Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ARE WE WORTH IT? Who will be at your funeral and why?

So, when you're on your death bed, who'll be hovering around?

This past week, the media has been utterly pre-occupied with two very famous people who shrugged off their mortal coils. The passing of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson has been water cooler fodder for days now - with a bizarre focus on the gloved one and a global hysteria and intrusion already well beyond the macabre.

For me and mine, death has been at the forefront in our household too, lost in the furore, but on the same day, a member of our extended family, aged 91, finally left us. She took her last breaths as her daughter held her hand, and her beloved daughter-in-law kept vigil. Her adult grandsons arriving quietly to lovingly say goodbye. What a contrast indeed to the circus surrounding MJ! Kit was known by no-one beyond her circle of friends and family, but she probably had much more of a meaningful and gentle impact on all those she gave to than she could ever have imagined - for she gave of herself, her talents and her skills without ever flinching and without remuneration or adulation. Not wealthy or a celebrity, she baked simple foods and delivered them where she felt they were needed - as a sign that someone was deserving of being cared for. She made thousands of sweaters and handmade toys and sent them out into the world to comfort, and she laughed and giggled with such contagion that all who loved her can still recall the sound.

She never counted on the cold comfort of a scrapbook of press clippings to re-affirm her worth on her deathbed and reassure her of her accomplishments, she lived her life fully, yet humbly, and her only applause was today, at her funeral, when all present clapped in agreement during the simple eulogy.

So in the coming days, when the hoped for dignity of a private family funeral for a Charlie's Angel is over and intruded upon, and the hoopla of a showbiz circus is completed (or renourished), when they've buried Michael Jackson; I recommend you reflect on what you have witnessed in the media coverage of those two events. How many well known people and performing artists, paused sadly, in carefully thought out ensembles and skillfully applied makeup to be photographed or interviewed, who was devoid of sophistry and simply gathered inside to pay their respects at the ceremonies, and how many, caught up in the image and celebrity devotion, joined a form of mass hysteria for a person they didn't know at all.

How you live your life defines who will be at your funeral because they want to, or because they have to. Will they attend as a friend to mourn, or as a spectator to relish?

What do you think and how do you make your life worth it? Please let me know.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I've danced to his music, laughed to his music, loved to his music, but truly, can we have a modicum of perspective on Michael Jackson's death?

What or when did he sacrifice, discover, show courage, act bravely, lead by example, invent a life saving vaccine, show true humility, go out on a limb politically, or do anything else than make music and perform?
What is his legacy?

Wonderful, joyful music that is a marker for many of us. We have shared our first dance, our first kiss, our weddings, our proms, our driving, our cooking, our parties and so, so, much more with his soundtrack in the background. We shared our joy with him, yes, absolutely - and I can truly say I am grateful for his creativity. But he also leaves behind three children, including two sons named Prince Michael numbers one and two, and a daughter, Paris, all three of whom will tragically have to bear the brunt of lifelong innuendo on their father's cloudy doings and bizarre behaviour.

Sad that a woman who bravely and openly battled a difficult cancer has been almost forgotten in the frenzy following the probable self-destruction of a man of great musical genius, but questionable character. The question is, who would you have trusted your children around, Farrah Fawcett or Michael Jackson?

Love Jackson’s music, but don’t eulogise a saint who wasn’t. Any death is a tragedy for those who love and are loved - how many in Darfur / Iran / Iraq etc etc etc today?

Perplexing indeed.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

UNVEILING ISLAM - The burqa explained

Before this commentary gets underway, I feel that it is necessary to close the gate before the horse bolts. So first up, let me say that I am not anti-Islamic, I have lived as a Muslim woman from the age of seventeen until I was twenty two (and admittedly, found it not to my liking for a number of reasons). I have four children, two of whom are Muslims and with whom I have a warm, relaxed and loving relationship – we are a family regardless of religion. Much of my professional life has been spent working with, and for Muslim people in the war zones of Bosnia Herzogovina, Kosovo and Albania as an humanitarian relief worker, and I have travelled and worked extensively in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia - so I have seen quite a bit of the world and can compare how varying societies adapt the Islamic religion to the cultural morays and sensitivities of their regions. In light of the bravery exhibited by so many women who have taken to the streets in Iran post elections I felt compelled to be honest in what I know of the dress code for Muslim women. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31529744/displaymode/1168/rstry/31531225/rpage/1/
Tory Maguire’s piece yesterday in http://www.thepunch.com.au/ and the reader’s comments that followed


had much to say on the reasons often cited by western media and society about what is believed to be the motivation for Muslim women to don the burqa and headscarves. The common, misinformed perception is that Muslim women mostly wear the burqa to express their religious devotion. Frankly, I’ve lived on both sides of this debate, and I would like to put the record straight once and for all as I was instructed during my time in a moderately strict Islamic society - to wear a burqa, hijab or headscarf during daily life is not prescribed specifically anywhere in the Koran – it is not wajib (mandatory and prescribed by the Koran), but only sunat (recommended culturally).
As a royal princess in an Islamic country (Malaysia), and originally hailing from Australia, I was required, after my marriage, to undertake four years of Islamic study under the tutelage of the Royal Household’s Iman and religious teacher. We used text books primarily sourced from Pakistan and Egypt which had been specially printed in English for converts to Islam, as well as long tracts of the Koran and my tutor’s own knowledge and interpretations as he was a respected scholar nationally. The majority of these texts were from Cairo University – the penultimate centre of Islamic scholarship in the 20th century.

These twice weekly classes over four years, were never undertaken between myself and my teacher without the presence of my servants, or another royal lady who acted as chaperones – not for my chastity or purity, but, as the Iman explained to me, for his! He truly believed that I, or any woman, could not be trusted in the lone company of a male without the baser instincts of the female gender coming to the fore.

According to these books, I was to learn that it was fine for a husband to beat his wife as long as he didn’t mark her face, I was to ascertain that female circumcision was not mandatory or even mentioned in the Koran, that it is a cultural practice only. However, the father who does instigate the excision of the clitoris of his female child will be rewarded in heaven – this again, I stress, was not mentioned anywhere in the Koran, but simply extrapolated from cultural musings of a scholarly nature. In other words, female genital mutilation is not a religious Islamic practice at all as dictated by the holy words of the Prophet Mohamed. That abhorrent undertaking is about control of women and tempering their sensuality – it has nothing to do with religion and I have yet to meet any Australian Iman who would say otherwise.

I was taught scores of things by the Royal Iman, the beauty of many tracts of the Koran, the cadence of the Arabic language; but much of the teachings, as opposed to the Koran itself, were strictly cultural and archaic, rather than the pure religious teachings of the Koran. I learnt that the primary reason women are required by Islamic societies (the majority of which are patriarchal) to swathe themselves in fabrics and cover their collar bones, necks, arms, legs, ankles, calves, chests, elbows, shoulders, throats, thighs, ears, napes of necks, hair and in some cases, faces, is that women are culturally condemned to the roll of seductress and are considered untrustworthy, immoral humans, driven to tempt men and bring down the bastions of male self-control. The fine shape of an ankle, or a tendril of hair – a glimpse of which can send a mere male into a sexual frenzy, are the tools of seduction. In essence and to outline it crudely – the veil, much lauded by so called Islamic teachings, is a protection for men against we voracious vixens of the mortal world. Not, as so many pundits state, a protection for women against men.

Yes, during prayer, it is common for women to don a full-length, white hijab, but this is because no hair or overt skin, other than the face, may be visible during devotions. Similarly, a man may not have any hair come between his forehead and his prayer mat as he kneels and prostrates himself during the recitations of Koranic verse, technically he must be covered only from knee to waist, but the little white crocheted caps have become popular as they are convenient to wear during prayers and keep the hair under control.

Women must not pray at the forefront of a mosque, in front of men. Women must take their places in prayer at the rear so as not to distract the male congregation from their rituals. But even in prayer, not one of the lines of the Koran bids a woman to have her face completely obliterated by a burqa – her face may be shown to Allah and all around her.

Even culturally, under the Islamic teachings I studied and with which I was indoctrinated, not one stanza exhorted a man to order his woman to cover her face – everything else, yes, but to wend her way along streets covered in a tent with only slits for her vision was never mentioned. Similarly, I am deeply perplexed by the current custom of small, Australian primary aged girls attending taxpayer subsidised private Islamic schools, wearing hijabs as part of their mandatory uniform. There are no teachings which direct females to cover all the parts of the body and the hair prior to puberty. In other words, if a girl has not yet menstruated, a headscarf is not a part of the dress code under Islam.
I have heard it argued by a young Muslim teenager that a hijab or a burqa denotes a female as a “girl or woman of dignity”. My gentle reply was that demeanour and deeds denote dignity, not a piece of fabric. The Koran mentions modesty, but does not describe a burqa or a hijab.
Which brings me to another point, it is most often the strictures imposed by the fathers and husbands within the Islamic communities that lead women to take up the hijab or the burqa. The social pressure on the males, their fear of perceptions within male circles, leads to the demand that their female relatives cloak themselves in what they perceive to be the trappings of honour to ensure, and demonstrate their trustworthiness and prove a lack of feminine sexual sophistication. In other words, the worth of a man is valued in how they control their womenfolk. Frankly, it’s a rather akin to preserving the wrappings on valuable goods before they’re purchased.

But it is implicit within well educated Islamic circles that head coverings on women are a cultural, and or personal choice, not necessarily a religious one except during prayer.

Queen Rania of Jordan, does not don any form of veil, she wears everything from leather trousers to business suits and haute couture gowns very openly – not just on foreign state visits, but in her day to day life amongst her people. (As ironically, did Lebanese born, Empress Farah Diba of Iran). Rania’s predecessor, Queen Noor (the former Lisa Halaby who began life as an American) did the same. Both women, at the highest echelons of Islamic society have stood beside their well educated, monarch husbands and exhorted their country to educate their children and most particularly the girls. Both queens have openly discussed breastfeeding and cleverly quoted passages of the Koran to support their stances on family.

It is a shame that so many of the men who have coaxed, or pressured, or demanded that their womenfolk don the burqa, or that their toddler daughters don a hijab prematurely, are most probably unable to read the Koran in its original Arabic other than by rote and are dependent on the interpretations incorrectly preached to them by immoderate clerics, and cultural exhortations not based in pure religion. The problem with so many clerics in powerful positions within many immigrant Islamic communities around the globe, is that these religious leaders do not allow for intellectual freedom, or personal interpretation when it comes to matters of self assessed modesty and female dressing because of the narrowness in which they view women’s supposedly intemperate sexuality and the lack of self-control in men.

Surely in 2009, human beings can be trusted to walk down the street, safe in the knowledge that a glimpse of hair will not cause a riot or an orgy. A veil worn in any form should be a personal and independent choice, free of familial or social pressure, A perambulating shroud should not be used to effectively excise a woman from the society in which they live and the possibilities of the freedoms we should all enjoy. Vive l’France!

Monday, June 22, 2009


Look, let's stop gilding the lily about this ute business and get down to brass tacks, stone the crows, anyone would think that the PM was having a lend and spinning a yarn. Swannie and Ruddie just had a severe case of Ute envy - I've seen my ball and chain under the spell of many a Holden & Ford and it's a pitiful thing to witness...mild mannered urbanites suddenly fancying themselves DIY kings.
It’s obvious that Kev’ just thought the ‘traddie’s truck’ was a bit of alright and just wanted in on the bizzo. Any tic of the clock the truth will out about the old bomb and the federal ‘blue heelers’ will come up with the fact it’s all a p**s take - the PM was only as keen as mustard for a chippies chugger and simply not the full quid in his reckoning about whether or not us voters would think he was coming the raw prawn about why and how he got one.


Maybe the missus wouldn’t fork out for a 4 x 4 for Kev’ and he was just being a bit of s**t stirrer - even Therese thinks the whole thing’s a bit suss and probably wants a squiz at all the emails to make sure. But fair suck of the sauce bottle, there ARE some things a bloke just has to have, a thingummy-jig for the wachama-callit and a ute to hit the frog and toad. Everything’s just Black and Decker – no need to spit the dummy – it’s just because the PM’s a tight-arse and bought a lemon – I mean have a gander – the bloody thing doesn’t even have a tow bar so it’s as useless as tits on a bull.

NB: For my non-Australian readers, a Ute (or utility) is a single cabin, low rise truck commonly used by carpenters (chippies), builders and bricklayers (brickies) -the 'Trades', a hardy vehicle for tough guys. The majority of language used above is Ausssie slang - known as 'Strine' - an evolvement on Cockney rhyming slang from the last century. As I am multi-lingual and incredibly talented, I am happy to intrepret any of the finer points which may need translating, but for now, I'm off to stuff my gob with a slab of choccie, have a bex and a good lie down!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


When you close your eyes can you conjure up the first time your olfactory senses registered a really beautiful perfume?

Were you four or five years old when scent took up your imagination, was it worn by a grandmother, or can you remember your mother sweeping up a delicate bottle from her dressing table and spritzing each wrist? Did your mother dab a little behind your ears, or were you a small boy enveloped in her fragrance as she kissed you goodnight?

Now imagine a hardline, Islamic society where perfume and makeup equates to the arsenal of seduction forbidden by their overly strict interpretation of the Koran, or the use of alcohol as a fixative in fragrance means that you have just doused yourself in the equivalent of pure whisky. Have you just brushed your freshly washed hair and relish the thought of it hanging loose around your shoulders, or have you added a smudge of lipstick to your lips because it makes you happy?

Now think of the women in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan for whom these simple actions of feminity are fraught with risk.
In the last week, I have watched as valiant young Iranian women, counting on safety in numbers, took to the streets and marched for the politics in which they believe, and wish to openly and loudly support - I applauded, but also felt a prickle of fear for them. Many threw off their head scarves, donned green head bands and applied a defiant slash of colour to their lips. As Twitter now brings us firsthand news of the violent reprisals following the suspect results of the elections in Iran, I ponder on how the women will protect themselves against retribution for their momentary feminist stance.

I await with trepidation, the resurgence of the anomynity afforded by the burqa, the quiet retreat to the veil that shrouds identity and protects the men of their families. For this independent and political statement made by women in Iran, will most probably lead to punishment not just of them, but of their menfolk for failing to control the women of their households. I feel such sadness and inevitablity as I imagine lipsticks being hidden in wall cavities, or bottles of fragrance disappearing down toilets and the concealment of those bright green headbands that shouted "we have an opinion and we want change".
As you apply your splash of fragrance today, or freshen your lipstick as automatically and as freely as you walk out your door after choosing a bright outfit and sassy shoes to go with your freshly blow dried hair - think of the women of Iran for whom the future is so unsure and so lacking in the freedoms and choices we take for granted.


Think green, think freedom, think solidarity.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oink oink & all that jazz

I sit before the keyboard in the grip of a pandemic - yes, I live in Melbourne, Australia, one of the MOST Swine Flu infected places on the earth according to WHO; and as luck would have it, I suspect that I have acquired H1N1 from my children's associates at that cesspool of disease, commonly referred to as 'school'.


So I shall skip any attempt at witty repartee, forgo my snappy lines and merely groan........
"Is life worth living if one can't even taste chocolate?"

Apart from checking in the mirror for the sprouting of a curly little tail and other porcine characteristics, I know that this too will pass.

I wave a pathetically wan hand at you and bid adieu - until the fever passes and I have something decent and coherent to say.

But I leave you with two thoughts that age should never be a barrier or an excuse

‘Goldfishing©’! No-one likes to see a woman swirling around inside a brandy glass (unless she’s an exotic dancer in a seedy nightclub surrounded by sweaty palmed ‘desperates’. One wine, one water is the rule to swill by. And tying one on obviously has some consequences!

Friday, June 5, 2009


When once I found myself sharing the back seat of a limousine with a very mature Supreme Court Justice, following a wonderfully chic Arts (with a capital 'A') reception in Manhattan to benefit the UN, I was forced to remind him that there is an enormous difference between Flirtation and Fruition.

Being a chilly evening, and the fact that the car was in fact mine, my options at this stage were either a well placed, yet indecorous knee to his groin, or a gentle reminder that in Europe it is polite to flirt, but to touch is considered very tacky indeed.

(I should also add that any flirting from me in the lead up to this incident was purely delusional on the part of the Judge, as my eye had been rather firmly fixed on a tall and definitely single Swedish diplomat on the right side of 40, with whom I'd been discussing Drottingholm Castle and its revolving ballet stage circa 1700.)

Which leaves me to reflect that is is such a pity that so few men and women outside of France, Italy or Spain, understand the nuance between the 'F' words.

A frisson is created with flirtation, eye contact held just a little longer than necessary, the slight nod of heads from across a room, a half smile and the small, and rueful shrug with no words exchanged or physical contact. Perhaps it's a little intellectual jousting or good natured banter - but all the flirtation in the world does not equal the other 'F' word...... a F**k!

Think Dita von Teese and her tantalising turns - now there is a woman who knows the difference between all the 'F' words.

Fruition is not obligatory ......... it's only the prize ....... the game of Flirtation on both sides can be far more enjoyable, and often holds far less disappointment and heartbreak. A little tachycardia lets you know you're a live.

Off to find Fulfillment with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate with my name on it.

I will be delving into this and other puzzling topics later this month in Sydney, Australia.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

More Flash than Pash

Nothing screams erectile dysfunction like a diamond encrusted Rolex.

In my vast experience of travelling round the globe and my exposure to the well heeled, I have come to the conclusion that it takes a certain type of man to sport a watch the value of which would feed several villages in Sudan for two years.

They are of a sad, and certain age, needy of ego and with erections propped up by Viagra & carbon based stones. Some have emerged from communist China with newly found capitalist bank accounts and they want everyone to know it. Occassionally they are Hip Hop gangsta rappers who believe that extra bling will function as a light source if ever marooned in the wilderness. Certain Queensland property developers have also been known to sport the links of time & tack.
Sometimes that are very minor members (and have minor members) of a Middle Eastern Royal family riding on the coat-tails of their Oxford educated cousins.

But the common belief they all seem to hold, is that once blinded by the eye burning reflections from all that gold, crystal and diamond, young, leggy and gormless women will love them for themselves. Did I mention the moon is purple with green spots?

Tasteful and discreet is best when it comes to wristwear. One should wear a watch, not the watch wear one.

Off to rummage for some Callebaut chocolate in the pantry.

I will be pondering these and other puzzling issues of good form later this month in Sydney, Australia.
Or catch me on Twitter.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Over Preserved - Scary Faces Everywhere!

If your face can't register an orgasm, is the climax still as good?

As I look around me I am beginning to get worried - so many of my friends, acquaintances and even other people in the media, are starting to look interchangeable.

I've checked with my optometrist and looked at the lighting, but it's definite - the purveyors of youth all trained at the same school with injectable facial fillers - rather than tailoring the product to the person - they tailor the person to the product. Youthfully plumped cheeks, more at home on chipmunks and duvet fluffed undereye plateaus are the new accessory du jour.

Now, some maintenance up on the blocks - a little freshening is absolutely understandable, but this bizarre plastic plumping has got to stop - particularly as individuals are now looking more like part of a zombie tribe of waxen dolls or Stepford Wives MK 3. There is a definite stacking of Restalyne, akin to the shoulder pad buildup of the 1980's.

Frankly I'm scared now at social functions in case I start a conversation with a cushion instead of a girlfriend.

Botox and filler users beware…it is possible to look ‘over preserved©’ think petrified starfish or blow up sex dolls. If permanently surprised is your one facial emotion then it’s time for a rethink and a change of cosmetic surgeon.

Off to commune with a spoonful of chocolate Nutella to ease the stress of ageing!

I'll be exploring more of these puzzling topics later in June at The Victoria Room in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Re- Virginated

It just struck me that I am about to be re-virginated as I cross over (belatedly) to the mystery of blogging. Yes, for all intents and purposes, and even as the mother of four children, there is still at least one area in which I can claim to be a virgin.

Writing I can do, blogging, well I'm about to find that out. With three published books in twenty seven languages under my belt and numerous magazine articles by me and about me, do I have what it takes to be succinct, engaging, mildly amusing or thought provoking to anyone outside of my own cranium. Only time will tell.

Be gentle with me... I am, afterall, a virgin in cyber space.

PS: I am an unashamed, continuously ravenous, chocolate munching woman.