We’ve been talking a lot in the office about what it means to be a woman, what sisterhood is, why our vaginas have stories to tell, and how we can speak to the true creative enchantment that resides within us. Enchantment—it keeps on being bandied about with the same prolificacy as intoxication. And why? Well for starters, when we delve, it’s enchanting! That tingly light of the golden hour, falling under your own beautiful spell, making friends with all your senses or foreseeing magic? ENCHANTING!

This time of the year feels magical. The impending darkness, comforting not scary; the twinkling absolutely nostalgic. I feel stirrings of wanting to wear layers and layers of tactile fabric, wanting to lie by a fire for hours (ok, days) on end. Oh and socks! With apologies to the sun, prime sleeping time, otherworldly light and the implication of intimacy and camaraderie is an objective fact that’s deliciously thrilling. I’m not sure anyone puts the case more compellingly than Herman Melville, in an early passage from Moby-Dick that finds the narrator keeping warm overnight at a boarding-house on the Massachusetts coast:

To enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more… the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

As I often lament on this blog, I don’t live in the midst of nature. Because if I did, I would stroke the spines of leaves, bow down to the aristocrats of the woodlands—them old oaks—and maybe even roll around in dense foliage. As Robert Browning wrote: “Autumn wins you best by this, its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay.” A period of memories and melancholy calls for candles and chestnuts, stoicism and fragility.

I feel like I’m burning bright in an oasis of calm which is comforting and terrifying all at once. The music I’m hearing is completely spellbinding and very powerful. It really affects me. Hopefully my voice will float just above it.


source: bt-images



Being a Jew is largely an inherited condition, so much so that it seems perfectly adapted to being an “–ish”. There aren’t many other things you can be born into where you can choose to live the “–ish” version. Jew-ish is a bit like being the Larry, Larry David, plays in Curb Your Enthusiasm – he enjoys the culture, the humor, the hypochondria, the Yiddish-isms, the argumentativeness.

One of my granny’s friends told me recently that, ‘‘you have the soul of my yiddishe bubbe.” Clearly my Orthodox roots are not straying too prodigally far. I think that might be called ‘sustainable schmaltz’ and is hands down, my favorite new expression. It turns out that my ancestors really knew what they were doing. Have you ever read Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth? It’s about a young Jewish man’s onanistic habits, and throbs with desire for guiltless shikses in a world of crumpled Kleenex, slabs of liver and inherited angst. Oooh la la.

Preservation followed by improvisation? The settings of these subtexts in my head range from successor, to sexual, Jewish, Catholic, post-colonial, existential, suppressed, sublimated and so forth: when it comes to “–ish’es”, there’s a variety for everyone. Guilt unzipped I’d call it, and compelling enough to turn off those quiet Jew-ish voices in my head.


source: magnumphotos.com

583b3b6877241d91ba7f7e1720de7205Women can do many things. In the pursuit of beauty, we will even endure baring all in front of a stranger to have the hair ripped out of our most sensitive spots. Women also have an innate desire to please those to whom they are closest. Hopefully, in this case that’s..whoever you want it to be.

“Fool” and “cruel” is of course a perfectly good rhyme, though not a brilliant one like those in women at work Down Under. Amy Schumer did a hilarious sketch on waxing in which she said (and I’m paraphrasing):

Most egregiously, one person objects to the wax on the grounds that they are really an astrophysicist from Thailand (and not a waxer), and the thought that anyone can fail to see the genius of that is enough to make you weep.

These things are, of course, subjective, which gives me the excuse to offer my interest in hairlessness; ah the exquisite agony of a wax. Like controversial yoga, it’s made me realise the extent to which Brazilians have been normalized.  Those of us who choose to curate our own body hair know that the world moves on our hips. By going bald like Samson, are we losing our power?

Throughout history, a shorn head has been heavy with meaning. The bare-headed Christian or Buddhist monks told of their devotion or a renunciation of worldly pleasures. And more commonly, shaven heads have been associated with trauma, brutality and the loss of individuality or…and back to Samson, strength…just not down there.

It’s not a self inflicted madness à la Britney Spears days is it? It’s ‘clean’, it’s ‘validatory’, it’s about ‘control’. Or, is it about dystopian futures? A sign of people who are in some way untouchable, but begging to be touched? Maybe it’s only just hair. And for the most part, it grows back.


source: missplunkett.com









I’m not talking about anosmia, or people who don’t get pleasure from their nose, I’m talking about a man who wore no scent, smelt of nothing and wasn’t influenced one bit by his beak. It was an odd conundrum for me mind, because he also said he just wasn’t interested in it. The thing is, two New York researchers, Daniel Wesson and Donald Wilson, were confronted with this fact when they began investigating an “enigmatic” area of the brain known as the olfactory tubercle.

Originally, they only intended to measure how olfactory tubercle cells in mice responded to smell. But during testing, Wesson noticed that every time he plonked his coffee mug down next to the experiment, the mouse cells jumped in activity. In fact, the olfactory tubercle is physiologically well-placed to receive both smell and sound information from the outside world.

Of course, mice are not people. But if research found that listening to different sounds can alter your perceptions, well then how can we be so one dimensional when understanding our senses. Clichés are the fastest way to express something because I can’t really think of anything else that carries the same emotional charge. Except cliché and Alain de Botton who said that they do nothing more than “inspire us to believe that they adequately describe a situation while they’re merely grazing its surface.’

Talking about surfaces and experimental camouflage, the man with no smell reminds me of this Jenny Holzer quote. ‘When you’ve been somewhere for a while, you acquire the ability to be practically invisible. This lets you operate with a minimum of interference.’

I much prefer to dazzle and razzle with life and all that jazz, because I’m intrigued to know let’s say, why, wherever I may go in the world, mosquitoes always know where to bite me in the same three places. And exactly the three same places.

I’ll leave the last words to that prolific man, John Wayne.

‘Mister – you’d better find another line of work  – this one sure doesn’t fit your pistol.’



Burnt aubergine with saffron yoghurt – there aren’t many things as delish as that. Actually, there’s saffron chicken; saffron paella; saffron bouillabaisse; yellow split pea and saffron stew and so on and so forth. I’ve never kneaded bread, but I hear it imprints itself deliciously into dough with the greatest of ease, as it does rice, cakes and ice cream!

Scattering fiery filaments of edible sunshine – it comes from the purple crocus after all – is downright glorious. Apparently it takes around 80,000 flowers to make 450g of spice, which speaks so much to me. How lucky to be borrowing a plants language, its very essence – that’s a good ouch in my heart right there.

I love a spice because you don’t need green fingers to tend to it. I routinely kill (accidental of course) my basil plants, my orchids, and even my mint. The best thing though about saffron is the way it stains your fingers, that it’s woody, musky and slightly honeyed all at once, that each time you sprinkle it you’re playing a game of strings – just the right amount is YUM, too much is proper DODGY.

I’m such a lover of words that its arabic name, za’farãn, literally and figuratively marks its color and makes me see sunsets. I sort of wish I could play with it in clay and then fire up bronze, gilt, copper and moonlight-silver giant pots. Just imagine that.

In Reading New India: Post-Millennial Indian Fiction in English, E. Dawson Varughese discusses the significance of the color saffron, its connection with a certain identity of Indianness, and connections people make between colors.

“People who are secular should be careful about their choice of colors. A color cannot make a statement about who I am. Because color can also be a camouflage. Look at the chameleon..”

“Tell me, what exactly is a secular color?”

I do not know, not even a jot, but I’m happy to keep playing around with these magical stamens and dipping my fingers into tiny pots of gold.


source: Rothko, Saffron, 1957



I just wanna be someone’s treacle. Or jam tart. Don’t you? Treacle evokes a love/hate response more than any other baking ingredient I can think of. For me, it’s pretty essential, adding a certain dark note that accents most flavors and spices. True, the color is disturbing, giving foods a greenish-brown cast, but if you can warm to treacle’s inherent weirdness, as I have, it becomes a true baker’s friend, perfect for helping plain old caster sugar taste a little more, well, ballsy. It’s not for me to tell you what you can or should eat, and maybe pancakes and ice-cream for breakfast isn’t something you want, or are ready for, but, goodness me, surrendering your appetite is joyful. I love a breakfast feast where everyone tucks into their (treacle-infused) concoctions with a most greedy zeal.

The thing about treacle is that it turns with a great ease into homemade sweets and biscuits that make pleasingly subtle gifts. They’re for when you want to say thank you, or to remind someone that they’ve been remembered without seeming too extravagant or gushing. Get me? Quite ironic considering treacle’s spouting, gloopy, inherent nature. So do I really wanna be someone’s treacle tart? Hell yeah. The aforementioned tart appears to be something of a misnomer until you realise that the word treacle refers to all forms of syrups made during sugar refining, from golden through to black molasses. Treacle tart is a ‘sweetheart’ in cockney rhyming slang. I never thought tart was a word I’d embrace with such zeal, but I love it, and what’s more, I don’t need any excuse to get the rolling pin out.


source: 4.bp.blogspot





Life is full of guilty pleasures, things you assume nobody else loves but you (carrots and taramasalata, Storage Wars, UFC). Less attention is paid to our guiltily displeasures – the things everyone else seems to love except you (acai bowls, Jimmy Kimmel, films that assiduously avoid suspense or entertainment, and fetishise ugliness). So we are all prisoners of our own biases then?

When the Facebook news saga broke back in March, it reminded me that humans are biased by design, with the revelation that some of the social media site’s journalistic decisions are made by people, not algorithms. Often we like the idea of something while disliking its reality. I love snow globes but I’m not into snowstorms. Monkeys, for instance, don’t give a banana about aesthetics. They don’t respond to visual harmony or even like one kind of music more than another – actually they prefer silence. However, they are aroused by color.

None of this is meant to sound contrarian. On the contrary. If I try and enjoy golf and don’t succeed, it’s entirely my failing. A lack of ardor for things has come to be seen as some sort of character defect but I think that’s bullshit. For the sub-atomic physicist  – says Brewer’s Dictionary of Twentieth Century Phrase and Fable – displeasure is a flavor of quark. (FYI: quark rhymes with pork.) If in doubt where to go with ‘the story’, simply hold a shot static. And If you get stuck for a laugh or a word, just embrace the silence like Gus Van Sant’s Last Days, in which Michael Pitt mumbles into some woods, builds a fire and goes swimming, or A Silence Between Two Thoughts, an Iranian execution drama – just as much fun as it sounds. Given the choice I’ll accept JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) over FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) every time.


source: thisiscolossal.com




A televangelist has just been elected president of the United States. Write his/her inaugural address.

Write a haiku about your underwear.

Tell the story of one of your scars.

Oh it’s a genius tome is the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto book. A sort of creative writing class if you will, with mind-bogglingly good prompts of things to write about. Except there are no participants other than yourself. Oh, and your pen. I’m currently on 712 More Things To Write About, but start off with its first incarnation: 642 Things To Write About. Recent nib to paper has included: ‘instructions on how to tie a bow?’ – G-d help anyone planning to use said instructions – and ‘you are a giant. What’s on your to-do list today?’ Which stumped me, because I am literally a giant.

So many questions to answer has got me thinking about one in particular. When I go and visit someone I see more often than not, the first thing he always asks me is “how are you?” And I never know what to say. I’ve toyed with: No, Really, How Are You? Why Do Americans Pronounce Parmesan as in Azerbai(d)jan? How Do You Fold Your Jumpers? You get my drift though. Why are three little words so imbued with meaning, and often, terror. I think what I’d really like to say in response is: I’m Maverick And Eclectic, But Also Warm And Wise. Or. Take It Down The Track, My Son. Numerating our emotional responses warrants deep structure and universal grammar, which sort of tally’s with Einstein’s: the important thing is not to stop questioning.

Maybe I don’t want to be so easily pinned down. Responding pejoratively, majoratively, declaratively, interrogatively or even imperatively is a quiz me no likey. I can be quoted. I can be embarrassed. I can bite (if I’m quoted and embarrassed). The question is akin to ‘Why should we hire you?’ And. ‘What motivates you?’ I’m thinking of starting all new conversations with, ‘How creepy are you?’ Note to my local grocer: never making eye contact makes you very creepy.

Quite a while ago, Amanda Palmer did a TED talk on the “Art of Asking.” As an aside, she’s married to one of my favorite literary luminaries, Neil Gaiman. I only bring it up as when asked by a journalist to summarize her marriage (presumably with a big fat question mark) she said, “two children in mutual confusion.” Genius. Her first Kickstarter campaign sought $100,000 and raised $1.2 million, and since then, she’s been singing the praises of crowdfunding as a new populist paradigm for art, most visibly in the talk. She also said: “The system is going to start favoring the direct voice of the people”. I’m not going to enter into anymore polemics on this subject. You’ll just have to take what I say and try out some questions for yourselves. This is best done when you have a spare fifteen minutes. This is the key to the ethos ‘spare’. You’re over the stove say, making stock, or muffins (can they really rise in fifteen minutes?). And just think what you can do with said fifteen minutes(!): ‘the mouse of thought’, meditate, make love, listen to Ella, write the haiku from above, and so on. Remember this. Over the course of years, this will add up to countless hours of your life regained. So, tell me, really, how are you? No, really?

source: moreposter.tumblr.com