The Thing Is with Steve Canavan - February 4, 2016

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Mrs Canavan has been on a hen do, and I’m sorry to inform you that something I don’t approve of happened during it.

Along with the bride-to-be and several friends, she spent the weekend in Edinburgh. This isn’t the part I disapprove of – Edinburgh’s a fine place, and nowhere else serves better battered Mars Bars – it is what they did while there that disturbs me.

On the Saturday afternoon they went to an art studio where their task was to do a painting of – brace yourselves – a naked man.

As Mrs C tells it, a chap wearing only a towel entered the room, strode to a little platform in the centre, and then, without so much as a by-your-leave, whipped it off.

Then he simply stood there, letting it all hang out.

Now I’m no prude, but how disgusting to objectify males like that. We would never do that to a woman, not unless she was really hot.

As we were preparing tea, I couldn’t help but dig for details and so asked Mrs Canavan – who is, lest we forget, my wife of two months – what this fella looked like. “Was he elderly?” I enquired, hopefully.

“No, not at all,” she said, brightly. “He was in his 20s I’d guess, and you could see he worked out – he was incredibly chiselled.”

Then she paused for a moment – during which, I noticed, she keenly peeled the carrot she was holding – before adding with a faraway look on her face, “Yes, he was a good looking man.”

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t the answer I’d been hoping for. The painting session should have lasted half-an-hour, at which point the party of women were to have finished their pictures.

But they had a whip round and persuaded the lad to stay, Mrs Canavan informed me, before adding a tad weakly, “just so we could perfect our paintings”.

I asked for a look at hers, for she’d bought it home. And I have to give her credit, her painting was remarkably attentive to detail.

“It was quite difficult doing that bit,” she said, pointing at a part of the image I didn’t want to dwell on, “because it’s tough to get it in scale”.

Rarely have I felt so inferior. I had a quick gander on the internet to see if this kind of thing was normal and incredibly it is.

For a small fee – £135 at the place I looked – you too can nip off to paint some bloke or woman with their kit off. The University of the Arts in London even offers a course in it. Describing the course, its website says: “You will work from a nude model to investigate colour and technique and become aware of the emotional power of colour and how to increase the expressive content of your painting through the handling of the paint.”

Which I think might be in Spanish because I don’t understand a word of it.

I found another website which trumpeted the joys of painting the nude, stating that “it reduces the body’s complex architecture to a succinct rendering of tones and allows the painter to recognize how human beings naturally hold themselves”.

I’d rather not know if the chap Mrs Canavan painted was holding himself, thank you very much.

Mrs C later asked if she could put her picture up on the bedroom wall. I reacted very rationally by screaming ‘over my dead body’, snatching it from her hands, and burning it in the fire.

She is going on another hen-do later in the year. I’m already concerned.

A standing ovation for a remarkable woman

Today marks 103 years since the birth of Rosa Parks, who is one of the most revered women in US history and all because of a bus.

She lived in Montgomery, Alabama, in an age so backward the first four rows of seats on buses were reserved for whites-only. This, though, could change. If more white people boarded the bus, the driver could extend the white-only section and force black passengers to move.

One day in 1955, Miss Parks – then aged 42 – boarded a bus to travel home from work and sat in the fifth row, the first for non-white passengers. But as more people got on, the driver stopped the vehicle, announced he was extending the white-only area, and told Parks to move.

She refused. The driver called the police and she was arrested.

To cut a very long story short, this act of defiance and the publicity it received resulted in the black residents of Montgomery boycotting the town’s buses for 381 days. Dozens of vehicles stood idle for months, until the law on segregation in public buses was repealed.

Parks became a hero in the black community but lost her job, and so did her husband.

Parks (pictured left), who died in 2005, aged 92, endured years of hardship but thankfully, as times became more enlightened, she received many awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Bill Clinton in 1998.

On giving her the medal, Clinton said: “She’s sitting with the first lady tonight, and she may get up or not as she chooses”, which, I think, is quite wonderful.