Month: September 2017

What Would You Voluntarily Queue For?

Good question. My godson asked me this a few years ago as we made our way to Paris on the Eurostar. Designer sunglasses? Prada boots? To get into a hot nightclub? To see your favourite rockstar?  Ice cream? Entrance to your church’s Christmas concert. Difficult question for someone who has a low tolerance for queues but I have queued for the latter and the latter only of the aforementioned, contrary to popular belief, but I already had the ticket so not sure that counts.

Anyhow, today as I attempted to breeze into Harvey Nichols via my favourite door, a place where I never have to queue, not even during sale time, I was told it was an exit only due to the queue wrapping around the corner.

“What are these people queuing for,” I asked the very serious security guard. “Rihanna’s new make-up.”

Ok, I said, and sought a door that would allow me to pass without queueing. So it’s true, it is all the rage, I talked to myself as I entered the store.

I have seen it for myself, not really, since no amount of rubber necking got me near the beauty counter. But I did see loads of signs all around the store and then upon leaving Knightsbridge, I decided to join traffic to drive past the store, even if it did mean queuing. And as I sat in my car where the queue started,  I admired the diverse line-up–young, middle aged and mature women from a  medley of races and men, too. And then they admitted four young women into the store, and the others, a stream of them, waited patiently. Wow!

That’s when I remembered the question: What would you voluntarily queue for? Ah ha, I’ve got it. The answer is Chick fil a, the only fast food joint that I ever show my face at anymore and only when I am in Georgia. Almost everyone lunch time, I joined one of the city’s longest and fastest moving queues. And viola I have chick fil a nuggets, waffle fries and lemonade. Oh so worth it, as I eat every last bit of it before returning to my dad’s house! No evidence to speak of.

What does it mean or say about a woman who is gluten intolerant? Who knows? Still, it is a great question to ponder. What would you voluntarily queue for?


The Nature of Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

New England, the place to be in the autumn, right! An explosion of colour from bursts of tangerine to shades of crimson, nature is at its most picturesque time of year. Can’t argue with that but what I can say is that New England got its spirited reputation honestly—inherited it from Old England, if you will.

Two weekends in a row I’ve found myself mesmerised by nature—just nature.

At a recent retreat, during an out-of-doors experience, I was first attracted to the polished, manicured lawns of an old country house turned hotel, but then noticed the naturally arranged trees in the distance and couldn’t get enough of walking amongst them. It was there that I discovered the benefits of leaving my comfort zones. More on that later but also I suddenly noticed the humanity of trees, how they lived cheek by jowl as we do, but manage to have more than enough space to grow. Somehow they didn’t crowd each other, try to get rid of each other. It was in diversity that they seemed to thrive rather than to stumble. Even suffering had not conquered them.

Upon reflection, the facilitator, let’s call her a tree whisperer of sorts, wondered if I had become a part of the landscape. As I sat to contemplate my experience, I saw what she meant and have had a new reverence for the out-of-doors since.

Surely, it was this eye opening experience, which led me to Wakehurst, Kew’s lush gardens and woodlands in Sussex. Actually, it was my husband who suggested we visit as a part of an early birthday present. All the same, it was an extraordinary gift, a wonderful experience.

Back to the issue of comfort zone, I wandered into the beautiful gardens and grounds and felt ever so comfortable with one tree in particular – a striking, sage beauty, though tinier that most around her – and wandered over to have a photograph with it only to find that the sunlight didn’t do the picture justice. It was then that I crossed the road and posed in front of a seemingly orchestrated landscape to discover in the distance behind me, nature untamed. A variety of colours and textures allured me (see above). 

There is something to say about stepping out of one’s comfort zone now and again. For me in this instance, it has opened my eyes to the goodness of nature, cultivated or uncultivated.  From its stunning beauty to its exhilarating scents, nature is an intrinsic part of life, offering healing properties and so on and invaluable lessons to live by.

When I was a girl, I entered and won a Georgia US statewide writing contest – What a Tree Means to Me. Trees are a symbol of life, I wrote all those years ago.

Fast-forward,  forty something years later, I know this simple truth is still relative and likely always will be. But as an adult, I now understand that we can learn a lot from trees, ranging from how to deal with suffering to healing. Wakehurst is a great example of that, having recovered from the storm of 1987. The woodland lost some 20,00 trees.

Of course, in such learning we have a responsibility, not only to plant seeds, even if only metaphorically, but also to nurture them, let them breathe and flourish. Hence the beautiful parks, gardens of both Old and New England as well as the untamed woodlands—a hassle-free way to step out of one’s comfort zone.


What Matters About Peer Pressure

When it comes to end of life reflections, the one I remember the most came from the very wise centenarian who said ‘no peer pressure was the best part of being 100’.

Thanks to Author Natalie Savvides, our guest on Episode 10: Peer Pressure Inside Out, we won’t  have to wait that long to evade peer pressure or at least learn how to manage it. In a candid interview, the author highlights some personal trials and tribulations, which helped her to cope from her teenage years to now. She expounds on these in her book, Full Circle, an inspiring account of her life story.

One key message she has for teenage girls dealing with peer pressure is:  “Those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter.” 

Lovely note to end the UIO pilot series on. But not the end of UIO at all, far from it. Now is the time to catch up on all the episodes.

Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, Soundcloud and right here on the UIO podcast page.  And do send in your questions and feedback and let me know what you’d like to hear about in 2018. In the meantime, keep an eye and an ear out for more UIO news coming soon!

Family Matters Now More Than Ever

UIO: Your Family Inside Out, the ninth in the podcast series, is out now. Offering  straightforward conversation with Helen Lewis, founder of Literally PR, this episode takes a closer look at why setting boundaries, for example, can be the difference in a healthy and an unhealthy relationship.

The thing is: if there are no boundaries, people are bound to rock the boat consistently. And even with boundaries, we do tend to push them. Looking back to my own teenage years, I can attest to that. But knowing that they exist and trying to live up to them offers discipline that feeds into self-governance. Boundaries matter. 

Having margins, if you will, also feed into a sense of belonging to a family unit.

Other key topics we cover are effective communications, how to manage social media and much more. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Tunein, Soundcloud and right here

The penultimate podcast in the series, UIO: Your Family Inside Out is a must listen for teenage girls and their guardians.

Tune in next week for UIO: Peer Pressure Inside Out – a wonderful conversation with Full Circle author Natalie Savvides.


Undressing Gender Stereotypes

Until the recent announcement that the retail giant has gotten rid of boys and girls labels in children’s clothing, John Lewis could do no wrong in my eyes. But with this news, I have to tell you – my eyes are stinging.

Make no mistake about it I vehemently dislike gender stereotypes. I do! And I would like to do something to eradicate them too but before I make a move, I’d like to think that I truly believe that my move is going to influence positive change rather than provoke confusion that could run well throughout adulthood.

If you ask me, this could be a problem started rather than one solved. Though the logic is that gender has more to do with social and cultural differences than it does biological differences, it is not clear-cut. It just isn’t.

Like it or lump it, girls and boys are different and have different needs and wear different clothing in different cultures, even if there are stereotypes that need to be dealt with.

Why not address the issue head on if it is a colour thing. For example, super hero shirts should come in all colours, pink and all, as fairy costumes can and should come in all styles and colours, too.

And if it is an unsuitable garment issue, why not take the opportunity for some equity here. Years ago when I ran the British 10K, I could not, try as a might, find a pair of shorts that suited me (I didn’t want hot pants, ok), though there was a great selection of mid-thigh shorts in the men’s department, and most recently my athletic niece had the same problem right here in the UK but also has it in the US, not only with shorts but also with trousers that are too skimpy and tight. Nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want but if you don’t, how about an option or two.

No wonder someone got the message that girls and boys ought to wear the same clothing–unisex clothing. Never mind trying to invent clothing that quell stereotypes. Anyhow, if you ask me, this removing gender labels from clothing will not resolve the gender issue stereotypes in clothing or in anything, for that matter.

And here is why: it is not children who have the problem. It is the people who make the clothes and who promote the stereotypes.

So let’s be clear, I don’t think this idea of sugar and spice and everything nice and snips and snails and puppy dog tails has a place in modern day society either, but neither does consolidating boys and girls clothing under one umbrella. It is not that straightforward. But what does make sense, in my opinion, are eye-opening clothes that meet the needs of whomever is wearing them, whenever they are doing so. Nothing stinging about that.