We’re pleased to publish this post from Jasmine Wheelhouse, a talented young writer and recent graduate from St Andrew’s University.
“Good day, young man…”
…he said, as he tipped his hat to me before continuing on his way, slightly raising his voice to be sure I could hear. I lifted my hand in response and he sauntered away, briefly pausing to look in the windows of the pub and café just across the road – the village hubs of activity. Pace, it appears, is no issue here, nor I can imagine it is much of an issue in many of the villages of the Lake District: London’s antithesis. As someone who regularly travels to the capital for work, I was momentarily mesmerised by his pace. I watched him slowly disappear into the nothingness of the fields beyond: where was he going?
I was standing in the top floor window of the house my parents had just bought, masquerading as a builder. I must point out now that I am not a ‘young man’ as I was so innocently accused. I am young – twenty-five years young, in fact – but a woman, who just happened to look particularly like a boy in my hi-vis vest and beanie hat as I leaned precariously out of a house adorned by scaffolding. Gender stereotypes would suggest I was a young man, and yet there I was, a woman fitting a window.
You’re probably wondering what I was doing fitting a window, but then you’ll also be wondering what on earth I was doing when I ripped the hall ceiling out, sandblasted the walls, or dug out the ground floor footings. The clothes I wore and the tools I held do not tell a story; nor do they tell a truth; they simply cemented a stereotype.
That particular day I had traded in my desk, my laptop and my suit for a window, a pair of gloves and some expanding foam. At the very moment I removed the entire window from its too-small frame, I saw him. He wore tweed a tie and a flat hat; a dog walked to heel. The perfect country gentleman. A stereotype.
We looked upon one another and constructed a life. A story. An assumption. Will either one correct the other?