Annabel Vs The Internet
The Challenge: Do something no woman has done before
This challenge begins in typical fashion. With me wasting a good chunk of time fantasising about being mentioned in the same breath as fellow female trailblazers Edith Wharton (first female Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner), Amelia Earhart (first female to fly the Atlantic solo), Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space), Elizabeth Blackwell (first female doctor), Marie Curie (first female Nobel Prize winner), Benazir Bhutto (first female leader of a Muslim state), Sirimavo Bandaranaike (first female head of government) and Kathryn Bigelow (first female director to win an Oscar).
Which is going to require a really long breath. I spend some time testing whether it’s even possible. It is, just about.
My procrastination comes from confidence. There must be loads of different options for me. I go on the internet. And immediately panic. There is no complete list of all the things women haven’t done yet. It’s very hard to find any. I’m Googling ‘things a female has never done’ and the only result is a thread on a bodybuilding website forum where a man has posted ‘a female has never made me laugh’.
I briefly consider attempting this, but it would mean having contact with this despicable man.
So I start thinking of all the obvious ones.
I know for sure there's never been a female President of the USA. The only thing holding me back right now is that they’re not advertising for a new president. Plus I wasn’t born in the USA. Plus loads of other stuff.
First female Pope is my next thought. But once again, they're not currently advertising for a new Pope. And I’m not Catholic. Or religious.
I should perhaps scale down my ambition. Then I think – what about the moon? No woman has ever been on the moon. But realistically, is this achievable? Ever the optimist, I look into it.
It's not great news. You need a degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics. I fulfil one element of this. In that I've got a degree. And is English literature so different to physical science? I don't know. As I'm not entirely sure what physical science is.
A science degree is not enough for these space types though. Oh no. They also require that you have 1000 flying miles as a pilot-in-command. But there is some good news. I am tall enough. You must be between 62 and 75 inches and I’m 63 inches. I’m so pleased and excited about this I briefly forget the degree and the 1000 flying miles. And that there are no plans to put anyone at the moon at the moment.
That’s fine though. I don’t really want to go to the moon. There’s nothing there and that space suit is not at all flattering. I’d look fat and like I’ve got a big head.
So I move on. Other female firsts yet to happen are dictator, White House chief of staff, UN secretary general, director of a Bond movie and Dalai Lama, which I quite fancy as they wear very autumnal colours and that’s my season, colour-wise.
Then I realise that while there has been a female Beefeater at the Tower of London, there's not yet been a female Beefeater Ravenmaster. This could be interesting. And in terms of a job, surely loads easier than being the American president. It's probably just feeding the ravens. And as long as they don't eat really fancy cooked meals that'll be fine.
I look it up. It turns out they're fed raw meat, which puts me off a bit as I’ve not eaten meat for over 20 years. But I could shake things up a bit and give them raw Quorn. Who are the ravens going to tell? Although it would be bad if they left the Tower to find meat as then the monarchy would fall. And while for many anti-royalists this would be a good thing, I wouldn’t want to be responsible for the Queen living on the streets.
I realise I'm getting distracted again and continue with my research. It's good to know your enemy and the current Ravenmaster is my enemy. I find out his name is Chris. I feel like I know enough now and move on. I discover that to become a Beefeater you have to be retired from the armed forces. I'm briefly worried, then remember I’ve been paintballing twice so that should be enough. It's the same thing. Ish.
So I start formulating a plan. I'm thinking I'll turn up, say I’m the new Ravenmaster, Chris gets his coat, I get out the Quorn or tofu and get to work.
Then I do something unusual. I have a bit more of a think. I'm now wondering, maybe the thing to do is show up, say I’m the new assistant Ravenmaster. That way, Chris doesn’t lose his job and I still get to do a first – first ever female assistant Ravenmaster. As well as the first ever assistant Ravenmaster. A double first!
I Google a bit more and find out who top dog is at the Tower. It's Colonel Richard Harrold. Then I head off to claim my place in history.
I start off at the Welcome Centre. I'm sure Edith Wharton, Amelia Earhart and Benazir Bhutto began their journey into the history books at a Welcome Centre too.
There's a lady at the desk. I give her a big smile.
‘Hi I’m here to see Chris, I’m the new assistant Ravenmaster.’
She tells me I need to go to the pass office. There is no sign of any surprise on her face.
I go the pass office. I tell the man there I’m here to see Chris as I’m the new assistant Ravenmaster.
‘Assistant Ravenmaster’, he repeats. Then mutters to himself, ‘Well he didn't tell me about this.’
He's rummaging around the paperwork on this desk. Perhaps hoping to find a memo from Chris about this new position.
He then picks up the phone and makes a call asking to speak to Chris. It seems someone is going to find Chris and get him to call back. He hangs up.
‘Assistant’, he says again.
I confirm this.
‘It’s usually a Beefeater’, he says. Then adds – ‘You’re not a Beefeater, certainly.’
I'm a little bit insulted. Why is he so sure? I could be. Before I can say any of this we're interrupted by the phone ringing.
He picks it up. ‘Got a young lady here says she’s to be the Assistant Ravenmaster.’
There’s a note of disbelief in his voice but I’m so thrilled he called me ‘young lady’ that I don’t care.
He doesn’t say anything else apart from, ‘right, yes, okay’, and hangs up.
Here we go! I’m mentally getting myself ready for the ravens. I'm picturing myself in a Beefeater outfit. I like wearing red. I’m wondering if I dare combine it with a red lipstick when the man says:
‘Sorry, he doesn’t know anything about it and he’s not working today.’
I’m a bit worried as to who is feeding the ravens today then. Are they pecking each others’ eyes out? But I’ve got to think of me and my job so I say:
‘Oh it’s just that Colonel Richard Harrold called me and said I had the job.’
As I'm sure this is the kind of thing a Colonel does. Make personal phone calls to assistants offering them jobs. I'm sure.
‘Dick?’ says the man
‘Yeah Dickie.’ I say.
Somewhat miraculously he doesn't question this further and says instead ‘it’s very unusual. Only Beefeaters do this. Are you ex-army?’
This is the most ridiculous question I’ve ever been asked. I've clearly never been on an assault course in my life. My arms look like they'd snap if I tried to do a press up. I do own a nice camo-print dress though and consider telling him this. Then decide against it.
‘No’, I tell him. ‘But I’ve been paintballing twice.’
He laughs. It's a bit of a weary laugh. So I didn’t add that I hated paintballing and that the second time I went I walked off after five minutes and went and sat in the car.
‘Sorry I can’t help you,’ he says.
He’s a nice man so I don’t want to pester him. But I am worried about who is feeding the ravens today. I ask him.
He assures me someone else will be doing it. I ask if I can help them. It's a no.
So I leave. And it's fine. I don’t even like ravens. Maybe I was aiming too high. I should've tried to become the first woman on the moon.