Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mid-year review

Brew of the Day: Well, I’ve been on a juice fast this week so it is only appropriate that I offer you a freshly made apple juice with mint (straight from my herb garden). Divine!

Summer Solstice

There always seems something rather magical about a solstice or equinox, don’t you think? I’d planned to go for a picnic with the girls at our local druid’s stone circle, Long Meg, but Britain turned on the gales and rain (for the summer solstice??? ~ YES) so I opted to pack up the latest issue of The Mother magazine instead! (hopefully through your door by now ~ the UK ones anyway). Phoned my mum in Tasmania who was lazing in bed on the morning of their winter solstice. Another friend in Tassie wrote to say she’d been on a magical lantern walk and how beautiful the faces of the little children were. They walked through a forest and finished off the evening with soup. The one thing I really do miss about Australia is the scent of eucalyptus after it has rained. It’s intoxicating. I often try and relive it by sniffing on my little bottle of Essential Oil of Eucalyptus! The perfect car deodoriser, should you need one.

I used the solstice for a mid-year review which seemed somewhat strange as it doesn’t feel like the year has truly ‘begun’ yet. My overriding feeling is that of peace and how vastly different the energy of this year is to 2005 ~ a year I’d rather like to wipe from my memory banks! My current gratitude journal reflects this too ~ joys from simple things.

In 1998 we left New Zealand and lived in Australia for six months before coming to the UK. We’d had bad immigration advice and ended up in Australia with Paul not being allowed to work…with me breastfeeding a two year old and a 6 month old there was NO way I was going out to work so we ‘existed’ on a payment from the government which was abysmal and didn’t help us to meet our daily expenses. It truly was horrendous and we relied on food coupons to feed ourselves. They didn’t provide things like fruit and vegetables but white bread. EUK. Yet, when I look back at my gratitude journal of those months you’d think they were the best times of my life. Each day my job was to find three things I was truly grateful for. Despite the flies, relentless humidity, no transport so walking EVERYWHERE, doing shopping with two kids, and white bread etc, my journal reflects a life of ‘plenty’.

The abundance particularly came through a woman who lived in a flat in the same complex. She (and her family) became the light of our lives. They would bring us boxes of fruit!!!!!!!!!!!! She had a tiny baby when we met and asked me if I could make fresh juices for her and in return she’d bring me boxes of mouth watering tropical fruit. BRILLIANT BARGAIN TO ME. She’d take us all to the beach. She’d welcome us into her air-conditioned flat.

This lady, who still is like gold in my heart, is one of the many ‘angels’ who’ve passed through my life. It’s interesting though, isn’t it, that we often associate our guides, teachers and helpers with those who we enjoy, and put those who piss us off into some other category. And yet it is the latter who often bring us just as many gifts even if it takes us a lifetime or longer to recognise it! I don’t always find it easy to ask ‘what gift has s/he brought me?’ when every button has been pressed.

Juice Fast

Decided to amp up my weight loss regime and have been thoroughly enjoying a juice fast this week. The girls (voluntarily) joined me just for the first day and have asked when they can do it again. We might make it a weekly ‘treat’ to juice fast together on a Sunday. My girls are brill at eating their fruit and veg by the bucket load anyway ( I never fear that they’re not getting their five a day!), but juicing is a terrific way to really get the cells of the body jumping with vitality. It is the most efficient way to clean the organs while bringing live enzymes and nutrients into the body. Most people have never had ‘fresh’ juice but rather the pasteurised (heat-treated) and/or concentrated stuff found in cartons in a supermarket. There is NO comparison.

I’m pleased to say that, combined with eating all raw for a few weeks, I’ve now lost 13lb ~ such a relief after months of the scales not budging at all. Feeling right pleased with myself!

My mint plant doesn’t know what’s hit it as I collect her leaves several times a day and my herb garden which has gone into jungle mode these past few weeks is now being ‘tamed’ through parsley, fennel, sage and thyme being added to my carrot and home-grown spinach juices.

I’ve not felt any sense of hunger and have even coped with making the family’s meals, no sweat. There was one moment when I would quite have liked to taste the vibrantly red, local tomatoes and fresh basil I was chopping into the family’s salad…but I knew I could get more at next week’s organic farmers’ market!

It has made me realise how much I ‘pick’ at foods while I’m preparing a meal. The number of times I’ve gone to put something in my mouth and then realised I wasn’t ‘eating’ but drinking. Just yesterday I excitedly found our first two peas in the garden and picked them to share with the girls. I broke one in half to share with Bethany and as soon as the gorgeous juice of it touched my tongue I ‘remembered’ and had to yank it out before I started chewing!

Most people experience detox symptoms (such as headaches or dizziness) by day 3 or 4 of their juice fast as the body uses the opportunity to get rid of years of toxins. My only ‘symptom’ was a lonely pimple on my chin. I can live with that!

It’s felt like an important rite of passage to let go of ‘food’ as such for a bit. I love eating and even when I have what some might call a ‘restricted’ food lifestyle, I truly enjoy every mouthful! I guess the next thing for me to do is to not talk for a week! Might have to wait till the girls leave home before I do that one.

The only thing about being on a juice fast is that my whole body is in another zone (it’s SINGING!!) and it would be quite nice to be on a secluded island on my own and not ‘disturbed’ by incessant chatter, ringing phones and loads of emails…Last night my neighbour had ‘family’ around for a birthday party…they’re not the quietest bunch when they get together…bbq smells, visiting dog in non-stop barking mode, drunken yells…. “I’m on a juice fast, get me out of here!!”

Vocal about local

The little village we live in, Glassonby, is home to about 100 people. Years ago it had a post office, school, butcher, pub and the village hall held dances on a Saturday night. The village hall is now condemned and the only businesses here are home-based ones like The Mother magazine; Jacquie’s Bridal Designs across the road and a couple of holiday cottages which don’t exactly serve the immediate local community! Oh, and there is a grass field aerodrome for microlights owned by wealthy people from further afield! The owner also has a raspberry farm and sells pine trees for Christmas. People travel from far and wide to buy these. A mile out of the village is Pine Trees Nursery where I pick up flowers and bits and pieces for the garden. They sell their plants at local markets during the week. Other than that everyone else drives elsewhere for work. There are still a few farmers around but things changed dramatically with foot and mouth disease about five years ago.

Last year a committee was formed with the idea of rebuilding a vibrant space constructed of strawbales ~ an eco-village hall. A friend on the committee was even going to make stained glass windows to put into it… but alas, there wasn’t enough energy or enthusiasm by the locals. Too much hard work to apply for grants/funding. Rather symptomatic of the attitude many people have towards resurrecting local living.

One farmer tells me that when he was a lad this whole valley was organic and that all the crops were tilled by hand to get rid of the weeds. No one was unemployed! No such sight these days. Tractors dominate the roads and the weeds are knocked off with toxic chemicals. Monocultures exist. Fertilisers of dubious extraction (poultry from a local place where they use all parts of the bird to make fertiliser, which is nauseating [vomit inducing] to say the least). That’s the price of cheap food! I often hear people mutter about the cost of organic produce and yet these same people appear to have NO IDEA why other food is so cheap. Only we know it isn’t, is it? It’s costing us big time ~ both in terms of human health and environmental health. We are PAYING FOR IT.

What has happened to this village isn’t unusual. Our society’s reliance on supermarkets has turned many a place into a ghost town. In the UK more than 7000 independent shops closed down in the past five years due to the take over of supermarkets.

We all need to learn to spend our money locally, which doesn’t mean spending it in a supermarket! It’s a rare place which doesn’t have a weekly farmers’ market now. All other household goods can be purchased at wholesale rates (30 – 35% less than you pay in a supermarket) through co-operatives like Suma or Infinity Wholefoods. Anything you really need from overseas can be bought as fairly traded/organic.

When the oil wells run dry we won’t be able to pop out to the supermarket! The trucks won’t be rolling in there with our every whim being catered for. It is NOW, not in five or ten years, that we have to make changes. We need to recreate community ~ socially and professionally. And as for local food, there really is no better, fresher and nutritious local food than that which you can grow yourself.

Despite living in the far north of England and being a bit slow to get my garden going this year, our vege garden has peas, beans, pumpkins, spinach, rocket, courgettes, lettuces, celery, Florence fennel, potatoes, radish, sweetcorn, carrots, rhubarb and beetroot. The herb garden contains catnip, fennel, lavender, thyme, lemon thyme, flat leaf parsley, rosemary, chamomile, tarragon, borage, bay leaf, garlic and sage. We have a cherry tree, peaches, pears, plums and apple. Also a couple of gooseberry bushes, blackcurrant bushes, elderflower, strawberries and blueberries add to our fruit supply. Our garden isn’t huge but it is capable of becoming a biodynamic, permacultural paradise ~ if I’m around long enough to give it plenty of TLC. If I can do it here, then most people with a garden can provide their family with great local food. Go on then, get off the computer and get growing! Feed your family vibrant, alive and lovingly grown food. Have a fabulous week!
~ Veronika ~

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Drugs and the demise of childhood

Not a day goes by where I’m not grateful for this beautiful valley we live in. My morning walks take me about an hour (3 miles) and I get to thoroughly enjoy the views of the Pennines and the lush, green fields around me. The morning birdsong and the sun rising over the hills is incredibly glorious and never fails to delight me. I especially enjoy it if I’m walking early before the farmers are up and about in their noisy, smelly tractors. It always feels luxurious to get this time to myself if I manage to get a walk in before Paul and the girls wake up. More often than not, I do this walk again after the night time meal, girls in tow, lots of chattering going on which makes the walk an entirely different experience! The daily walk is one of the highlights of my life ~ a chance to truly absorb the beauty of this rural piece of England.

My rural bliss was dampened this week somewhat.

Last week I shared my discomfort around unruly and disrespectful behaviour at our local swimming pool. Imagine my dismay this week when I realised five of the teenage boys had been snorting (cocaine) within fifty metres of where my daughters were swimming! OK, let me be clear about this and say that I didn’t SEE them do it, but I’d bet my life on it that that’s what happened.

There is one boy in particular who always catches my eye because he reminds me of a boy I had a crush on at school, oh about 25 years ago. He’s tall, cute, well tanned and really ‘cool’. Always wearing sunglasses so as to create an aura of ‘mystery’. He’s probably a real Babe Magnet at school. You know the type…

Anyway, it has become part of my ‘people watching’ time to observe him from the perspective of a woman-seeing-40-at-the-back-end-of-next-year, rather than how I would have seen him as a teen.

On Monday I noticed one of the other boys *slyly* put something into his hand when he arrived at the pool. My first thought was ‘what are they hiding here?’ Had I not witnessed this moment I’d not have given a second thought to what followed later and probably wouldn’t have kept watching.

Babe Magnet put ‘it’ into his pocket and then went off behind the bushes to where a small stream runs. A few minutes later one of the other lads followed…and a few more minutes later, another boy followed and so on until all five of them had gone.

After about 20 minutes when they returned, one by one, they all sat on the bench just a metre from where I was sitting on the grass and then spent about five minutes rubbing their noses. All of them doing the same thing? All of them needing to dislodge some irritation in their nasal passages?

What would your conclusion be?

I mentioned it to one of the mums on the swimming pool committee and she said, “No, not those boys! No, absolutely not!” And then she walked away from me. Clearly it was just not something which could be taken on board. She absolutely refused to believe it was even possible.

Paul went into the local police station, not to dob anyone in, but to find out what the likelihood of it was. Sadly, the policeman said cocaine is rife in the local schools and able to be bought very cheaply.

We live in a culture of denial. No one wants to think ‘nice’, young teenage lads (or girls) are snorting coke. What’s happening to our kids that drug use in schools is something like 1 in 5 kids? It’s probably fair to say that the rates of drug abuse among home-educated teenagers probably doesn’t even register a percentage…though I’m sure it does happen.

Cocaine helps kids get through the school day. It puts a smile on their face…they can look at their science teacher and feel good. They can head on over to maths and still feel good. But why on Earth would anyone ‘need’ it at the swimming pool for goodness sake??!! More than likely it’s because they’re addicted. They need the ‘ecstatic’ rush and ‘feel good’ factor that it gives them even if it is only for about 39 minutes. But what have we done to our kids that their lives feel so bland as to need drugs like this? What have we done!!??

The most important question really relates to where the ‘need to be addicted’ started…was it lack of oral comfort as a child? Was it lack of parent time in infancy? Too many hours in a car seat or pram rather than mother’s arms? Too much time in front of Bob the Builder rather than playing in the sandpit? Too much synthetic ‘food’ in lieu of nutritious food?

Taking cocaine (or any drug) as a teenager is a symptom NOT a cause and to heal the situation, personally and culturally, we have to take an honest step back to get a clearer view.

I have complete faith that my own children won’t even try drugs when they’re teenagers or adults. How can I be so sure? Well, despite many people pointing their finger at my parenting style in the lead up and wake of the documentary on full-term breastfeeding (thinking my kids would grow up psychologically screwed up), I feel my kids have had their needs met (and continue to have them met). The whole being greater than the parts, so to speak, the reasons are many and include:

*They love life! The pleasure they receive from the simple things, such as a flower coming into blossom or a dog bounding up to them, is priceless and innocent in a culture that is deadened and desensitised. Daily they witness parents who too take delight in such things ~ parents who never miss the opportunity to appreciate a sunset or the smile of a stranger.

*They’ve grown up in a way as to explore their imagination. No tv, for example. They’re just starting to use the internet, albeit minimally. Yesterday they looked up ‘kitten photos’ and the pros and cons of school.

*I’ve always endeavoured to feed them high-quality, nutritious plant-based foods so their body is able to digest it easily and save valuable energy for developing a strong immune system and healthy brain.

*We talk to them! Now that’s a novel idea in our culture ~ parents actually talking to their children. There isn’t such a thing as a generation gap but a communication gap.

*We eat meals together.

*They're taught about 'creating their own reality' rather than being brought up to believe they're victims.

*We spend lots of time together in nature whether that be out walking or in the garden. Being in tune with Mother Nature and the cycle of the seasons and moon times brings out latent spirituality. When we feel good about ourselves we have no need to ‘add’ something else to the mixture or to experience stimulants.

This morning Paul, the girls and I went to a local café. There just happened to be an article in The Times (Body and Soul section, I think) about a common drug out and it gave before and after photos of people who were taking it and to see how dramatically and drastically these people had changed in the course of one to two years was absolutely painful to see. It was a perfect illustration to show my children in light of our discussions this week about drugs and the damage they cause.

Addictions are all around us but because they’re so ingrained in our culture most people don’t see them as addictions but as necessities.

For example,

television (it is a rare person in the UK with a tv who isn’t hooked on Big Brother, for example)

caffeine (in all its various forms)


alcohol (it all starts with that drink after work that you *need* to relax…but can you actually live without it?)

retail therapy (where would you be if you had your credit cards taken away?)

processed foods (yes, it is an addiction ~ try living for a week without processing your food in any way, which includes cooking, the most common processing).

We need to tackle all addictions within our home and society. We need to raise our kids whole, happy and healthy...happy with who they are and NOT what they do.

My initial sadness at realising those teenage lads were wasting their vibrant youth in this way, has been replaced by a greater confidence in how I’m raising my family.

I’ve experienced even more joy than usual this week as the girls have helped plant vegetable seeds and pot up marigolds and scabious. Each day we create a stronger foundation for them to lead healthy lives right through adulthood. As we sit in the evening sunshine eating our meal together, I give silent thanks that my daughters truly enjoy life. I give thanks that they don’t live with a daily NEED for Barbie, Nike or Coca Cola, computer games or a desperation to ‘text’ someone.

If enough of us parent consciously and wholeheartedly maybe we’ll set off a chain reaction (100th monkey syndrome) and reverse the current culture which is ending the innocence of childhood? It all starts with saying NO to outside forces which don’t promote well-being and saying YES to our intuition regardless of what others may say, do or think.

Have a fabulous week and be inspired and grateful for all the amazing things in your life! :-)

~ Veronika ~

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Wee Willie Winky!

Brew of the day: Chamomile ~ to soothe away life’s little irritations…
A life lived with integrity - even if it lacks the trappings of fame and fortune is a shining star in whose light others may follow in the years to come.
Denis Waitley

The girls and I have spent a lot of time at the local pool this week, what with all this fabulous weather! Expecting about 28C today…perfect for this little hot-house plant but strangely not hot enough for me to actually get into the pool. This morning Paul is having his turn there with the girls and I’ll go finish tidying up the garden.

Our nearest pool is in the next village about 2 miles from here so usually the girls ride their bikes and I walk briskly. I was actually really enjoying going there in the late afternoons and having our salad dinner there…but a few things have happened this week to suggest to me that it probably isn’t the best time of the day to be there!

As it is a community venture it appears to me that no-one is really in charge. Volunteers come in the evening to clean the changing room and collect money from the honesty box, but as for supervisors and lifeguards, it’s a no-go zone.

Some may think I’m a ‘contradiction’ in that I believe in freedom (free range kids, for example) but also I am quite clear on boundaries and installing rules if need be.

At Hunsonby Swimming Pool, which serves several nearby villages, there appear to be no rules of any sort to keep kids safe. There is one sign saying ‘no diving’ but that is clearly ignored by both the children and the parents who attend with them.

What’s concerned me is that all the teenage boys who dive-bomb seem to have no awareness for the different skill levels of the kids that they jump in next to. Not all kids have the ability to cope with being dunked. And all the kids seem to run full speed along the wet cement. Often the dive bombing is very close to the edge of the pool. Call me a control freak, but there is a fatality waiting to happen. But it seems I’m the only one sitting on the edge of my seat (well, grass actually) when all this happens or when little kids who stand next to the edge of the pool are pushed in by surprise. I KNOW it is all meant in good fun but there just seems to be no awareness for safety.

Bethany ended up having her nose thwacked during a dive bomb incident and screaming somewhat with her nosebleed.

Now, being an Aussie girl, I can’t say that I don’t swear, however the boys at that pool make me look positively saintly! Truth is I don’t want my young daughters thinking it is ‘normal’ for people to go around calling each other ‘you f***** c**t’. This is public area and something as basic as not swearing should be enforced.

To top it all off was when a thickly-set boy of maybe 7 or 8 years old (at the most) recognised Eliza from the documentary and started thumping her in the back; dive bombing her and yelling at her that he was going to kill her ~ that she ‘was dead’.

All the parents just turned a blind eye to this. One girl came up to me and said ‘he’s a bully, you just have to ignore him’. I mentioned this boy to a couple of the mums there and their attitude was the same ~ he’s a bully, just ignore him. But no-one is prepared to actually create a safe place for the 30 – 40 other kids who go to the pool. Is this the way of society? That we let our kids become even more cruel and nasty lest we infringe on ‘their rights’? I can see where it is heading.

I kept telling my girls to stay away from him but the Little Thug was like a bee to honey.

Eventually I asked who was the mother of this boy and when she appeared, fag in hand, black teeth, she more or less dismissed me and said she was taking him home anyway. She was soooooooooo not interested in hearing me ‘assertively’ say he was ruining it for other kids and that his behaviour was unacceptable.

Little Thug was NOT going to be taken home and kept running back into the pool. He knew she was powerless. She wasn’t getting in the water so he used this opportunity to do some more thumping (of my daughter). By this stage I was ready to jump in, clothes and all!! Tolerance level now at zero. Growl.

A teenage boy helped to get him out and while the thug kept yelling to Eliza ‘you’re dead’, his mother yanked his arm out of his socket and dragged him to a seat. When she had him sitting down he started eating a chocolate bar ~ and this is the really strange (dysfunctionally SAD) bit, he kept eating while she continuously slapped him around the head with one hand and yanking one arm with her other hand. Clearly he was ‘used’ to it and it probably explains why he didn’t flinch or respond to any of her ‘discipline’. As pissed off as I was with him, I can’t help feeling sad that he and so many other kids grow up with this sort of treatment every day.

If we look to the Yequanna (as written about in Jean Leidloff’s wonderful book The Continuum Concept) I believe we find a model of ideal society. It is rare that anyone in their society acts like Little Thug, but if they do they are separated from everyone else until they are ready to be part of the harmony which exists. I believe this boy would learn very quickly about co-existence if we applied the Yequanna ideals.

When I recounted the story to Paul he asked me who the boy reminded me of.

Geoffrey Purdham!

I’ll write about Geoffrey in another blog. In a nutshell, he’s a farmer in the next village who farmed land adjacent to an orchard we had. He’s a bully known for miles around who met his match with me…As Paul so ‘kindly’ tells people when introducing me, ‘this is Veronika and she doesn’t take s*** from anyone!’.

Well, after a childhood of bullying, I make no apologies for knowing what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Meanwhile back at the pool, at a different time of day, there were just a bunch of toddlers (with mums of course!). Talk about good contraception. Toddlers are so busy, aren’t they!?? Beats me how I ever got through life with two toddlers. Sheesh.

Anyway, one of the mums was telling her boy it was time to go and to come and dry his WINKIE.

What is it with women in this country giving their boys a name for their penis which will do nothing for the self-esteem or respect for that part of their anatomy? I’ve heard all sorts of names over the years and they all seem to represent something weak and insipid!

Widgi, willie, todger, winkle, tiddler, wormy, winkie…

Sorry, but I can’t say I’d want a winkie or a wormy near me!

All the good mums at the pool liberally use suntan lotion on their kids’ skin. They’re GOOD mums, unlike me!

Yesterday on local radio, our esteemed announcer very kindly and ever-so-caringly begged his listeners to put on sunscreen when they went out that afternoon.

So when I emailed to tell him off for encouraging ‘poisoning’ he was quick to stick me in THAT basket…you know, the one where you put the Veronikas of the world…the people who say things which cut straight through all the propaganda and other bullshit subsidised by various industries.

So here’s something straight from the scientists (rather than from me). Fish all around the world are changing gender and it most often happens near sewage outlets. Why? Because the huge quantities of the chemical oxybenzone found in sunscreens are washed off bodies in showers and pass through the sewage into the sea. There are alarmingly high levels of octocrylene and 4 methylbenzylidene camphor (in sunscreens and lip balms) in gender-bent fish. And not only are you putting this crap on your skin, but if you eat fish you’re receiving these chemicals again!

The skin is our largest organ. We should never put anything on it that we aren’t prepared to eat. Use a cold or stone pressed-oil if you want to lubricate your skin but NEVER sunscreen lotion.

When coming out of the winter months, build your resistance to the sun slowly. Use common sense, that's why we were given a brain! If you’re fair haired and skinned, then use a wide brimmed hat and cool, loose, long clothing. Make use of the shade.

Norwegian researches have shown a dramatic increase in skin cancers despite no increase in the ozone layer there in the last 30 years. The increase in sunscreen products, however, is huge. See any link?

Finally, I would also say that our nutrition plays a huge role in our susceptibility to skin cancer. We need to eat chlorophyll-rich plants which helps to protect from ultra violet radiation.

Studies show that a diet high in cooked fat and processed foods leads to skin cancer. When the body is polluted with waste, it pushes toxins out through the skin. If it doesn’t get eliminated then it gets FRIED and it mutates when exposed to the sun’s rays. (read this again)

It’s time we all woke up and realised that skin cancer isn’t CAUSED by the sun but by what we ingest…whether that ingestion is via the skin through sunscreen poisons or internally via processed foods and OUT of the skin.

So, stick me in that fruitcake basket if you like Mr DJ. I’ll stick to my dark green leafy vegetables and lack of sunscreen and enjoy this gorgeous, glorious weather knowing it will nourish me and that Nature’s gift of Vitamin D will allow my body to metabolise calcium and phosphorus and to convert dietary calcium into bone.

Right, my garden awaits!

See you next week, same time, same channel :-)))))

~ Veronika ~

"In matters of style, flow with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock," said Thomas Jefferson.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Celebrating lives

Brew of the day: Egyptian Liquorice

The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time.What do you get in the end of it? A death. What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backwards.You should die first, you know, start out dead, get it out of the way. You wake up in an old age home feeling better every day.You get kicked out for being too healthy, go collect your pension, then, when you start work, you get a gold watch on your first day. You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirementYou drink alcohol, you party,you're generally promiscuous (hey, you've only got a few years left, what's the big deal?)

And you get ready for High School. Then you go to primary school, you become a kid, you get toys, you play, you have no responsibilities,and finally, you become a baby. The last step ~ you spend your last 9 months floating peacefully with luxuries like central heating, spa, room service on tap, larger quarters everyday, and then…you finish off as an orgasm

Just had to share that…arrived in my inbox a couple of days ago and I’ve not stopped thinking about it since! ‘Tis brilliant, me thinks.

I picked up a copy of a colour glossy this week ~ OK! (celebrity magazine). Have to be completely honest here and say I don’t normally read magz like this. My bedside reading includes Utne, Mothering, Compleat Mother, Nexus, Permaculture, The Ecologist, Mother Earth News, Green Health News, The Miracle Worker (ACIM), The Mountain Astrologer…you get my drift.

So, let’s just say I was doing a little ‘research’. Don’t ask!

Anyway, it got me thinking about how ‘unreal’ it must be to have your life under a microscope like the day to day lives of many celebrities. Clearly the word celebrity comes from ‘celebrate’. We celebrate these people for….oh, I’m coming unstuck. Why ARE they celebrated?

Originally celebrities were people we looked up to…Royalty; well-known politicians; famous sportspeople; brilliant singers/musicians. At one stage we didn’t know anything about them or their private lives and intimate side. Due to the way the media has changed these days we even know what colour underwear they wear (or don’t).

People were famous for doing something spectacular or courageous rather than just being someone (with the possible exception of Royalty and the aristocracy, because they were born into it). But now, in most cases, even Royalty has been reduced to the commonplace. They have no more celebrity than people who’ve been on TV or in newspapers.

We still have celebrities we can look up to, but now there are a lot of people who are celebrities just because their faces (or other body parts) are well-known. A lot of them don’t actually do anything that requires talent, skill or training.

Why are we interested in them and their lives? Is it because we enjoy their failures, the criticism of them? Do we feel better than them in some way because even though they’re well-known, they’re not actually as talented or accomplished as we are? Or perhaps for some people it is a matter of identifying with the celebrities because they’re ‘just like us’ and there they are on television. Does it prove that you don’t have to be special to be ‘special’?
When we place people on a pedestal it is inevitable that at some point they’ll slip off. After all, every human being has feet of clay, else they wouldn’t be here!

Because of the all-pervasiveness of the media, if you’re a celebrity/in the public eye, you can’t afford to have any skeletons in the cupboard because, sooner or later, they will regain their flesh and come back to haunt you. The only alternative to being squeaky clean is to come clean...that is, to be completely transparent. To make a virtue of your lack of virtue, so to speak.

Two celebs I admire are Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon ~ beautiful, charming, charismatic women with wealth beyond belief who manage to live ‘normal’ lives with both feet firmly on the ground.

Oprah always practices Random Acts of Kindness. People don’t know these acts were performed by her ~ she just does them. And despite her huge success she continues to ‘work’ doing her chat show, not because she needs the money, but because she knows how many people are employed because of her. She is very generous to her staff (and their families) with medical insurance, annual holidays and so on.

Reese Witherspoon is now the highest paid actress in the world. She doesn’t have a nanny. She only takes an acting job if her husband is able to stay home with the children ~ they have a pact that the children will always have at least one parent to be with them. I love that!! She helps out at the school and she cooks her family’s meals.

There is such pressure on celebrities (is it by us the observers, or by the media on our behalf?) to be ‘perfect’. But have you ever noticed that the perfection *we’re* seeking is ridiculous and almost always based on physical appearances rather than on character or soul development? I’m often intrigued by the front covers of the glossy magz which lined shelf after shelf screaming out for attention. One week they crucify celebs for having too many veins in their hands and this week their thighs are too big! Who’d be a celeb?

I really feel for Victoria Beckham. She can’t have enjoyed a PROPER meal for years to fit into jeans that my 8 & 10 year old certainly wouldn’t fit into.

Anyone can be a celeb these days…it doesn’t take skill, talent and what I believe to be the most important attribute, charisma. Imagine the changes we could make in the world if celebs did possess these? Wouldn’t we all sit up taking notice? With celebrity almost always come power and money. In this world these two things tend to have a mighty sway.

My mother asked me once what I’d rather have ~ wealth or power. “What’s the most important to you?” she asked during one of our deep and meaningful conversations.
I said to her that actually the most important thing for me was neither of those but communication. I need clarity in communication and am challenged when people don’t listen, or don’t remember what was communicated. For me, clear communication is far more valuable than any amount of money or power. And that perhaps power is inherent in honest and authentic communication.

What can we learn from the life of celebs? Mostly, that we don’t need to be in the spotlight to be a shining example to others. Our daily actions, however apparently small and insignificant, have ripple effects which go out into the world and impact on others in ways we could never imagine. The smile, the moment when we REALLY listened to another (instead of letting our own script run through our head at the same time)….these are what give people that *special something*.

Random acts of kindness never end with the person (or plant or animal) to which they were directed. It’s impossible. Our whole world is one wide web, much like the internet. We’re all connected (whether we like it or not!).

This week I learned of the death of a very special man whose life really does deserve celebrating. I don’t expect anyone reading this to have heard of him. For the past four years that I’ve been producing The Mother, whenever we’ve met he’s made me feel like the most important person in the world. And there were times, I can assure you, that I ‘expected’ him to say “Bugger off Mrs Robinson!!!” But no, not once did he do that. He always greeted me with such joy and made me feel special. It’s a rare gift when someone can do that. I’ll remember Malcolm, and his actions and kindness, for as long as I live.

You see, Malcolm was the manager of the printing firm where I have The Mother printed. There have been times, especially in the early days, where I’ve struggled to pay the printing bill because people have taken so long in re-subscribing or wholesalers haven’t paid their bill for 3 – 6 months. I’ve not ever had a loan or overdraft to run this business so rely on money ‘moving’ and flowing as it is designed to. Any other printing firm would have refused to publish any further issues till the balance was paid. Not Malcolm. He never once turned me away. His attitude was always one of complete trust in me. Malcolm would smile and tell me to ignore the accountant’s ‘note’ on the invoices.

Yesterday when I went to the printers to collect my ‘proofs’ for the summer issue, I got rather wobbly (to say the least) expressing my sympathy, but more importantly my immense gratitude about Malcolm, to the new manager and receptionist. They both said that everybody had said the same things about Malcolm. That he really made people feel special.

The strange thing is (perhaps not so strange really), when Malcolm was first diagnosed with cancer I assumed he was just off work with a cold. When I’d asked to see him for a quote on printing some brochures the receptionist said he was off sick. The next week when I arrived at the printers with a magazine for printing, I got out of the car and was suddenly sick in the stomach. “He’s not got a cold, he’s got cancer.” I heard these words in my head.

When I went in and was going over my proofs I asked my ‘main man’ if Malcolm was ok. He looked at me sadly and said he had cancer.

Since then I’ve had about three dreams of Malcolm. I don’t think it is necessarily me being exceptionally intuitive but more to do with the impact he’s had on my life and us ‘connecting’ at a level which goes beyond human understanding.

A man like Malcolm is, sadly, rather rare ~ not just in the business world but in other sectors too. But it is lives like that of Malcolm Warwick which the world should be celebrating!

My life has been touched by him in ways that will go on to benefit other people. And if so many other people have felt touched by his kindness over the forty odd years he spent in business (not to mention his family life), then imagine all that love rippling out into the world. Kind of puts Big Brother ‘celebrity’ into perspective, doesn’t it? Good-bye Malcolm and thank you for everything. Your warm smile will be missed ever so much.