Sisters under the skin…


It may of course be my age and stage in life, but frankly I don’t care for the Kardashians, the TOWIE babes or any other half-witted, self-promoting bimbos. I may have boobs, but I do have brains, and no – my face isn’t at chest level nor is it surgically enhanced!

It seems to me that these days, superficial is super-cool, plastic (as in surgery and friend-fakery) is fantastic.  If you don’t have 40.5m followers on Twitter, you aren’t working hard enough. If you can’t influence on Facebook you are simply not worth friending.  Not writing your own cook-bake-make blog …while hand-knitting nappies for your test-tube triplets?  Shame on you, woman!  Worst of all, social media has given ordinary women such an inferiority complex, we have actually begun to buy the crap promulgated by popular culture. We actually think it’s ok to be a size zero, or to deprive ourselves of coffee, sex or ice-cream…all in pursuit of some photo-edited ideal that simply isn’t reality.

Instead of supporting each other, I see countless examples of women being disparaging about other women.  And no, the Kardashians are media freaks and do not count – they are only nice to themselves and Kanye!  Eating disorders are at an all time high. It’s estimated that 10% of young women will suffer this.  And the phenomena of on-line bullying is a worrying trend. Not content to bash you in the playground, girl-on-girl violence has evolved to the digital age. We’ll get you in cyberspace…For goodness sake, our’s is the era that has spawned the term ‘frenemy’…as in, people you loathe but are friends with? I rest my case!

As a grown up (sometimes) I’ve experienced first-hand how mean, petty and bitchy women can be. At one time, I used to be the only single woman at the dinner table…or not. Sometimes I was not invited, because being single clearly I must be on the hunt for a husband/promotion/shoes and therefore a huge threat.  Really? Shoes and promotion, I earned and paid for myself several times over.  Husband?  Well…I wouldn’t want to steal your bald, fat wallet! 

However, I’ve also seen how wonderful, supportive and giving women can be. Instead of competition, collaboration. Instead of combat, caring.  Women friends who hear your sobs and will be your solace, women friends who will cheer your success with champagne, women friends who leave money behind or buy you dinner, so you don’t need to worry about spending, women friends who will send you postcards so you don’t feel alone. Perhaps it’s a female destiny to love too much, feel too much or give too much…but it’s done gladly.

So here is a shout out to the women of my generation -my friends and my family. Let’s support each other. Let’s be present enough in each other’s lives to share the good moments, and the bad. Let’s be pleased for each other’s bravery, success or happiness – not envious. Let’s share the love, and magnify the support. Because…whether or not we are related… we are all sisters under the skin.


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!

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.

Larssen B

I’ve spent the last few days dogsledding in Finland.  It’s minus twenty celsius and cold enough to freeze any extremities that may not be gloved, hatted or wrapped.  It’s also starkly beautiful – surrounded by nordic forest, blanketed in snow and lit by the arctic sun, we are staying at a hotel on a lake about two kilometres away from the Russian Border.

So far, one of the many highlights of my adventure has been driving a team of huskies and learning how to steer a  sled…and yesterday, dancing until dawn to bring in the New Year in the company of friends and more than one bottle of bubbly. Of course the party dress was packed without the posh shoes, so my snow boots had to double as seasonal attire.  Very attractive!

Until I made a pact with myself to go away each New Year, I always used to dread the burden of expectation that accompanies these celebrations. Somehow on demand happy didn’t happen for me.  Now my time away brings the opportunity to reflect on the year that was and a fresh perspective on the year that will be.   I don’t yet know what 2010 holds, but the fun will be in finding out.

People we love…

Last night I spent time re-reading an old diary.  It dates back to when I was a teenager and is filled with notes from friends I made when I was an exchange student in the mid-West of America.  As I started reading the notes again, I realised that there were so many people who have come into my life as friends at  key points… Growing up, university, moving countries, coming home.  Some of them are still in my life, others have welcomely returned as my world comes full circle.

The wonder (and curse) of social media means we can now reach out to eachother in ways that we didn’t before.   Though clearly some facebookers think amassing friends is a competitive sport!   I’m also amazed by those married couples who only appear to communicate via comments on each others pages…It’s meant to be a relationship, not a communique, surely?  But that’s probably the subject of another blog.

For my part, I’m glad that the friends I’ve missed and loved are back in touch.   When you are far away from family or lovers – separated by time or geography or circumstance – friends are the people who get you through those tough times.  They become your surrogate family – they are there when your heart is breaking, to hug you and give you a glass of wine while you sob on the sofa, they are there with words of encouragement when your biggest challenge proves to be your biggest fear, and they share your excitement when good things happen.  Humans are social animals and our friends are a very necessary part of our lives. Too often life (work, commuting, stress) gets in the way of spending time with those friends.

When I go on holiday, I’ve developed a habit of sending myself a postcard with a list of ‘resolutions’ or things I’d like to change or do differently in my life. If I post it on my last day, it usually arrives when I’m back.  And it serves as a useful reminder of my good intentions – and a bit of a nudge, if I’m honest.   I’m off to the wilderness in about a month, and I think one of the items on my postcard will be to be better at keeping in touch with my friends.