Deborah Ross: Our Woman in Crouch End

If you are a first-time homeowner on a budget, see if anyone has any unwanted older women
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The Independent Online

Where, asked the newspapers at the weekend, during all the furore over Sharon Stone - my God, she's 48 and still alive! - is the best place for women over 40? I think they meant Britain or America, but there are much, much better places for women over 40 who would otherwise be cluttering up the place and generally getting on everyone's nerves on the occasions they are noticed, which is rarely. Here are a few ideas:


Older women can often be used to good effect around the home. An older woman, for example, can make an excellent floor lamp, although will obviously have to be nailed down. This is usually a two-person job: one to hold, one to nail. However, if she is approaching crunch time in the egg department, she will not only glow nicely in a very energy efficient way but will also give off enough heat to dry your socks on. Be warned, though: her temperature can zoom up and down quite unexpectedly. But if you wish she had a thermostat, how do you think she feels?

As for an older woman with a hump, do not use as a floor lamp because she can be put to better use as a bedside table. Two older women with humps can make a lovely pair of bedside tables. (See this month's Elle Decoration for a beautiful example, photographed in a house they say real people live in, but I don't know.)

If you are a first-time homeowner on a budget, it's worth asking around to see if any friends or family have any unwanted older women knocking about. Ask them to check their attics and cellars and sheds and all the other places it is possible to abandon an older woman who, in an ideal world, would have disappeared quietly of her own accord, so allowing everyone else to get on with it. Generally, the renovation of older women is tricky, and possibly best left to the experts, but if you promise miraculous results by some absurd cream made from baby badger lard mixed, three to one, with parrot beak shavings collected only during a full moon, she will give you lots and lots and lots of money, no further questions asked, just hand it over.

Older women do not, by the way, like to be rag-rolled or stencilled. One thing you should know about women over 40 is that they remember the Eighties and can clearly recall how awful it all was the first time round.

Women over 40 can work well as antimacassars except on those occasions when they are cross because they've just looked in the mirror, seen the future, and gasped: "I've just seen the future and it's my mother!" On these occasions, a woman over 40 does not work well as an antimacassar as she may bite. You'll notice her then, and no mistake.

Lastly, always check, before sitting down, that the antimacassar isn't Esther Rantzen, because then you've had it, basically. You can thrash and thrash but you'll never throw her off. Better people than you have tried.


Women over 40 can be put to many uses outside: benches; bird-tables; patios; goal-posts; trellises; water-features; hammocks; but not pebble-dashing, as it looks silly. In fact, I know someone who pebble-dashed their entire house in Anne Diamond and it looked very silly indeed.

Older women do make an excellent mulch but, if there is any fight left in them, they may resist being composted or shredded. Do not attempt to force them into the compost bin/shredder if they have just applied one of their absurd creams, especially if it's more parts baby badger lard than parrots' beaks, as they'll be greasy as hell and shoot though your hands, whoosh, and over the fence and now look what you've done. You've landed your neighbour with a woman over 40. Great. What's he now meant to do with her?

Also, do not attempt to grab her by the waistband of whatever she happens to be wearing, as it is likely to be elasticised, and you may well be catapulted over the fence. In short, it is best to wait it out until she has no fight left, which is only a matter of time, and she can then be composted or shredded without any problems. Dig the resultant mulch into your borders now and they'll come up lovely in July. I dug some Pauline Quirke into my own borders last year and you've never seen such a display.


The meat of women over 40 is not much in demand, even though the Prince of Wales is a fan and would like to see it back on our dining tables. However, the bones can be used for stocks and soups. Boil for three to four hours with bay leaf, onion, black peppercorns and a couple of carrots. Strain, leave overnight, skim off fat, then add parsley and some finely shredded Sue Lawley and, voilà, there you have it. (If you have no Sue Lawley in the cupboard, you can use Vanessa Feltz, but you do not need as much. A little goes a long way.)


Older women have been successfully recycled as trams, trains and even cars. Indeed, I've got a friend who drives around in a Vauxhall Corsa made from Anneka Rice and apparently it is a very fine little car, perfectly satisfactory in every way. People often wonder about what happened to Anneka Rice, and now you know. However, people don't wonder about older men because they are allowed to go on and on and on and on without remark or being marvelled at by Parkinson. "Sharon Stone. Still alive! At 48!"

This is a shame as I wouldn't mind someone carting Jeremy Clarkson away, say, and turning him into cheese. I'm guessing the cheese wouldn't taste that great, but it would be nice to know that he's in there all the same. (I should just say that the bendy bus made from Gloria Hunniford has not, thus far, proved a great success.)