Ode to Love (or my father)

'To a father growing old, nothing is dearer than a daughter.' - Euripides

We went to Wells Cathedral in Somerset to visit my father recently whom my sister and I buried there in the summer of 2011. The photos show how glorious the cathedral is and no it wasn't a sad occasion at all - it was just great to be near him again and wish him love. A funny coincidence, which he would of adored, is that he is buried with his beautiful dog, a Great Dane called Daisy, that I had bought for him when he first moved to Somerset - and the cathedral garden where he is buried is now just covered in daisies! I like to think it was nature's homage to my father and Daisy!

It was such a joy walking through the grounds of the cathedral again and it just made me realise how my father had manifested exactly where he wanted to be buried and it had happened for him in such a glorious way. The service was memorable and profound - he would have been proud. I have to say I think Wells Cathedral is even more beautiful than Westminster Abbey - clever father or what? Jeffrey Archer was so impressed that my father is buried at Wells Cathedral - he said so few get that privilege - I said he had manifested his wishes with positive thinking. It gives me great comfort to know he is buried in such a beautiful place and a good excuse to keep visiting him because he planned it that way.

It got me thinking about how great my father was at naturally attracting the good stuff to himself. I don't think the idea of positive thinking existed when he was a young man - but he certainly naturally had the gift of the gab! Passed down by his French mother perhaps, my grandmother - who always wanted the best for her family!

My father would often say 'I just want you to be happy darling' - and you know something, I was. That to me is a great gift. There were no demands made on my academic achievements other than the demands I put on myself. And you know I worked hard because I was happy in all the subjects I studied as a teenager, from all the arts, art to art history, history, english language and english literature, geography (I've always loved maps and travel because of my father who travelled the world and just made me feel happy and confident about travel too), French, tennis and swimming!

Don't get me wrong - I wasn't a perfect child by any means - but I adored both my parents and I think looking back because I new they loved me, I wanted them to be proud of me too. So you see again, it all comes down to love. I think if a child is loved and they know they are loved they will always be happy. It is a fundamental knowing that sustains you for the rest of your life - whatever happens. I wish and hope that every child could have that kind of foundation of love - the world would know peace. He has naturally shown me to expect the best and there is no greater gift to a child than to be happy, optimistic and expect the best - because what you believe is what you get. How you perceive things is how they will show up for you. He was kind and compassionate and generous which I believe helped attract the good to him and he also showed me that discipline sets you free!

Ode to love
Ode to love

I list below a few of the stories I love and remember him for:

Allowing me to go to my first May Ball at Trinity College Cambridge at the age of 15 years, the night before my first mock O-Level as long as I had done all my revison work - which I had - and I passed with flying colours!

My father getting pissed with the actor Terry Thomas in a bar in Ibiza and disappeared for a few hours coming back giggling away at all the jokes he'd heard and dancing in a kaftan to Stevie Wonder in a Ibiza nightclub.

Rescuing me and not berating me for being arrested for drinking champagne and being in a nightclub in Ibiza town at the age of 14 years. In fact my parents dined out on that story for many years and thought it very funny! I was innocent of course.........

Putting ribbons in my father's hair whilst he was watching Match of the Day on tv and nearly wetting myself with laughter at how funny he looked AND he'd leave them in for the rest of the day as if nothing had happened - what a sport - which made us all laugh even more!

Cooking a proper dinner party for me and my 2 bestest friends on my 13th birthday because my mother had rushed away to look after her unwell mother - our beloved grandma - and he didn't want it to spoil my birthday plans so he became the chef and maitre d' - prawn cocktail then lamb chops, peas and new potatoes - it was delicious! Thank you my darling Pa!

The stories he'd regale as a young man dancing with Brigitte Bardot on the dance floor at the Villa d'Este in Italy - he loved beautiful women. His adventures as a young man in Kenya, Fiji, New York, Canada, Australia, Paris, Rome, etc - he'd travelled everywhere! He'd always come back with these amazing photographs and presents and we'd have slide shows on his return - such fun - and it opened my eyes as a small kid to a whole fantastic world out there!! He always made travel fun!

I remember how when I'd have lunch with him at Scott's in Mount Street or The Rib Room which was then at The Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge he was great at getting late tables and charming the mâitre d'. He would always say to me 'walk in looking like you own the place' - as a teenager that wasn't easy - but the notion stuck with me and you know he was right. Not in an arrogant way but with confidence. He consciously created a good life for himself and his family and you know I saw that in practice as a child and it works! He showed my sister and I the good life with values and it stuck!

Here are the 12 most important life lessons I learnt from him and I know they work:

1) Be friends with people because you love them - nothing more. He thought the human relationship the most important in life.

2) Simplify - don't give too much attachment to possessions - less is more. (please see my Simplicity blog....)

3) Restore your soul in nature - he loved his garden and was so proud of it with all the flowers, beautiful hedgerows, singing birds. It brought him great joy to be in nature and that was a lifelong habit.

4) He was artistic and loved to draw and do photography and had lovely hand writing. He thought drawing teaches you not just to look but to see and that nourished him.

5) He was tall, slim and fit until the day he died - he was naturally athletic and understood that looking after yourself does not convey or cover-up any deficiency. It's smart to care and always look your best - it instills confidence in you and others. He was a great tennis player and a member of the MCC most of his life.

6) He relaxed very easily and would often have an afternoon nap. He was always good at taking naps - Arianna would have been proud! He thought it very important to rest so you're energised for the next adventure!

7) He never got angry - he thought anger was futile and only attracted more anger into your life. Gratitude and forgiveness were his bedrock.

8) He knew how to have fun - always generous and 'a glass of champagne darling?' When I was a student in Florence he flew out for a  week-end and took my whole class out for supper. Mind you he'd flown out because I'd told him that my male Italian Professor was taking me to Switzerland for the week-end............he was out on the next plane!

My friends loved him - Cambridge May balls, cocktail parties on the lawns by the river - joining me to see my current boyfriend in his Footlights show. My school friends adored him too. He always new how to make things fun and so he attracted it!

9) He thought wealth was a mind game - once you understood that and finding harmony within yourself - you become rich. He was a successful businessman but work never consumed him.........he provided a beautiful home for his family, a great education for his daughters, foreign holidays, etc., but work was kept in perspective. He understood what was important.

10) He loved history - he thought it was very important to know where we came from and our heritage. He loved reading about history.

11) He loved music from The Rolling Stones to Chopin - he found music inspiring and got the imagination and creative juices flowing.

12) He knew that discipline sets you free - always neat, tidy, clean and organized. Even after his death with finances and providing for his family - all the paperwork was organised and calm. Again he was right.

It sounds like my father was perfect and he wasn't, but I've understood since his death what he passed onto me and how he truly understood about the meaning of life. I'd like to think he'd chuckle at this blog of mine - but you know I love and miss him everyday and I think he'd be proud to know I did. What better legacy can a father leave?

'Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting'Holy shit......what a ride!" - Hunter S Thompson

The Theory of Everything

'What now appear as the paradoxes of quantum theory will seem just as common sense to our children's children.' - Professor Stephen Hawking - British Theoretical Physicist

Congratulations to Eddie Redmayne who wins yet another award last Sunday night @The Screen Actors Guild Awards for his portrayal of living legend Prof. Stephen Hawking in the amazing film 'The Theory of Everything'. The film has so far been awarded 10 Bafta nominations, 5 Academy Award nominations, won 2 Golden Globe awards et al, not only for Eddie's remarkable performance but for Felicity Jones, who plays his wife Jane, of 25 years, in the film which is based upon her memoir book called "Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen". The film is part biopic, part love story and is deeply moving but as one critic put it 'as not so much the theory of everything as everything but the theory'! Hawking is the world's most celebrated living scientist who believes and proves you are not your body but you are your consciousness. He was diagnosed with motor neurone disease as a gifted 21 year old Cambridge student and told he had 2 years to live and he is now a celebrated 72 year old whose body and mind have exceeded the expectations of medical science! What I love about cinema is that it can change lives because it can change minds..........

It got me thinking more on his belief of the quantum theory as quoted above and how this knowledge can affect all our lives.

Quantum physics informs each observer sees her/his own unique universe literally independently - how powerful is that? So as quoted by celebrated author and futurist Greg Kuhn "Quantum physics goes on to show us that you create your unique material reality not just through your observations, but more importantly, through your expectations. When you change your beliefs you will change your universe!" So expect the best. Most physicists today believe that the quantum theory is correct - so I list below the way to access through your expectations this quantum physics super power!

1) Sometimes you have to get away to be inspired - silence is necessary to access your own inner wisdom.

2) Give your subconscious good clear directions! Remember you are the President and CEO of your life - your subconscious is the most powerful asset you own.

3) Through gratitude you can appreciate everything you have now.

4) Through affirmations and visualizations you change your feelings and then the outside circumstances will change. The power is from within but we cannot receive it unless we give it.

5) Build your knowledge bank to help you harness more of this subconscious super power

6) Collaborate and have positive experiences and fun - if in doubt - go out to play!

7) Stay fit and healthy - like attracts like and it's good for your spirit and soul and energy vibration

8) How you empower others is believe in them, trust in them and make them feel secure - that in turn empowers you

9) Believe it is an abundant world - our expectations create our world and we can change and improve our expectations

10) Be open and aware of life's synchronicities and serendipity - they are there if you are willing to see them

I love Quantum Physics and I've practiced the law of attraction most of my life even without realising it as a child. We are all born with this knowledge but it gets ignored in our current education system. Time to change the system because once you realise you have this power and you can practice this in a conscious way, your life goes into supercharge and you can create the life you want!

'Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free' - Prof. Stephen Hawking

'One's destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things.' - Henry Miller

'Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.' - Roald Dahl

An African Christmas

As Katharine Hepburn was making 'The African Queen' with John Huston and Humphrey Bogart she was quoted as saying 'I never dreamed that any experience could be so stimulating' - that's exactly how I still feel about my many African Christmasses with the Zwager family including this latest one!

With much love and thanks to all the cast and players in the essence of this Bafta voting season for making this Christmas and New Year so special:

Juni and her wonderful love, homes, cooking, organizational skills and laughter and Hans - an overall big thank you for your creation; Karl for keeping the mozzies off me and all his beautiful photographs see above; Peter and Teresa and their love and laughter; Lienette and her Christmas Day extravaganza; Tammy and her frocks, Jake and his big smile, Nico and his flying, Leila and your help, Johnny and his kitesailing, Adam and your charm, Twain and your organic honey - yum; Suzanne and her beautiful photographs; Hamish and Louiza and growing family including Jack and his wounds; Brad for his charm and networking skills; Roberta and Chris for their beautiful home and new friendship and Chrissie, Joe and Esther, Mary and Jerry; all the staff including Monica, Joshua, Odiambo, Jane, Joyce, Nancy, Steven, Zito and Wambui, Miriam, Simon, Silvano, Kio, Vincent, Limoni and all the dogs including Dottie, Trix, Bouncer et al and the cats - big and small; Naivasha, Manda Island, Lamu, Chui Lodge and Kiangazi House et al (www.oserengoniwildlife.com) and all the animals you can think of! I hope I have not missed anyone off the list - if I have, please forgive in the spirit of this thanks!

Thank you so much again! xxxxxx

'I restore my soul in nature' - Jane Fuller

Out of Africa

'Nature's intelligence functions with effortless ease........with carefreeness, harmony and love.

And when we harness the forces of harmony, joy and love, we create success and good fortune with effortless ease'                                                        

         ~   Deepak Chopra

Christmas 2013 Africa
Christmas 2013 Africa

I have spent 3 weeks with friends I love in Africa for the Christmas and New Year holiday. I cannot think of a better way to start the new year of 2014! We were staying with the Zwager family (see my Serendipity blog) for some of the time in the timeless paradise of the Djinn Palace by Lake Naivasha - a white morocan palace with gardens and an animal sanctuary to match - living a life in partnership with nature. From early morning to early evening game drives to swimming and reading by the pool. The sun shone most days but because of the altitude, mornings and evenings were cool, so wonderful log fires were crackling away by 6pm in the palace.

It truly is a paradise on earth. Spiritually enriching where you float with the slow dreamy rhythms of an African day. It reminded me of a mindful quote by Deepak Chopra who says, "If you observe nature at work, you will see that least effort is expended. Grass doesn't try to grow, it just grows. Fish don't try to swim, they just swim. Flowers don't try to bloom, they bloom. Birds don't try to fly, they fly. This is their intrinsic nature.................It is the nature of the sun to shine. It is the nature of the stars to glitter and sparkle. And it is human nature to make our dreams manifest into physical form, easily and effortlessly." This is how I manifested my dream to be in Kenya again.

I've always believed that holidays are an essential part of making life great; they allow you to feel inspired, heighten your senses, sleep better, be more productive, put your values into perspective and appreciate the wonderful life you have back in London! Never underestimate the power of smart, positive thinking - a great holiday enhances this!

We flew to Manda Island for the Christmas and New Year celebrations - living another sort of paradise with nature by the sea. Manda Island is an island opposite Lamu in the Indian Ocean - the next islands along are the Seychelles. The Zwager family own a large part of the island that is just so private and beautiful. You go to sleep with the sounds of the Indian Ocean lapping on the shore. The dawn chorus that awakens you is quite exceptional and to have breakfast on the terrace amongst the birds and monkeys flying through the trees is just heavenly. From Dottie the Jack Russell waking me up with a large pot of tea to having a swim in Juni's beautiful pool - it is sheer paradise. The great golden sun rises in a cloudless sky at 6am and by 7pm - there is no twilight in the tropics - it would be completely dark apart from the twinkling stars. However the early morning light is exceptional - mother nature is the best dop (director of photography) - the light is as beautiful as found in Provence, France, but different.

I believe buildings only exist because of humans, so they should be nurturing, emotional places - Juni Zwager manages to evoke that feeling in all her houses which she personally designs and builds with her team of crafts people. Her staff are wonderful, loyal people who have been with the family for many years and trained to a very high standard.  This has to be one of the best places in the world!!

Thank you Juni - we love you and we had a ball!

xoxoxox

PS  By the way, everywhere we went from meeting old friends to new friends - they all said the same when I said I lived in London. Everyone, but everyone, including Sandro Rosell - the chairman of the FC Barcelona - all said how London is the most exciting city in the world and beats New York many times over and how lucky we were to live there!!! From the culture, to property powerhouse, to financial clout to food to comedy to liveability - they all agreed London has it all!! Yes.........I've been saying this for years.........finally it's filtered through - it is the best city to live by far and isn't it great most nationalities finally agree!!!!

'Joy is not in things; it is in us'   ~  Richard Wagner

'Houses and the human psyche'

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..........."  -  Daphne du Maurier

Those words always have such a haunting intensity for me because we all know and understand how emotive houses can be and Manderley the house has such a pervading presence in one of my favourite films of all time, Hitchcock's 'Rebecca', adapted from the celebrated book by Daphne du Maurier.

'Rebecca's' narrative takes the form of a flashback with that famous opening line and Manderley the house being one of the key elements. I believe a house can get into your psyche; it can haunt you especially if it's from your childhood. I'm sure this is one of the reasons I love to make houses look great.

My childhood home, North End House, an Elizabethan house with a prerequisite guest ghost, vast duckpond, 14 stables, orchard and paddock and acres of fun has had the same effect on me - it was a house that got into my psyche and soul. It has such a strong emotional pull back of vivid personal memories that are entrenched in my emotional landscape. It's obviously not just the walls of a house - it's the people, the memories and the history.

I was reminded of this feeling whilst I was too briefly in Umbria, Italy recently and stopped by a place I had not visited since I was there as a 17 year old. The place is called Castello Civitella Ranieri. My boyfriend at the time was related to a wonderful lady called Ursula Corning who had invited us to stay with her for the summer at her magical 15th century Italian castle she called Civitella. Castello Civitella has the same haunting effect on me that both North End and Manderley had commanded.

Castello Civitella Ranieri
Castello Civitella Ranieri

Ursula was such a character and a wonderful and generous hostess that Civitella and her left an indelible impression on me. The castle is heaven and everything you would want it to be and more. The turrets and tower rooms, the chapel and vast kitchens, swimming in the lake, the ghost, the heat and the sounds and smells of an Umbrian summer. Ursula would have at least @25/30 guests staying at a time - all friends from Ursula's wide and varied, always stimulating, always provocative circle of international friends. Mealtimes and seating plans were meticulously organized by her as she loved to mix people and never put couples together.  Our long stay for the summer lasted several weeks as Ursula kept insisting that we stay for longer. I remember drawing her a 'thank you' card of a cat (she loved cats) with a very long tail that unfolded over several pages, thanking her for our long, long stay!  She loved it.

We would go on adventures - which Ursula would call her 'tiddly-poms' - to the wonderful Roman theatre at Gubbio and see plays, climb Monte Acuto at 3am so we could watch the sunrise and drink mulled wine, endless adventures in Perugia, Orvieto, Spoleto, Assisi, etc., visiting monastries and chapels but always returning home to our beloved Civitella for more fun and games. Ursula would encourage her artistic guests to write poetry and music and perform plays as she believed the atmosphere of the ancient castle and quiet beauty of the countryside would inspire them. She was right.

Ursula was one of those people who just enhanced Civitella because she loved the place so much! Which was of course infectious. The castle looks even more beautiful now than when I last saw it - beautifully maintained but not too perfect. Ursula would be proud. In the last decade of her life she began with two associates to grow Civitella's arts programme and the castle is now thriving as The Civitella Ranieri Foundation to support gifted artists from different disciplines and countries. This is a non-profit operating foundation organized under the laws of the State of New York with offices in New York City. Ursula was a great supporter of the arts and her charitable works included supporting many New York arts and charitable causes, both personally and professionally through her foundations.

Ursula had been born in Switzerland, studied in England and had spent most of her life in New York. Her father was Professor H. K. Corning, a prominent medical anatomist in Europe. He was a member of the Ranieri family who were Bourbons. Ursula's father's cousin, Romeyne Robert, had married Marchese Ruggero Ranieri di Sorbello, whose family owned Civitella since the castle was built in the 15th century. Ursula began visiting it as a young girl and thus began the beginnings of the fabled Civitellian summers............

Thank you Ursula, Jonathan and that wonderful Civitella for giving me such great memories! I also would not be surprised if Civitella has a beautiful, new lady ghost talking of going for 'tiddly-poms'..................I told you houses can haunt you.  Amen.

Girl Power!

"Who runs the world? Girls!" - Beyonce

Girl power
Girl power

My friend Olivia gave her baby shower last week for her friends, mother and new baby daughter called 'Rosie'. Can you believe that Olivia is the one in the pink dress who had her baby only 3 weeks earlier and her mother is in the blue dress and I'm holding the baby!!

It was such a fun, great occasion with mostly Olivia's female friends that it got me thinking about the world that Rosie has come into and how as a female she will fare. The era of the woman has been building for the last 70 years or more and it arrived on January 1st  2013 - the shift from a masculine patriarchal society, to a feminine, Gaia, society from this date was predicted by many trendspotters, astrologers, futurists and marketeers.

In the last 100 years the evolution of women has accelerated and the right to vote came into being in 1918 thanks to the Suffragette movement and other brave women before them. In the last 50 years women have taken giant steps. Women have become Prime Ministers, CEO's, Supreme court judges, doctors, lawyers, Film and TV Producers, Film Directors etc., etc., and hopefully in 2016 we'll see the first ever female USA President in Hillary Clinton. Female members of the UK Royal Family are to be given equality with men in the rules of succession. So Rosie will be in good company................! The next Royal baby due next month will be the first British monarch born in the 21st century - the age of the personal brand. There is no mention of gender yet of the Royal baby but I'm sure she/he will be the first Royal baby with a registered URL and twitter account! So this is the world that Rosie has been born into - yes, I know there is still a long way to go but women are already succeeding and on their own terms. I believe there has never been a better time to be born female!

I am an auntie, great aunt and godmother and I believe womanhood has to be taught. As Steve Biddulph says in his book 'Raising Girls' (a must read I believe for all parents raising daughters): "Modern womanhood is tough. Your daughter will need to be self-reliant, clear thinking, emotionally strong, good with people and responsible for her own life. They will need mum, aunties, great teachers and other older women to help them get there." I believe with great parenting and education you can teach your daughter to evolve spiritually, emotionally, physically and mentally. However, I do believe that to embrace Eastern philosophy which offers a much more profound view of the world is so important and that's where Rosie will be very fortunate!

To teach her that this life is an inside job - the way you think creates reality for yourself - your thoughts create your life. The law of attraction is a science. So teach her to make a conscious decision to be happy because that is infectious and attracts other like minded people. I also believe that by living naturally and exercising regularly, the body will tell the mind to be happy. There is loads of data that proves that the mind can believe itself well by optimising the body's natural self-repair mechanisms. Most doctors now agree that the mind has a profound effect upon a person's sense of well-being. The mind is the most powerful tool we have - so teach your child how to use it by opening up their mindset to bigger picture thinking with travel and life enhancing experiences that broaden their horizons and help them find their spark!

Here are a few more tips I'd like to tell Rosie:

  • Learn yoga and meditation and deep breathing - it will do wonders for your peace of mind!
  • Remember that there will be people around you with low self-esteem who covertly undermine you to make themselves feel better. Don't listen to gossip - it corrodes the gossipers and those who listen! Those who gossip are usually jealous of you - so rise above it. Do as the Royal baby will be taught "never complain, never explain."
  • And remember there is no 'glass ceiling' only the one you create in your head

Finally this is my Buddhist blessing to Rosie:

May you be safe and protected

May you be happy and peaceful

May you be healthy and strong

May you carry your life with ease and grace

Go girl!

With love

xxx

PS    "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."  - Oscar Wilde

PPS  And remember boys are wonderful too!!

The Human Spirit!

I was invited to a wonderful and joyous evening of the London book launch of a friend's old school friend from Phillips Academy Andover and Yale last week. Gerry Shea has written an inspirational book called 'Song Without Words' because in his mid-thirties - despite having achieved a stellar career in law - discovered he'd been partially (not completely) deaf since the age of 6 years when he'd contracted scarlet fever. The scarlet fever had damaged some of the epithelial cells of his inner ear which evidently once wilted never grow back so this had affected his hearing deeply.  However, he was not conscious of this at the age of 6 - he thought everyone had a better understanding of what they had heard and just assumed he wasn't as bright as his fellow pupils and would have to work harder!

The book is about his sometimes painful journey from childhood to youth and the ingenious compensating skills he invented and the stress of his long struggle with undiagnosed deafness. The deafness was only discovered when Gerry took a routine physical exam at the age of 34. A doctor did a hearing test and told him he was deaf - he didn't believe him at first and did nothing for a year - however he finally got hearing aids fitted and the rest is history. To listen to him talk about hearing nature for the first time in nearly 30 years is moving - he calls them his 'songs without words' - it might make us all appreciate those wonderful sounds even more!

This is a no 'poor me' wallowing memoir - it's a book about triumph over adversity with no self-pity over his sense of isolation in being deaf - just sheer chutzpah and determination to achieve. The book goes into great depth about how partially deaf people communicate through 'lyricals' - for the wrong words that they hear - these are more of Gerry's 'songs without words'.

A story of true courage and fantastic stength of will and enlightenment of the human spirit. The added bonus in writing the book is that it has given Gerry great joy and he has now found his new vocation and another form of communication that unites us all!

I had a frisky French grandmother (my father's mother) who was partially deaf too and she would often tell me that when you're deaf the other senses are heightened! So not so bad then Gerry........

Jane Fuller, Song Without Words

The party was full of Gerry and his wife Claire's friends and held at Laurie and Laetitia Oppenheim's beautiful home. Thank you Karl Ziegler for the lovely photos.

 

 

'Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes'  -  Ludwig van Beethoven

'Lean In'?

Lean in
Lean in

Just as the furore over Sheryl Sandberg's book 'Lean in' has died down I wanted to add my voice to the debate. Unless you're not aware - how cool - Sheryl is the COO of Facebook (since 2008) and this new book has now sold 275,000 copies up to last week. She is hoping to create a national movement to help women advance in the workforce and the book became the focus of intense debate even before it's publication on March 11th 2013. It's part feminist manifesto and part how-to career guide. Obviously the book has nothing to do with helping Facebook's languishing share price since it's bungled I.P.O? Or as the Washington Post succinctly put it "simply the elite leading the slightly-less-elite, for the sake of Sandberg's bottom line'. Whatever, she believes feminism has 'stalled' and I think one of the good things this book has done - is that it has got everyone talking and opened up the debate again. I want to be supportive, but I don't think 'Lean In' is the answer, it sounds more like a 1980's mantra and surely we've moved-on from that? Sheryl's message is that 'women internalize the negative messages they get throughout their lives - most men don't. Women are told it's wrong to be outspoken, aggressive and more powerful than men and so rather than pull-back which many women choose to do, she thinks they should 'lean-in'.'

I believe there is a shortage of women in global boardrooms and in senior positions because most women don't want to go there! Not from lack of ability but from preferring to start their own structure - be it a business or joining forces with other like minded people and creating their own cultures and making lifestyle choices. We can do success differently from many men who make themselves ill with heart problems and diabetes by becoming workaholics which doesn't look fun! We want to make the time to unplug and re-charge.

Being a woman has never held me back. If you know your subject - you won't be thrown by anything. But you have to be strong and have the hide of a rhino sometimes from all the sniping successful women get and I understand why many women don't think it's worth it. I think successful women get a huge amount of flak - it goes with the territory - but I found it unbearable sometimes.  Tina Brown says "flak means you're hot in business" - so there will be a lot of resentment as it's such a competitive world - but does it have to be like that? There needs to be a complete cultural change from the media to governments to the corporates if they want to appeal to more women.

I find it's interesting that the 'millenials' or 'generation y' as they are sometimes called (those born 1977 to 1993), place a higher value on their work/life balance and have expressed a desire to pursue work that is personally meaningful. They say that they have learnt by watching their mothers (baby boomers) tearing their hair out trying to balance career and family and have no intention of copying them!

In my experience if you lean in too far you're likely to fall flat on your face. There are lifestyle choices women can make and most choose not to be at the top table because it doesn't look that appealing. They want to be more individualistic. Unless there are systematic and cultural changes I think this will continue.

I think it's interesting that Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo who also launched her book with much debate is dissing feminism as too negative. I don't think she'd be saying this if she'd been born 20 years earlier when all those amazing women fought for all the fights she doesn't have to now.

Another extraordinary woman - whatever your political views -  was Lady Thatcher whose passing has opened up the debate even further. Why are there so few women MP's? I think you just have to look at Prime Minister's Question Time (PMQT) to understand why. All that aggressive city-type blustering is so last decade/century - it's a toxic Punch and Judy show - women don't want to be part of that culture. It's time for a re-think.

(The cartoon character above is of me which one of my film director's drew - it always makes me laugh and I think shows he understood the acrobatic act I had to go through when running my film production company!)

"One girl is worth more use than 20 boys" - Peter Pan - J M Barrie

'Sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye' - H. Jackson Brown Jr.

valentine-day-hearts5.jpg

My blog this week is a letter I read many years ago of fatherly advice about love. It was written in 1958 by Nobel Prize-winning John Steinbeck, the author of 'The Grapes of Wrath' and 'Of Mice and Men' to his lovestruck teenage son. I just read it again and thought it appropriate for this week - enjoy.

New York, November 10, 1958

Dear Thom,

We had your letter this morning. I will answer it from my point of view and of course Elaine will from hers.

First - if you are in love - that's a good thing - that's about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don't let anyone make it small or light to you.

Second - there are several kinds of love. One is selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you - of kindness and consideration and respect - not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn't know you had.

You say this is not puppy love. If you feel so deeply - of course it isn't puppy love. But I don't think you were asking me what you feel. You know better than anyone. What you wanted me to help you with is what to do about it - and that I can tell you.

Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

The object of your love is the best and the most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

If you love someone - there is no possible harm in saying so - only you must remember that some people are very shy and sometimes the saying must take that shyness into consideration.

Girls have a way of knowing or feeling what you feel, but they usually like to hear it also.

It sometimes happens that what you feel is not returned for one reason or another - but that does not make your feeling less valuable and good.

Lastly, I know your feeling because I have it and I'm glad you have it.

We will be glad to meet Susan. She will be very welcome. But Elaine will make all such arrangements because that is her province and she will be very glad to. She knows about love too and maybe she can give you more help than I can.

And don't worry about losing. If it is right, it happens - the main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

Love, Fa

Isn't that just the best?

Happy Valentines Day!

The Healing Power of Movies

The Bafta Awards season is well underway (Sept'12 to Feb 2013) and so I'm in the midddle of seeing many screenings of new movies which members vote on from Dec'12 to Feb'13. The Orange Bafta Awards take place on 10th February 2013 at London's Royal Opera House. I've always loved the power of television and film - that's one of the reasons I wanted to be a producer. I have often found that moments from great movies can contain messages and stir emotions that you can identify with. Freud said that images are the language of the unconscious. I can look back to old and new movies that have affected me or family and friends in some way. I always wanted to translate that powerful moment and message into a commercial - not easy when involving a client and product - but film moments are used as references relentlessly in ad agencies and production companies.

I was luDustin Hoffmancky to see 'A Life in Pictures' discussion with Dustin Hoffman in person at Bafta this week. He's everything you'd want him to be and more and a much loved neighbour of mine. Totally authentic, funny and surprisingly quite emotional when talking about his personal divorce in 1980 in relation to the multi-award winning film Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) about divorce and how that had affected him - the power of movies! Lord Puttnam has also referred to how movies have got an amazing way of detecting those moments - they speak to us -  and has referred to them in his acceptance speech for his Bafta Fellowship in 2006.

Bernie Wooder, psychotherapist, has pioneered the use of movie therapy to assist his clients and says that seeing emotions played out on the screen is a more powerful experience for many of his clients than talking about an abstract idea. It gives people a resource that endures. Movie therapy can help people change enormously and get to who they really are. My powerful film moments are from: Black Swan, Rebecca, The Remains of the Day, The Lives of Others, Separate Tables, etc. What are yours?