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.