Tuesday, 20 December 2011


I am now the mother of a teenager. He is blessed and so am I, so we're both lucky. He had six friends sleeping over, so I felt like snow white with the seven dwarfs who ate donuts, popcorn, coke, hotdogs, pizza, chocolate money and a cake in the shape of a crest fallen rugby player with candles sticking out of his bottom.

They had sleeping bags all over the downstairs floor, one slept under the tree and woke up with pine needles protruding from his chin - sort of natural acupuncture I suppose - and was very polite 'Is this a non drop tree' he asked me as I carefully stepped over boys in bags. 'yes but people don't usually sleep directly under it.' They had three films to watch, watched half the first, but were deep in boy talk. I was confined to the bedroom and only went down to make sure food was all ok, drinks were ok, furniture was ok, and that they were ok. They were ok. They got to sleep at five in the morning. That was the very good bit.

Remains of the day Tom played with some of the presents (lets say Apple did well out of the Tucker household this year) and then I took him to see Hugo, directed by Scorsese, produced by Scorsese and J Depp, and starring in no particular order Ray Winston, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jude Law, Christopher Lee, Ben Kingsley, Richard Griffiths and Johnny Depp playing a double bass.

Set in Paris, beautiful cinematography, homage to Amelie and Cinema Paridiso, a dash of Benjamin Button surrealism, with the talent behind and in front of the screen it should have been faultless or at least very good. Stunning to look at it would have been superb as a silent movie. In fact, I would have enjoyed it as a silent movie and ironically it was sort of about silent movies. It's fantasy, so suspend the fact the accents are all over the place, and that the character with the greatest warmth is a metal doll, and that the lead boy is so infuriatingly maudlin and wooden you want someone like Roald Dahl to come along and introduce him to the child catcher (Sasha Baron Cohen doesn't quite do it in his blue uniform - he doesn't do sinister like Robert Helpmann in Chitty Bang Bang). I found myself wanting 'Hugo' to be run over by a train twice. And he meets a girl who is almost as nauseating and comes out with lines that are so strange, no wonder Hugo can't think of anything to say in reply. The grown ups are some of the best actors in the business but their scripts and direction were dreadful. The children were just dreadful. I found myself drifting off and wondering if it would have been better if Sasha Baron Cohen had played his character as Bruno, Ray Winston and Ben Kingsley as their gangster characters in Dirty Sexy Beast, Christopher Lee as Dracula (fangs are still in trend), Richard Griffiths as Uncle Monty from Withnail and Johnny Depp had played the Mad Hatter of Willy Wonka and Jude Law - actually Jude Law was good, but he was only in it for five minutes. The kids would not have lasted five minutes with that lot.

What is good about it? Well, the metal doll is good. And the dogs in the film perform really well to camera. There is a piece to camera by a dog in a bath which is great. And Baron Cohen says some funnies occasionally desperately trying to be rude, but he came across as restrained as if being leashed back like a dog with an invisible electric fence. The dogs and the dolls don't say anything they just look at the camera but it works. I just wish all the other actors had followed their lead...

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011


City of Miles of interchangeable squares
 full of meaningless suits and control freak bulls and bears
 obsessive compulsive psychos with designer habits 
who drink like fishes and bonk like rabbits 
their only meaning is to profit and survive 
walking like the living dead willing themselves alive 
thinking themselves pretty in a world of funny money 
pouring out their emptiness to expendible honey 
stocking up on false friendships with sick and fanatical brokers 
who ensure their clients stay coked up and end up dead no hopers 
these boys live in soul less buildings a reflection of their greed 
reflecting self absorption, its self awareness that they need 
their cars are fast and shiny, like the women they enjoy 
treating every clinging person as a Christmas cracker toy 
they have no guile, these baby bankers getting off on destroying men 
and smiling at those they wish to stab in the back again and again and  again 
money runs through their veins and their brains and their balls 
making all around them smaller and themselves the biggest fools 
not realising they're being squeezed by life, the system and the thrill 
seeking selfish fun blindly and the closure and the kill 
optioning their worth in life as little more than cash 
hedging all their offshore bets before the final crash. 

Saturday, 26 November 2011


Flashman had died. Or rather the wonderful actor Richard Morant who played the character of Flashman in Tom Brown School Days has tragically died. I never met him, but I had recently met his stunning wife Valerie, who is the kindest person you could ever wish to meet. My heart goes out to her and her family.

Morant also played a handsome character in Poldark although I was never a Poldark groupie like my teenage peers at the time. But I remember at the age of seven, while other girls were role playing as nurses and dancers, I was role playing as Tom Brown being tied up to a fireplace by Flashman. It may have been broadcast at four pm on a Sunday afternoon but that series was definitely pseudo erotic. I didn't care if I ever met Tom Brown, its Flashman I wanted to meet. And that was at seven. The character of Flashman was the bully, the attractive bounder, the dark side of Jane Austen's Darcey - an author who never got why women are so attracted to wankers. Forty years later the idea still has it's appeal. Although knowing the flash men I've met over the years, they are nothing like the Flashman of those school days. Today, these men invariably have insurmountable self esteem issues, and are invariably the ones who would prefer to be tied to the fireplace.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

sanity in her madness...

Recently visited Petersham Nurseries, the beautiful, imaginative, over priced and slightly pretentious garden centre and restaurant where they charge £4 for a slice of beetroot cake.

First for a Halloween event where there were lots of actors wafting around Petersham House, draped in smoke and mirrors, pretending to be mad and deranged, and guests had to guess who done it, how it was done, and why it was done. I am still not sure who did it but think it was to do with money being gained dishonestly by the master of the house, and payback. Everyone was scared, laughing nervously, feeling slightly unsafe but impressed by the performance. Hoping it wasn't real.

And last night, I visited the same house, to watch Ruby Wax and Judith Watson in their funny and poignant two woman show 'Losing it' sitting amidst actors, models and psychoanalysts who were there to watch a play about...madness and suicidal thoughts and how the usual middle class response to people having breakdowns is to either ignore them hoping it or they will go away or tell them to 'perk up, have a cup of tea and if your insurance allows head for a 'spa break' in the Priory. It was slightly unnerving as at the Halloween event in the same room, on the same stage, an actress had hung from the rafters, a noose round her neck exactly where Ruby talked about her 'voices' and suicidal thoughts. Everyone was scared, laughing nervously, feeling slightly unsafe but impressed by the performance. Hoping it wasn't real.

Spooky huh?

Thursday, 3 November 2011


Please check out my latest two publications! The Doubting Thomas collection which is a series of stories for three to six year olds. There will be more out just before Christmas. And the other is a collection of poems, some of which are rather naughty.


Friday, 28 October 2011


So a law that was passed three hundred years ago is to be changed. Law of succession can go to the first daughter as well as to the first born son. I think that is a good idea. The women have done a far better job of ruling our country than the men have. I wish more out moded laws that make no sense a part from the collection of revenue and wasting of time could be changed. But hey, times (sort of) change and what was relevant to the sexism of then isn't relevant to the sexism of today. Queen Elizabeth has made a far better, stronger monarch, than her father or her uncle ever could - both weak pathetic selfish little men. Just a pity that this law starts with William and not with the present monarch. Anne would make a far better Queen than Charles would a king. And, oh, by the way, another law that is changing will allow would be Kings and Queens to marry Roman Catholics, of which the devout Camilla so happens to be. What with Tony Blair turning Catholic we'll have Prince Charles at it next. Bless their little sanctimonious hypocritical hearts. I have only met Prince Charles a few times. He is a very small man. Diana made him look smaller in every way but even without her, he remain a very small man. In 'that' interview she said Charles would never be king. I do hope she's right.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Friday, 21 October 2011


So there I am - waiting for my moment to be on BBC Radio Four's Woman's Hour and talk about playground politics and I was in Morocco. The producer called. I couldn't get a line. Then when I eventually got through they interviewed me on my mobile in a carpet shop somewhere in the Medina sitting on a carpet. Initially they wanted to do it while I was interviewing someone making a metal lamp but with all the banging I suggested we go somewhere else. Here is the link for those who are interested http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b015zrrn#p00l8lxp.

Saturday, 15 October 2011


I met my hero, or one of my heroes this week - the creator of the character of Mr Benn. Mr Benn time travelled long before anyone else did and with less hi tech and special effects. I would watch that children's show fascinated by this gentle, oracle of a man, who looked (was drawn) square although he wasn't square in any way. He would occasionally go to the fancy dress shop and meet the 'shop keeper' who would suddenly appear just when things were starting to get interesting. Mr Benn was the common man, the grounded rounded person surrounded by colourful controlled chaos, learning from each of his adventures but ultimately helping those he met more than they helped him. Yes, he was able to see his street - Festive Road - in a different light, noticing more detail and perceiving his surroundings with more clarity after each of his adventures - appreciating what he had and what was around him. After meeting David McKee who wrote the stories (the full interviews will be on radio in the next few months and in articles in the national press) I realise that McKee is Mr Benn. The wise and gentle creator of Mr Benn believes that children should respect their parents as the real heroes in their lives - not the celebrity sportsman and performers that they do now - and that life is about who you are, not what you have or what you do. Mr Benn dressed up but never forgot who he was and his roots. I asked Mckee about his travels. He couldn't think of any significant journey although he's travelled extensively. He simply answered, after thinking for a few moments, that his mother once told him that walking down your own street in life had enough to offer if you looked hard enough. I personally always like the idea of disappearing into different worlds occasionally just like Mr Benn did but being my own shop keeper. I think everybody I know would. That was the simplicity of Mr Benn - he tapped into something that is eternal - our need to occasionally escape not just from our space but ourselves. Escape from what we have and what we do, and challenge ourselves and our fears.

Thursday, 29 September 2011


I am just back from Las Vegas. I am half way between Las Vegas time (eight hour difference) and London time so slightly dazed and confused - Tucker Time. I am writing the feature for a national paper so won't give too much away. It was emotional. Highlights - visiting The Joint, the venue in the Hard Rock Hotel that opened in 2008 with The Killers and Paul McCartney and is amazing. Motley Crue we were told rocked the joint the most and there are as many stars in the audience as there are on stage the venue is so 'right'. We were allowed behind stage to the dressing rooms, and the host talked about the rock stars who had performed there. Fascinating absorbing insight into a world everyone thinks they know so much about and which I feel having visited LV knows nothing. Another gem was visiting the recording studios at the Palms Hotel, where Lady Gaga and Will I Am had recorded (not together) during the weekend we were there. Michael Jackson stayed there for three months recording his last record and security was so tight very few of the staff at the hotel knew he was there. Our host at the studio who has worked with all the good and great both in LV and New York was a truly incredible lady and should write a book about it, but I suspect will never do so.

Other highlights - well I danced at a pool party at Encore at the Wynn Hotel, in front of Pete Tong (he was inches away) and he asked if I wanted a drink but I didn't understand him - but then the music was very loud and I am getting a little deaf. I understand he has the same problem. Or that is what I think he was asking.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, for a month or so...at least. xxx

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


Not so much owl and pussy cat, more the ingredients for a perfect storm - three parents, one ex boy, six twelve year olds and a maths and geography teacher in one rowing boat, who had (sort of) practiced for a twenty two mile race down the Thames in appalling conditions. The start was wonderful. Loads of boats bobbing about all over the place. A lot of people dressed as catwomen, batman, sailors, soldiers, more sailors, (mind you, they could have been sailors), Indians, ballet dancers (?) animals - lions, tigers, anything that bit basically. There were the dragon boats who looked as though they had been training since they were out of the cot, and people like us who looked as though they had been training for an hour on Sunday mornings in wonderful sunshine. Yes the sun did shine at the beginning and at the end, but by the time we got to Tower Bridge it felt very Ben Hurr. The rain poured down, we had thunder, lightening and lots of shouting 'come on boys, we can do it!" which the grown ups were really saying as much to motivate themselves as they were to motivate the boys.

The safety boats at the start were shouting at all the boats who were in position and were not due to start for another hour as everyone was tiered - the slowest went first - so there were a few shouting matches which made it all the more exciting. But there were no fists flying, no scuttling of ships or mutinies to report. We started strong, cris-crossing the Thames dramatically avoiding the other boats - mainly the sea scouts - who we managed to bash into twice and cross oars with, but they looked like they were used to that sort of thing.

By the time we reached Tower Bridge the waves were crashing around us, the boats were banging into us, the safety boat kept coming up to us and telling (shouting at) us to move over, making it ironically very unsafe as they created waves which kept us bobbing up and down powerless to go anywhere. The ex boy wanted to have a pee, tried three times (stage fright) and think managed it on the forth attempt. Men have to do what men have to do, and women have to do what women have to do, but women manage to wait. The deputy head of the school was on Waterloo Bridge bellowing encouragement to us as we rowed (still at ramming speed) and we smiled, until the boy at the front told us we weren't a quarter of the way yet.

We counted the bridges. I remember when I was on a tour on the bateau mouche in Paris the guide telling me about the bridges or as he called them the 'bitches' (his accent) and I kept thinking as I passed under each bridge, the French guy was right. London is a stunning, fascinating, wonderful city. I love it. I know I love it because by the time we got to Barnes bridge we were all utterly soaked, cold and very tired and I was still wondering at the beauty of this place.

There were times when we were rowing all by ourselves, then others when out of nowhere loads of boats seemed to appear (or catch up with us) and then go off into the distance.

By the time we reached Richmond Bridge we were all very tired indeed. The ex boy had rowed across the Atlantic so I thought this would be a piece of cake for him, but even he looked knackered. The teachers kept chatting and texting and consequently made rowing sometimes difficult (can they lose house points for that?) as we all had to keep in time. And the last mile we had a race with an ebay boat (sponsored by I don't think it was second hand, but could have been) which they won. Only just. But hey, they beat 12 year olds and only just!!! The photos at the end say it all. We all looked very satisfied and absolutely exhausted. For any who ask, it was tougher than running the London marathon. We did it in three fours forty minutes which is a very respectable time indeed. The sunshine would have helped but it was an experience and a very good one and something I recommend everyone does just once. Just once.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011


Love and light. Love and light. I'm sending out loads and loads of love and light. It is a very bad thing for anyone who is in the spotlight, actually any one who puts themselves in the spotlight, to have a thin skin. Unfortunately anyone who is remotely creative tends to have a thinnish skin because that's one of the reasons why they are creative - or that's what I think anyway. It is also a very bad thing to read reviews just before you go to bed. I have had some stinkers in my time and I always seem to read them just before I go to bed. One review I got for one of my books went along the lines of only stupid people who had just given birth would buy it, so that managed to insult all new mothers as well as me. Then there were the reviews of the fiction novels where they would put the books in bins, thought all the characters, especially the lead female character was utterly vile, thought that only the good reviews were written by friends (if you did thank you!!) and in one case thought the work was a rancid piece of mince and hateful. A lot of them seem to come from Manchester. And now they've got really personal by a husband downloading the mummy mafia app saying they saw me in on Daybreak and feel I need botox and hair dye. I must admit I read it and thought, now that's just silly, but they have a right to their opinion and although I have no intention of having botox I am thinking positive thoughts and possible high lights. Love and high lights. xxx

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Sarah Tucker is the author of a fictional novel ‘The Playground Mafia’, which  hit a nerve because there was so much unspoken emotional truth in it that it has  sold over half a million copies.  Sarah does not claim to be a psychologist or counsellor, her tips have developed  through the research and some direct experience of playground politics over the  years. She receives between 50 to 100 emails each week on playground politics  and has collected together here some advice  from those she has interviewed over  the years, from teachers, parents, mafia members and victims of playground  politics as well as some words of wisdom from the children themselves.  This list of ten tips might help you with playground issues and over competitive  parents.  1. Remember the only thing you have in common with the other mothers at your  child’s class is that they have children the same age as yours. That is where the similarities end. They are not your friends or confidents.  Don’t treat them that way. Or feel you need to treat them that way. This causes  unnecessary pressure.  2. Always keep your own counsel. Confide in your friends out of school, never  those in the playground no matter how sympathetic they may be. You are going to meet them every day for the next nine years. Do not mention any  marriage or financial or emotional difficulties. Furthermore, do not act as ear to any gossip mongers either.  3. Just because your son/daughter picks a best friend, you do not need to make  best friends with the parents. Parents often feel obliged to do just that.  Don’t. It is not necessary.  4. The teachers are extremely aware of the playground mafia and I got many  anecdotes for the book from this source. If you need advice, always speak to the  head teacher or the form teacher about your child. You don’t need to network with other mothers who – if they are mafia – will  treat information as power.  5. Never arrive early for pick up. More opportunity for you to be pounced on.  6. Always polite but opaque, as in quite dull. If they cannot grab onto anything  about you, good or bad, they will neither be threatened by you, interested to  cultivate you as one of their members. Most mafia were bullies as children and  haven’t kicked the habit. As children you could have had a fight in the  playground, as an adult you are likely to get a GBH assault charge. So no matter  how much they snipe, ignore them. Focus on your child.  7. Be aware that there is no mafia ‘type’ – they do not look like bullies, they  come in all shapes and sizes, may have had or not had successful careers. The  one thing they have in common is that they need to get a life, stop taking  themselves so seriously and focus on their child’s development and no one  else’s. They need above all to mind their OWN business.  8. Mummy blogs and networks are not necessarily the best way to work out issues.  If you need to befriend a mother, make it one who has children two years above  that of your own,who you genuinely like and trust. She is not in direct  competition with you and will have been through the playground mafia issues  herself.  9. See the funny side of all situations. I met a mother who googled all the  children’s parents in her class and only asked those children around for  playdates who had parents with high disposable incomes. This is more common than  people might think. These parent types live vicariously through their children  on many levels.  10. Playground Mafia will always claim they are being overly competitive because  it’s necessary to get into good schools and they must push their child and  further his progress. They do nothing of the sort. All good parents encourage  their child to do well, mafia systematically try to undermine other children so  they do less well, and also undermine the confidence of other parents. That is  not good parenting, this is politics.  Most playground politics occurs when the children are at infant and primary  school. There is less need to mix with other parents at secondary school so less  opportunity for the playground mafia to snipe. Enjoy your children’s childhood. Don’t let the mafia ruin it. And if all else  fails, just drop your child at the school gate and pick up avoiding all eye  contact with any other mother.  Sarah has now devised an APP for mums to use not only to detect mafia mums but  also avoid becoming one themselves. As part of a nationwide 'mummy mafia'  campaign in conjunction with Red Balloon, the organisation which focuses on the  recovery of bullied children, Sarah is asking mums throughout the UK to take the  mummy mafia test and send in the results to her at madasatucker@aol.com.  Alternatively send them to her website www.sarahtucker-website.com on the  comments section, with anecdotes about some of the playground politics you have  personally experienced.  Sarah says, “Tackling playground politics is a step closer to making sure the  time in the playground is something new mothers can enjoy and look forward to,  rather than dread and navigate around. I believe children bully because they  witness the grownups doing the same - lead by example is always the best  policy.”    

Monday, 22 August 2011


I haven't been to Italy for ages and my view of it is across between A Room with a View and La Dolce Vita. Some like it hot and I like it hot but it was too hot. As in closed oven hot. But everything else about it was Merchant and Ivory drop dead romantic. We travelled to Le Marche which is like Tuscany but they do it for real rather than for show. I think it's less to do with the fact they don't know how to market themselves and more to do with the fact they are not prepared to sell themselves. We rode horses in between gorgeous medieval villages void of tourist shops and trappings but full of butchers, bakers and shoe makers. We mountain biked, which was exciting and terrifying and still have skin on my knees which is a miracle. Having gone full pelt over my bike around Richmond Park on many occasions I now have scars on both knees which will be with me forever that look like carpet burns. Hey ho.

The trekking through the gorges was magical. Stunning countryside, dappled light, ice cold water but on that hot day it didn't matter. It was the perfect piercing hot temperature for ice cold water. Eating peaches that dripped with sweet juice. Lov-er-ly. And the paragliding which made me feel like an eagle although I undoubtedly looked like an ugly turkey. I didn't care. I was told by one of the head honchos that 'this is a sport for men to do manly things amongst men.' Well they got a mother and her son for a morning, and in my articles, I'm going to get more mums and their children to do the same. Fabulous experience, utterly amazing barring the cow pats we landed in on the way down. Thank goodness they were dried. (Thank you sun!)

Saturday, 13 August 2011


So the riots have subsided. I don't think it was the police, nor the government rhetoric, nor the announcement by Cameron that we have a broken society, more profound than he or his speech writers realised (see my blog on mindgames, mud and Murdoch). It was the fact that shopkeepers in the end were standing outside their homes prepared to protect their properties and small businesses from the looters. The looters expected public support for their actions, because there is obscene imbalance between the wealthy and the poor and the recent cuts have impacted much more on the poor than the wealthy. And although they have no right to loot, they do have a right to be furious.

The student protestors had public sympathy in general, but the looters lost it as soon as they attacked homes and small businesses (they should have stuck to the big soul less brands synonymous with big business and false promises) and the parts of London synonymous with the greedy. As it was, the poor were robbing from the poor. The 'full force of the law' is not the way to deal with the broken society. The Law is one of the institutions that is broken.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011


I'm in Austria watching what is happening in the UK on CNN. They are showing lots of images of buildings blazing, shops being looted, and a man being helped up by people who then proceed to mug him. There's also some highly articulate people talking about why the riots are happening. Why the rioters have absolutely nothing to lose. That the 'have nots' are now having something to say about it.

The other story is how the stock market is going up and down like a yo yo. The story if you like is about those people who 'have'. People dont' give a diddly squat about what happens on the stock market. We are told it matters - we know it matters - the recent financial crash had global implications for all of us, and are continuing to (re read first paragraph). Billions of pounds have been made in the last few days by those who are playing with the market. The money is numbers, meaningless unless you have that much money to play with in the first place. Global gambling. Legalised mugging. This lot are bored as well.

The gangs are setting fire to the wrong parts of London.

Monday, 25 July 2011


And so I went to Thorpe Park. Hot heady heat amidst rides that had names of tortuous horror films (Saw), condom sounding rides (Colossus - or is that just my mind?), and weapons of natural destruction (Tidal Wave, which perhaps should be called Tsunami. Or perhaps not). Then there were others called Rush, Vortex, No way out (I identified a bit with this one as it was in the dark), and Nemesis Inferno which the boys I took thought was 'the best'. I think they should call a ride 'Ouch'. I'm sure 'Brain Damage' would attract a following.

I was surrounded by teenagers. Fat ones, emaciated ones, join the dots spotty ones, ones who practiced the Victoria 'I am too cool to smile' Beckham pout, and others who were cool but didn't know it. Many others who thought they were, but weren't. I am so pleased I am not a teenager again. Anyone who ever angst for these times should go to Thorpe Park. It reminds me of the insecurities of that age. Of wanting to be noticed and not wanting to be noticed. Of wanting to stand out and not wanting to stand out. Of wanting to be something, anything other than who you are, under the guise of gaining any experience, good, bad and ugly. I know quite a few forty somethings that are still going through this phase or have re entered it.

I didn't go on the rides. Instead I waited in the 'shops' the riders had to walk through at the end of each roller coaster. In one they sold 'victims blood slime' next to sweetly smiling teddy bears with Thorpe Park emblazoned in embroidered yellow on little blue jumpers. It made the bears look creepy and sinister. Then there were the voodoo doll key rings (without the pins), mini marshmallow chain saws (they looked like chain saws), little statues of a man with a very white face and blood red mouth on a tricycle which is something to do with the film Saw, but I've never seen it so didn't get the point and rather than be impressed I just thought them very strange. There were a lot there so don't know if they had sold any. Then there were huge medals for going on each of the rides. You could get three for £10. And loads and loads of jelly sweets and other brightly coloured sugar immersed gelatin filled crap.

I sat there in the sun, and kept thinking of what the place reminded me of. I've been to Alton Towers and Universal Studios in Florida and Phantasialand in Germany, and other 'lands' with rides of this scale, but this one was different. As I sat watching everyone scream their heads off, and praise themselves afterwards for not throwing up and still being able to smile, speak, see, walk - I breathed in the whiff of pizza, pasta, curry, chinese, fish 'n chips, mexican drift in the breeze - and I thought of the story of Pinnochio and the land he ended up in when he started to turn into an ass. I left with stealth, as the ride Stealth was closed.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


I fell in the mud. Walking down from my home in France to the nearby village of Najac I slipped in a puddle and went flying in the cartoonish way you do when the sun is shining, birds singing and all is right and white with the world. And then bang. I mention this as since my last blog about mud not sticking it seems some of it has. Ms Brooks/Wade has been arrested, I'm told Murdoch senior played up the senior moments to the hilt and deserves an Oscar in 'I don't know what time of day it is' method acting. His son I am told was totally spaced out but according to Murdoch's biographer (who doesn't sound as though he liked/respected his subject matter very much) will be arrested soon. Perhaps. I still think these people are slippery. Keep thinking of that character in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin..."I didn't get where I am today by.....".

The guile less were briefly pushed off the front page by the mass of innocents who were sacrificed en masse in Norway. The man who planned it is, I am told photogenic and articulate. Unlike most who do this sort of thing, he didn't kill himself, which makes me feel he still has something to say and do to camera. The 93 he killed also had plenty to say and do. The guilty are always dealt with with much more civility than the innocent. And are always given the last word.

Thursday, 14 July 2011


What does that mean? What do those three words mean? Profoundly relational structures? Intellectual deep throat perhaps? I think the audience would have listened more intently if he'd used that term than the dry dull verbose political patter he did. I heard this and other gems when I went to a think tank evening this evening which was (I am assured) filled with thrusting young MPs all wanting to do the greater good, whatever that is. I attended because I was told it would be good to network with these people. But I walked away confused as to why it would be good to network with these people? I couldn't even understand what half of them were saying. It reminded me of the days when I worked with management consultants and they spouted out one sound bite after another after another which meant sweet FA.

I dressed up like a grown up to have a grown up evening and felt I'd arrived in the land of the morons. There were three speakers - the head messiah, an MP (one of the thrusting ones I think) and a Lord. Bit like father, son and holy spirit I suppose in reverse. The Lord was a dreadful speaker and I haven't got a clue what he was talking about but he kept mentioning 'paying for results.' I drifted off at one point and he mentioned 'paying for results' again and I immediately thought he'd changed the subject to phone hacking, but no such luck.

The MP was a little more animated but no more illuminating, telling us absolutely nothing about everything as all good politicians do. The Messiah was very enthusiastic, at one point almost jumping up and down, but I am still not quite sure about what. Perhaps about being on a stage in front of a big screen with a new website in front of it with loads of thrusting young MPs watching him.

I know I've been in the playground a long time, but I felt like the boy with the Emperor with no clothes watching these dull dull men - one after another - spouting platitude after platitude, and jargon after jargon - about helping the poor, and paying for results.

The room was full (I was assured) of professors and lecturers and other learned folk who listened in revered silence at at the way in which the head honcho threw out how he intended to 'change the terms of debate'. I didn't have a clue what that meant and I didn't have a clue when I left although I did ask a lot of people questions afterwards and they didn't seem to know either.

I am sure the message was a good one. Just the messengers were naff.

Sunday, 10 July 2011


Of course nothing will stick. After the City it had to be another establishment that holds itself up as a vanguard of integrity, or rather integral to our society - 'people need to know and all that'. Regulated by another toothless institution that is unable to stop it's charge from behaving greedily, unethically, and illegally - although the City argues that everything they have done has been within the law. albeit screw the public.

And I am sure Murdoch will present a case that the readers demanded the information, so the press had to go that one step further. Problem is you have the corruptable regulating the corrupt. The politicians with their back handers and expense accounts that can be bought by the bankers and threatened by the journalists. Everyone seems to feel they have too much to hide and too much to loose. Bankers have the money and Murdoch has the information and both have power and use it for their own gain. No one else's - least of all for the public good. Take the fear away and you take the power away from all of them.

Banks are there to keep people in debt under the guise of helping us to keep out of it. The media are there to keep people fearful under the guise of keeping us 'informed'. The politicians are there to make sure this continues to happen. The government will be as inept dealing with the media as they were with the banks. Nothing will change.

There is no Messiah who will rise above it all who can magically visit those who have profited most and take it away from them. And even the social network creating a form of immediate transparency and potential to get masses together to attack in any way and every way they can these establishments that hold themselves up as something they are not - trustworthy and 'our friend' - has been corrupted by companies trying to get their message across - 'buy from me, trust me' when we should never trust them and certainly not buy anything they say or make.

As for why nothing will change in the Murdoch empire - it depends who has the most mud on whom. Rebekah Wade must be a goldmine of the proverbial on the Murdoch empire if she has been trusted and a bit like the city trader who was made a scapegoat for the practices of that another illustrious establishment that thinks highly of itself, never said a bad word about the hand that fed him - he got very well paid and kept his mouth shut. Who has the most mud on whom? That's what counts.

Wade or Brooks as she's now called will do the same. As someone who will do anything to get people to speak, RW will never crack. Any one who has achieved that level of success is as tough as they come. Like banking, journalism is a completely soul less profession. I don't think either profession attracts soul less people, I just think it makes them. Despite the seemingly huge philanthropic gestures it is a drop in the ocean of their wealth. I am more sympathetic to journalists at the top of their game because they don't get rewarded for their greed or ineptitude on the same level as do the bankers, whereas traders and the top banking bods do. And journalists at least make an attempt at transparency, getting the truth out of politicians who are nothing of the sort. It's the very last thing they want to be.

So how is the system to be broken? It is broken already but how do we get rid of it, because we're still riding on a financial and ethical roller coaster that is broken - we won't get off, (we can if we want to, but are told it's too dangerous - but how do we 'know' if we don't try?) . How do we break a system where it is in the interest of too many wealthy and informed people to keep us on there?

How do you break a system that encourages greed and corruption in the city? How do you break a system that encourages unethical behaviour in journalism? Don't focus on the characters on the stage, or the play for that matter. Focus on closing down the theatre. And building another one. Perhaps that's what all the 2012 prophecies are all about - if we don't mend our ways ourselves, something will happen that will do it for us. Be the change you want to see in the world, said Gandhi. We have the power, then why don't we believe it?

Nothing will change. Nothing will stick. If Murdoch goes another will follow, just as if we got rid of all the traders others would immediately take their places - break the system and they won't want to. Break the system and then no on would want to be in Murdoch's shoes again, because it wouldn't be worth it. Of course, those who are motivated by money will say that then society will collapse. Morally, I think it has already.

Friday, 8 July 2011


I have devised a 'mummy mafia' app which will help all first time mums new to the playground in navigating the madness that is playground politics. Identify if you are a yummy, scummy, plummy, schtummy, ommni, sweaty betty, chummy or crummy, and a host of other mother types - what you're like, and how you can avoid becoming mafia and being a victim. The illustrations are excellent. Just download from the apps store or itunes and let me know what you think. I am producing one for 'daddy mafia' 'granny mafia' and 'office mafia' ready in time for the new term.

Sunday, 26 June 2011


Wow, I've had a cool few days. On Friday I attended an event at Syon House where you could sit in and walk around very expensive classic cars. My dear friend Laura, brought five of her German Spitz dogs and they got more attention than the cars did. (they are like miniature huskies. I don't like small dogs but I like these). Everyone wanted to stroke them and ask what they were. Forget match.com, this is the way to meet a man ladies. It rained making the huge hats the ladies wore look ridiculous. I just cuddled the dogs.

Then went to the Killers concert at Hyde Park on Friday evening which was wonderful. Poured with rain of course, but there were lots of wrinklies there, so I didn't feel alone. And everyone knew the lyrics (so did I to some of the tracks).

Saturday morning, went to the Ministry of Sound to learn to be a DJ. It is in E1. Most edgy. The Ministry is so cool, just touch the walls and you feel how cool it is. The DJs oozed cool. I desperately hoped some of the cool would rub off. At the beginning I admit, I was terribly uncool and kept jumping up and down, grinning a lot and clapping, but I quickly got the hang of just tapping my feet to the beat..looking earnest and stopped the grinning and clapping and jumping up and down. We all learnt to DJ on CD and vinyl (the DJs all got very misty eyed about vinyl) and did a 'groupoff' where we competed on our DJ skills. This was utterly brilliant. We had to choose DJ names. Tom chose 'cold turkey' which won an award, I chose Smokey Popham which didn't. Tom now wants to be a DJ as well as an actor and a vet, and thinks his mum is cool just for taking him.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Just back from a weekend in Monte Carlo. Most visitors to this pretty principality arrive at Nice airport and if you want to pay £100 for a 7 min helicopter ride along the coast to the heart of Monaco - although the place doesn't really have a heart - it's a fitting way to arrive at a Square Mile that hosts some of the most expensive real estate on the planet and even more wealth than our own beloved Square Mile does in the City of London. Monte Carlo is a small place which packs a big punch but it's an expensive punch, verging on the obscene. I've visited twice before. First time I went with someone who had the monopoly on cob nuts in England and had his own helicopter, and second time, I was there presenting a show on the 'three faces' of the South of France, although I'm sure it has many more. The TV crew (Only three of us) started in Monte Carlo, then went onto Aix and finally Arles - the last of which proved to be my favourite destination of the three. I interviewed Ile Nastase, danced with Prince Albert of Monaco and didn't lose any money in the Casino, or win any for that matter.

Monte Carlo is an edgy place. Edgy and seedy despite it's wealth, or perhaps because of it, it should be glamorous. It has a style, but I'm not sure if it has style. The scattering of celebrities who live there and make you do double takes (was that really Roger Moore I just saw?), and the opulent so so shiny yachts that stand to attention in the harbour, are usually empty. Old Monaco has more charm - around the Palace where the narrow cobbled streets cobweb, and you find the more reasonably priced restaurants. This area resonates with a soul that the MC lacks or lost or never had. Close to the port, there's a lovely rose garden in honour of Grace Kelly, and I couldn't help think of Princess Diana's failed fountain and how two lovely ladies really chose the wrong men to marry. Grace should have stayed in Hollywood and shone with the rest of the stars.

We went on a speed boat to a private beach that cost £100 a sunbed to sit on, or was that £20 an hour? I'm not sure. Any way, instead of tanned half naked men selling donuts on the beach, they had a fashion show with a stunning girl coming round the sunbeds wearing different outfits. Any way I think it was a fashion show. Lunch was fabulous as was all the food but then at those prices you should be able to take the plate and cutlery away with you. But I'm out of touch. To me, Pizza Express seems expensive these days. And the high light? I dipped my toe and swam in the sea. The water was crystal clear, sublime and wonderfully warm, swimming in it, floating on it, an almost ethereal experience. One of the best thalassotherapy centres in Europe is next to the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo, the French firmly believing in the healing quality of water treatments. For me, the overwhelmingly energizing experience of swimming in the sea worked. It was the one part of the Monte Carlo experience that was utterly priceless, and the only thing that was free.

Monday, 16 May 2011


I was privileged to see The Wall perform at the O2 last night.   Overwhelmingly powerful images and a blistering guitar solo that blew everyone in the space away, including the guy playing it.     He was, it was, awesome.  There was so much to see, hear, tell that others do it far more eloquently than I, especially those who know and have played The Wall since their teenage years.  There were an awful lot of forty something men crying in the audience during and at the end of the show who had all I suspect in their time, knocked or tried to knock the walls of their own education and limiting beliefs built up by their father, their mother, their teachers, society, politicians, no one went untouched in this show which rocked the wall down and the audience to it's foundations.   It applied as much to the women in the audience too but I think women, or most more readily cry in life so not so many tears.   And all of the messages were as relevant today as they were forty years ago, and probably will be in forty years time, which is not a good thing. We do need education, just not the sort we're getting. 

At one stage of the show there was a video image shown on the 'wall' of children who were visited by their fathers who had returned from war and had gone into the classroom to surprise them.   The camera captured the faces as they each saw their dads walk in. There was one image I will never forget.   The camera went to a girl's face who was sitting at the back of the class.  She looked about eight.   She looked up, initially shocked at seeing her dad, then a gradual wave of realisation crept over her face that her father had just walked in.   She smiled broadly, almost laughing, eyes sparkling, and then her face crumbled, slowly collapsing into overwhelming uncontrollable emotion that there was her daddy, her daddy and she hadn't seen him for so, for far too long.  He had to physically pick her up as she literally collapsed, hugging him so tight, tears blistering down her little face.    

Walking back the conversations in the car park were not I imagine the same that you would hear having heard Take That or West Life.  Could be wrong. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


I met Camilla Parker Bowles yesterday. She was at the London Press Club awards in the midst of some of the editors, reporters and columnists who have probably over the years had little positive to say about her or her legacy. She herself admitted she was as surprised to be there as we were, saying as far as she was concerned 'no news is good news'

What is she like? The word I would use is insipid.   An invisible woman to the flat pack personality of Charles.  

Camilla is very short (five foot two I would say) which I suppose is good as Charles is diminutive. She speaks with a low voice (think Liz Hurley) less plum more penis in the mouth. Probably one of the reaons why Charles liked her. He wanted to be her tampon. She probably yearned to be his condom.

She is also quite masculine, more bloke than horse. Diana she ain't, and meeting her told me more about Charles than it did about Camilla.

We know why Charles married Diana but in any other relationship looking on at all three characters it would beggar the question 'if he wanted someone like Camilla, what was he doing with Diana?' Camilla is opaque as a personality.

Was she nice?  The question is irrelevant.    And if I'm honest I didn't care. Her appearance made me remember that Diana wasn't there for her son's wedding and this woman was.

I do however believe she is a much better fit for Charles. She's a yes woman putting up with stuff Diana never would and sat patiently in the wings while the marriage disintegrated. She has her man who's a prince rather than a prince of a man, which he is not.   She's not so much one to watch as one not to watch or listen to. And from her appearance and manner, I feel she would much prefer to be ignored.  

Monday, 9 May 2011


I was due to travel to Japan at the beginning of April, but due to the impact of the earthquake and the following Tsunami and subsequent damage to the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, the trip was cancelled. The tour operator (Journeys of Distinction) I feel made the right decision to cancel the trip, waiting a week before we were due to travel, but following not only recommendations from our Foreign Office, but also from contacts in Tokyo who were giving first hand accounts of what was happening, they felt that travellers would not feel safe. I was personally very disappointed. Japan is one of those places that has held a fascination for me since I was a child, watching Alan Whicker travel to the country where he towered above everyone and everything seemed so very different to the world that I understood. My view of Japan is one of contrasts, of Lost in Translation, of bright lights, and yet gentle people, super fast trains and uber efficient work force, and exquisite gardens and awesome mountains, and an unequivocal national identify and courage that surpasses that of most western culture. I still feel those things about Japan, but having watched the devastation on TV and spoken to those living there, I have gained an insight into a country I still have yet to visit, but feel I know so much more about. There are those who have families to bring up and livelihoods to restore and maintain, and although Japan has been pushed to the back of the news pages recently due to what is happening in the middle east, our recent Royal Wedding, the demise of Bin Laden, and our own petty politics, this does not mean the problem has gone away especially for those who live there. Amongst all the devastation there have been many gentle stories of bravery and kindness which have gone unnoticed in the media here. Sonoko, a mother of two year old Koma, who lives with her family tells of how her husband Johannes returned from the Tohoku area where the earthquake happened. ‘We have a donkey called Rosa as well as three other horses to take tourists on tours but wanted to use Rosa to cheer up some local children who had suffered loss of their homes. He was there for a week and returned with stories about what he had seen and also with a load of toys, including a large toy Kermit frog which Koma now plays with and a tricycle that he picked up. He told Koma these toys once belonged to happy families who lost everything and had to throw them away although they wanted to keep them. He told Koma he should cherish the toys as their original owners would have done. I remember the first thing I did after Johannes returned was to wash the Kermit.” It is not just those with families who are looking to the future with incredible courage and strength of spirit. Akiko, who is 32, single and lives in central Tokyo, works as an investment banker. She keeps very long hours during the week (9am to 1am), and like everyone else at the bank, has been told that it is business as usual. ‘Senior management here have told us Tokyo is a safe place to live. They also retained a specialist who used to work for IAEA and provide us with information regarding the radiation effect on food and water gathering lots of information from many sources. “I cover local government clients. Most of my clients are now busy helping sufferers of the Tsunami, so some of the projects are now postponed. Now we try to save the electric power, so the city is much darker than normal. Because of this, I try to go back home earlier and pay more attention to save electric power and water at my home than before. We think it was a good lesson for people who live in Tokyo and have used much energy. Some trains don't work as normal and it sometimes takes more time to get to the destination. I still go out after the quake, but not as much as I fear the radiation in the air.” ‘Everyone in Japan is aware that earthquakes can occur any time. However, I don't know if many people predicted this big earthquake based on the earthquake last year. I heard the story about a city councilor building a set of emergency stairs at the elementary school last December in preparation for Tsunami and all the children at the school successfully escaped from the damaged school. I assume that some people at the damaged area had prepared for Tsunami. ‘I think things to get slowly back to normal, so I don't think I want to leave Japan. I don't know if it is safe, but I want to stay here as I have lovely family and friends here and love my job as well. We know so many people all over the world try to resolve the serious nuclear power problems and we appreciate such support. ‘We have kept normal services at the bank and we held several town hall meetings hosted by senior managements in the week after the earthquake and the senior managements emphasized that we should think about the community, not ourselves under this severe situation. ‘Many clients keep their normal life and we need to provide our services to them. Therefore, I think nearly everyone at our company keep working as normal while we have options to consult managers if we can and want to work from foreign offices or home. Most of my friends are staying in Tokyo but some friends who have very young babies have left. I think it’s important that we, people live in Tokyo keep our normal life and business saving electric power and water for Japan’s recovery.” “Admittedly, a week after the earthquake, few people went out and I heard that the revenue at restaurants decreased by 80-90%. However, now more people are going out and socialising in restaurants. We're required to save electric power, so some restaurants and department stores close their shop earlier than before, so people go back earlier. But overall, I feel that people started to get back to their normal life in Tokyo and try to spend money at restaurants and shops to support the restaurants and shops. We feel fear a little bit and we're tired as we still experience earthquake [now it’s less than before], but we hear good stories about people who have hope still in the most damaged area and we want to help each other, so I think people try to have hope. They have much more hope than they did immediately after the earthquake.” “Our company has the matching gift program. I and many my colleagues supported Tohoku area by donation. If I donate $100 to Red Cross, my company add $100 and we can donate $200 to Red Cross.” “Yuto, one of my colleagues who lives in Tokyo has visited the damaged area with his friend every weekend and painted pictures with people at the damaged area. He works as normal from Monday through Friday and drives a car for a few hours heading to Tohoku area every Friday night. He wants to cheer up people in Tohoku area by painting pictures together. Almost 30 people, from young children to elders gather and enjoy painting.” My friend’s husband runs medicines wholesale company. He kept working day and night including weekends to deliver medicines smoothly to Tohoku area after the earthquake. I heard that a restaurant in Tokyo closed their restaurant for a few days and visited Tohoku area to provided cooked food for free. I also saw the news article which many famous actors visited Tohoku area and prepared meals outdoors. “I visited many temples and shrines in Kyoto with my parents and prayed for early recovery in Tohoku area this week. We found the words praying for Tohoku area and donation box at every temples and shrines in Kyoto.” I intend to take that trip to Japan next year. When I heard of the disaster I saw no good coming from it, but having interviewed many of those who are living through the experience and who have grown emotionally and spiritually as a result of the consequences, I look forward to visiting this most enigmatic of places and the amazing people who live there.

Sunday, 8 May 2011


I visited Bath for the weekend.   It's similar to Richmond in that I'm not sure who the tourists are and who the residents are, but am sure there were more tourists there than there were residents. It was a whistle stop tour but I managed to visit the Jane Austen museum which is worth seeing for listening to the guide alone. I studied Austen at school and although found her heroines irritatingly meek, with a few exceptions, understand that women in those days were entirely dependent on getting married in order to secure any standard in life.   I learnt that although in Georgian times everything looked rather wonderful, with pretty Laura Ashley/Cath Kitson styling draping hanging on everything from windows to women, and men all dressed like Darcey even if they looked nothing like him, the reality is that they all stunk to high heaven.   Austen intensely disliked Bath and I think it very big of the city and the tourist board to promote albeit a very celebrated resident who felt such disdain for the place and above all the people who visited for the season. She disliked the snobbishness and effected social graces of the 'vulgar rich'.      It was the place women in society met to network to marry men with money.  Or to take their daughters to meet men with money.    Austen herself was proposed to by a man six years her junior and said yes, only to cancel the engagement 12 hours later because she 'could not envisage marrying a man without affection.'   Her two books Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were set here, neither of which were her greatest works, but she was a wonderful observer of life and people and conversation.   I felt Austen was trapped in the wrong time and it's a pity she couldn't have met Virginia Woolf, another author who utterly detested where she lived (she famously said ''between Richmond and death I choose Death.)'  But both of them were inspired by their intense dislike of the place and people that surrounded them because they provided unintentionally such wonderful material.  If you live in a place that is always heaven on earth, you end up 'writing white' and life is not like that.     I always remember that when I meet someone odious. 

Another highlight was being told an ever so charming way of describing hookers.    Forget women of easy virtue.   No, my guide on the hop off hop on bus quaintly described the hookers of Bath as 'ladies of negotiable affection'.  Makes them sound like city traders, or corporate wives, doesn't it?   Austen would have approved. 

Sunday, 1 May 2011


I watched my best friend in a belly dance extravaganza in Basildon last night.    I never thought I would a) do that and b) write about it, but it was brilliant.  I loved every moment of it, even the very surreal and perhaps unintentionally funny bits.  Three hours long give or take an interval, the story revolved around an Egyptian king trying to find a silver ball which he gave to his Queen and annoying the Gods by doing so.  They travelled to Spain, India, Tahiti and Egypt and I think the moon but I'm not quite sure about that one but there was a large photo of the moon in the background.   This could be wrong, but following the story wasn't really the point - it was watching the performers.  They swirled and twirled and undulated their tummies and belly buttons and smiled and stamped and gracefully moved around the stage shimmering all over the place their ribbons and bangles and sparkly things, some of which fell off during the performance but it didn't matter.    Their ages were I would say, from 20 something to 70 something.   There were all shapes and sizes, and I mean all shapes and sizes.   Benny Hill would have absolutely loved it ('I like 'em big').     It was very much a celebration of women, about women and their femininity, which is I am told what belly dancing is all about.    There were only two men in it (although there could have been one under the pantomime camel costume) who stood around and did sweet FA bit like at an Essex disco where the girls do all the work and the men just stand round the edges and try to pick up enough courage to join in so that they can ask a girl to dance a slow walkie around dance because that's all they can do.    The men were well and truly outdone by the seventy or so female performers.   As for the performers, well, some had been on the sunbed far too long, some needed to put on weight, others loose it, and none of them in any way cared.   They were marvellous, colourful, entertaining and courageous.  And they all looked as though they were having fun.  I sat next to the choreographer's dad who was so proud as he should be.    And oh yes, forgot to mention, my friend was definitely the best of the lot.     

Friday, 29 April 2011


That was the first line from the address given by the Archbishop of London at Kate and William's wedding.   I'm not really sure what it means but perhaps that's the point. When we find out what God has meant us to be, and we accept it, then we can get on with living life rather than trying to survive it.    I thought Kate looked stunning, William handsome, the bridesmaid looked as beautiful as her sister, and the Middletons dramatically outshone the Windsors in both dress sense and genetics.   I thought the trees and sense of nature in the cathedral wonderful which I'm sure the Windsors thought weird and bohemian, and the music they chose haunting.   Diana was there because the sun shone in and out of the church.    Beatrice and Eugenie looked dreadful.   Everything was discussed and analysed in detail at the street party afterwards and everyone became philosophical about love, life and what's important.  Hope it lasts.  

Monday, 18 April 2011


Just read a book Woman vs Womaniser.    I met the author J C Johnson, who is a very interesting likeable character and kept asking me 'have you read the book?'  I admit, I hadn't but I just have, this weekend.    'You'll think of me differently when you read the book,' he kept saying as though I would read it and not want to know of him, let alone know him, once I had read about his life story.   I don't think of him differently. He is still a very interesting, likeable character.    

The book is about J C Johnson's life as a womaniser.    The book gives tips on how to detect one, how to avoid one, and how J C found self esteem really through the love of women who had plenty of self esteem of their own.   Although it focuses very much on helping women to identify the traits in men, it also firmly points the finger at women themselves and saying that womanisers can detect vulnerabilities, 'blind spots' as JC calls them, and that this is all to do with not controlling our emotions.  Women are prepared to put up with a lot when they are in love with someone, not using the rational part of their brains to identify that a man is a womaniser, and run.  Or that they have identified that he is a womaniser but that they can change him. Save him from himself.    The book tells women to trust their instincts.  Not their emotions, their instincts.   I agree with most of what JC says and found some of his sexual exploits intriguing, reminding me a little of my own book LAST YEAR OF BEING SINGLE. I will never think of the word 'boing' in the same way again.  It's a pity he hasn't gone more into the sex scenes but then that's the point of womanisers - they don't get into it long enough to get into it.   It's sort of next, next, next, next.   Boing, boing, boing. 

According to JC, womanisers only go for women who are vulnerable - correction - they only 'get' women who are vulnerable, but they will try their luck at anything. I knew someone who would ask any girl out at work and say the law of averages one would always say yes.    Reading through, I definitely met one when I was going through the divorce but then I knew that at the time.  According to JC they tend to have an oversized ego, be vain, tell them that you can trust them, have very good empathy but use it to their own ends and never introduce you to their parents.  Oh, yes and they never stay after sex.   Unless, JC suggests, you happen to marry one, and then they just stop having sex with you all together.  Good book, go buy. 

Sunday, 3 April 2011


Mothering Sunday and my son is in Barbados playing cricket with his friends and just knowing he's happy is enough.  Well, a card would have been nice, but any way, the sun is shining.   My lovely friend Sara invited me to exhibit some of my paintings and several of Tom's in the Church nearby.    It was a pleasure and I found myself helping with the cake sale after Mass.    I should have attended the mass but wanted to change and shower but the snail's pace of Richmond Park traffic meant in the end I didn't manage to do either.    But I helped out with the cake sale, talked about the art and chatted to photographers and the other excellent artist who's work was on display there.   And then this guy came up to me, all six foot four of him, and told me off for leaving kitchen knives on the counter.  Told off.   I was actually told off.  I couldn't get into the kitchen so left them on the counter for the women to take them to the sink but they hadn't.  I didn't explain this to him because he didn't want to know, he was talking at me.   He told me his child could have picked it up.  He reminded me of that time when that man chided me for not letting Tom and his friend get up from their seats and offer them to him - despite the fact there were others to be had.   At the time I stood my ground as the man was a nutter and a banker (the two are not mutually exclusive but am increasingly feeling they could be), but this time I was taken by surprise.  A church goer having a go at me. OK, he had yet to go to church so perhaps he was full of angst and aggression and hadn't yet off loaded it onto a forgiving all knowing God.    But this man was having a go at me for being a bad parent (leaving the knives on the counter when his child could have picked them up and danced happily round the room with them. And it's Mother's Day!).  But it was the way in which he did it.  I know I should have said that as a father he should have picked them up or the women behind the counter should have picked them up and that perhaps as a church goer he should pray for improved communication skills, and perhaps so should I, but I just took it. 

I don't know anything about the man and he knows nothing about me, other than the fact he suspects I want to harm his child.    He was Korean and my only previous encounter with a Korean was at a dinner party with a divorcee who told me that the North Koreans invented the seedless water melon.   So my knowledge of all things Korean is limited and to date, not very positive.  

But as I drove back through the park, pissed off that I was pissed off, I felt this is the problem I have with church goers.     And actually the whole experience of going to church.    As a child I went to church and believed (and still do) in God, and naively felt those involved with the church are somehow wiser with all their learning and compassion.    The Father at this church is a lovely interesting, intelligent, funny, compassionate man but I feel much of that stems from the fact that this is innately what he is and who he is, and less stems from the fact he is connected in any way to a Church.   

I expect church goers to be somewhat wiser, more at peace with themselves than the rest of us, but the ones I've met, and it's always the most zealous ones, are usually the most sanctimonious, self validating sinners on the planet. They pray for their sins to be taken away totally unprepared to do anything about it themselves, as though by sitting down and putting their hands together will take all the crap away, after all, that's what they've been told.  Point is, it doesn't.  God may forgive them, which is what matters, but it doesn't stop them being obnoxious arseholes and I would like sermons one day to shoot from the hip and not call the congregation 'sinners' but 'arseholes'.   That would wake them up.  Calling it sinning makes being an arsehole acceptable.    You have to be more self aware than that and I don't think the church, any church, teaches self awareness, it teaches dependence and disempowers those who are already afraid and needy.    And it enables arseholes to continue to think being that way is OK.  

The lovely Father followed me to my car and thanked me for not stabbing the man, (it hadn't entered my head) or telling him to eff off, (too close to the church) and I admit I was on a high from people liking the paintings and enjoying the cakes and sunshine and then this sanctimonious arsehole burst the bubble with the knives.    Perhaps God was punishing me for not attending the Mass.  Perhaps I should have urged the women, despite the fact they were busy to put the knives away.   Perhaps I would have done the same as him (I wouldn't. I would have just put the knives away, knowing that no one would have done it on purpose, and thankful no one got hurt.)   Whatever, the knives burst the balloon and I drove away a little less of the day and the sunshine.  I suspect he was a banker. 

Sunday, 27 March 2011


Today I walked by the river past the Tower of London to take a brief tour of the HMS Belfast which is fascinating and I highly recommend.   A battle ship that is no longer at war, although this weekend London seemed to be in the midst of one.  This wonderful city can be a lovely, very interesting and dynamic city.   In places obscenely expensive but then in truth only the obscene can afford to live and go there so perhaps that's for the best.   

I have enjoyed living on the outskirts at the SW side, driving in along the river on the occasions I have worked on radio and been blessed with a night slot so avoided the Chelsea tractor driving plummy mummies picking up their Cordelias and Arabellas, and the road rage that ensues.    The bridges are beautiful, the architecture fascinating and we have some of the best arts and theatre in the world, and wonderful street markets.   The river running through it is the pulse and increasing the developers thank goodness are making sure that everything turns towards it rather against it.

It was an interesting weekend.   Full of extremes of conspicuous wealth and conspicuous resentment.     I watched the Oxford Cambridge boat race.  Wanted Cambridge to win, Oxford won, but they both won really.   They took part.      Then up to town narrowly missing the march and the riots to see Aida at the ROH.   I think I was supposed to feel sorry for the heroine wailing her heart out about a man who loved her but also wanted to be with her father who was the enemy of the man she loved. Any way, there was not enough jeopardy, she looked as though she'd had more than three good meals a day,  and I didn't care about any of them.    I just wanted to slap her and tell him to get a life.    But the dancers were absolutely incredible and the singing sublime and as opera tickets are ridiculously expensive unless you get standing room I was amazed the rioters didn't target the ROH instead of Fortnum and Mason and the Ritz.  But I suppose they deduced the ROH pay their taxes.

Any way, after returning home, I watched the march on TV and looked at the faces of those who quietly protested.  They were good people I saw, with honest faces.  Something ironically I would never describe the likes of Bob Diamond nor the former chief of RBS as having, but hey, appearances can be deceptive.   Speaking of which, I felt for the police who were being attacked in the riots.  They are just doing their jobs. They are being impacted by the cuts as well. They are in debt, their livelihood and families.    

What I suggest, and it is only a suggestion mind you, is that we get those who work in the City (traders, only top level who made the decisions who assisted in the financial crisis. And ideally their CEOs and MDs) and the politicians who allowed them to get away with it. And next time there is a march we put them in the front line.  They don't have to say sorry or be forgiven (as Bob Diamond was asked to do at that ridiculous inquest not so long ago by the politicians trying to 'speak for the tax payer', and they don't even need to say sorry).  Words are meaningless and the banks will always find a way to claw in the money they are being asked to pay back.    No, I feel these people should stand in the front line. Then the rioters would be attacking the right people. Of course they would fight dirty as they always do but perhaps we could do what we did in Libya and declare a no fly zone to back up the rebels.    Did they but know it, by attacking the police, the rioters yesterday were really attacking one of their own.   

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


I presented to the Womens' Institute in Surrey last week.  In Surrey, they audition for speakers and I don't know if I was good enough but it was an interesting exercise of precis - turning a forty minute int a twenty minute without missing out the relevant bits.  Admittedly rather formidable, I enjoyed it.  A buzzer for the last sixty seconds ticked loudly which was a little disconcerting but good for the time keeping.   My talk was about the art of storytelling and writing your first novel.  And I felt there were so many stories those women could tell, if they had the time, made the time, or had the confidence to type or write out their story.  So many would learn from their experiences, their mistakes and wisdoms.     You can see sometimes in those old black and white photographs the echoes of stories - and I always remember that scene in Dead Poets Society when the Robin Williams (can't remember the name of the character he played) whispering in the ears of the watching boys 'carpe dieum' (?) seize the day.   Whether they chose to put me on their books or not, I hope at least some of those who were at the meeting, start to write....

Sunday, 20 March 2011

thank you!

Thank you to all who came to watch at the TNT Show.  Fascinating to walk past the vast queues that were waiting to get into the Ideal Home exhibition and to find an altogether more fun and focused assembly at the Travel Show, for the young and young at heart.   No blips in the talk except the announcements every ten minutes in the hall booming over my voice announcing...that I was talking in Seminar Room One. Hey ho, I did a dance every time they spoke.    

I hope those who came enjoyed the talk as I gave them some very good tips about what makes a strong travel book, and its nothing about getting the facts right about the destination, or the journey for that matter.  A lot of it is about passion and the ability to convey it.  

One girl asked me at the end 'how do you become as passionate as you are about traveling?'   I don't know the answer to that one.   I have always loved to explore the new, discover or rediscover,  and am curious and tenacious by nature.    And I believe without passion, or at least having someone or something to be passionate about, what is life about?   

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


For any of you who have the time and inclination, I'm talking at the TNT Travel Show at Earls Court this Saturday about how to make the most of your adventures and how to get your travel diaries published.  So many of those I meet have utterly fascinating stories to tell around their travels and don't write it up, even for their own benefit or that of their immediate family.   It's a personal choice, but deciding to write about an adventure, even before you plan it, can make all the difference in turning a great journey into an extraordinary one.  The talk will focus on the why, what, where, when, who and how to write up the adventures and then,  if you so decide how to get it published to a wider audience...  Please come!  10.30 am on Saturday Earls Court TNT Travel Show for all those intrepid explorers out there...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

poetry in emotion

I had a stinking argument with my ex last night.   For the first time ever I put the phone down and wished he would actually choke on his money.   But then some time ago I wrote this poem below.   And although in the bright light of day I still wish he would choke on his money, I realise that once upon a time.....  



Faded smiles of a sunshine day

In Autumn’s flush when colours already begin to smudge

Ghosts dance around shadows in the room

Their spirits bright despite the crackle of time

The shining young so full of hope and denial           

Their egos full

Morning suit affectation of pot bellied bankers

Guffawing the last bubbles of nonsense

First wives about to give birth to their first home truth

And I watch myself

The girl in white, so open and stupid

Who couldn’t and wouldn’t even glance at her groom

as she walked down the aisle

and I want to shake her and hold her tight

And tell her to love the man she just married with all her heart

and try harder to be

interested and interesting

even when he is deathly dull

and she is tired and bored

And to compromise but never

Compromise herself.

She got those two mixed up

And I want to tell him to be less angry

and be less afraid and to be stronger.

And that she truly loved him but not herself

The singer and organist playing portentous

hitting the right notes at the wrong time

As did the bride and groom

We should have known.

and I hush the sound and fast forward through the dull bits

as we would do in life if we could

and wonder if I would rewind any moment of my life

and my marriage now it is merely a crackling faded memory

how I would change an old wedding video

My twelve year old watches his mum and dad now


but magically reuniting on screen with smiles

now knowing it won’t last unless in some wiser parallel universe it does

Although the spark of happy ever after sits cuddling by me now reminding me

It was so worth it.