Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Frequency of posting

In Blogging on August 19, 2011 at 10:16 pm

When I started this blog last year, my plan was for it to fill the gap left when my column ended in Good Weekend – hence my promise to post something to arrive every Saturday morning.

I didn’t want to let down the lovely lovely Aussie readers who had been so loyal to me for, gulp, was it really twelve years…?

But now I have a new column, The Rules, every Sunday, in the S section of the Sun Herald and M in the Sunday Age (S and M ha ha ha), that no longer feels so pressing.

And in all honesty, with the deadline for that falling on a Sunday and the deadline for this on a Friday, it was rather squeezing my weekend…

So I hope you won’t mind if I now ease into a more normal blogging pattern of posting whenever something I feel urgently about pops up?

Especially as, starting this Tuesday, I have another weekly column. It’s on a really great website, called High 50, which is specifically targeting my generation of people over that watershed age.

Not the Stannah stair lift demographic so wrongly imagined by most brands trying to talk to us – I walked out of a bank recently, which had an illustration of an old-school granny with a white-hair bun on a leaflet about ‘Accounts for the Over 50s’ – but people who might have been born before 1961, but are still way across life.

People like me, Madonna and Tom Ford, who is 50 next month.

My spot is called Dress De-Code and it will be up on Tuesdays, so please have a look.

And the pictures here are just some random things a woman over 50 likes.


From top: A donkey.

Ignacio Nacho Figueras – Argentinian polo player and Ralph Lauren model.

K Jacques St Tropez sandals.

The Paris Ritz.


Hejira by Joni Mitchell (very hard to choose which one…)

Campari and soda.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Aston Martin DB6 exactly like the one my dad had.

Self-portrait by Egon Schiele.

Mulberries eaten straight from the tree.

Kings of Leon.

The brute power of young men

In Famous people, Men, Youth on August 12, 2011 at 11:05 am


On Tuesday morning it seemed as though everyone in Britain had an emotional hangover from the trauma of the night before.

After staying up until 2 am glued to Twitter and the news, I felt so shaken I couldn’t face going into my office, and cocooned myself at home, to work in bed, eating biscuits.

When I did eventually have to venture out I found my elderly neighbour standing outside her house sobbing. She just couldn’t contain how upset she felt.

Later, as I drove around the seaside town where I live, I felt very nervous. It’s quaint and elegant in different parts, becoming increasingly cool and fashionable, with lovely independent shops and cafes springing up as they do in such places.

But it also has some pockets of severe urban poverty, where for several decades seriously deprived people have lived reproducing very young, bringing into the world generation after generation of a chain-smoking, hard-drinking, drug-taking, benefit dependent, illiterate underclass.

Vicky Pollard territory. Just the kind of place looting could kick off.

As I drove I was also very aware of there being a lot of young men out and about and I felt oddly threatened by them.

I’m a healthy woman, I normally look at young men in a similar spirit to the way I gaze in at the windows of Graff in Bond Street. I don’t want to buy it, but I like to check out the merch.

Give me a shirtless scaffolder to perve on, or the bare-chested love god who cleaned my windows the other week and I’m happy. It’s a passing comfort, like hearing your favourite pop song on the radio. But on Tuesday I saw them in a different light, not sexual – but powerful.

It was seventeen, or eighteen year olds I really noticed. Those hard bodies, all lean muscle and sinew, like perfectly oiled machines. It made me think about what it must be like to suddenly grow a physique like that.

I have a number of gorgeous little boys in my life, children of friends, who are the same age as my daughter. I remember them as cuddly little three year olds, who would sit on my lap for a story.

Now they are nine and have turned into gristly little packets with scabby knees. They’ll turn any stick into a gun and wrestle you for it, but they’re still little boys. I look at them and try to imagine what they’ll be like as men.

It’s really hard to make the mental leap and I have a friend with grown up sons who told me it’s the weirdest thing, the first time you go into their room and see a big hairy leg sticking out of the bed, where the scabby-kneed one used to be.

But while it’s strange enough to observe, what must it be like to experience such changes in your own body?


Of course I can remember my own frame suddenly sprouting new bits and changing shape, but I didn’t feel powerful from it. The opposite. It made me feel vulnerable because ghastly men started look and leer at me, shout things out, or even try to feel me up.

It was horrendous and I took to wearing voluminous smocks until I grew into myself and felt brave enough to face them down.

So how amazing it must be, without any conscious effort on your part, to suddenly morph into being the animal at the top of the food chain. It must be like being a Fiat 500 and then just turning into a Formula One car.

You may not have any money, a car, a girlfriend, or even the vote, but suddenly you’re the fastest, the strongest, the toughest. The top predator. Everyone is scared of you. What a power surge that must be.

It’s why a lot of cultures have initiation rites and ceremonies to mark it. They acknowledge a transition, a shift in the power structure, that affects the whole community and instill a sense of responsibility in the young men who have grown into their new power.

I think we have abandoned all that, to our peril. Initiation for an increasing number of young men in the UK comes via being accepted into criminal gangs. Even in less extreme cases, it’s through binge drinking.

And that’s what made the events on this week in London, Birmingham and Manchester  so terrifying to me. Those mobs of young guys had suddenly and collectively understood the power they hold just by growing up and being fit.

The sooner the rule of law is shown to be more powerful than sheer brute force and numbers, the better.

I’m still feeling shaken. And I’ve posted this shameless perve fest of pictures of Zac Efron to console myself…

What should women politicians wear?

In Accessories, Older women, Politicians on August 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm

The question above -what should women policiticans wear? – is one I normally ignore. It shouldn’t matter what a woman politician wears – what matters is how good she is at her job. And if she’s Prime Minister, or Home Secretary she must be pretty bloody good.

Then I saw Theresa May wearing those pearls while she was making an official announcement about the London riots last night and I suddenly minded very much what women politicians wear. I definitely don’t want them to be wearing that.

I went back on to Twitter – where I was glued until nearly 2 a.m. last night, feeling sicker and sicker about what was unfolding in the city of my birth – to find someone else had already posted a sarcastic comment about them.

There was just something jarring about the Home Secretary wearing oversized ‘fun’ beads on such a dark night in the history of Great Britain. Then she showed up on the news again this morning, sporting a jaunty little choker. (Not this one, but something similar.)

It just seemed so frivolous. I could imagine her getting ready, fossicking around in her jewellery box going, Hmmmm, the heart choker, or the bright blue beads?

She hasn’t got time for that right now. She’s the one who should be persuading the Prime Minister (who had the sense to wear a black tie for his announcement this morning) to get the water cannon sent over from Northern Ireland.

Then they need to rush through emergency legislation permitting the use of rubber bullets, and mobilise the army to drive tanks towards the mobs of 15 year olds who are looting shops and burning down buildings, just because they can.

The whole thing is making me – your typical lily-livered liberal – want the kind of response normally demanded by right wing tabloid readers (see list above, just add ‘bring back the birch and National Service’…).
But this isn’t the moment to be wondering what has happened to our society to lead to such a loss of the rule of law, it’s just got to be stopped.

A generation raised on junk food and Grand Theft Auto, and bombarded with information about the lifestyle of an over rich elite no better them (Jordan, Peter Andre, Cheryl Cole, John Terry et al), has to be put back in its box. Then we can start sorting out what caused them to grow up so morally, as well as socially, impoverished and try to change it.

What? Where was I? Oh yes, Theresa May’s stupid jewellery. You can see why she thinks she needs to get with the flirty accessories. She first came to fame in British politics when she took to the stage at the Tory conference in 2002 wearing leopardskin high heels and she’s been working an attention-seeking shoe ever since.

But now she’s Home Secretary, she really needs to put aside such childish things. She’s doing a very grown up job and it’s time she started dressing like one. She clearly loves glamorous clothes, which is fair enough, but not during working hours. It just doesn’t fit the gig.

If she needs some help, I suggest she checks out former French cabinet minister, now the head of the IMG, Christine Lagarde, who has written the rule book for how women politicians should dress.

Of course, Ms Largarde is French and very beautiful, which gives her two extreme advantages, but beyond that she’s shown that the best way for a woman politician to project authority is to play down her clothing as much as possible.

The simplest sharp tailored suits, in dark colours, set off by a white shirt or T shirt. That’s it. In short, a female version of male politician’s dress, enlivened – as a male politico might wear a jolly tie – by some small pieces of good jewellery. Not something that looks like it came out of a Christmas cracker.

Despite the odd segue into red suits, I think Australian PM Julia Gillard mostly gets it and I like the way she has made the white tailored jacket – appropriate for Australia’s bright light – her signature. (Although I have already had comments from Aussie readers shooting me down on this – tell me more, I want to know what you think…)

These pictures of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, show exactly how the dark suit looks so much more authoritative than the bright one.  They really need to leave jolly brides’s mother colours – in clothes and accessories – to the Queen.

So nothing fussy, nothing bright, nothing ‘fun’. Politics is a very serious business – especially at the moment – and requires very serious clothing.

Got it Ms May?

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