Sunday, 26 April 2015


I have just returned from a wonderful four days in Malta. It is an exciting, interesting place and an alternative history.  I was given a book called an Alternative Guide to Malta which focuses on the history behind its energies, the belief it was built on Atlantis, why there are so many temples concentrated in one area.    Its very interesting.  Malta has an unusual energy, its sister islands Comino and Gozo again very different and the book explains why and how.

I got into discussion about energies when travelling and A to Zen of Travel tiptoes into an area focusing on how the dynamic between the place and the person is more important than the place in itself.   That's why some people love London, others hate it, some are drained by its energy, some energised by it, but it is the same place.  London is a powerful energy source but it attracts a lot of energy vampires which suck the blood out of it, but it still keeps on giving.

And there are energy sources around the world, but they always seem to either have geographical unrest or civil unrest.

The recent earthquake in Nepal troubled me because every time something like this happens it always seems to be somewhere beautiful. Somewhere exceptional, important, dynamic.     The Middle East constantly in the news because of the wars, the aggression, is a stunning place full of the most wonderful people, I would say, much more wonderful than many in the western world.    I admit I'm pleased I'm not a woman living there, or indeed living there at the moment, but that isn't to decry its an amazingly beautiful place. Syria is stunning as is Libya, but all of this is smudged over with the dust kicked up in war time, and blown up by lazy media eager for a bad news story because they are easier to write.

So why is it, these places, the most enigmatic, that suffer the greatest tragedies?  Or perhaps its just media perception again stirring up stuff that isn't so one sided?   Why did New Orleans burn to the ground and not somewhere more beige?  Why Nepal, where spirituality goes off compass, and not Las Vegas, where its gone completely the other way?  Why does nothing ever happen in Richmond?!

I have my theory.  The places where there is a lot going on below the ground, there is a lot going on above it. Where it flourishes below it flourishes above - i.e. there's movement below.    Its in a constant state of flux and evolution and energy being churned and re churned about.   Where there is no energy below the earth - no movement, it is static above it.   Think even the Bible put it there somewhere - as above so below, so below as above.  Or may be not.  

So basically if you live in an area where nothing every happens, it means you're living on dead ground.   Energetically as well as literally.  I'm not sure its one they'll put in the travel brochures for those troubled areas in future, or even those who aren't troubled and are free of civil or natural disaster (after all, who would like to feel they are holidaying on dead ground?) but its an idea.


I've just completed a module on a Psychology Degree at Open University.  I had to write a thesis on how the media constructs meaning as to what a working mother is. As a journalist I was viewing and analysing newspapers and magazines I regularly write for so it was interesting to evaluate essentially a 'voice' which is at least some of the time, my own - albeit heavily edited by the editor.

I was working with three other women to discuss the tools the papers used to create meaning and the debate became heated not because we each agreed with what the papers were saying or took sides with what the papers were saying but recognised that what was being written about was nothing to do with the reality of being a mother, let alone a working or non working mother.

The tools media - thats broadsheet, tabloid, regardless of politics use - is the same.  They use guilt rhetoric - some admittedly more than others.    The Daily Mail, aimed predominantly at a female market used emotive rhetoric to create a sense of working mothers abandoning their children in the home when they could have been baking cakes Mary Berry style, although 'statistics' showed that when they weren't working and at home, they spent very little extra 'quality' time with their children.    'Statistics' and 'quality' came up a lot in these articles, written by professional single men or professional women who made a profession out of writing about parenting.   The Guardian used a working woman, mother who organises seminars for working mothers to get back into the work place, but predominately high powered ones. The Telegraph focused on statistics and how George Osborne was trying to get working mothers back into the work place.   There was also another piece using scientific evidence about how damaging working mothers could be on their children although this wasn't conclusive in any way as there was also conflicting evidence.   The Telegraph talked at you, the Guardian talked to you and the Daily Mail talked about you.   None of the articles were constructive in their argument because there was no constructive argument - it was for both the broadsheets and tabloids - sensationalist and irrelevant.

Experts were used a lot to suggest value in what they said, as an authority that knows more about your behaviour and values as a mother than you do.    Re read that sentence. Someone is telling you they know more about your situation than you do.   And lots of government bodies and think tanks were included, quantifying and evaluating that 15% of mothers wanted this and 10% of mothers wanted that.  

Then there was the 'them' and 'us' scenario, as though working mothers were against non working mothers and 'we' (whoever category the media put you in) were dismissive of the other life choice other mothers had decided. Were we?   There were non working mothers and working mothers amongst the group - although we all decided that actually it was irrelevant if we were in an office or not, because we all worked in very different ways - none of which were compartmentalized/described accurately in the articles despite the presence of experts/statistics and that this 'them' and 'us' scenario didn't actually exist en masse.    In fact a lot of the way the media compartmentalised mothers was considered irrelevant.     There are so many more 'compartments' or rather there are none at all. we are individual its just like the media like the politicians has to put us in boxes even if you don't fit into any of the boxes.

And lastly, the media uses ideologies about the perfect mum.  Which we decided not only doesn't exist but has never existed and is not aspired to. The cross between a Mary Berry cook, with her happy family, and the celebrity culture of being there always for your children and being torn between being there for your children but also there for your self, your career, your future. And oh, yes being there for your husband.  

And the husband and dad had no impact on the children according to the experts, although the statistics proved he did, and that if he was absent then the child suffered, which was the mothers fault.  But the bar was set so low for the dad that he scored a team point just by getting out of bed, not beating up the wife and playing with the child occasionally.

I was left with the distinct impression the media knows nothing about mothers and reflects an impression of them that is totally unrealistic, irrelevant and irritating.   Mothers, all of which work, have far too much to do and get on with than worry about if they not doing enough or doing too much or concentrating on one area than the other.  They do not, and should not worry about what anyone else is doing, because when they focus on their own child and no one else's they get it right.    The media we decided don't create a social conscious, they attempt to nurture guilt, an image of a mother which is totally unrealistic and has a voice that has no place in parenting.

So next time you read in a newspaper or magazine telling you, as a mother, what you are like, how you should feel, what you should do, and which 'box' you fit into to, realise that its not you.   Even if it says it is.   And has experts and statistics and politicians to prove it.  Not that I know what I'm talking about of course.   Although I did get an A.

Monday, 13 April 2015


I spent the weekend in Provence which was beautiful. Lovely place, lovely people, lovely food, lovely wine.  Perfect combination of ingredients.

I ate cheese. I do not eat cheese as it smells like mouldy socks and I have never been partial to eating mouldy socks.     But Claudine Vigier the master fromager there (the big cheese), made it sound so sexy (roll the cream around your mouth with your tongue very very slowly until it melts into your mouth).    

I stayed at Le Crillon Le Brave, @crillonlebrave about two hour's drive from Marseilles, depending on if you are French or English driving.  Owned by one of the former directors of Soho House, its more than Babington in France.   Although its more than one building, its also more than a hotel, or holiday village, or resort. I don't know what they should call it, perhaps just Crillon Le Brave.    Or Le Brave, as its taken over 26 years to get to this level and the nearby Pope's Palace in Avignon (hours drive away) only took twenty.

GM Sebastien who is as efficient as he is handsome, and his team are all very good looking and very efficient which really says it all (about me and them both).   Benoit Liebus, the sommelier, also made his description of wine tasting into something better than Fifty Shades.   "Wine and food is like a man meeting a woman.   A part they may be tasteless, but together they may taste amazing'   I may have lost or gained something in translation there but I've got it on tape.     Also don't eat egg/choose egg on the menu with wine. The wine will always taste of egg.   I didn't know that.  I do now.

Visited the strawberry festival in Carpentras where the fruit is the size of plums, and everything is strawberry. People dress as strawberries, sell the plants, millions in boxes, cup cakes, drinks, as long as its strawberry, it works.

Visited the antiques market in L'isle sur la Sorgue which is enthralling and lunched at Le Jardin du Quai @jardinduquai
 where the food and wine do a of flavour.

Would recommend the break to anyone who wants a treat. Don't take children if you have them. It is wasted on them and Le Crillon has loads of stone steps up and down and they are bound to fall over.    Take someone worth loving.  Not saying your children aren't (they are, more than anyone or anything else, unconditionally) but this is grown up time.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015


Writing about Australia and have forgotten how stunning the country is - well, in the places I've visited.    My favourite is Adelaide and the surrounding wine region of the Barossa, then Brisbane and Gold Coast and then probably Sydney, although I've seen little of the rest, which I hope to do in the next few years.   I loved Adelaide.  Its as though its taken the best of everything and added something more.   And the Outback is haunting, chill down the spine but in a good way.   Walkabout hinted at the magic but you have to go yourself. There's now loads of glamping opportunities but I went (1997) when there were few and ostrich hadn't yet hit Tesco counters.

Just done report on working mothers and how the media portrays us.   They use guilt rhetoric to make us feel guilty about not spending enough time with our children (it doesn't matter - there is studies both for and against), they create a them and us culture with stay at home mums - that doesn't exist, but for some reason they want to exist; stimulate the anxiety to create a perfect work life balance that they see as a group thing rather than an individual thing (media doesn't think in terms of people being unique, just being demographics), and they create an ideal mother type that also doesn't exist.  The Telegraph talks at you, the Guardian talks to you, the Daily Mail talks about you (like the bitch in the playground), and the Express is just pleased you want to listen to them talking at all.   Didn't look at the Times. They just don't pay on time.

And I got my poll card.    I've recently written about the suffragette movement and how they suffered so women could get the vote.  Its a pity we can't do the same to get better people (and I mean that in every sense) to vote for.    'We' did not choose them.  That is what 'we' were offered.    Its a bit like going into a supermarket and there is only stuff there you don't want and know will either a) kill you b) make you fat c) give you spots.   So with those options you go for b) or c) both all of them are crap.

Milliband looks gormless and his party fucked up.  Blair keeps returning like the plague, puppet and paid by the bankers to bang on about how if we leave the EU our financial sector won't be paid as bigger bonuses as they were used to.  Every time I look at Cameron and Boris I think Riot club and no matter how much Cameron's wife plays happy families and makes them look as though they are one of us, I don't know who are they are, but they are not one of us.   He looks like a smug constipated hamster, although I admit I've never seen one but if I did, it would look like David Cameron.

So I don't know who to vote for. They are all liars or greedy or both.   The good ones never make it to the top (as in they have integrity, values which aren't linked to money, can't be bought, don't have something that the law, church, banks, CEOs or any other head of establishment, can blackmail them with), so we are just left with the social climbers who have used every dirty trick in the book to make it onto our screens to shout vote for me.

I want to vote but I don't want any of the ones on offer.

Friday, 3 April 2015

seven little piggies and a lovely break in Kent.

I visited a wonderful bed and breakfast called Hayne Barn House.   Literally just off the M20, five mins from the Channel Tunnel stop off, its an excellent base to stay before you go on either the train (Ashford International Station is close) or take the car.   It usually does weddings, there are only three bedrooms, but its one of those places that is cosy, stunning gardens, lovely even in and particularly in the rain, although we arrived when the sun was shining.   I took Tom to give him a break from revision, just for the evening and went to a restaurant called Silkwood in Saltwood where the b and b is based.    Its a gem, not hidden now because I'm going to talk about it anywhere I can. Host is Jean Paulo (Florence) and chef is (forgotten his name) but from Chicago. The food is excellent, as in sublime and the wines are from Kent as well as all over the world, but well chosen.  Cocktails excellent and I had a Kentish spring cocktail (vodka, hop syrup, Kentish champagne) wonderful and I don't drink.  Fish superb, everything perfect.  Perfect perfect perfect.  Well not perfect, but just right.

And then I turned on the TV to watch the 'debate'.   The Welsh woman irritated me every time she spoke.   The Scottish woman spoke sense especially when she talked about university charges "you got your university education for free all of you, and it is shameful you are making this generation paying for theirs"  You go girl.     Point is, every time I hear the Scottish twang I think Gordon Brown.  And I'm not sure she likes the English, not just the English Parliament.   Just a feeling.

Miliband very bright man, but absolutely no charisma. Nothing.   Clegg in invidious position both having to attack and defend. The best orator on the bench (he gets a lot of practice on LBC) but Cameron is the better politician.   Appears completely plausible but totally inauthentic.    Watch The Riot Club. That's what he's made of.    You get the face you deserve and he looks as though everyone around him are either wasting his time or smell.

Farage banged on about immigration as though stopping immigration would stop cancer, and bring about World Peace.    However, he spoke what a lot of people think.   And only some of them are bigots.  And he was right. The rest of the bench were liars. And that is where they all fall down.    I looked at them, and thought one was a good speaker, one looked slimy, one I was worried she would forget her facts (Green party woman), one came out with some sound points but thought she would stab us in the back if she ever got in, and the other one may have had a point, but I didn't like the sound of her voice - and I didn't believe any of them could either deliver what they promised or were speaking the truth.

None of them are credible.   None of them.   OK, one of them. The woman invigilating. But its easy to ask the questions. Its delivering the answers thats the difficult bit.

Mind you, good there were more women.