M is for…Mass destruction

I lived in London for 20 years before I made good my escape to the coastal reaches. Watching tonight’s footage of the riots in Tottenham, Croydon, Peckham, Lewisham and Deptford, I’m saddened to see a city I love blighted by mindless vandalism in the guise of democratic protest.

There is nothing democratic about setting light to the businesses and homes of innocent people, many of whom are law abiding and simply trying to earn a living. There is nothing democratic about covering your faces with hoods and flinging Molatov cocktails. I’ve watched the pundits on TV lay the blame squarely at the door of the police, society and the government. Even the banks. Well, I beg to differ…

Most of the violence today came from young men who don’t work and don’t vote. They have no respect for the society in which they live, and yet they expect everything to be handed to them on a bling-plated platter. They use their race, gender, upbringing, religion and education as an excuse for why they are compelled to a gang lifestyle and violence.  I beg to differ. Failure, like fire-bombing – is a choice.

L is for…Love, Lessons & Life

This is the first blog in a while. Thank you for being patient.

A few weeks ago, it could have been  ‘L’ is for the…’Life is shit, and then you die’  blog, but having been to a wedding (my sister’s), a funeral & rebirth (my own) and to hell and back…(least said, soonest mended)… I have to say it’s good to be here again. Blogger on planet earth.

This I know…

1. Your love is not a small thing. It is the most precious gift you can give. It is not always gratefully received, but that does not lessen it. Giving love makes you capable of great things.  You can cross continents, gamble your future on the stars, and sacrifice yourself…all for love. Love is in the letting go…but it takes great love to watch the person you adore walk away, knowing they will never come back. Hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is.

2. Lessons are almost always about the learning, not the experience. The experience may be humbling, painful, humiliating…but as long as you learn from it, you grow. There is an old Buddhist saying ‘ When the student is ready, the master will appear’. Often we don’t think we are ready for the trials ahead, but when they happen, they show us who we really are. Our choice is to fight, to surrender or perhaps...and this may be ever so un-pc… to ‘smack’ the zen master as a reminder that we are human and have fire in our bellies. Whack! How was that for you, Obi Wan?

3.Life…never ever works out how you plan it. I don’t care if you are the supreme deity or a secretary…this is true! So you can spend your days feeling miserable about the cosmos and the fact you cannot use ‘The Secret’ to manifest pizza, money or love… or you can embrace uncertainty. Oh crap!  ‘Uncertainty’, are you sure?  I’m all for the darkside, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary…Life is wonderful, but it is also weird. It makes us who we are. It’s lessons make us who we can be.

My advice? …Live well, Love long, Laugh loud…

K is for…Kilimanjaro

One of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that in 2006 I made it to the highest peak in Africa.  The journey was – at points – exciting…exhausting, tough…terrifying, adventurous…arduous.  I think I sweated out all the bad things I did that year on my ascent – or as I call it, the ‘Hill of Atonement’.

Given current circumstances – where I seem to be atoning for things I haven’t even thought of, let alone done – I’m busy climbing another mountain, albeit metaphorical.  This foothill is just the first on a journey that is taking me to a place I never expected to be. It’s not a good place. Some days all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and try not to fall.

Still…as Victor Kiam said: ‘If you fall on your face, at least you are moving forward’. I’m not sure where or how I will end up, so for the time-being, this blogger is taking a break. 

Thank you for following the blog, and a special thanks to Nubian for getting me writing in the first place.


J is for…January

I’ve spent most of January on holiday, first in South Africa and then at home in England.   In the shadows of a dog year  – 2010 was grisly for many reasons –  I had to think long and hard about this course of action.  Priorities, problems and people battled for mindshare, and…as I flew to my soul space on the West Coast, it seemed like an indulgent luxury to step off the treadmill and simply let go for a few weeks.

Still.  I celebrated the New Year after 3 days without sleep and partied until dawn.  I was uniquely privileged to lead the naming ceremony for my nephew. As we toasted him with champagne, we floated our origami wishes on an ebbing tide as the sun set. I saw a kinesiologist and felt lighter. I went bird watching in Verloren Vlei  and saw an owl. And an eagle! And the longest ever train in the world!  My sister and I went swimming in the cold Atlantic. Not once, but twice! I sailed on a Hobie cat in Fish Hoek and ate fish under the Milky way.  Wine and song were most definitely involved.  New Year’s resolutions were most definitely not.

Still. I’m so glad I did. Without resolutions, I’ve returned from family with a sense of optimism warmed by unconditional affection – and the South African sun.  Back home, I’ve rekindled longstanding friendships with people who see me as I really am – and continue to love me for it.  I’ve realised that saying goodbye means you can say hello to fresh experiences – and that you can enjoy new people, new places and new music without being hidebound by what happened the year before!

Now that February is tugging me back into reality, I’ve resolved (but not in a New Year kind of way) to emulate my nine month old nephew and view the rest of 2011 with unfettered curiosity. It’s an adventure. Love, light and laughter await.  So too, do challenge and opportunity. Perhaps every year should begin a month later…?

I is for…Inspiration

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that ‘I’ is for interlude…

To be honest, I haven’t felt much like blogging for some time.  Life has been pretty rubbish of late. No, less than rubbish…rubbisher! Still, cataclysmic life events notwithstanding…I confess to have been a little stuck on the alphabet blog (my challenge to myself to blog about each letter of the alphabet).

…at any rate, I’d reached ‘I”. What to choose?  Individual.Yep, that’s me. Iconoclast. Check. Izzat.  Uh? Yes, the last word is a real one – not a cricketing term, it’s derived from Arabic and means reputation or honour. It also happens to be the last entry under ‘I’ in the OED. The OED? Clearly desperate times called for desperate measures. I can usually write my way out of a paper bag. Nothing sprang to mind. My blog muse was…incognito. Inaccessible. Impossible! Earggh!

But tonight, after a long conversation with a friend in …yep, you guessed it, Indiana…I realised that ‘I’ stands for all the inspirational women who are part of my life.  Friends, family and business colleagues – women who juggle childcare with challenge, heartbreak with homemaking, and divorce with devotion to a charitable cause. They are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and friends. They are breadwinners and bakers. Cooks, CEOs and creatives. Photographers and peacemakers.  They are my support in tough times. I salute them!

G is for…Gratitude

This blog has been a long time in the making. 5 and a bit years to to be exact.  I’ve often wondered whether I should write about this experience, but I have a number of friends who are going through the same thing, so it’s about time this particular confession saw the light.

July 7th, 2005. Exactly a year after I’d moved into the house from hell. A sunny day.  It was also the day I had a panic attack and couldn’t get on the train to work. If you know me, you know this is not my normal mode of being. Fearless – Yes. Frightened – Often, but I hide it well. Cowed – Never, especially not in 6 inch heels and a suit! But if you had seen me sitting on the station bench that day, hyper-ventilating, shaking and trying not to cry or step in front of the train (crying and spoiling my make-up would be worse, you understand), anyone would be forgiven for thinking I’d finally given in.

July 7th, 2005.  Exactly two years since someone I loved, left. A sunny day. The day of the London bombings.  When I finally made it into the City and into a walk-in clinic, I sat waiting for a doctor and watched the carnage unfold on the flat-screen in the waiting room. All I could think about…while the helicopters circled Cannon Street and the discordant siren call of police cars and ambulances pierced the usual hum of a big city, was that my problems were minor compared to those people who lost loved ones or now bear permanent scars from the random acts of deranged fundamentalists.
My doctor diagnosed depression and prescribed medication.  I diagnosed an immense gratitude for the fact that I was still alive. A feeling that grew as I walked through the silent streets in the evening aftermath of the day’s events.  And my prescription – which I still follow today, even though the pills got flushed down the loo after 6 months – was to find three things to be grateful for at the beginning and end of each day.  Instead of lying in bed wondering if I actually wanted to carry on, I’d be glad about the birdsong, the way the sunlight twinkled on my wall, and the fact that my cat loved me more than anyone else in the world – despite my flaws as a human.  Nothing stays the same, even bad things… I’m really lucky and I have so much to be grateful about…I live by the coast, have a brand new nephew, and people who I love deeply.  Life is short.  Embrace the good things.

Depression affects 1 in 10 people, and one in 50 people will suffer severe depression. It affects not only those with depression, but also their families and friends. Help is available here:  http://www.samaritans.org/

F is for…Friendship

L.P. Hartley said “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” This week I packed  passport, memories, a few dollar bills. With my heart in my hand, I headed to the Midwest for a school reunion. My own pilgrimage to the past. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.

Driving down roads flanked by seas of sweet corn, sitting in evening shade illuminated by fireflies, warmed by laughter and red wine (though not necessarily in that order), I had time to consider the friendships forged during the year I spent as an exchange student in Indiana. 

The boys who teased me mercilessly, the girls who shared the pain of unrequited love over ice-cream at Ivanhoe’s. Pizza and Proms, Baseball and Bruins, Keg parties…kisses, Cheerleaders and Candy Canes.  It really was the best of times.  But time passes. Twenty five years later I wondered if the friendships made would still be as strong?

They were. I’ve realised that like a good wine, good friendships improve with age.  Recollection mellows. Shared experience warms the heart and makes cheeks glow.  My past may be a foreign country, but my friends are the reason I will visit again.

D is for…Damned Lies.. (and Statistics)…

OK, picture the scene…young nubile TV couple engaging in pillow play.  Yes readers, I mean pillow play. This is before the 9 pm watershed in the UK!  Suddenly, the voice-over says: ’77 per cent of women feel sexier when their underarms look good!’  Cue really loud guffaw from me.  Oh my god, how on earth did I even manage to exist before that statistic came into being!!!

Well, I don’t know about you, but that is total rubbish.  Every woman knows that it’s not deodorant or happy underarms that make you feel sexy… it’s far more likely to be the feral smell of a man’s armpits and the way they envelop you.  And frankly, when you have got to that stage in the pillow play…take it from me…if he can find the G-spot, I think you are grateful if he also knows where your underarms might be!

In these recessionary times, I’m still amazed at how much guff advertising there is on TV. Misleading pseudo-science masquerading as fact.  UK women all know who Nadine Baggot (aka Beauty Editor) is! Ha bloody ha! And by the way, the sample size of the previous statistic was around 2,000 – less than 0.00064 per cent of the 31 million women in the UK.  Not exactly significant from a statistical perspective!

Like most girls, I find fashion and beauty fun – Yes…Grazia magazine is one of my guilty pleasures along with the Economist and  90% Lindt Dark Chocolate Bars!  Still, I find it really offensive that the advertising industry, which is still mostly run by middle aged men, think that female consumers are gullible twits that will purchase any old crap as long as there are ‘statistics’ to back it up…

So here are a few of my own…based on personal empirical observations, of course! 

  • Chances of winning the UK lottery…Low. Approximately 54 -1 that you will win a prize, albeit not the millions.  For that you need a 1 in 13,983,816 chance.  That and the Gods smiling on you, instead of the usual smiting!
  • Realistic possibility that the £150 wrinkle cream you’ve bought will make you look younger without the need for botox or dermal fillers…Low – Medium. Depends on the Botox!
  • Statistical probability that the day you don’t shave your legs is the day you pull…Medium – High!  Seriously, this happens a lot.  Which is why I probably remain single because the shame of slightly unshaven legs prevents the lips locking in the first instance…
  •  Likelihood that the a$$hole in the white van, who is driving across both lanes of the M20 while gesticulating and speaking on his mobile phone is a) white b) middle aged and c) votes for the BNP…High! Chances he will get to see how many fingers I am holding up as I whizz by at 90 mph…Very high!

Ogilvy, the advertising genius who quipped – ‘the consumer is not a moron, she is your wife’ is often quoted.  But many of today’s admen leave out the rider which is…‘You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything’.  I wonder what he would make of the 100 per cent of women who find the ad from the agency which bears his name just as insulting.

C is for…Childhood

Well, I’m going to use a c-word… I was thinking of  writing about ‘cod’, ‘Caracas’ and ‘comedy’ – all aspects of my life I’d like to blog about, but tonight a programme on TV really had me thinking hard about what it means to be a child. So yes, this blog has been a challenge because it’s raised some issues for me!

I am child-free by choice, but that doesn’t mean I am not grateful for my childhood.  In the grand scheme of things, I probably had a fairly ‘normal’ upbringing – loving parents and siblings, good relationships with friends and extended family. Pets…there were a few. We had cats, guppies and a rabbit called ‘Pookie’…And of course, the benefit of a good education and a safe environment in which to live. Sadly, that is not the case for many children across the world who face poverty, neglect and abuse.

Poverty. According to UNICEF, 24,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.

Neglect.  It’s estimated that the number of children in the world  is roughly 2.2 billion. Of that number, almost 50 per cent (1 billlion) are living below the breadline. Worldwide, 2.2  million children die each year because they are not immunised, and 15 million children are orphaned due to HIV/Aids.  This is equivalent to the total number of children in countries such as the UK.

Abuse. Despite the fact that we live in a so-called civilised society (another c-word) children are still sexually exploited and damaged by the adults who bear a responsibility for nurturing them. Every year, 1.2 million children are trafficked into the sex trade. This cannot be right.  Like animals and elderly people, children very often do not have the resources or faculties to defend themselves. It cannot be right for children who are raped to think they are to blame. It cannot be right for children to be raped.

Every child and young person has rights, no matter who they are or where they live. As adults, it’s our responsibility to ensure that these rights are protected – whether we have children or not.

B is for Bedpost…

I am the eldest sibling and therefore supposedly the ‘sensible’ one.  Yeah, and whoever made up that myth was clearly an only child!   When my middle sister went to university, I wrote her a long letter explaining that she would encounter several types of men – most of which came with a health warning.  I know…there are exceptions and she married one, but he didn’t go to uni, so bang goes that theory!

It wasn’t so much that I was trying to warn her off, more that with prior knowledge she would be better equipped to identify and neutralise nefarious types. A sensible approach. Now, I know loads of really lovely men – stand up guys, fantastic friends, great fathers, husbands and generally good boyfriend material.  But like I said, there are exceptions… After comparing notes with a group of girlfriends, I realise that even when you are a grown up, you may still need the sensible girl’s guide to a$$holes, so here it is, just in case…

Scenario #1. If… after a first date, they do not call, it is not because they are 17th century time-travellers who do not understand 21st century technology.  And no, they have not been in an accident and lost all memory of your phone number! They do not call, because they are a$$holes…and you…well, you are another notch on their bedpost.

Scenario #2. If… they say ‘I’d like to be in a relationship, but it’s complicated’…that is your cue to exit the building. Complicated usually means they are a) …married b) ….in rehab or c) …have more high-maintenance baggage than a Louis Vuitton store!  They are to be avoided…

Scenario #3. If…they text you incessantly at odd hours of the night but at no other time…it is not ‘grand passion’ – it is the drunken trawling of their Blackberry (aka the modern version of the little black book) and the arrogant certainty that you will be so desperate to have sex with them (well, you are single after all), that you will find this endearing.  It is not.

Scenario #4. If…they request spanking on the first night you actually do abandon sense and sleep with them, or if they profess a love for duct tape…(?)  fishing…(??) line or pole dancing…(???)  Do you really have to ask? They are deviant psychopaths and you should dial 999 immediately!