Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Demotix and moisturiser

Yesterday I went in search of a new moisturiser. Having finished every single sample I'd ever been given (let it not be said I am not doing my bit for the credit crunch), it was time to get something new.

I made the mistake of saying, "Well, I'm not really loyal to a particular brand when it comes to moisturisers, and I'm happy to try something new." The salesperson licked her lips and then ushered me over to a section of the shop that had some really expensive looking stuff, "This", she said, looking as though she were holding a golden chalice, "will not only give you 24-hour moisturisation, but it also acts as a natural botox."

? Who the hell said anything about botox? Do I look like I need botox?

She continued, "And, you can use it as a day and night cream and around your eyes." She was selling hard.

I'd been taken like this in the past - romanced into loving something only to get to the counter and find out it costs a fortune, by which time I am too in love with it/too embarrassed to pull out of the deal. I wasn't going for it this time.

"How much is it?" I asked. "93 pounds," she said casually, for 50ml. Yes, forget the oil business, cosmetics is where it's at if you want to fleece people and make a fortune.

Unsurprisingly I didn't go for it. In fact, I was pissed off that the first thing I get shown is probably the most expensive product in the shop. That, in my mind, is also not good salesmanship. Rather, she would have been better off showing me a less expensive yet effective brand and I would probably have got a few things, were we not in a recession that is.

I walked out of there with something a lot cheaper, and can happily report that the sun still came up this morning, well, not visibly, and my skin looks pretty much how it always does. But moisturised.


There is a great website called Demotix, which is kind of like a You Tube for news from around the world. People send in images, film clips and stories from their respective necks of the wood, be it Iraq or Fiji, and it's uploaded. News for the people by the people. The creator is a guy called Turi Munthe, who is the grandson of Axel Munthe of 'The story of San Michele' fame. My friend Patrick will get a kick out of this I'm sure.

You can write anonymously if you so choose, and they even have a way of scrambling encoded image data to protect the identities of people who send stuff from countries where the police hack into your account and are a little too eager to knock on your door and beat the crap out of you for showing what's really going on. This kind of democratic unbiased form of reportage really appeals to the champagne socialist in me.

Check it out here Demotix

Monday, November 24, 2008

Iranian Girls

"Hello," I said. "I am Rory. I come from Scotland."

The headmistress interrupted, "tell the class how you have come to Hamadan."

"I walked here from the Turkish border."

"Class, Rory has spent the last two months walking across Iran, only on foot, not using any transport." She turned to me. "Iranian women are not free. They only think to get husbands with nice clothes and a nice job. That is why I will ask them whether they would marry a man like you." She looked at the beautiful 14-year-old on my left. "Would you marry a man like this, Aisha? One that is walking all the time. He cannot give you a car. Well, what do you think?" Continue reading
(Source: Prospect Magazine, November 2001)
LinkThis is an extract from a piece entitled, 'Iranian Girls' by Rory Stewart. Stewart is an author of multi-award winning books including, The Places in Between, The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, and Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq, a journalist, and CEO of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a not for profit, non governmental organisation whose mission it is to regenerate Afghanistan's traditional crafts and historic areas, creating jobs, skills, and a renewed sense of national identity. (Source: Wikipedia)

His life reads like that of a modern-day adventurer, and although he is only 35-years-old, he has done some truly extraordinary things. These include having worked as the deputy governor of the Iraqi province of Maysan and Senior Advisor in the province of Dhi Qar shortly after coalition forces entered Iraq, and having walked across Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey of 6000 miles, done in two stages without leaving Asia.

He speaks a dozen exotic languages, is respected by the local people, has a reputation for his sassy sense of style, and is reputed to be fearless, except when it comes to women. Apparently they scare him.

The world needs more people like him. People that instead of making alarmist and ignorant generalisations from the safety of their armchairs, are out there, venturing into places most of us wouldn't dare, and through helping and making a difference, educate the rest of us that ultimately, people are people, wherever you go in the world. With a lot of the same concerns, fears, hopes and dreams as the rest of us. His literature and journalism is truly eye-opening and essential reading.

There's a good article about him here, entitled, Stewart of Afghanistan by Aryn Baker

Further articles by Stewart can be found here

Photo c/o Time Magazine by Zalmai

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yes you can!

Own one of these Obama figures that is. Check it out here. Not sure about the ears.

Thanks to Chantell for the tip

Pics c/o

Monday, November 17, 2008

Baby P

I am so stinking steaming mad. I know I shouldn't read about it because it just upsets me, but the case of the 17 month old baby P that was murdered by his mother, her boyfriend, and lodger gets me so angry and emotional that I just had to vent on here.

Why the FUCK did social services not take that child into care. 60 yes SIXTY visits to his residence amid concerns about child cruelty, and they still thought it was a good idea to leave him in the care of that fucking woman. I am not a violent person by nature , but people like this, well, put it this way, it would not be a good idea for me to encounter them on the street.

This little boy was systematically abused and tortured and eventually died having suffered more than 50 injuries including a broken spine and 8 cracked ribs. What kind of person does such a thing to a little child that is incapable of defending himself? What kind of mother participates in and allows such a thing to happen to her child?

People are calling for the head of Haringey social services to be sacked. Sacked? Really? I think everyone involved in this case that failed to act should be prosecuted for negligence leading to his death. As for those directly responsible? Well, lets just say it makes me rethink my feelings on the death penalty. Yes, that's how strongly I feel about this.

More about this case here.

Picture c/o The Telegraph

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why I like box wine

OK, so this post isn't really about why I like box wine, which, as it happens, I do. Yes a terrible admission, but there you go. You can get some pretty decent stuff, especially some of the South African wines. I find it far easier to stick to just one glass, and it also saves me the frustration of trying to reach my husband when he is travelling to find out if the bottle I am about to open to enjoy while watching America's Next Top Model will jeopardise the future of our marriage.

I was in Starbucks yesterday afternoon and there were a lot of teen and tween kids in there excitedly planning their weekends. I remember that time well. Talking about who's having a house party, what you are going to wear, if a certain boy will be there, and how you are going to act really cool while still appearing vaguely interested. If your spot cream will miraculously work in 5 hours, and whether or not your parents will notice that you are wearing makeup before leaving the house etc.

I mused on these long ago memories while juggling other more pressing thoughts such as, will I make steak for dinner? Should I get some mushrooms and salad to go with those? Are mushrooms carbs? Will we watch an episode of the American Office, or should we eat at the table like adults with civilised conversation? Yep, that's Friday nights these days.

I had a cell repair facial today. You know you are getting to a certain age when your beautician starts recommending those. She asked me if I would like her to apply the nourishing mask (thick cold stuff that had the consistency of Plaster Of Paris) to my eyes too. I was like, yeah sure, go ahead. Until she stared that is. It felt like there was an enormous weight on my eyelids and then she told me I could not open them. Cue mini panic attack. Amazing, I had no idea you could get claustrophobic just from having your eyes covered and being unable to open them. I took a few deep breaths, and she, lovely woman that she is, said, 'Just relax, I am here. I'm not going to leave the room, and let me know if you want me to take it off.' And it was cool. Soon we were talking about thyroid problems, taxes and insurance on small businesses in Poland, and Chernobyl. Relaxing stuff.

It reminded me of when I had an epidural for my C-section. You get completely numb from the waist down and your first reaction it to have an overwhelming urge to move your legs or wiggle your toes, and of course you find you cannot. It messes with your head something bad, until you tell yourself, 'OK, this is fine, this is OK, this will wear off.' Kind of like talking yourself down from a bad trip. Not that I would know.

I'm watching 'America's Next Top Model Cycle 10', and they have Paulina Porizkova as a guest judge. I'm surprised Tyra made that decision, because I get the feeling that it's all about Tyra and Tyra don't like no one messing with that shit. Especially someone like Paulina who is quite breathtakingly beautiful, intelligent and articulate, and a good addition to the show I think, unlike Twiggy, bless her, who was a bit of a wet blanket. But, and this is a big but, Paulina doesn't have a lot of tact. In fact, I think some of her comments are outrageously rude and inappropriate. On a couple of occasions she has made comments to one of the Polish/American contestants about not looking like a Russian Mail Order Bride, and Eastern European trashiness.

It reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld where a guy converts to Judaism and then feels he's entitled to make bad Jewish jokes. Only in Paulina's case she is Eastern European by birth, and therefore appears to think it's OK to spout these horrible stereotypes. It's rude and it's wrong, and I'm amazed they didn't cut it out. Tyra was probably too concerned with how fierce! she looked in the shots to notice.

And finally, just when you think the US courts are up their eyeballs in stupid waste of time cases, a rare and worthy one comes along. According to Michael on Dlisted:

Today on one of my favorite serious legal shows "Judge Alex" they had a case about something that is near and dear to me: eyebrows! Sharon Rivers was suing Joy Tran for emotional distress for f***ing up her eyebrows. Sharon paid Joy $180 to tattoo some "dreamy" eyebrows on her beautiful face. But Sharon claims Joy f***ed it up by making them purple and lopsided. (Continue reading. There's even a You Tube clip!)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A fond farewell to Kerry Katona's OK! diary

I was absolutely gutted to discover that Kerry Katona's weekly literary masterpiece, her 'column' in OK! magazine, will be no longer. In this week's issue the magazine issued a sort of farewell statement saying that they'd had a long and successful relationship with her, been with her through the ups and downs blah blah blah, and that she won't be a contributing columnist any more. This stinks of: Kerry is checking into rehab, but they didn't say so.

There are clearly some issues in the woman's life, like an unsuitable husband for starters, but what I don't understand is why the press and public are so consumed by it. Even stories about Amy Winehouse fail to interest me these days. I think there's just too much of this shit going around and we've all become a bit bored with it. I hope Kerry and Amy get help and back on their feet, not least of all because Kerry has kids, and Amy has Blaaaaaaaake. Do I want to see another tell-all book about a celeb hitting rock bottom and then courageously picking herself up to see another OK! Photo-spread day? No, please god no.

Julia has started walking again. I say again, because she did it a couple of weeks ago and then seemed to lose interest. She's back at it, and has also sussed out the door handle in her bedroom, and just an inch or two more in the height department means we're in for trouble. We took it as a cue to install stair gates, which, I hate. I know they are necessary, but they also represent endless tripping and breaking your neck opportunities in my mind, especially in the middle of the night. Plus there's the whole thing about needing two hands to open the ones we have, which is a bitch when you also happen to be carrying a toddler.

Roberto reckons they will also be good anti-burglar devices. That most likely being because they will be too busy tripping and breaking their necks on the damn things to steal anything.

We went to a costume party on Friday night at Home House, a private member's club in London. The theme was fantasy/fairytale. Some people evidently spent a good deal of time and money on their outfits and they were spectacular. Others had an interesting interpretation of the 'fantasy' part of the theme, and their getups more closely resembled something you might pay them by the hour to remove. One such woman was dressed as Captain Hook, only the belt was also the skirt, and the top was actually a bra. She was thereafter 'Captain Hooker' to me, which I personally thought was genius, pity no one else agreed. That being because they were trying to pick up their tongues off of the floor no doubt. That's the trouble with keeping company with men at parties, that and the fact that they are useless at bitchy banter.

And in the news:
On a final note, a HUGE congratulations to our friends on the birth of their beautiful baby girl Hannah.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A new day

Yes he can, and indeed, yes he did! Obama is the new president of the USA. Here in little old England we got quite swept up in the fever of the American elections. It was hard not to. It was equally hard sitting back and hoping and praying that something you had no control over would come to pass.

A friend of mine, a self confessed cynic, got annoyed by what she described as Obama bandwagonning over here by some who didn't even know what his policies were. That may or may not have been the case, but what is certainly true is that it does matter to us who runs America, even if we weren't able to help make that decision. It maters to the whole world, not least of all because we get effected by decisions that are made over there. Just look at all the men and women we have lost fighting in a war we should never have joined. Indeed a war that should never have happened in the first place. Bad choice on our part too granted.

Likewise things like their decisions on nuclear testing, energy including oil relations, and their stock market - these things have a direct effect on the UK and the rest of the world. So hell yes, I care about who runs America.

Obama has a hard job ahead of him. Running a country as large and diverse as that is never going to be easy. Plus, once you are in office and faced with the extraordinary complexity of the job, I imagine it's going to be tough to deliver on all of those campaign promises.

But on a positive note I think he is the right man for the job and is hopefully going to lead the USA well and they and the rest of the world will benefit from some long overdue intelligent choices.

Bad luck to McCain. He put up a fight, and he lost. But come on, I mean, the guy totally sabotaged his chances by choosing that nut job Palin as his second in command. What was he thinking? That her straight (read crazy) talking folksy appeal would work on middle America? Even a certified god fearing gun toting voter can see crazy when it's standing in front of him/her.

And onwards...

Picture c/o

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ruby Wax, atheism and Obama

I spoke to Ruby Wax in Starbucks today. Actually spoke is probably an exaggeration of what we did. I said hello as we were both leaving, she looked thrilled at being recognised (no one else had done so), and simultaneously made a frantic motion as if to say she had to be somewhere. I asked her if she was doing any journalism at the moment, and she replied over her shoulder, 'Yeah, for the Telegraph,' before beating a hasty retreat.

Did I have bad breath?

The local church have a Thursday morning mother and baby/toddler thing. The notice reads: Are you a parent to a young child? Check. Would you like to have fun with your child and meet other parents? Check. Is it important to you to raise your child with the Christian faith? Er...maybe not.

The upside is that it's something to do with Julia once a week that involves free coffee. Kind of like AA meetings, except you can't smoke. Oh, and there's mothers and babies instead of addicts. At least this is how I sold it to Roberto who is a certified atheist. In fact he is more than an atheist - he told me he wants to start a charity which spreads the word that god does not exist.

I blame it on Richard Dawkins and his 'God Delusion' book. I have no problem with the premise except that everyone I know that's read it is a bloody pain in the arse about how great it is and how you must read it, and even going so far as buying you a copy. Not so dissimilar to the bible pushers themselves. The only thing that distinguishes the one kind of zealot from the other is their choice of literature, as is so often the case.

Roberto just pointed out that he has also read Christopher Hitchens's 'God is not great,' thank you very much. OK, so I apologise: there are two books you can purchase if you want to convert to non-faith.

So, the big election in the USA tomorrow. I'm an Obama person myself. I saw an interview with him very early on in the democratic race and he struck me as being intelligent and self deprecating, which happen to be two of my favourite qualities in a person. Oh yes, and he has a sense of humour too - essential if you are going to be running a country like the United States, or indeed any country.

To all my American friends and readers (all three of you) please remember to vote, I'd rather like to have an invasion-free 2009.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Saturday night yada

The kids in our neighbourhood have evidently been told that saying 'Trick or Treat' is no longer PC. Instead last night we were greeted by various motley groups wishing us a 'Happy Halloween,' while their parents teetered in the background wearing overcoats and clutching cups of Starbucks.

One kid, about eight-years-old, asked me, 'How many sweets did you just give me?
Me: I don't know
Him: Roughly how many?
Me: I dunno, a handful?
Him: Approximately?
Me: OK kid, off you go

I think he was competitively tallying up his spoils to compare with the other children in his group, and for a brief moment it was as though I were looking into the face of an eight year old Roberto.

Julia was unwell this week and the doctor instructed me not to take her out of the house, for the whole week. Not being able to leave the house is like injuring a limb. You don't appreciate just how much you need it until it's out of action. My mum came round to give me a bit or respite on Wednesday and Thursday and I practically ran out of the front door.

Things seemed so much more vivid than I remembered them. The reds and browns of the fading leaves, a smell of a passing young girl's perfume, the beautiful stillness of the church yard that I walk through on my way to town, the feel of a hot Starbucks paper cup against my bare hand, and the sting of having to pay bloody two quid fifty for it.

We've been invited to join a table at a Human Rights charity dinner. I'm very excited to be going to and event of this kind, i.e. an elegant adult thing that doesn't involve me on the sofa wearing sweat pants covered in baby food. It also raises a few questions though, like, what do I wear? Will anything that I already own actually fit me? Do I bare my upper arms? And what good will me sitting around eating posh food and pretending to know what the person next to me is talking about do for the people in the Republic of Congo that are homeless, starving, being attacked and raped, and god knows what else.

I support a few charities but I always wonder what with politicians and armies often stopping aid from reaching the people that need it most, if it's really doing any good. Of course I'm being cynical, but the world genuinely seems so screwed up that it feels as though we've just put out one fire when another one starts up. God only knows how it feels for the people and children that are in the thick of it. It makes me sick to my stomach to think about it.

We've started recycling. I have a big box in the kitchen that I chuck stuff into instead of the bin. I didn't realise until I started doing it that practically everything is recyclable, and the pile in our box is actually loads bigger than the amount of trash we are throwing away. OK, so it's not saving any lives, but I guess it's doing our small bit.

OK, and on to more cheerful topics: