammed with make-up.

Zandra has made a mistake here for this is not meant to be a handicap race.

Well, there’s the line-up, a strong line-up, and as for the winner, well, that could be anyone’s guess, but I would say that Bev is the favourite by a short lead, certainly that’s the message I’ve just received from Randy O’Toole from the paddock.

And now possibly you may just be able to hear the clatter and clump of strappy cool sandals and clippety-clop of little-heeled shoes as they’re under starters orders now, a little trouble for Zandra, Carol holding back a little.


And now at the first secret checkpoint our own on-the-spot commentator is waiting to give you the positions of these three lovely girls.

All have been running well incidentally, and as well as basic point to point and sprinting, this race will also involve a shopping spree, dancing, a visit to a bowling alley, and lunching.

Someone is approaching now. Who is it? Ah, it is Bev.

Bev doesn’t know that we’re hiding at the secret checkpoint and, uh uh! We spot a shoulder strap on display.

Should have been anchored inside dress with a sewn-on tape and press-studs, or safety pin. Lose a mark, Bev.

Carol now comes into view, running well. Wise Carol has coped with the breeze by tying her hair in a bright pink headscarf.

Whoops! Oh dear, a setback! Stocking suspender goes west! She should have checked it before setting out. Lose a mark, Carol.

Zandra has caught her foot in a drain. Quick Zandra, pull it out! But Zandra too has lost a point.

Now the pace quickens, and Bev is really beginning to show her mettle. Stockings splashed from an unexpected puddle, she whisks off marks with a quickie pad. Bonus mark, Bev! This just about wipes out your previous minus mark!

Setback for Carol. Passing a shop, she catches sight of a big glass jar filled with coloured wool balls. Oh no, it can’t be! The silly filly is going to buy it. She’s bought it! How she’s handicapped herself. Not only with the glass jar but also with the loss of four marks, not to speak of the coloured wool balls. Which parcel goes where? There! Now she’s dropped one! On the toe of her little heeled shoe! Lose yet one more mark, Carol!

And where is Zandra? Oh dear, Zandra is nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile Bev, lunching with Peter, her trainer, chooses a sustaining meal, but not too heavy – an omelette, spinach, no chips. A glass of iced milk. Two bonus marks for Bev.

Carol does badly over lunching. She starts all right – orders a mixed grill, gives her chips to Tom. But then, when his back’s turned, she seizes a meringue ... and cream ... and two minus marks for Carol.

And oh, there’s Zandra! All along she was lunching with David. She’s picked ham and salad, a hunk of cheese and an apple. Nearly a bonus mark here, when suddenly – oh, she’s trying out her new lipstick in front of her escort, and so publicly! Lose a mark, Zandra.

And now there’s quite a crowd gathered round the finishing post, now the girls are beginning to come into the straight for their final stint, bracing themselves for that final sprint out of the long drab reaches of the afternoon and into the lush pastures of the evening, and it’s a wide field now.

The three girls are stretched out, the leading girl will be coming into view any moment now. Who is it? ... Well, of course, it’s Bev coming into the straight now ...

Number two, ah, there’s number two coming into sight. Now who is this? She seems to be carrying a glass jar filled with cotton wool balls, yes it must be Carol!

And now gamely running in third place is Zandra! Zandra is in some trouble I think, she’s swept her flopping hair into a French pleat, but it’s already coming down!

Over now to our special reporter Jock Strap on the straight.

Yes, well, Bev is going very well now, she’s stripped off jacket and top, whisked off make-up with a couple of quickie pads. A wash for face and hands, then on with her make-up ... finished with a blush of powder for quick glow.

And now going well is the second of our lovely contestants, this must be Carol. Carol whisks off her silk blouse, bra off too, she freshens and tones with splashes of cold water. She also uses another quickie to remove those dirty marks from her skirt.

And now I’m scouring the field with powerful binoculars for Zandra. Ah, there she is! Zandra is running badly. Oh dear, she’s not doing well at all. Poor Zandra. Those cool strappy sandals with high heels are holding her up. Poor Zandra.

And now by the winning post their trainers Michael, Brian and Jeremy, are waiting, stop-watches in their hands. The post is growing nearer. Can I hear the sound of triumphal music? Can it be a wedding march? Fifty feet! Forty feet!

And now the sporty low-heeled shoes carry Bev past the winning post! Bev’s the winner!

And what a popular winner! There comes round after round of applause.

In second place! With the flap flap of little heeled white shoes and the bounce bounce bounce of cotton wool balls! Carol is second past the post!

And now, a sporting last, comes Zandra. Zandra carries a rather heavy handbag with wide horizontal stripes. It contains a creased up poplin mac, big hair spray, false hair piece, three Bath buns. And it’s crammed with a whole spectrum of products from the Childe Bride and Dreamgale range of make-up. She must have been quite unable to resist that boutique along the way. Poor Zandra. And those strappy sandals have certainly let her down as well.

These girls look so tired.

I reckon they’re all just about ready for sleepy bye-byes so let’s hope their trainers will soon have them all safely tucked up in bed.


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