A Charmed Life


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we could be heroes

I like the idea of a hero.
So I became one.
Not by plan exactly.
Nor by donning a cape and saving lives.
It was more like a series of events – known to you and I as living – that got me believing that I had in fact become a hero.

For as long as my memory serves me (and with my elephant memory it serves me very very well), from all the way back to when I was a wee thing I have had heroes: From real figures like my grandfather who immigrated to New Zealand from Gujarat, India with nothing but hope to provide better for his family, to my selfless, educated aunt the first feminist I knew, to Madonna one of the first people I felt a kindred spirit, to my form two teacher Mr. Emmins the first person to truly see me; to those heroes who reached me through history books Elizabeth I, Frida Kahlo and Steve Biko; to the heroes who lived only in stories Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre and Anne Elliot. And so on and on it goes, this amassing of heroes as I travel through this thing called life.

As is the case with heroes, my heroes have been feted and referenced often but until recently I never questioned the need for them. It took for these divisive times for me to think about this notion of heroes, and listening to my inner dialogue I realised I had created this otherness where my heroes lived. This is I think not an uncommon thought as when we think of heroes – they are people who create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive. We human beings are not given to consider how we ourselves create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive in our everyday lives. But we do.

Many of my heroes have transitioned in recent years – some of whom are known Madiba, Maya Angelou, Wayne Dyer, David Bowie and Elie Wiesel and others who are known only to those of us who basked in their light –  and as I became aware of this I had this moment where fear grabbed me. The fear that there is no one to replace them. This fear led me to call a friend for perspective, she said ‘we see in a hero something we think is not in us, so what do you see in your heroes?’ And hearing this was an ‘eureka’ moment. I was so busy looking for people to emulate I overlooked why I needed heroes in the first place. What had been lacking in my childhood that made me seek out people? And why have I kept up this practice throughout my life?

Having been on a journey of self awareness the answer was plain as day. Not only did I hold my heroes in high regard, I paradoxically saw myself on a much lower shelf. And these heroes I was collecting, all these people have had just the one role to play in my life. Of his character Juan in the film Moonlight, Mahershala Ali said he was grateful he got to play ‘a gentleman who saw a young man (Chiron) folding into himself as a result of the persecution in his community and taking the opportunity to uplift him and tell him he mattered, that he was okay and accept him.’
Each of my heroes throughout my life exist to uplift me, tell me I matter, that I am okay, to accept all of unique, crazy, geeky, energetic, resilient, compassionate, wonderful me.
Each of my heroes by example of their lives wills me to use my voice to live my purpose.
Each of my heroes has pushed me to be my own hero.

So could I be my own hero! Sounds rather ridiculous and self serving but I do know that my journey of self discovery from hitting rock bottom to getting back up again has been long, hard and full of sacrifice but to my betterment I am not the same person I was five years ago. I also know when I talk to my tribe they see in me my miracle but I have never given myself any credit for it. Another girlfriend has this one line she habitually says when asked for advice, ‘what would you say if it was me telling you this story?’ And when I think about my story there is a hero in there for it takes courage to change your life as I have done especially when you are surrounded by people who do not understand and choose to not join you at the finish line; but if you are fortunate to reach that finish line having become the person you were meant to be like I have, well that sounds like a hero to me.

And if I needed further proof of my heroness I found it last month at The Women’s March. To be part of this massive global consciousness, feeding off the vibrational energy of my fellow sisters and brothers as we came together to be our own heroes was one of the most empowering moments of my life so far.

So here I am – a hero or as my beloved Ms. Maya would say a SHEro, you won’t read about me in the papers or see me on the news, nor am I likely to be referenced in history books (although there is still time) but as long as I create, save lives, inspire, achieve, thrive, survive I am my own SHEro and that is plenty good enough for me. The actress Viola Davis said it best ‘the fact that we breathe means we have a story.’

Sat Nam

 And… I am a week late but has to be said Superbowl51 was hands down the best game I have ever seen. Like everyone else going into the game I thought the Patriots had it, but then three touchdowns later I had swung the Falcons way. There was NO way the Patriots could win, to do so SO many records would have to be broken. They just couldn’t but holy mother of comebacks, they bloody did. They aren’t even my team but the Patriots have got me seriously rethinking my Green Bay allegiance #TomBradyYouLegendYou  The Women’s March, oh what we can create when we try. I’m always up for a universal love in and I see more of these moments to come as we try to make sense of this new order we exist in #IWasThere #Resist #Forward  I think I fell a bit more in love with Adele after her George Michael tribute at the Grammys, it takes balls to admit a fuck up but to have that fuck up broadcast live around the world is a whole different kettle of fuck up but I just know he was there willing her on. Bravo Adele you SO didn’t mess it up for him, he would have been chuffed to bits, and bravo on the 5/5 Grammy wins, love how you always keep it real. #GottaGetUpToGetDown  Still on the Grammys bravo to our Starman for Blackstar also winning 5/5, we love you and we miss you so ♥ And finally as we watch truth being murdered by the US predator-in-chief and his foot soldiers, can we all take a moment to say thank you to the immigrants in our families. My history at least four generations back is one of immigrants – my great grandparents, grandparents, parents all immigrants and I myself am an immigrant. Each generation has sought to better their life not weaken the lives of those in their new environments. TRUTH: Communities are built on the shoulders of immigrants and WE ARE ALL BETTER FOR IT #RefugeesWelcome #WeAreAllImmigrants #OneLove


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a love story

For those old enough – do you remember playing elastics at interval when you were at school? Do you remember the ditty that went along with it? ‘England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, inside, outside, puppy dogs tails.’ This is what went through my mind as I learned of the EU referendum result.

The possibility of this foursome splitting up saddens me.
The chaos that has ensued since the vote was counted saddens me.
Brexit saddens me.

I am a faux Brit. I am a kiwi but I am also a faux Brit, to know me is to know I love all things British. For tis the land where Charlotte Bronte wrote my favourite book, the land where two magnificent queens called Elizabeth have reigned, the land where buildings and bridges tell stories, the land where great plays were written, a land where history is made over and over and over again, the land where all the great Banks congregate to do big business, a land from whence came the likes of Shakespeare, Judi Dench, Malcolm McLaren, Captain James Cook, Alan Turing, David Attenborough, Christopher Hitchens, John Lennon, Margaret Thatcher and my beloved David Bowie, it is a land that likes to tea, it is the land where for a time I got to live in the same city as Madonna, a land of many accents none of which I can do faithfully and it is the land where I found the love of my life.

My sadness for the current discombobulation that has taken over my adopted country is about the themness of the Brits, this is what I fell in love with when I was a youngin in New Zealand singing ‘god save the Queen’ at school assembly or while watching Coronation Street with my grandma or when pouring over Mothercare catalogues my mother would have sent to her. That pulsating heartbeat that beats throughout the land. What I fear most with Brexit is the loss of this feeling – economies adapt, politicians come and go, Europe will survive – but this feeling once altered or lost can never be got back. The Brits must never lose the themness of them, take it from this faux Brit who knows she will never be able to capture it no matter how much she will keep on trying.

Sat Nam

Also… I don’t understand the brouhaha about the new Top Gear, I thought this was a show about cars, why then does it matter who is driving them! If you had the misfortune of interacting with Jeremy Clarkson like I did when we were stuck together receiving treatment by the same specialist you would find him an odious man who thinks a bit too much of himself, he is not a man to be admired #Joey TribbianiCanActuallyDrive ♥ 2016 the year of loss continues. Elie Wiesel has been described by President Obama as “the conscience of the world” which is apt as he helped to develop mine. I read his book Night when I was a teen, in all honestly it is an awful read, gut wrenching in the way a book about life in a concentration camp could only be but reading this seminal work planted the activist seed in me and it continues to burn bright. If you don’t know who Elie Wiesel is please take the time to give this Holocaust survivor the respect of reading his work or at least one of the many obituaries that have been written in recent days. This man mattered. Elie Wiesel you mattered to me. I will end with his words that seem very appropriate for this world we live in today ‘We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’


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i’ve never seen a rainbow i didn’t love

blogcolour

This past weekend was bookended by the very best and the very worst of humanity. It feels like all I have done this year is mourn. From 10th January through to today there has been a steady flow of tears… as I type this I am listening to Anderson Cooper list the names of those beautiful SOULS who lost their lives at Pulse nightclub, as his voice falters my tears have blinded me… I can’t. I’m just so tired of my heart breaking over and over and over again.

The vicious senseless act that transpired in the early hours of Sunday morning in Orlando has fuelled me with anger, remorse and deep deep sorrow. I have been a champion of the LGBT community for over thirty years (part and parcel being a Madonna lover). I have many friends in this community so I have always known the bigotry actually lets just call it what it is – HATE – I have always known the hate that has been endured. There have been times in my life when I have struggled and it was this community that helped me find my way so I will love, honour and protect this community till the day I die.

The US has a gun problem. The rest of the world sees it. Most Americans see it. But there are others NRA hardliners and extreme right wingers who don’t seem to and yet they hold the lives of their entire nation in their hands. I thought for sure after Sandy Hook there would be real change. The correct reaction to children being massacred would surely be to ensure it never happened again but no it wasn’t to be and mass shootings have increased in the time since. As someone who comes from New Zealand and who has lived in Australia it is hard to understand why the US cannot adopt some kind of variation of these countries’ gun control legislation; legislation that both countries amended back in the nineties when they each experienced a similar type of senseless act. Some twenty years later both countries are proof that robust gun control legislation works.

And yet, yes the US has a gun problem.
But the planet has a HATE problem.
And where there is hate, violence can always find a way. Guns or no Guns.
And we can put this atrocity under the umbrella of religion, terrorism, radicalisation but there is only one actual reason it happened – Bad Parenting.

Too many people think their job as a parent is done if they feed, clothe and school their children; but giving them the confidence to be themselves, teaching and showing children generosity and kindness and how to communicate effectively, to love, respect and tolerate ALL life regardless of race, creed, gender, shape, who one chooses to love – inclusive of all creatures and mother earth – this is good parenting. I am a child of Indian descent, I know the specific homophobia that exists for people of the diaspora, it is a hostility that is deeply rooted in the culture. I have friends who still today cannot be honest about who they are to their families. This will not change until we attack the root cause.

Hatred of any kind is a choice.
A child is taught to love.
A child is taught to hate.
The seed is planted at a young age.

If one lacks the appropriate parenting and does not know their own mind, lacks confidence, is disillusioned they are open to being brainwashed by religion, terrorism, radicalisation whatever you want to call it, and as this seed gets watered regularly it grows and the reality is you reap what you sow. Hate crimes will not stop until we grow a different seed.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, this weekend for me began with seeing the very best of humanity – Muhammad Ali’s interfaith memorial. This colossus of a man wished for his passing  – as he had his life – to be a teaching moment. If you saw the service you will understand how magnificently he achieved this, if you haven’t I beseech you to watch it, listen to the words and let the sentiment wash all over you for this is how you plant a different seed.

To my brothers and sisters of the LGBT community you forever have my heart; to steal words said so eloquently on Sunday by Lin-Manuel Miranda “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love. Cannot be killed or swept aside.” And nor shall it be.

Sat Nam

Also… Muhammad Ali – what a gift of a man – the one person on this planet who transcended race, religion, gender to unite all in their love and respect for him. There is no one left who comes close to achieving this. On a personal note, I owe him gratitude for because of him and his wondrous life I achieved my highest mark in all my academia when in college I did a History paper on his civil rights contribution. It was a joy to research him. It was a joy to listen to him riff. It was a joy to watch him in and out of the ring. Muhammad Ali – a masterclass in what it means to be human and so pretty too. To have lived in your time, how lucky am I #IamAli #G.O.A.T. #AliBomaye ♥ And so the BREXIT campaign enters into the last week, it’s been a minefield figuring out the right way to vote – you only have to look at Greece and Portugal to see that austerity has not worked and that the EU has completely failed to deal with the refugee reception crisis yet being in the EU is like being a part of a cosmopolitan club with trade, employment and travel benefits #ShouldBritainStayOrShouldBritainGo ♥ And my girl Hills – Whop Whop the FIRST WOMAN to be a major party’s nominee for President of the United States. Proving there is no ceiling too high to break. Next stop 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue #I’mWithHer #Hillary2016


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guess who’s coming to dinner

blogA funny thing happened to me while I wrote this post. I got me some happy. You see this year so far has me in a bit of a funk and so I thought by writing something I might get my mojo back but after hours of trying to find my muse it just proved impossible in my current state of mind. So I settled on something completely trivial and guess what happened! In writing this there has been the desired lifting of spirit. Now that I’m feeling happier, today’s post –

If you could invite anyone to dinner who would you invite? Would you choose an entertainer, an intellectual or someone you could stare at dreamily across the table? I have been asked this many times and I am pretty consistent in my response, after all dream guests are dream guests for a reason. Unfortunately all my guests have transitioned so there will be no sampling of my roast chicken with creamy butternut squash and chilli in this lifetime but in a parallel universe…

At the best of times I do not preach at the altar of Oprah but where we do joyfully coexist is in our love for Maya Angelou. An angel walked on earth and her name was Maya Angelou, this is what I believe to be true. I so revere her that in all probability no one would actually get fed at this dinner because I would want to stay engulfed in her embrace the whole evening. Ms Maya came into my life when as a teen I read ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ which is an autobiographical account of the first 17 years of her life. In the years since I have voraciously read much of her work. This woman lived.

Having survived sexual abuse as a child, she would eventually become an author, poet and activist as well as a mother after having worked as a prostitute, fry cook, dancer, performer and journalist. Her participation in the civil rights movement saw her work with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and what these men never got to see – she lived to see an African American be President in the country of her birth AND not only did she live the most extraordinary life, she was blessed with the gift of storytelling… the voice, the cadence, the words, the grace when she spoke it was with her heart and her soul AND as if all this didn’t already qualify her as the perfect dinner guest, she is one classy broad, one you could easily see yourself having a glass of whisky with. I  describe myself as a lover of words, a history buff and an activist and as such Ms Maya has been an invaluable teacher to me. Oh to hear her velvety voice in person…

Then there is Queen Elizabeth I my favourite historical figure. During her reign Elizabeth was able to establish stability and economic growth in England, fashion her kingdom into a major world power, nurture the idea of nationalism and champion the arts (this was the time of Shakespeare and Marlowe). She achieved all this being a woman at a time when women were seen as weak creatures of vanity lacking in intelligence. Today the idea of feminism and equality is topic du jour but can you imagine being the Queen of England in the 16th – 17th century successfully exercising your power in a man’s world AND of course I would have to ask if was she really the Virgin Queen? Why she was if she was? If I had a court full of men at my disposal there is no way I would stay chaste. It would be such a terrible waste no?

♂ Bullish arrogant toff  – that’s how Christopher Hitchens would come across to those who first meet him and quite possibly to those who knew him too AND he would not give a monkey’s. Christopher Hitchens was not interested in playing nice and I loved him for it. I came to know him through his editorials in Vanity Fair, a magazine I have read since I was 15 years old. He taught me an invaluable lesson while I was still in my teens, he made me realise when we ingest information all we really do is take on an opinion.

I want Hillary Clinton to be the next president of the US, I base this on the information I have gathered via various channels but for every pro Hillary sound bite out there, there is an equally opposing offing and by no means do I think she is flawless I just like what I see. Christopher Hitchens was not a fan of the Clintons, of Hillary he thought her hawkish and fake and he questioned her experience, connections and the origins of her foreign donations. Here we disagreed but of Mother Theresa he offered a criticism which I have also come to believe; of her saintly image he said she was an ally of the status quo, that she wasn’t interested in eradicating poverty and that ‘her cult of death and suffering’ depended for its effect on the most vulnerable and helpless like abandoned babies or the dying who supply the occasion for charity – she needed these people to exist so she could exist as Mother Theresa.

He was an atheist, socialist, Marxist and his work helped me form a more secular view. He didn’t just spout criticisms, when he wrote it was after thorough investigation; he actually went to Calcutta and spent time with Mother Theresa and he even underwent waterboarding to prove it was indeed a form of torture. As a dinner guest no doubt he would come across as a bullish arrogant toff but one thing I know for sure is this contrarians’ contrarian would never let the conversation lag.

♀ When I was about thirteen I saw a picture of this woman; her braided hair was piled on her head  atop of which sat a crown of flowers, her piercings eyes pitch black, her lips full wearing bright red lipstick – what distinguished her from the females in my life was that she also had a distinct unibrow and a faint moustache – this image fascinated me. It was so outside my norm, it made me feel oddly haunted and within me a fire had been lit, from that moment on my burgeoning inquisitive nature knew no bounds, anything that was considered taboo or wrong no longer was. It was also the moment I fell for Frida Kahlo. Frida and her art fascinate me. I can look a painting of hers for hours trying to decipher the meaning and because her work is autobiographical it is as if by interpreting her work you are by extension interpreting her life. A life marred with continual physical and emotional pain, her art deals with the idea of beauty, sex, abortion, miscarriage, gender inequality… all issues that get people hot under the collar today, imagine what it must have been like to be a crippled woman in the first half of the 20th century in Mexico. I certainly would love to have that conversation.

Rather predictably David Bowie is my last guest. To have been in his presence… just to have had one real conversation… he is was such a man.

I wonder what my selection says about me – each of my guests is a strong intelligent charismatic individual who lived their life by their own rules – do I want to be like them or surrounded by them or both. Hmmm something for me to ponder… as for you dear reader I would love to hear about your dream dinner guests over in comments.

Sat Nam

Also in the news: Well done to Super Bowl 2016 champions the Denver Broncos and to Coldplay for a fab halftime performance – any theme that involves love I’m in – the first six minutes were mint, shame the other two had to be included though, there can never be enough of Chris Martin’s high voltage energy in my book #SB50 #WillManningRetire #BelieveinLove ♥ I had high hopes for the Syria peace talks that were meant to take place this month in Geneva and am sad that they ended so abruptly with no actual resumption date. The time wasted in bureaucracy just increases the death toll. And it is important to note not at all refugees are Syrian, many come from Africa and Asia so any resolution has to tackle the issue on a broader scale #RefugeeCrisis #GlobalCitizen ♥ Market turmoil continues, are we on the brink of another global recession? It’s a bit scary #DominoDancing ♥ and lastly a bit of a rant… so the most unique mind blowing artist of this generation dies and what does the music industry’s most prestigious award show do – roll out Rent-A-GaGa. Lady Gaga for a David Bowie tribute – are you fucking kidding me? Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. I feel so vehement about this decision I initiated albeit unknowingly a mini twitter war with her ‘monsters’ as her folk like to be called. The point is not whether she has any talent but that David Bowie was everything Gaga isn’t – he was a unicorn she is a wannabe. The Grammys have missed an opportunity here, it should have been his peers, those he loved and admired. Big Mistake. Since boycotting the Oscars has become a thing this year. I say boycott the Grammys #GagaAPoorMansBowie #GrammysSoWrong


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this kiwi girl muses about… life, death, resolutions among other things

This past week – oh vey! Yucky does not begin to describe it.

There really ought to be pause button on life when you are visited by loss… but then again I suppose we need the confronting nature of life in all her perplexities and idiosyncrasies to remind us to get out of bed and live.

The death of David Bowie has had a profound effect on me, more than I could have imagined – not that I ever imagined this possible for David appeared to exist in an aura of timelessness that seemed to transcend death only it didn’t and he is gone and it is a loss that will be felt for the rest of my life I know this to be true; but his was not the only passing that darkened my door in the last week – many – not one, not two, not even three – many beautiful souls lost their brave battles with that bloody cancer beast.

I know to a certain extent from my own experience how debilitating cancer can be; so to know how in health these souls were so completely present and vital then to have to imagine them in their sick state, reduced to living a lesser life feels wrong and hurts more than their passing does. To that end, in amongst the sorrow I find solace in the knowledge that these souls – finally emancipated from their diseased bodies – are free. To those who have transitioned thank you and to those of us left behind always the love. 

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The following words were written before death darkened my door, when I had that gusto the promise of a new year brings; I don’t feel like that today but there you have it ladies and gentlemen – life in all her ebbs and flows – funk to funky. So without further ado… this week’s post:

Firstly can I start by wishing you a very Happy New Year. May each and every day of yours be draped in happiness, warmth, peace and love.

So a new year hey! New resolutions! Have you made any? Have you already given up? It is said that 25% of resolutions are broken in the first week alone. Then within six months, over half of resolvers will have given up. Not for me though, once I get an idea in my head I find it quite seamless to follow through – the right mix of stubborn and discipline with a dash of guilt I suppose. To that end in the past I have been able to successfully complete:

  • no alcohol for a year – thrice,
  • learn to ride a horse,
  • no ice cream for a year – it’s harder than you think when you are a kiwi girl brought up on loving all things dairy,
  • read minimum two books a month for a year – that one very nearly failed when I decided to read War and Peace, have you read it? It is quite possibly the longest book ever written (okay its not but it felt like it at the time). Thankfully just as Natasha entered into the story a bad bout of flu kept me bedridden allowing me the time to finish it in a timely manner,
  • learn how to fence (the epee kind)

Some resolutions like the above list I have made just because I enjoy a challenge. Others are made for the greater good like when I introduced lemon water to my morning routine to boost my immune system, a habit I continue with today. Exercise is always a good one when it comes to resolutions – to gym or not to gym being the common question. I am not a gym junkie so I wouldn’t dare go there but I like to stay fit so through resolutions I have established a regular fitness routine sans the gym that keeps me ticking over.

And it was the greater good I was pondering, when one night last September feeling disgustingly gluttonous – after chomping my way through a humongous bowl okay it was a bucket, a bucket of sweet and salty popcorn for dinner – I decided to wage war on refined sugar. Only, as I savoured the last morsel of popcorn I had no clue what refined sugar was so what I actually said was ‘fuck you sugar, I’m not going to eat you anymore.’

Turns out I didn’t know jack, for in sugar I have met my Waterloo. It’s not enough to cut out sweets and cake, sugar exists in this whole other stealth world. To understand the mammoth battle ahead I have had to study the history of sugar, the science and its health implications and it has been no Tuesdays with Morrie let me tell you BUT the more I know the more resolute I am to not eat it – this coming from a girl who once stated bubble gum as her favourite food. Oh la – it’s an interesting time to be me.

Sat Nam

Also in the news: My girl Hills campaign to the White House is going gangbusters, I hope this really is the year of a female president #Hillary16 ♥ Sean Penn – he makes me smile. I love him and not just for who he was married to but for his intelligent movies, his unwavering commitment to rebuilding Haiti and his fuck you’s to authority and the media – never before have we needed more people like him, people who question governments, media, industry and disrupt the status quo so Sean if you want to interview the most notorious drug dealer in the world kudos to you #Madonna+SeanPenn4eva ♥ I consider myself an activist, it is a title I wear with pride because it is my privilege to help my fellow brothers and sisters in their hour of need where I can. I don’t know how but the refugee crisis has affected me like no other tragedy ever has. It has become nestled deep within my heart and I feel strongly I must be part of the solution so in this coming year I will use whatever means I have to continue to shine a light. As I keep repeating; this – the worst humanitarian crisis we have known – is not going to just go away, it’s on track to get keep getting worse. I pray in 2016 we see an universal melting of hearts that leads to getting the job done – because it is in all our best interests, as Katniss says “Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!” #OneLove ♥ Another tragedy that has touched me is the plight of Saudi Arabian Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, I wrote of him a few months back. He is currently imprisoned awaiting execution for taking part in protests during the Arab Spring when he just 16 years old. Since I wrote I have been unable to obtain news on his status that is until New Year’s day when his uncle and 46 others were executed by beheading for so called terrorism. Mercifully al-Nimr was not on the list of the dead. I think of this young man everyday. He haunts me. Can you imagine being arrested for wanting democracy? How is this terrorism? Western and regional countries need to get their priorities sorted; Oil vs Human life – it’s really that simple #KarmasABitch ♥ If you haven’t already, listen/read Idris Elba’s keynote speech to Parliament on diversity and imagination – it’s really quite something. Bravo Luther! #let’sMASHtheBox ♥ And finally some lightish relief… over on Eastenders, I’ve waited ten years to say this, Grant Mitchell is coming back. Sadly it coincides with Peggy’s death but I just want the Mitchell brothers back together so I’ll take any storyline. Cue the doof doof.


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hot tramp, i love you so!

bowie

David Bowie!
Now there’s an idea.
I have always believed the gods must have been on some serious peyote the day they created him.

So he’s gone then, my Starman is no longer of this Earth. The man I thought would live forever went and died.

And now here I am about to attempt to express how special this man is to me… where does one even begin, so fucken hard if it’s not the tears getting in the way, it’s the doubt as to whether I have it in me to do him justice. In therapy I am continually told to write my feelings down, but to write this hurts, hurts real bad. Too raw I suppose, still I will endeavour with my tribute of sorts to a man who blew me away time and time again. A man who still feels very present in my life; why just on Saturday I was engaged in a discussion about the meaning of After All, this coming after Friday on which as a fan I celebrated another year of him along with downloading the new album. Blackstar was all I played all weekend so I woke on Monday in such a lovely Bowie state of mind and then came the news.

Since then, every morning just before I wake fully I have this moment where I am smiling thinking all’s right with the world then I remember and I ask ‘Is it real?’ It is real isn’t it. He is really gone. A world without David Bowie. We live in that world now. I keep being asked how I feel, how does one feel when a great love dies – sad, in shock, heartbroken, rocked to my core – there are three thoughts that keep circling around in my head in amongst the grief: ‘People die, get over it’ and I know this, it is not my first loss but I suspect I will never fully recover from this one. There is only one other out there in the ether who could make me feel like this and she would not be where she is today if there hadn’t been a David Bowie. I have heard people talk about where they were when Lennon was shot, the grief they felt when Elvis died – I finally understand it; that sharp piercing pain in the heart, the dry retches, the shock I have experienced it all in the last few days.

‘But you didn’t even know him,’ oh but I did, I so did. David Bowie came into my life during the Nile Rogers years, when I was still at an age where the only concerts I was interested in were of the puppet variety like the Sesame Street musical. Regardless when his Serious Moonlight tour came to New Zealand he was everywhere which in the era sans social media meant the newspapers, television and the radio. I would go from watching Rainbow one minute to dancing to Modern Love the next. I was discovering music and I loved to dance so the album Let’s Dance fed my impressionable soul BUT the moment I fell for him was when I saw Labyrinth. This film – I saw it recently after many many years – that moment when he makes his entrance gave me the same tingling feeling I got when I first saw it only back then I didn’t know it was him, in fact it has often been the way that I would discover someone and they would turn out to be David Bowie. It happened with Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, the Pierrot phase. As Jareth the goblin king with his mullet, in the makeup and codpiece, he terrified me and something else which I now know as being aroused. Yeap I was aroused by David Bowie and he would continue to do so over the years. The movie lent itself to the romance, because I identified with Sarah for I too lived in a fantasy world.

From then on David as Jareth would come visit me, we would lie in my bed discussing Delfinia the world I had created as well as my real life woes. My teen years were a confusing time for me (I know I know like every other teen right!) I was both popular and smart enough but deep down I felt like an outsider. Having this wild imagination didn’t help because at that age all you want is to be like everyone else. The only time I felt a freedom was during those conversations with David/Jareth. He did talk back bizarrely enough. He helped me name unicorns (Delfinia had a lot of unicorns), he named a flying pirate ship Mistral and he always encouraged my uniqueness. Those visits ended some time in the last few years of college but he came back one more time when I was 23, this time as Ziggy (by then I was more familiar with his body of work) – it was the night before I left New Zealand for good I was on an adrenaline rush happy to be leaving, but in an instant the enormity of leaving behind family and friends especially my grandma hit me and then just as sadness threatened to take over, there he was at my window waving me goodbye. I took it to mean I was on the right track and the sadness abated.

I have come to know his body of work intimately, I have theorised the different stages of his work, but never been able to decide if he was riding the zeitgeist over the years or if he was helping to create it over and over again. I have been to countless Bowie themed nights (I predict that there will more to come in the next few months) and he is always my specialised subject when I play Mastermind. I have admired David and Iman’s love story; it is very clear that each was the other’s great love and best friend. I still find myself attracted to him, he only got better with age and given half the chance I would so have gone there. I have even dated men because they had some semblance of him, but his attraction for me was not just aesthetic, his energy and intelligence were a complete turn on. To have translated the cacophony that was in his head so masterfully into the different personas, the music, videos and films he created is no small feat. What genius existed within him to do this. He is was such a man. I was happy to be lead by him. He always upped my game. A few years ago the Guardian published a top 100 reading list as recommended by him. I had only read eight books of said list and as a voracious reader I decided I was going to complete that list, I am still working my way through it. On last count I was at 16, only 84 to go, with titles like ‘On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious’ and ‘Kafka Was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir’ they aren’t exactly easy reading. So you see David Bowie has a role in the story of my life.

I watched the video for Lazarus last week and it left me feeling cold. Later after I had listened to the song a few times and considered the lyrics (as is always the case with his music, I always search for the meaning) that coldness gave way to what in hindsight I see as foreboding: ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven. I’ve got scars that can’t be seen. I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen. Everybody knows me now…’ David Bowie was saying goodbye. And in the most classiest way, through his work. Reminds me of the last two songs Queen released with Freddie. I love the idea of Freddie and David together again along with Lou, and Lennon and Jimi, oh yes the party just got better in heaven.

I always thought I would see him perform live, I always felt it was a matter of when not if and the dreamer in me believes in a parallel universe I will. If he ever graced me with another visit I would say to him ‘Thank you for being exactly you. You gave a girl who felt like an oddity permission to be exactly who she is and the confidence to make her own rules. You and you alone made her dare to be brave. You darling man, you remain forever my goblin king, my starman and my moonage daydream. Thank you. Thank You. Thank You.’

Generations from now will discover him; they will listen to the music, see the different incarnations, go to museum exhibits dedicated to him, watch the films and the television appearances but they will never capture the essence of him. I have tried to explain my feelings for him to people who don’t him well – yes these people actually exist – but the fact of the matter is if you don’t already feel it you will never understand. The era of David Bowie, they were the golden years – a one off experience, never can be repeated. I heard the term Generation Bowie today – that’s you and I – the lucky ones. Are you going to be okay? He may have transitioned taking a big piece of my heart with him but the point is he existed in the first place and there is something joyful in the knowledge of this. The sun will keep on rising and I will continue to be exactly me so yes I am going to be just fine… eventually. For now though I need to cry.

Sat Nam


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see – Paddington

paddingtonWhat is it they say, inspiration can hit you anytime anyplace, well that certainly rang true for me over the weekend while I was watching the film Paddington (for the umpteenth time). There I was thinking how Ben Whishaw’s dulcet tones are perfect for the voice of Paddington much better than Colin Firth’s would have been (he was originally cast) when I had an inspired thought into why my cinema tastes have changed in the last few years. 

Of late I had noticed that I don’t have the same stomach I used to have for much of the cinema ware that is on offer today but I never really considered how this came about until Paddington. As a child Paddington and the Wombles were my happy place. I have this very vague memory of a birthday party – maybe my third or fourth – that had a mixed Paddington/Womble theme. It was memorable mostly because I was gifted a Paddington Bear and a duffle coat of my own; the coat was worn to death, even when it no longer fit I would try to pour myself into it until one day it mysteriously disappeared and reappeared on my cousin (my mother swore it wasn’t my coat but I have never been convinced).

And while the coat might have gone walkies, Paddington always remained ever dear to me. In fact one of my first to-dos when I landed in London as an adult was to visit Paddington station and pay homage at the statue of him – I wasn’t overly impressed by it (far too small) but out of nostalgia it had to be done and nostalgia was what drove me to the cinema to see the film a year ago. I have seen it many times since, I can’t help it – Paddington has become my happy place again. Cinema has always been a means of escapism for me. The 90 or so minutes I watch something I want to be absorbed into a world different from the one I live in. I think because we live in these precarious times, I am choosing more and more not to expose myself to negativity where I can, like in the films I watch and this film with its loveable central character and rather twee story is the perfect anecdote.

And yet as lovely and family friendly it is, it is also entirely appropriate for today with its central theme of tolerance and acceptance the film strikes a palpable chord within all of us – for Paddington is a refugee. You know this of course if you grew up reading the Michael Bond books (do children today read Paddington?) if you did then like me, you are familiar with Paddington’s journey from deepest darkest Peru to London and you remember the note attached to his coat that read “Please look after this bear. Thank you” and how he eventually found a home with the Brown family at 32 Windsor Gardens. If you know this then also like me you have most likely embraced the talking ursine with an endless capacity for getting into trouble into your life. How could you not! It’s always the naughty ones we love best.

Paddington – a joyous and witty film about a bear called Paddington who has a penchant for mischief and marmalade, for kids of all ages especially really BIG kids who might need reminding that xenophobia has no place in our world. The perfect activity to while away a few hours during the Christmas hols. The added bonus is Nicole Kidman, who plays a kinky stiletto heeled taxidermist, the villain in the piece. She looks like she’s having the time of her life in the role.

Sat Nam

Also in the news: I would like to know whose smart idea it was to release Star Wars: The Force Awakens the week before Christmas! Boxing Day releases are bad enough but in Christmas week! Seriously! It is going to be a good ten days before I get to go by which time save for a social media blackout I’ll know too much #NotHappy #theForceAwakens #theForceisStrongwithThisOne ♥ Something I can get behind 100% is the climate change deal. See what can be achieved when we unite as a planet. The world has set itself a serious goal now that a deal has been agreed in Paris, its historic, its ambitious, its time – let us hope this momentum continues into the new year for this is not our planet to pillage and there is no time to lose #COP21 #ClimateChange #GlobalCitizen ♥ As loathed as I am to mention the thing that is Donald Trump, I have this theory about him: I am of the thinking that he has been recruited by the Clintons. Think about it; he is/was friends with them (they even went to his last wedding) and he was a Democrat once upon a time. Any thinking person knows the GOP has become a joke, that their hatred for the President has overshadowed their love for their country thus thwarting what could have been an inspirational residency for Obama. The rise of the Trump has potential to not only get my girl Hils into the Oval Office but to tip the balance of Congress in favour of the Democrats because heaven forbid he win the nomination who in their right mind would vote for the Republicans. Yes the more I think about it, the more brilliant it is, it’s like the Manchurian Candidate has leaped from the screen into real life. What else could possibly make sense of the vitriol that comes out of his mouth, the alternative is just too awful to contemplate #Hillary16 #ImWithHer ♥ And lastly I appeal to you dear Reader. I pray you never become a refugee. I pray you never have to flee your country with nothing more than the clothes on your back. I pray you never have to leave behind your home, your pets, your burgeoning career or business. I pray you never lose loved ones by torture, or missiles or drowning or malnutrition. I pray you never have to spend an European winter in a tent. I pray you never find yourself hopeless in a foreign land not knowing the language and scared because you don’t know what is to become of you. I pray all this for you but most of all I pray, that god forbid should you become a refugee, that you experience the very best humanity has to offer – kindness and compassion and love. This is my prayer for you and I appeal to you as you get busy buying Christmas presents for loved ones, PLEASE spare a thought for our fellow refugee brothers and sisters; who were once like you and I – doctors, lawyers, shop-keepers, bankers, business owners, drivers, architects, students, care free school children – who ARE human beings and PLEASE show you care what happens to them and donate what you can PLEASE #RefugeeCrisis #PleaseGiveHere #SpreadASmileOfJoy #WeAreAllRefugees

akiwigirlabroad wishes you peace and so much love Merry Christmas xxx


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fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending, do they?

I expected to feel a gamut of emotions when I read Go Set A Watchman. I suspected I would be more disappointed than satisfied, in much the same way I felt in the casting of Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter. When it comes to much loved characters you get an idea in your head about who they are don’t you? Their look, manner, nuances… so I didn’t hold much hope in actually ‘liking’ GSAW. I did consider not reading it for about a millisecond, I thought maybe I didn’t need to know what Scout did next, but by dint of her being the daughter of Atticus Finch would always make me want to know what Scout did next.

I’ve read it twice now, that is about the only good thing that comes out of being laid up with bronchitis, it renders one with little else to do but read. And yes I expected to feel this gamut but I don’t… I mostly feel sadness. Sadness for the crumbling of a fairy tale.

I first read To Kill A Mockingbird as a teenager on the plane from Harare to Mumbai and it was one of two books I had on me (the other being Lucky by Jackie Collins). For the ensuing 6 weeks as I toured India with my family, both books would provide a welcome escape when I needed a reprieve from nagging parents or an annoying brother. I read TKAM four times in total during this time, then it wasn’t picked up again until I was in my 20s living in Sydney. By this time I understood the cultural significance of the story, I had watched the Gregory Peck film, I knew the minutiae of Harper Lee’s life, heck I even knew the minutiae of Truman Capote’s life. I knew it all and the book – the story had found a special place in my heart.

But not for the obvious themes of courage and integrity.

For the little girl who found a hero in her father.

Because it was the same for me when I was little.

There is a line Jean Louise “Scout” Finch’s uncle Jack, a retired doctor says to her towards the end of GSAW “As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God.” I think that’s what little girls do. Daughters with their fathers. I know I did.

I had the luxury of having my father pretty much solely to myself until I hit double digits (baby brothers don’t count on account of them being too small to actually do anything with) and I was lucky because back then he was a very present father. Despite what the passage of time has brought about, I can still remember moments that were just ours; watching airplanes take off or reading at the library, drinking from his whisky glass, or sitting in his lap and steering the car while he was driving. It didn’t really matter what we did, it just always felt that we had our own secret thing that no one, not even my mother or brother could penetrate. Like Jean Louise recalls in GSAW “I can only say this – that everything I learned about human decency I learned here,” lessons I learnt from my father either by osmosis or by example remain with me today. And just like Jean Louise, I grew up, moved away and realised what a fallacy it all was. We see what we want to see.

I wasn’t surprised that the Atticus in GSAW is a flawed human. I mean quite literally I wasn’t surprised, social media makes it neigh impossible to keep anything a secret these days. This particular nugget became known to me before I had even read the second chapter but still…

I wasn’t surprised by the idea of it either; just open up a paper today and it is very clear, race is as big an issue now as it was over 55 years ago when GSAW was first written. This story is set in Alabama in the 50s before the civil rights movement properly gained momentum. I didn’t live in this time so I don’t know what hardships must have been endured but I do know regardless of the era you live, you do get conditioned by your environment; so that an aging white man of the South has racial attitudes is actually a realistic portrayal. That he is the same man who defended a black man wrongly accused of raping a white girl shows how we got swept up in the idea of Atticus being the ultimate icon of fatherhood and the law. Harper Lee obviously never intended it, GSAW was written before TKAM.

When Atticus revealed himself “Then let’s put this on a practical basis right now. Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” I screamed ‘NOOOO!!!’ and I could feel my heart being crushed a little. Atticus as a reactionary racist, destroys forever the Atticus Finch I created in my head when I read TKAM, but I can accept this, in the same way I have accepted how my father, the hero of my childhood isn’t the romanticised ideal I imagined him to be. We see what we want to see but ultimately we are all flawed and men get old, set in their ways conditioned by their environment…

and little girls grow up and realise fairy tales don’t always have a happy ending.

Sat Nam

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee; beautiful in parts, long in others. while comparisons to TKAM are inevitable, they are not companion pieces and as such should stand alone. Having said that no one is reading GSAW having not already read TKAM. TKAM is a far superior read but I thought GSAW was a good read, and I was happy with the epiphany (of sorts) at the end for Scout, it balanced out the story of the two books to a nice natural resolution.


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this kiwi girl muses about… the words of others

lovewriting
What would Gwyneth do? Not sure how this turn of phrase came about but this is a ‘thing’ on social media; and while I think she certainly knows how to rock a frock and has some very cool friends, I’m not sure I see her as an aficionado of anything in particular, but then again these things do tend to take on a life of their own in these days of twitter, instagram and the ilk.

I do often use the expression though, only depending on my mood I replace the Gwyneth bit with one of the many writers who inspire me.
You see, I like to write.
I have never really given much thought to whether I am any good at it.
I just like to write.
And it is a privilege to be spurred on by so many greats.
 
Dr. Seuss taught me that just because a word is not in the dictionary does not mean it is not a word. The art of whimsy came to me by way of Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis, not that this was a happenstance for I was born a dreamer but reading their books stretched my imagination beyond the world I was growing up in.

Jane Austen instilled in me the premise of the sisterhood and the strength which came from within that bond. Through the steely yet passionate character of Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte gave me a heroine of my own sex to admire; whilst the autobiographical storytelling by Maya Angelou taught me that the heroine or rather shero I should believe in was me.

A spiritual awakening of sorts came by way of The Alchemist and more poignantly By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept. These works of Paulo Coelho along with much of his work throughout the 90s resonated in my soul, even though it would still be another decade before I would consciously walk my spiritual path.

Speaking of spiritual awakening, when I read this sentence ‘Davie brightened up as the insidious comfort of the plum jam stole into his soul’ written by Lucy Maud Montgomery (in the second book of the Anne of Green Gables series), I had my first epiphany about the power of words to evoke emotion for this one sentence stole into my soul and still remains there today.

The discovery in the importance of the structure of a sentence came from the journalistic stylings of Ernest Hemingway and Joan DidionBryce Courtenay’s stories interwoven against a historical backdrop ignited my interest in history. The poetry of Paolo Neruda versed me in romance in a way Keats and Byron had failed to ignite. F. Scott Fitzerald taught me to love a narrative, Kipling gave me my love of prose, from Tolstoy I learnt perseverance and from Wilde irony. On and on it goes for many great writers have lived and still do today.

In my wildest dreams I could never wish to be as good as them nor do I aspire to be, as I said I just like to write. Sometimes though when inspiration is not forthcoming and I suffer bouts of writer’s block I call upon these maestros and say to myself what would (insert here) do? If I feel melancholy I ask what would Dickens do? If I feel a want for romance I ask what would Neruda do? And eventually from no thought comes my muse and I know in no small part that it is down to invoking the spirit of the said writer. Got to love those winks from the universe.

Sat Nam

And lastly before I leave you, I couldn’t resist jumping on the bandwagon, especially as it is my favourite magazine  – Caitlyn Jenner in Vanity Fair… simply stunning #yougoGIRL #BeautifulMomentinHistory


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every day. is beautiful.

Every day in life is beautiful. Every day. Is beautiful.’ Every now and then you come across someone whose light shines so bright it touches your heart. These words are from Alice Herz-Sommer and to me, she is one such someone.

I was cooking when I heard these words, and they made me stop what I was doing and pay attention and so this is how I happened upon the documentary The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life and by extension the life of Alice Herz-Sommer. At the time of filming she, at 109 was the oldest known holocaust survivor. The short documentary documents her life; as an accomplished concert pianist who grew up in Czechoslovakia, her time in Theresienstadt concentration camp (she survived because she could play the piano and the Nazis used this prison to fool the Red Cross into believing they were benevolent towards Jews and that this was a camp where music and the arts thrived), it goes on to describe briefly her life in Israel and then lastly London where she lived independently in Belsize Park. Throughout her life, it is music that has been her spiritual sustenance and this documentary focuses on the music not on the particular events that happened during her long life.

‘Music saved my life and music saves me still… I am Jewish, but Beethoven is my religion.’

I watched her thinking how did I know of her before this moment, she should be discussed in schools so I set about writing this piece to share her with you. What captivated me was her spirit. This was a woman who experienced unthinkable horrors including the loss of her mother and husband, horrors that you and I will never know or even really understand and yet she lived with optimism and a complete lack of rancour. No pity, no tragedy in her demeanour. This is forgiveness in true practice. And even at this advanced age she was still able to recall memories from her mentally sharp mind, which made watching her on screen an invigorating experience. Alice Herz-Sommer died age 110 a week before this documentary won an Oscar in 2014. She continued to play the piano every single day right to the end of her life. There is an expression used in Kundalini yoga, which has come to be the measure by which I hold all my thoughts and actions accountable – the grace of god. Alice Herz-Sommer was the grace of god. As you go about your day my hope is that you take the essence of her words with you. ‘Every day in life is beautiful. Every day. Is beautiful.’

Sat Nam

ps speaking of la vita e bella, so happy for Ireland voting – by a huge majority – to legalise same-sex marriage, the revolution of love is in full force. #LoveWins #LoveisLove

pss please watch