Wednesday, 13 March 2019

UNFORTUNATELY LORRAINE WAS WRONG. IT PAYS TO BE UNKIND.

Ambition is important but it is important to be kind. Lorraine Kelly said that at an awards ceremony last night when she accepted an award. I have met her on a few occasions, when she interviewed me, and I know someone who lives close to her in her home in Mallorca. They say she is a lovely lady. I was even once filmed by her husband on a pilot show. He was, like all the TV cameramen I have ever met, much more straight forward, down to earth, and to use Lorraine Kelly's words, much kinder than any of those I have met who have made their living in front of the camera.  Those I have met have been ruthless, greedy, selfish with a default nature to be unkind (they are natural born takers, not natural born givers).
They work very hard at appearing to be kind, especially now, when even the royals are talking mental health issues. It is unkindness which has caused this. There is so much mean spiritedness in our media, in business and commerce, in politics, finance and showbusiness. Indeed, those who rise to the top, our 'role models' are the most mean spirited of the lot.
So I was bemused by Lorraine's comment, although I think it was meant for those in the room rather than the general public.  Kindness is not needed in television, nor is it in any business where the competition is fierce to get to the top. it is a weakness which is exploited. Being ruthless, selfish, greedy are the qualities which define most of those who appear on screen, who have made it to the top of their game. There are many talented and lucky people who have not made it there, and possibly their luck is that they haven't.
One friend has recently gone stratospheric in their rise in profile and the only thing which surprises me, is that they are surprised the people they are meeting now, are, in their own words 'horrible'. These people work very hard at appearing to be kind, with their well-placed and well-voiced philanthropy, virtue signaling at every photo opportunity, giving back the funds from those they took from in the first place, and redistributing it back to them and expecting an OBE for the act. The financial sector are particularly guilty of this but at least, as a profession, they never hide their avarice. As one banks says in its TV advertisement 'we are what we do'. Quite.
Indeed if you are kind, the likelihood in the world of show business, you are likely to be walked over, your ideas stolen and you will only be on an invitation list if you are of any use on a professional level.  That is not kind, it is strategic and ruthless. It is business. It is how the structure of business works. Even the 'wellness industry' with all its mindful vocabulary has as much ego and greed and ruthlessness in it these days that I feel it has been hijacked by the 'sick'. If you are ruthless, strategic, angry and calculating, selfish and greedy, when you think enough is never enough, you are likely to aim high, treading all those who put barriers up to you, or indeed help you, under foot.  I like to think the Bonfire of the Vanities is a moralistic tale which is true to life, but I don't believe it is. Kind people do not ever want to be paid for it, they just don't want to be punished or penalized for it either.
Of course, those who have made it to the top, which Lorraine Kelly has, may be able to talk about being kind. They are able to afford to be as well as talk about being kind. But it is not kindness that gets you to the top in a society which rewards mean spiritedness (and it does) under the guise of constructive criticism, it is ruthless ambition. Something you should keep in mind the next time you hear a celebrity or anyone with any sort of Tv profile spouting love and light and kindness. They are always more wounded than healer.  They have regurgitated sound bites from their counsellor or therapist without buying into the reality of what they are saying.  Their kindness is not what got them where they are today, and deep down, they know it.  So they should stop preaching to the rest of us, because we are the ones who are kind already.   Those who have least, give most and those who have most give least. Not just in financial terms, but in every way. I see it in the schools and hospitals. They are our role models. Those who chose a caring profession rather than one that shouts 'its all about me! or 'this is mine'.
 Of course, it is the structure which allows unkind people to prosper.  And it is unkind people who maintain the structure which allows unkind people to prosper. I think unkindness is more prevalent in some industries than others, but I have found that it does tend to seep into most. Any corporate lessons on empathy for example, would be introduced to show how to better understand people so you could more effectively screw them over. I've seen it happen.



Tuesday, 26 February 2019

BREXIT THE MOVIE

I wish I had put money on Brexit not happening two years ago.  I'm sure the politicians and their stalwarts have.  Its all a scam being played out for the audience, like some Greek or Jacobian tragedy/farce.  Its too expensive, too complicated and none of them have the intellectual capacity to deal with it.  I'm just waiting for the curtains to draw because I would have left ages ago, but they've locked the theatre doors.
          If they can’t convince, they confuse, if they can’t confuse, they distract, if they can’t distract, they bore.  And now the politicians are even boring themselves. They are wasting our money and insulting our intelligence. Get rid of them.  

Saturday, 23 February 2019

DITCH THE A LISTERS - ITS THE Z GENERATION WHO HAVE MY VOTE

I visited Shoreditch today. I don't go there a lot as it's too close to the Financial sector for comfort, but Brick Lane is wonderful. The creativity, the atmosphere and there's an overriding feeling of hope. I believe it comes from the Z generation. Their energy overwhelms the cynicism and suffocating neurosis of the Milennials and the cloying narcissism and arrogant mean spiritedness of the boomers (over generalising here I realise - there are exceptions).
        According to the 'experts' the Z generation allegedly don't drink, worry too much and care about the environment.  They are authentic and self aware, and questioning, while the boomers are plausible, financially functional (wealthiest generation) - but not authentic - indeed not many of them know who they are, having been brought up to want to be something they are not (better, stronger, thinner, wealthier) and suffer from the imposter syndrome because they are, not because they think they are. The X generation are boring and take themselves too seriously. I don't know what the Ys are.
      Generation Zers like animals more than people and are fussy about the people they like. They think their parents screwed up and are screwing up the planet, and realise the internet lies, how and why the marketeers and media manipulate and sift the good stuff from the bad.  They mistrust establishment so rather than whinge, create ones of their own. They love travel because they know they learn from the experience -not because they are told they will. I like them and in my working week I meet quite a few of them. So I was looking forward to my visit to Shoreditch this weekend although I didn't expect to see many of them at the festival I was due to attend.
         I visited the Craft Beer Rising festival, in its sixth year I believe, which I thought would be full of tired looking fifty somethings.  It did have, to be fair, its fair share of said age group, trying to look younger with demin jackets, knocking on mid life crisis, amongst the 30 somethings.  I was struck by the creativity of the labels, the art graffiti on the walls, the variety of beers, ciders, with intriguing names (big hug, tempted, mother chucker, tiny rebel, brutal brewing), some whimsical, (serious pig, mad squirrel - sort of imagine brand company saying put an animal together with an emotion you wouldn't associate them with.  I'm thinking horny chipmunk - although there probably is one of those already).   Others just odd. One company even put up the negative comments about their brand.  Forest Road Brewery had three in bright yellow print on a banner above their stand 'utter utter pathetic assholes' - was they about the beer or about the people who brew it?'  Any way, I was impressed.
         There were pub snacks with a twist.  Maple smoked salmon, scotch eggs with beetroot falafel (v good) as well as other unexpected ingredients (black pudding, chorizo, tikka curry - Nicholson's - try look them up www.nicholsonshandmade.co.uk.  They come from Southwold, and having looked don't think they are ex bankers but genuine chefs.
         There was live music and DJs (The Cuban brothers) and people were watching the rugby (England lost allegedly - bad second half).  There were quite a few foodie stalls, selling lobster and salmon kebabs and there was even a barber (very good idea - hair cut, beer, venison burger and boogie.)  Brilliant multi tasking.  I spoke to quite a few of the sellers. Pickled eggs are in fashion, and there's lots of flavours, but they wouldn't give me a taster, I would have to eat a whole one.   So I didn't.  I spoke to the Piper Crisps girls (Chorizo,  pale ale , Jalapeño and dill flavours.. as well as sea salt and cider vinegar) who told me the audience are either old (50 +) or late twenties - so Milennials and boomers.  Don't know where the X generation were, and the Zs were drinking non alcoholic mixing with the vegans and with their families, surrogate or otherwise.  Whatever, this event was fun.
        I sensed there was a lot of money there amongst the punters and the stall holders. The stall holders all told me the cost of having a stand was twice that of a similar event 'up north', but that this wasn't about selling product - just about brand awareness.  The level of wealth present perhaps due to the venue being so close to both the IT district as well as financial district.
        I also got the feeling there were a lot of people there with second careers. The 50 somethings were those who had had a first career, made money and were investing in something else.  Albeit as a sleeping partner, and were drinking the profits and hiding under the much more interesting story of the creatives were they had invested in.
         It wasn't just beers. There was a lot of cider companies and some mixers (Fever tree had surprisingly quite a small stand).  As I walked round I remembered one of my first boyfriends who loved craft beer.  He was crazy about it, and I felt he would have approved.
         Truman Brewery makes a lovely venue. I have visited there before for another excellent festival - the Balance festival - which was a tad more yogi, pilates, and well being orientated, but no less colourful.  Again, very young audience, but full of hope, energy and so much creativity.  The art at the craft fair - the graffiti on the posters, the beer and cider bottles, was sort of Banksy meets Studio Gibli.
          I had seen a lot of it before - everything is cyclical after all, but I have nothing but admiration for this Z generation.
          I love the fact they speak up for themselves.  I loved the fact the school children marched saying the government should be focusing on eco issues and not Brexit.  They should be pouring money into preserving our planet and not their jobs and their parties. I have the pleasure and privilege of teaching some of them yoga each week and they are incredible.
         Forget the royals, the young and the old ones, and any of those celebrities who hold themselves up as role models - the sportsmen, the singers, the actors, the business people. We learn more from our children than they do from us, and I feel the real role models worth following are the Z listers.  Not the A listers.  I'll drink to that.

Friday, 8 February 2019

the haunting Albert Finney

Some of my favourite films had leading man Albert Finney. I didn't realise this until I heard of his death today 'after a short illness'.   He was Hercule Poirot in the original Murder on the Orient Express (the best one in my view - loved the stabbing scene).  But it is his Scrooge which entranced me as a child.  His performances were always haunting but always in a good way.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

THE PATRI(ART)CH OF TRAVEL



I attended the Destinations Show at Olympia on Saturday.  I remember when it first started being asked to interview Alan Whicker and a boy who had just climbed Everest (think it was the year before) Bear Grylls.  He was, as I remember him, rather gauche, and taken back by the interest but aware even then, of the commercial possibilities of what he had just achieved. Alan, who later became a friend, and who I interviewed several times after the Destinations show, was keen to know I had read his book (which he was promoting) and would ask serious and inciteful questions. This, as you may imagine was intimidating but I passed the test and he allowed me to interview him again on several occasions. 
            So I watched with interest Levison Wood (a name which surely belongs in a Jane Austen novel or a brand of antique furniture) being interviewed at this year’s Destination Show. An army man, he writes for the papers and has written books but he is still an army man at heart and travels as though in a war zone even if he is not. (Something perhaps we may all have to do if the pessimists have their way).  A packed audience of silver surfers who may have come just for the cruise news, listened to him as he talked about complex expeditions (what is a complex expedition? – is it relative, subjective, objective, what) and travelling ‘whether there were cameras there or not’ I suppose meaning BBC cameras as opposed to instagram, youtube, and the plethora of other photo framed hashtag wish you were here not clichés, platitudes and soundbites which bounce off the internet. 
             Destinations as an exhibition has not expanded and although many of the faces have changed, the cliches remain the same. 'Feel like following the sun instead of a schedule' - 'feel free'. 'Greece, more than classic' - what does that mean?  Loads of stalls telling me I must 'immerse myself',others offering me  'up to date, no nonsense, practical advice' (is there any other?).  Tour operators offering authentic and unique experiences, with local guides, (these places must have as many guides as Richmond has yoga teachers).  Saga Holidays was something that didn't relate to me then, but they've got younger and I've got older but I still don't think they're for me looking through their brochure.  
           I interviewed several women – one who was newly divorced and talking about rail journeys – expensive ones – and told me she'd just starting reading a book 'How to be a successful woman while not hurting men's feelings' (not exactly a snappy title), and another Lynn Hughes, who set up with her husband, Wanderlust, an excellent magazine which was independent and perhaps is not so independent now.  She told me how she was on the way to Ecuador and they wanted to read something that was about independent travel, and so devised something on the back of a postcard or some such - even had to borrow a pen. The rest is history as it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.  She said she felt slightly sorry for the young now as everything seems to have been discovered already, or rather everyone is taking photos, so you know millions have been there before you and had a better time there than you could every conceivably have.  So nothing seems new any more. But they are much more caring, sharing and genuinely eco friendly than the baby boomer, empty nesters, silver surfers, who have screwed the world up for them. 
         I personally don't think everything is discovered.  If the only thing my generation is able to think up after twenty odd years in the industry, is still immersive, wish you were here, cliches which allow you to go to never seen before destinations with local explorers who will give you authentic experiences in sun kissed landscapes, then the young have so much to explore. Despite being the first to travel to these places our generation has learnt nothing. And it shows. If all you want is to cruise, albeit to more exotic destinations, with more experts, with hop on hop off adventure, you are still basically an armchair traveller, only your armchair just happens to be on a ship - large, small, with sail or motor, it is still a ship.  
     So it is not a case the young need to follow in our footsteps. They must do it differently, see it differently and experience it differently. The reality is, it is new. Travel is subjective, relative, anything but objective. They can choose to gloss over the ugly parts as our generation did, and they are doing with smudging their instagram shots so things look brighter, more luxuriant or they can expand their vocabulary beyond the cliche and ego driven travels of (mostly) male explorers.  And they can be honest. And honesty is not a thing the travel industry does well, mainly because they forget it is highly subjective. 
       I have always written about what I have experienced. Sri Lanka is allegedly the destination to go to in 2019, but on my visit, I disliked the place intensely. I am sure it was a one off, and I got it on a bad week, (indeed, some of the other journalists I went with told me ‘this isn’t the real Sri Lanka). It was, however the Sri Lanka I saw and the one I remember. And the one I wrote about. 
       But as I listened to Levison and remembered my interviews with Bears and Alan, I couldn’t help thinking the #metoo movement has failed to hit the travel industry.  It is still the ego trip of a patriarchal mindset where the man explores, supported by the woman.  If the woman explores she has no support, and usually if she’s gone that far, she’s had to give up a lot in order to achieve it (children, marriage, partnership, companionship).  Life has taught me it is about the stuff of experience, rather than the experience of stuff.  Travel has taught me to men, adventure is an ego trip, to women it is invariably one of carrying someone else’s baggage. And supporting someone else's ego.  



Thursday, 31 January 2019

ONLY YOGA

Ive been teaching for five years now. It has gone very quickly. I've taught retreats in my home in France, taught in clubs, corporations large and small, taught private sessions, CEOs and five year olds, classes in very swanky fitness centres, church halls, and most recently in schools to small groups and assemblies of three hundred plus.  I even attempted to teach at the House of Commons, something I feel they would need at the moment (yoga helps with decision making, focus, anger management and anxiety). If only they had taken it up, perhaps Brexit would have been handled differently.  Anyway, popped into a health food shop briefly this morning, to pick up something - think it was nuts - and a man said to me.
"Look at that."
So I did.
It was a packet of vanilla and something.  Think it was seeds and nuts, mushed up, sort of thing you are supposed to sprinkle on porridge or cereal or some such.   I did that in my twenties.
"Buddha Glory" he said, reading from the package.
"Indeed."
"It is appropriating from a religion. As is aruveya. It is appropriating incorrectly."
I nodded because I agree. What has a vanilla nut concoction to do with Buddha.   It is a bit like saying Christ advocates you eat cornflakes each morning. (Nestle will probably attempt that at some stage, and I'm sure Monty Python considered it in The Life of Brian).
We chatted for a bit, and then he mentioned yoga.  I said I taught yoga.  He frowned. Then gave me a talk (lets say a talk) on the philosophy of yoga, all of which I agreed with.
"If you practice yoga, you should be vegan or vegetarian, you should live a good life, be kind and benevolent, it is a philosophy not an exercise, it is aligning the body.  You people eat steak at night and then practice yoga in the morning."
I think it was the combination of 'you people' and 'eat steak' that made me stop mid breath.  I don't eat steak and I'm not 'you people'. I smiled and agreed with him and he seemed restless I didn't want to argue. But what about - I agreed with him.  He left. I bought my nuts, wondering if I had just met a yoga fundamentalist.  I agreed with what he said.  The west distorting and appropriating from the Eastern philosophies (which they do and have always done although they call it 'adapting' because it sounds far less aggressive than distorting.).
The moment reminded me of the scene in Good Morning Vietnam, when the head of the radio department, sent the character Robin Williams was playing into enemy territory because he didn't like him.  When his boss found out, he moved him to another department and said 'It's only radio'. And this is only yoga. In whatever embodiment, or however it morphs, distorting from its origins, (in kilts, on surf boards, with boxing (!), as long as you remember the origins, that is what matters. As long as you know where it came from and how you want to practice it, then that is what is important. As for me, I will be careful where I buy my nuts in future.