Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Anti-women policies

One of the stickers given out by Reekperfume, founded by women for women,  for the demo on Sat 21st in London

The news that President Trump is pursuing an aggressive anti-women policy, withdrawing international funding for abortion and endorsing the view that abortion is bad and women should be prevented from having recourse to it, and even punished, is utterly abhorrent to me. I feel terribly sorry for young women of today who are faced with a return to extreme patriarchal values and would encourage them to oppose such measure and reclaim their bodies, as indeed they did on the occasion of the anti-Trump demonstrations on 21st. However, that momentum has to be sustained. 
We, as women, know that abortion is not a birth control method, but something we need to have in place in safe conditions in order to avail of it when needed. No woman likes having a termination, I do not know any woman who does it for the fun of it. What fun? It is a terrible experience and it is even worse when it is made illegal and women have to have recourse to backstreet abortion. Who wants that?
When I was 18, and still living in Italy, abortion had not yet been legalised. I do remember what it was like for those women who, for whatever reason, had to have it in secrecy. So many risked their lives because of lack of proper medical care.  Is this what we want our daughters to go through?
Sexism is rampant,  in 2017 and it seems to have emboldened.  Female politicians face it - the murder of MP Jo Cox is a case in point. But also women who work in the corporate world. Only a few days ago the issue of a 'dress code' for women came up in the news: surprise, surprise, women, especially young women have to wear high heels and low cut blouses in order to be seen as appropriately dressed . I have nothing against high heels and low cut blouses per se, it's the fact they should be regarded as compulsory wear at work that disturbs me. 

Photo by Stephanie Bonnefoy
There is no real equality for men and women and discrimination against women is truly getting worse. We are reverting to a status quo where women are increasingly seen as inferior.  A few years ago inequality was less visible, now it has fully exploded and it seems to be OK,  thanks to the likes of Donald J. Trump, to treat women condescendingly and sexually objectifying them. 
Something has to be done.
On a different, and more cheerful note, I am sharing in this post some delightful  pictures taken by Stephanie Bonnefoy and Sara Brudkiewicz. 

Photo by Sara Brudkiewicz

Stephanie uses film and these were taken with a 35 mm camera, whereas Sara's work was inspired by the pre-Raphaelites but working with an older model, myself, rather than a young one, which was essential to pre-Raphaelite artists. 
I love the results, don't you?

Monday, 16 January 2017

Retraining my palate

I am on a diet of sort, for the next two weeks. I started last Tuesday and it is meant to last for 21 days, during which I am only going to eat low carb, gluten free food as much as possible, with one or two concessions ie a fruit a day. The idea is to balance my blood sugar levels and learn about the hidden sugar of the food I eat, chosen from a particular list. Losing weight is not the point of this diet, though I might lose some and, combined with a sustained  exercise programme, I might get leaner muscles. I am already in a relatively good shape and exercise regularly, so this is not quite my ultimate goal. But I decided to join a group of other people doing this programme, under the supervision of a nutritionist, because it sounded like a new adventure, learning all about sugar levels and experiencing first hand the difference it makes to the body when blood sugar is rebalanced. And  21 days is hardly an eternity!
I must say that initially I did not fully realise what it would really mean, rather, I did not realise how totally addicted to sugar I was. I was actually convinced I was not. I hardly ever eat cakes or chocolate or drink sweet stuff, I am pretty much off dairies, I never gorge myself, I always make sure there is a gap of a good twelve hours between my last meal and the first one of the day, I drink water  religiously.  I thought, very smugly,  I was doing all the right things. All right, I indulged a bit this Christmas and New Year, but that is normal, is it not? When I do that it takes me just about a week to get back to my usual weight and shape.
BUT  I discovered I was totally wrong about my food habits, I eat a lot of wheat based food, I love biscuits and have them regularly, I take a little honey in my tea, I drink wine. And coffee is my real weakness. All this means sugar, sugar, sugar.  Coffee contains caffeine, rather than sugar,  but among the effects of caffeine is a desire for sugar.
On the first day I put my lovely home made bread in the freezer  - I will not touch it until day 22 because it contains wheat flour  - and took stock of the content of my pantry. I began this journey - I really see it as a journey of discovery, in every sense, quite gingerly, half heartedly even, then it fully hit me I had to commit or it would not work.
My reward for completing week 1

The first few days were hellish, the recipes I am following satisfied me but I craved sugar and did not even know that it was sugar I was after. I was so ratty and impossible to be with, my son was meant to visit but when I told him about the diet he said he'd see me when it's over ('don't want to fall out with you mum'). I felt this sense of immense dissatisfaction with everything, I kept on going back and forth to the kitchen opening cupboards and I honestly did not know what I wanted, I just knew I wanted something, but what? When I saw the honey jar, I instantly knew. I stopped myself from dipping my finger into it and licking it, I have a lot of self control, but I locked honey, jam and marmalade away, even though they are all organic and what not.  I had never really experienced a craving on that scale and the worst thing was that I did not know what I was craving.
I am being quite strict with myself and am cutting out as much as possible, avoiding eating too much fruit, of which I am quite fond (but one a day is OK). I spent a good two hours food shopping at Waitrose the other day reading all labels very, very carefully then I decided to go to a health food store, where I also read all labels very carefully and bombarded the shop assistant with questions.
Now on day 6,  I don't crave sugar so much, I am in a better mood and am determined to enjoy the experience. The interesting thing will be to monitor my mood while on this programme and my emotions. I have begun to feel a sense of greater clarity too, that is probably the effect of eliminating sugar from my blood. I am even a little calmer. Things have begun to taste a little different, I have read somewhere that the point of this programme is to retrain one's palate.
I will not turn this blog into a journal of my eating experiments but I thought I should post on this.
The best thing of all is that not buying wine and biscuits is making me save money and so I am giving myself rewards. I bought a lovely jumpsuit from Collectif and by the end of next week I am going to get the wonderful Chanel Vernis Rouge Noir. I know that there are copycats, like Kiko, which I already have and they are very good. But I want the authentic one (that's 2 bottles of medium priced wine, money wise).
I can't wait for day 22!

My reward for completing week 2
Me wearing Kiko Rouge Noir 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Thoughts for the new year

Three days into the new year and it's a whirl of new year's resolutions (other people's),  happy new year greetings from businesses, totally unsolicited (makes me wonder how they got my email address as I do not recall shopping there), not to mention emails about sales, leaving me wondering whether I really need this information overload. Do I really want to start buying only because things carry a 70% discount notice (and the items are probably not discounted at all)?
New year is Big Business. There are the emails from various people who believe my finances need further draining, uh, boosting, as I need to 'let prosperity flow' by paying a substantial amount in exchange for advice on 'how to let abundance enter your life, effortlessly'. Obviously they mean their life, definitely not mine, it is a one way exchange, duh.  Emails that now  begin with 'Amazing Alex' or 'Gorgeous Alex' (substitute your own name here). What's wrong with  'Dear' or even 'Hi'? No, you have to be Amazing. Except that it immediately makes me wish I was not.
Then there are those messages from people that think you need to be more confident and purport to teach you how to be more in tune with yourself, how to discover your self worth. For a hefty fee of course. Really. To feel worthy I now have to be validated by another, who is being paid (by me) to tell me I am wonderful.

The first week of January always catches me in a rather reflective mood, January is the coldest month, it's officially winter and I never feel like going out, if I can help it. I keep on checking the closing date of exhibitions that I want to see because I can't be bothered to go and see them now, I just want to curl up under a duvet .
A remedy to this gloom is to read a lot. This is the perfect month for devouring novels and maybe have a go at writing one of your own. If you persevere you might finish it by February and by then you may notice that days are definitely getting longer, time to go out again.
Actually, January is not all that bad. By week two people are past the new year craze and it's business as usual.  "Amazing Alex" becomes once again "Dear" or "Hi" or no greeting at all, let's get straight to business.
So here I am, doing a bit of soul searching, nursing a bad cold that has been with me since before Christmas and rearranging my life or at least tidying things up, literally.

I have signed up for a nutrition course, I felt I needed to take a good look at my eating habits and learn a bit more about what can help me to boost my energy levels. I know I drink far too much coffee, it's time to ease on that. Then I have a long to do list, which I will not bore you with, all personal stuff. All I will say is that no matter what, this year I will not beat myself up for not doing this or that. I am not competing with anyone and I set up my own rules. It's a new year resolution of sort.
Enough brooding. I have some wonderful news to share, only I cannot yet, but I closed 2016 landing an amazing  job - er, I should not use this overrated word anymore, not after getting the stream of emails addressed to 'Amazing Alex' - ,  a truly magical one. Then I got, finally, a hard copy of The Mechanical Smile by Caroline Evans, all about fashion shows at the start of the 20th century. Can't wait to dip into it.
(More books, I know, this place will soon turn into a library)

Here's to a wonderful and why not, Amazing, 2017!

All photos of me are from a fashion editorial in Fashion Shift, taken by Christopher Luk, a Hong Kong photographer. MUA Sandra Nilsen, Stylist Lucy Ansa-Addo