Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Afterlife

While you are preparing for sleep, brushing your teeth
or riffling through a magazine in bed,
the dead of the day are setting out on their journey.

They're moving off in all imaginable directions,
each according to his own private belief,
and this is the secret that silent Lazarus would not reveal:
that everyone is right, as it turns out,
you go to the place you always thought you would go,
the place you keep lit in an alcove in your head.

Some are being shot into a funnel of flashing colors
into a zone of white, light as a January sun,
others are standing naked before a forbidding judge, who sits
with a golden ladder on one side, a coal chute on the other.

Some have already joined the celestial choir
and are singing as if they've been doing this forever,
whilst the less inventive find themselves stuck
in a big air conditioned room full of food and chorus girls.

Some are approaching the apartment of the female God,
a woman in her forties with short wiry hair,
and glasses hanging from her neck by a string.
With one eye she regards the dead through a hole in her door.

There are those who are squeezing into the bodies
of animals - eagles and leopards - and one trying on
the skin of a monkey like a tight suit,
ready to begin another life in a more simple key,

while others float off into some benign vagueness,
little units of energy heading for the ultimate elsewhere.

There are even a few classicists being led to an underworld
by a mythological creature with a beard and hooves.
He will bring them to the mouth of the furious cave
guarded over by Edith Hamilton and her three headed dog'

The rest just lie on their backs in their coffins
wishing they could return so they could learn italian
or see the pyramids, or play some golf in a light rain.
They wish they could wake in the morning like you
and stand at a window examining the winter trees,
every branch traced with the ghost writing of snow.

Billy Collins

xxx elle

Saturday, March 30, 2013

There's a sigh in my soup.

My daughter Skye is a doctor at an Aids clinic in Soweto.

Many of her patients are hungry, and unable to take their medication on an empty stomach.

Many of them are too poor to pay for transport to Baragwanath Hospital where she refers them when they need to see a specialist, or require treatment unavailable at the clinic.

Skye gives someone her neatly made lunch everyday.

Skye empties her purse to help with bus fare to Bara.

Skye cries in her car on the way home from work.

Now, Skye is doing something about the desperation that surrounds her. She has started The Sibahle Community Centre.  It means, 'we are beautiful'.

There will be a soup kitchen, and an allotment garden. Nobody will have to sit and wait all day for the doctor without having a hot meal anymore.

Skye is excited, and positive that it can become a reality. The nurses are being supportive. Pots have been purchased. The stove is waiting to be switched on.

Please help make it happen if you can.

Sibahle Community Centre
Account number 001658956
Standard Bank
Branch number 007205

xxx elle

Despicable Me

I never leave comments on other peoples blogs.

Once I wrote a letter to Nienie's sister to tell her how upset I was over her terrible accident. That is all.

So, I don't know why I did it.

I cyber bullied an innocent man called Bill. At least that is what my daughter Erin tells me it is called. And. She. Is. Probably. Right!

I came to Bill's blog by way of another blogger whose writing I love. There was a link to a recent posting on Bill's blog and I followed it out of curiosity. Only when I got to the posting which was about the recent terrible events in Oscar Pistorius' life did I realize that I had followed a link to this blog before. I remembered that my previous impression of Bill based on his writing, was that he was a truly miserable person, focusing all of his attention on anything and everything around him that he found wanting. In one posting Bill blogged about a convention that he had attended in Washington. Did I mention that Bill was injured in a car accident when he was 18, and has spent much of his adult life in a wheelchair! Bill had a long list of grievances about the inadequate services made available to him. He was very angry that one of the buses had a malfunctioning mechanical step, making it impossible for him to board the bus, and requiring a ten minute wait for the next bus.

Bill also reflected on how nobody took the trouble to talk to him while he waited for the bus. He said it was because he was in a wheelchair.

I don't know why I did it.

I read Bill's miserable posting on Oscar and than I left a mean comment on Bill's blog. I told him he appeared to be a very irritable, angry person and that with his attitude people were unlikely to want to talk to him, even if he was standing!

It took only an instant for my comment to appear on the screen, and my regret was intense and instantaneous...worse still, for whatever reason my comment came up as posted by anonymous which made me a cowardly bully too!

I felt terrible. I couldn't sleep. Terrified, I checked Bill's blog.' I just want to be treated like a bipedal person,' Bill lamented in answer to my horrible words. And, ironically, of course I had done just that.

I turned to my daughter Erin, 'don't expect me to make you feel better about this mom," she advised, 'because I wont.'

I recounted my sorry tale at a dinner party. A woman glared at me from across the table. Before I left, she gave me a withering look, and spat, ' don't ever criticize someone in a wheelchair, it's disgusting.' I like a good telling off when I've done wrong so I took it well(ish).

My friends mum has been in a wheelchair for 53 years. She was left a quadriplegic after being injured in a car accident whilst pregnant with her third daughter...No one would ignore her at a bus stop. Everybody wants to talk to her. She is grace and gentleness personified. If she wrote a blog, it would no doubt be filled with all the beauty, and kindness that she has passed on to her glorious daughters.

She would never leave a mean comment on anyone's blog.

Sorry Bill.

xxx elle

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On writing...

Like prophets and seers, writers are driven by a force, an irresistible desire to give to the inner impulses, the material form of sound, colour and word.

This desire cannot be held back by laws, traditions, or religious restrictions.

The song that must be sung will be sung; and if banned, they will hum it; and if humming is banned, they will dance it; and if dancing is banned, they will sing it silently to themselves or to the ears of those near, waiting for the appropriate moment to explode.

Professor Ngugi wa Thiong'o
In his address to The South African Literary Awards

xxx elle

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dennis Was Here

Truth be told, I was a little taken aback by Mick Pedroli's appearance, as Mr Nielson better known as Sid, and I ran towards 18 Folgate Street Spitalfields in a last hour bid to see Dennis Severs House!

There he was standing casually at the black front door, grinning happily at us in his shorts and t-shirt. And who could blame him on such a glorious summer's day. He wasn't to know that I was expecting a more Hogarthian character, someone at least in 18th Century garb to answer the door!

Within just a few minutes of his delightful introduction we were opening it, and stepping into the compelling world of the Jervis family.

'Ssshh' I whispered to Mr Nielson  as we stood on the landing, allowing our eyes to adjust to the candle-lit gloom, for the house is best seen and felt in silence.

Only then do you truly 'hear' it whisper to you all its secrets.

Dennis Severs wanted his guests to feel as if they had stepped into a painting with 'a time and life all of it's own.'

And he did everything he could to help that painting come to life.

In one room the clock ticks quietly, whilst voices can be heard murmuring from another. Sounds of street life seem to be coming from outside, along with the clatter of passing carriages.

Bowls of half eaten food hint at a meal interrupted, and crumpled sheets suggest a bed newly vacated.

Although you never get to see this family of Huguenot silk weavers, evidence of the rich fabric of their life begins to take root in your imagination.

It's just as Dennis wished it.

And although he passed away in 1999, he lives on here along with the enchantment he created.

Mick Pedroli sees to that.

Making sure everyday that the beds are crumpled just so, the flowers fresh, fires stoked, the unfinished rolls still crusty.

And then it is you, who steps into the quiet, into the warm smokey light to breathe into it new life.

Let the magic begin...

PS: The ultimate way to see the house in all its dramatic splendor is at night on a private tour. Go here now and Mick will arrange it.

xxx elle

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where the dogs are

 On the streets of Manhattan, clearly.

Everywhere we went we were reminded of our boy Baxter, who was causing havoc at the Dog sitter's house by all accounts.

Hounds, big and small with owners alike...

We were constantly enchanted.

And entertained...

But the eccentrics in prams that we found on the streets of Toronto, well they were the cat's meow!

xxx elle

impossible conversations

In the 1930's, a column by Miguel Covarrubia's in Vanity Fair explored imaginary conversations between public personas with polar ideologies. Inspired by these dialogues, Harold Koda and Andrew Bolton curated the Schiaparelli to Prada exhibition currently showing at The Met as an illuminating discourse between these two fashion greats.

In a space that even with the curious crowds feels hallowed-like, faceless mannequins stand adorned in glorious splendour.  

Objects of desire, constructed from the finest threads of imagination and intent...

They create a visual dialogue between the past and present that is exciting, intelligent and relevant.

Baz Luhrman's taped interviews with Muiccia Prada and actress Judy Davis who steps in for the more theatrical Elsa Schiaperelli, create a dramatic ever present voice over to the scholarly procession.

The often opposing points of departure are an ode to history. Schiaperelli focuses on the upper body which is most often exposed as society woman gather in the cafes and at dinner tables of her day. Prada is drawn to the lower body, no doubt the influence of a more earthy experience of hippie roots.

Both explore the wide range of the couture, from the serious and sleek to what is known in 'fashionese' as  the more playful 'naif-chic' with it's charming whimsy.

Schiaperelli gains the upper hand for me. Her surreal creations triumph, and leave one thinking for a long time about a hat that is a shoe ,and her flesh-coloured 'tears dress' with it's printed slashes and rips designed by Salvador Dali.

Lady Gaga must swoon at the sight of a black and white photo of that 'Lobster dress', all white silk with an assault of red lobster down it's front.

It's no wonder that the beautiful Marisa Berenson has such a sense of grace and style: Marisa and her sister wore matching ruby red dresses with shocking pink ribbons at the waist, designed by their grandmother for a photo shoot for Elle magazine when Marisa was five years old. It was her first cover, and with such a genetic advantage the first of many.

Later in the day, as Erin and I played in the shoe department of Saks on 5th Avenue, Erin got to try on some Prada shoes.

A girl could take flight in a pair of these...

xxx elle

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A for Amanda

She's the beautiful muse to Karl Lagerveld, one time muse to John Galliano and yet still manages to come across as warm and engaging.

 In fact, any bad press I've read about her just appears to be sour grapes, understandable really, for who can't feel a little unnerved by Lady Harlech's many accomplishments. Ballerina, horsewoman, model, muse and pianist, she's also a writer and has managed to throw a title (through marriage) into the mix! What's not to love?

This what she says in an interview with the always amazing INTO THE GLOSS:

 "For me, beauty is grace. So, it's not just how somebody looks in a photograph. It's much more about a woman in motion. It's the life that I find really beautiful. For me, things like lines are what makes a woman beautiful...So, my beauty philosophy is really to look after (myself) time. Time to breath. Time to sit still. Time to look at the sky."

Then later in the same interview; " Beauty it's just very caring. It's not about looking in the mirror and thinking, ' I hate you! Transform you! Obliterate you! Disappear! It's about saying ' This is me. You're tired. You've got great bags under your eyes - that's not surprising!' So, don't stop loving your skin. That's all we are. We're a heart pumping with a spirit somewhere and we're a bunch of bones and skin."

Of course, it's always women with perfect cheekbones and a dancer's body who say such things but there is something translucent and lovely about the Lady that transcends mere genetics.

Amanda recommends Anne Semonin beauty masks, and Mimosa Cream from Santa Maria Novella, just in case you were wondering!

xxx elle

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Museum of Innocence

I am not a great shopper.

Slow, indecisive and  then later regretful...I am happy just to peruse,delight and leave.

But put me in a bookstore anywhere in the world and I come out laden!

In Istanbul, I emerged from the small densely stocked book shop onto the busy street in Galata, with a bag laden with 'Turkish delights'. Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak and Ahmet Handi Tanipar had all found their way into my shopping bag.

So, when my mother and sister decided to visit Istanbul I was excited to tell them about Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel prize winning writer whose memoirs 'Istanbul, memories of a city' had so deeply moved me.

Like Pamuk I felt the 'huzun' in Istanbul, the melancholy that permeates this beautiful city, trapped as it is between a golden, quite extraordinary past and a crumbling present. The sense of disorientation in a city of faded grandeur balancing precariously between Islam and the West.

In Beyoglu, Pamuk has finally achieved the living embodiment of his novel, 'The Museum Of Innocence' which tells the story of the obsessive love Kemel, a wealthy businessman has for Fusun, a lowly shop assistant.The novel traces this single minded passion over 30 years starting in 1975. Kemel's obsession becomes more and more bizaare and self destructive as he creates an actual 'museum' to his lost love, collecting whatever he can find that is in any way connected to the short-lived love affair they once shared.

"It was the happiest moment of life", Kemel recalls of their affair "though I didn't know it. Had I known, had I cherished this gift, would everything have turned out differently? Yes, if I had recognized this instant of perfect happiness, I would have held it fast and never let it slip away. It took a few seconds , perhaps, for that luminous state to to enfold me, suffusing me with the deepest peace, but it seemed to last hours, even years. In that moment, on the afternoon of Monday, May 26, 1975, at about quarter to three, just as we found ourselves to be beyond sin and guilt so too did the world seem to have been released from gravity and time."

In a magical example of life imitating art, Pamuk has finally inaugurated an actual 'The Museum of Innocence' in which he has recreated the temple of obsessive love, created by Kemel for the object of his desire. It is the gilded cage Kemel so longed to trap Fusun within.

Here you will find all the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives, navigating their crossed paths from ticket stubs to locks of hair, serviettes with a trace of lipstick to the forbidden, now empty wine bottles from which they imbibed.

'Real museums are places where time is transformed into space'. Kemel tells the reader, and here Pamuk has achieved just that.

"When we lose people we love, we should never disturb their souls, whether living or dead", Kemel advices, "instead we should find consolation in an object that reminds you of them, something...I don't know...even an earring"

xxx elle