In those open arms is where I wanna be

We meet in town, in one of the pubs. Way back when, before gastropubs and chains, before pubs got remodelled to look like living rooms. Back in the 90s, when floors were sticky, decor was dingy and ashtrays overflowing (we smoked indoors, copiously, little realising what a luxury combination nicotine and warmth would become…) I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that I am wearing a little black dress and black trainers, my mate is wearing leather trousers and a fluffy fake-fur coat, because that is what we usually went for and this was going to be a great night out. The outer reaches of my memory suggest that it was midweek, a school night, but there can’t have been school because we never would have got away with it, both being in possession of the kind of mothers who could occasionally be distracted but who certainly noticed things like that. So it is a weeknight, probably in the holidays, maybe it had rained but stopped, so the Brighton pavements were greasy with a kind of black sludge that always seemed to appear from nowhere after a shower, making them treacherous for those in heels – even block-heeled 70s-style boots like my mate usually wore – and making my trainers screech as I went round corners.

I suppose we spent a few weeks doing that, working every Friday night; and Goldie was on the phone every other night with new ideas for different bits. If we were working solidly, we might have had it done in one or two weeks, but I think it was good that we didn’t, because we had the time to work on all the different ideas we had for the song.

– Rob Playford

I probably bought the album the day it came out, more or less. Waiting for it, with the release date marked on my calendar. I would have gone to the music store on my way to work, bought the CD and played it over and over and over again, showing no mercy to the parent downstairs trying to watch the telly. Learning all the songs, the words and the stories behind them.


Kemistry would have been one of my favourites, because of the adoration Kemistry & Storm inspired as two female DJs that made the stupid boys that said girls couldn’t DJ shut right up, as well as knowing that Goldie had written it for her when they were together. The voice that haunted the album’s intro and weaved and played through the bass before gaining strength: this is how it is going to be because ‘I need to be in your love/Living free’. That voice sounded like something heard in dreams, probably due to listening to it on low volume into the night and it being the last thing heard before going under. Pre-internet and Google hive mind, I probably didn’t put it together that it was the same voice as on The Key, The Secret, a song that in my family we always sang back at people when they asked us ‘have you got your keys?’ As I knew about the album release, getting the tickets would have been down to me too, probably buying them at one of the record stores in town that you had to go into and pay cash when you wanted to go to something that was happening in a month or so. I usually stuck all the tickets around my mirror so they wouldn’t be forgotten as I was leaving then checked they were in my pocket 799 times on my way to meet my friend.

I was living in Stevenage at the time and would give Goldie a ride back to London when we’d finished; we just kept rewinding the string section on the trip back, it was so gorgeous. After a few weeks, we thought that it would be great if this was a really long track; I suggested that we should make it go up to the 40-minute limit for a single. Then I realised that on Notator, our sequencer, at the tempo we were using, the maximum length was 32 minutes! I was gutted… (RP)

When it is time to go, running a bit late as we usually do, we don’t head in our usual direction – down to the seafront where the best clubs are – instead it is up to the main street with all the cheesy places, the massive nightclubs that usually have queues stretching around the block into freezing gale winds. The ones that don’t let you in with trainers and where we have both run the gauntlet of fake IDs and spoilsport bouncers. Although we did our apprenticeships in these cheesy dives, we have both since graduated into the house and garage clubs – out of a shared love of better music, cooler DJs and trying to avoid the more meat-head variety of the beery rugby lads we went to school with. These have not yet reached a comfortable level of metrosexuality where they can venture into a club with a drag queen in nine-inch heels on the door and a chance of their arse getting grabbed as they dance, nor will they for another decade. Tonight though, it is no meat-market, there will be no chart remixes playing, no local radio DJs shouting over the top pretending they have fame. Tonight it is a real S H O W with true S T A R S. The Muse alone knows how, who booked it, by what random act of madness this has conspired. But Goldie is on at the Paradox, doing songs from recently-released Timeless, with all the Metalheadz in support: Kemistry & Storm, Fabio & Grooverider and ohmygoodgoshyesyes: we have tickets. I checked, they are still in my pocket.

Later, after the show, when Fab & Groove are on the decks and we are all going nuts, in this venue that we shouldn’t be in, especially us because at weekends it is over 21s only. No way our shoddy fakes would get us in on a normal night, even if we wanted to. Although we wouldn’t anyway, but here we are now and our favourite songs are blaring because, wow, this cheese-palace has quite a decent sound system, who would have known, with proper lasers all across the dance-floor which is going right off like it has suddenly been beamed into our seaside town from South London. Then, over my shoulder there is a gleam from a lad asking my friend for a light and he holds a ciggie making it clear it isn’t just a ploy to talk to her so she is digging in her pocket. A flash of light reflected from the links around his neck and oh look, it is Goldie, come down from the stage. He dances with us for a bit, my face must be marked with shock and surprise, my mate is trying not to laugh at me, as he sticks both thumbs up with the cigarette pointing out of his fist and yells, ‘This is great, yeah!’ and we both agree ‘Yeah!’ as we dance and then he is off out into the crowd. Hands slap his back or grab his hand, no smartphones, no selfies, just a fleeting moment. He looks around the room like he is hosting the best party of his life before he dances off into Bjork-dating, acting, national treasure status LEGEND.

I think it’s still very experimental. Timeless was a blueprint for ideas for the future. It was about a kid having a dream about something he wanted to do in his head.

– Goldie

He was 30 that year. The owner of the most haunting, powerful voice in drum ‘n’ bass, Diane Charlemagne, was a year older. I would turn 18 a few months later. Time passes, we grow older, swap dancing for other pastimes perhaps. Think of other things. I hadn’t listened to Timeless in a little while as my CDs were packed up in a box in storage back in the UK. My MP3 player has so much on it it takes a while for the old favourites to shuffle round. There are YouTube playlists, Soundcloud mixes and more new music than anyone could know what to do with. So much to listen to passively now, you liked that so we think you will like this, people who bought that also bought this. The positive action of choosing, of deciding what mood you are in and what you need to listen to. Then taking the CD out of the box, or the record from the sleeve before pressing play or putting down the needle, it is – like the turning of a gramophone handle – something the youth know about in abstract, but can’t believe really happened.

I don’t know when the vocals idea came into Goldie’s plans, but he certainly didn’t tell me about it until we’d done the whole track. In my head, I’d constructed it to have all the pieces come out and develop; I couldn’t see where the vocals would fit in. Diane Charlemagne came over and did the vocals, and we put them onto DAT and sampled the parts we wanted. I also reprocessed them; I think I put them through a [BBE] Sonic Maximiser, to get that airiness in there. But it wasn’t actually until I put them into the song that I thought, ‘no, brilliant, they work perfectly.’ (RP)

Do musicians really die – not for their friends and family, of course, who miss them physically, but for the fans who knew them mostly in the space between the ears? I never met Diane Charlemagne in a club, but her voice made that night and many others possible. That amazing voice lifted me as I danced, relaxed or studied at home, walked around town or took train journeys with my headphones on. For years, the first thing I unpacked in a new place was the stereo and Timeless. It wouldn’t feel like home until that ritual had been performed. When the news came that she had died, far too young of cancer, my heart was heavy.

Thank you, Diane, for all the moments your beautiful voice soundtracked and for taking me right back to that time when I was 18, living by the sea with a head full of music, every time I press play.

Rob Playford interviewed on the recording of Timeless

Goldie interviewed around the 20th anniversary of Timeless


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DisGRACEfully Delicious

The DisGRACEfully Delicious Grace Jones is a natural phenomenon. How can such a force of nature be contained and distilled within the confines of a hardback covered book? Reckless and unpredictable on stage, her world is like a tempestuous tornado. How the devil can the whole Bacchae experience that a Grace Jones performance delivers be articulated just by the written word?


It was quite apt I read the book on a Saturday night, the traditional night to paint the town red, blue, purple and green. To exploit all the colours in the disco palette, I complimented the reading with a disco soundtrack and became totally absorbed into the small hours. The music ceased, the soundscape of a police helicopter being replaced by birdsong.

And what a tale she has to tell. I felt like I’d been completely taken up in her storm of a life, twisting through a strict religious Jamaican childhood, charmed by the sexual seduction of Paris, to the dance floors of seventies (cocaine-laced) New York and being dumped back into my chair in my little Liverpool flat, Treeview.

We see the origins of the model’s fashion lust,

I would cut up old dresses and make new ones from the material.

To her theatre-dabblings that helped sketch out her performance art and assist her in finding her natural tribe of people, the creatives.

Well I am not going back home, I don’t need no more education. This is education.

She speaks frankly about her sometimes controlled drug experimentation,

The doctor would safely guide us through the trip. It was like a clinical trip, with a bit of anarchy thrown in.

Her quest to explore the many levels of her personality,

The underground clubs satisfied the explorer in me seeking new discoveries.

Throughout the memoirs she illustrates a strong degree of self-awareness and a tenacity that can only be admired,

I knew I didn’t have a natural voice, but I was going to work at how to make it work, stretch into a new place.

She has many musical anecdotes, like turning down the song BOOGIE WONDERLAND,

Can you imagine me singing Boogie Wonderland? Preposterous. That song needs a tinkling Tinker Bell to sing it, and I’m much more of a witch with a smear of blood on my cheek.

Her values and respect for creativity and individualism are illustrated when she openly talks about one of my personal bug-bearers the reality talent show, the modern-day equivalent of the Roman Colosseum.

I’m offered so much money to do these kind of shows, but no amount of money is enough to compensate for what appearing on them would do to my soul. They’re awful, there’s no learning experience, it’s demeaning and dispiriting. Sure, it’s part of life and you have to go through it, but to set it up as something that people laugh at is so damned cruel.


She is aware of reputation and plays the part of Grace Jones, particularly for the press,

I am having fun with the idea of the performance, with me as a performance. I turn myself into a kind of party, but after you’ve been to a party, you don’t come home and have the same party.

Also, the book is philosophical, she comes across at times as a glittered philosopher,

Disco in its purest sense means that you will come out of a place having gone into euphoria, feeling that you have rejoiced. That’s the sense the disc jockey in the clubs was helping crowds achieve… Mixing the music to completely control your emotions, bringing you up, taking you down, slowing you down, speeding you up, making you soft, making you hard.

Essentially, Jones HURRICANE album was autobiographical, she shrieks at the beginning of the work,

This is my voice, my weapon of choice, this is life.

And goes on to deliver a musical confessional, the most overtly personal album of the maverick’s musical collection.

Did we really need her to pen her memoirs, ‘I’ll never write my memoirs’, a lyric she sung in one of my favourite tracks of hers, Art Groupie.

Well, if the truth be known, we didn’t really. Part of me liked the mystique, the uncertainty of the real Jones. But is she really revealing the Grace behind the mask in this book or is it simply another guise, another art project.

I am very militant and disciplined. Even if that sometimes means being militantly naughty, and disciplined in the art of subversion.

I guess we needed Grace Jones to pen her life, explain some of the incidents, as much as we need luxury truffles and caviar. We don’t really need them but there is a decadent delight in the consumption.

May she long continue being disgracefully delicious!

If you are based in the US and wish to purchase the book from an independent bookstore, the link below will take you to IndieBound – a community of independent bookstores. ten minutes hate will receive a small commission if you do. Many thanks!

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Maps of the Soul by Ahmed Fagih

Remember when I said recently that Transit was going to be my favourite book of the year? Here we are a little while later with another contender. Put down whatever you are doing and read Ahmed Fagih’s Maps of the Soul right now.


The story, set in Libya in the 1930s, begins with one of the most affecting opening scenes I have ever read. It grabs you and does not let go for a moment. Without giving too much away, an otherwise nameless ‘you’ is waiting under a hot sun to be brutally executed by another:

Why did you care about fending off fear when your end was nigh, when you knew that once the electricity that provided you with energy and life was cut off, perpetual darkness would follow?

Of course, that second-person ‘you’ makes it very difficult to look away. You are right there in that ‘you’, feeling the heat beating down as you wait for the knife…

In the second chapter the tale flashes back some time to show us that ‘you’ is Othman al-Sheikh, a boy from a far off village forced to leave for Tripoli after being caught in an indiscretion. He flounders at first, sleeping rough and contemplating a career of begging, before beginning to find his way and make connections across the city that will see him admitted to the palaces and high society now controlled by the Italian Governor-General Balbo.

Whirling through the streets of Tripoli, shedding innocence and qualms as he goes, still Othman manages to never quite lose his moral compass, while all around are misplacing theirs. He joins the occupier’s army as one of few volunteers and is unapologetic and enthusiastic in his beatings of other recruits, eyes firmly fixed on a promotion.

Nevertheless, you would not eat blood dipped in the blood of your own countrymen. You prayed that God would not let the situation deteriorate to the point that Libyans would be used against Libyans.

He joins the Fascist party to try to get out of being sent to Abyssinia, is taught to drive by the most Italian of Italian characters ever encountered on the page and gets tasked with showing Balbo around the hidden parts of the old city his official motorcade could never reach. But it is the women of Maps of the Soul who centre Othman’s world, from the saintly Thuraya, who marries another man before Othman can make his move:

She was the brilliant essence of all happiness and comfort in the world, and at the same time of every sorrow, deprivation, and grief.

And who contrasts with:

Nuriya, whose dearest hope was to be able to pursue her profession officially, without being hounded or blackmailed…

Before he encounters the schemes of Houriya, the most beautiful of the Governor-General’s mistresses (and ‘your’ boss!):

You were attracted to her by something that spoke to you in a language that no one but you could discern.

From arriving in the city by truck, knowing no one, Othman comes to realise that:

Every person belongs to a place and a circle of friends and acquaintances.

And for all that he at times feels lost and unsure, making his way in a world with the competing demands of the Italians and his compatriots:

You didn’t have any other homeland, and it was more than being stone, tree and earth, it was people, hearts, and emotions.

But just as he begins to rely on these connections, history and events conspire against him.

The call to prayer awoke memories of the relationships, images, and events that tied you to the city you would leave… you wondered if this was your final farewell to this muezzin’s call to prayer, or to these people, or the vast deserts of your homeland and its scattered oases, like green stains on the red maze of sand. You wondered if your bones’ final resting place would be some distant, dark mountain, and if this was the last contact you would have with your friends and family…

As it is the 1930s in North Africa, the reader might suspect that Othman is in for quite a time of it before he meets that final resting place. Maps of the Soul is, not unlike Anna Seghers’ story of the refugees in Marseille, Transit, a tale of place – finding one’s place, growing into it – as well as the mistakes and missteps we make along the path and the good luck and good hearts we encounter as we go. It is beautifully written and captivating, pulling the reader in and along with the tastes, sights and even the smells of a city that is being forcibly modernised by the latest in a long line of invaders, intent on making their mark, similar to those of the Ancient Romans that Balbo finds on his illicit stroll.

No one could escape his fate or what the angels had written upon his brow, as the saying went among mothers and grandmothers.

Maps of the Soul is the first three parts of what eventually became a 12 part story. I can’t wait to read the other nine, when they become available – hint, hint, Darf Publishers, PLEASE – to see what Othman makes of his fate.

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Ageism: the last taboo?

Grace Jones, Kate Bush, Deborah Harry, Madonna, Patti Smith, Annie Lennox. Undeniably all iconic musicians, yet before any talk of their craft, their artistry, the principal thing mentioned is their AGE!

Thankfully, these ladies with an attitude will not be restrained by the hypocrisies of society. One that celebrates the older male but shuns the older female. It is no different to the way in past ages an old lady who lived alone was known as the crone or the witch. I found this strikingly apparent in Prague, particularly visiting the puppet stores. The sole representations of the female were one of two things, the angelic to the vamp, the tramp to the crone.

It seems perfectly alright for old rockers to keep on rocking, the Stones, Bob Dylan and the like.For male artists age seems to add another layer, a respectable wisdom, yet this is never applied to female artists, especially those who have dared to articulate their sexuality. Take Madonna for example, the media are insistent on always mentioning how she should behave more appropriately.


Who sets this moral standard anyway, really? She is completely ridiculed for sleeping with twenty-something hunks of perfection. But if an older man takes a younger girl, this is celebrated and is heralded as some sort of trophy, a sign of his vitality. Even if the guy is completely showing the signs of excess, it is not commented on what a mess he looks. He is, after all, a wolf or a rogue. The songstress claims that the younger men are the only ones who can really keep up with her. I am all on side with the Material Girl, as what is the alternative? To sleep with some sourpuss thrice-married man with not just physical baggage, but also emotional baggage too. If I spent several hours a day training to maintain an Olympian-like physique, as she does, I would not be happy to make whoopee with an out-of-shape octogenarian who was unfit and needed to take a pill of Viagra to even begin to have tepid sexual relations.

As a friend of mine put it,

It’s OK for Nick Cave to sing No Pussy Blues in Grinderman yet it’s abhorrent for Madonna to express female sexual desire now she’s over 30. What a bizarre and misogynist world we live in.

Age is a state of mind. In the same way that people who bang on about how bad their day is going to be or how they always have misfortune, consistently uttering a mantra of ‘just my luck’ attracts negativity, I think those people who start to set boundaries about their age will age quicker.

Oh a nightclub, I am too old for that kind of thing now.

Really? I danced to the pop track Anaconda with a 71-year old Liverpudlian lady who has more energy than the majority of students I speak to. It’s a mindset!

You start to say, ‘I am too old for this and that,’ well then that’s it, go and buy the coffin, because you are going to age. Be careful what you wish for! The Universe has a mischievous sense of humour. Thankfully, the female artists that I admire are following in the heels of past icons that created their own rules, like Frida Kahlo, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, and Mae West.


There is still a glass ceiling for the female musicians but the Graces and the old girls, coupled with the current tribe of bohemian and intelligent examples of the female species, are taking off their stilettos, smashing the glass ceiling and dancing all over the broken glass.

Madonna Image


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Man is the cruelest animal, a review of Slave by Mende Nazer

Sometimes I do think for all the advancements of the contemporary world, we are no better than some of the horrors that have lived before us. We can look back at the history of slavery, the slave triangle and all the barbarity that went with it, we can look back with disgust and feel a little bit more evolved, but are we that advanced, are we really that different?

Today, 18 October, marks Anti-Slavery Day, which aims to provide:

…an opportunity to draw attention to the subject and to pressurise government, local authorities, public institutions and private and public companies to address the scale and scope of human trafficking.

This barbaric treatment of human beings is still very much a part of the world we populate. Let’s take a closer look at one story, narrated in the shocking memoir Slave.

slave mende nazer

Imagine in adulthood having to learn how to brush your teeth, buy food and groceries, utilise public transport. Having to completely re-educate yourself in the art of just living, loving, caring, simply being human. This was the task Mende Nazer was faced with when she escaped from being a slave.

Her shocking life story began in the Nuba Mountains, a tranquil, simple existence immersed in nature, farming and storytelling around the fire. Until raiders attacked her village and she was bound into chattel slavery, where people are treated as the personal property of an owner, and are bought and sold as commodities. She was sexually assaulted and sold to an Arab family in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Mende was forced to sleep in a dingy hut and treated inhumanely.

Nietzsche stated that,

Man is the cruelest animal

A dictum that is more than apparent in this tale.

Her captor labelled her as ‘Yebit’, which translates as a girl worthy of no name. Her childhood consisted of cooking, cleaning and looking after children when she was but a child herself. In 2000, Mende was given as a gift to a diplomat in London where she escaped, only to be embroiled in a new struggle for asylum and liberty. Mende Nazer’s harrowing story reminds us we have a moral obligation to ensure this kind of cruelty towards our fellow human beings is wiped out for good. Totally eradicated!

Perhaps, to mark Anti-Slavery Day, have a read of this tale. A disturbing insight, it emphasises the power of human tenacity, the fighting spirit.

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Matt Damon and the importance of not being earnest

A recent interview with thespian Matt Damon created more of a stir than is usually expected of these opening weekend chitchats – or perhaps, one’s never sure of the level of calculation on the part of the parties involved  – by venturing that an actor being open about his or her sexuality is therefore less of a mystery to audiences and so, it follows, less credible to them. He used Rupert Everett as an example of a gay and out actor whose career had suffered due to his candour. Although the two comments have been run together in a lot of the subsequent discussions, they really appear to be two different carriages of one train of thought. He said first:

But at the time, I remember thinking and saying, Rupert Everett was openly gay and this guy – more handsome than anybody, a classically trained actor – it’s tough to make the argument that he didn’t take a hit for being out.

Before adding:

I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.

As other, faster, minds have pointed out when considering the ‘ugly implications’ of these comments, to be an actor these days is to be expected to deliver up a certain amount of one’s personal life in order to generate audience interest in the film that is being touted. As Damon well knows, because the Guardian interview makes brief mention of his family. For all that he attempts to extend his wish for this vow of silence to include straight actors…

That said, is Damon really so far off the mark, when Rupert Everett has himself plainly stated that he would not advise any actor thinking about his career to come out:

The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business. It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off. And I’m sick of saying, ‘Yes, it’s probably my own fault.’ Because I’ve always tried to make it work and when it stops working somewhere, I try to make it work somewhere else. But the fact of the matter is, and I don’t care who disagrees, it doesn’t work if you’re gay.

The major difference here is that Matt Damon is talking about maintaining an air of mystery for the viewing public, while Rupert Everett presents it as fear of the industry, the studio heads and deal-makers, that keeps people living quietly within their closets. That ever-present worry that your sexuality will one day count against you and ‘they’ll cut you right off’ instead of offering the support that your straight peers can expect.  Asked by another Guardian interviewer whether he felt he had missed out, Everett responded:

The answer to what, if he’d been luckier or straighter, the promise of My Best Friend’s Wedding would have led to is, he thinks, obvious. “If I’d been straight? I’d be doing what Colin [Firth] and Hugh [Grant] do, I suppose.”

Which means, as they now reach more advanced ages, Everett could be playing kings, politicians, lords and lawyers. (And it’s not to say his career is over, he still appears on stage and TV, writes and produces.) But still, it is the (straight, married) Firth who earns the plaudits (and rightly!) as the personification-of-elegant, bereaved, gay, British professor in A Single Man. Maybe so that director Tom Ford can tell the Wall Street Journal about how autobiographical the story is and yet still reassure them:

…this is not a gay film.

Which may perhaps also be true – it is a beautiful love story, ultimately – one that in a more perfect world wouldn’t need to be tagged with any kind of sexuality. If you have known love and loss, you will adore this film, Tom Ford could have said. Also if you appreciate the finer things in life, you could watch it for the architecture, the cars and Julianne Moore’s wardrobe and be incredibly happy. That does, however, take away from the fact that it is a beautiful story of the love between two men in a committed, homosexual relationship, both being played by straight men who have never been told to keep quiet about their heterosexuality so that audiences can believe in their on-screen love.

If Matt Damon is confused as to why his comments have sparked controversy, he only needs to look to his own career for further evidence of the double standard at work. During press for Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, his fellow straight married man and father, co-star Michael Douglas hailed Damon:

I just want to commend Matt because I don’t think I would have had the courage at that point in my career to take this on.

There is very little attempt by either star to maintain an air of mystery around their sexuality and allow that ambiguity to enhance the enjoyment of their performances by the audience. Instead it was sledgehammered into almost every interview and profile: LOOK THEY’RE NOT REALLY GAY, OK? IT’S JUST PRETEND. Some mystery, lads.

I often feel that audiences don’t get enough credit from the Hollywood bigwigs. The old adage about no one ever having gone broke by underestimating the intelligence of the masses seems to get a lot of play there and results in ever more and more stupid films being given immense budgets to stun our senses into submission. That’s why whenever anything half-decent with a semi-functioning brain comes along you feel you must support it and tell everyone you know to do the same, in case they never make another one like it.

But ultimately, suspension of disbelief is what we are there for, sitting in the dark cinema, giving up three hours of our lives to be shown something that we are pretty sure isn’t real but are prepared to go along with for the thrills. Psst, Matt, no one really believes that that is King Kong hanging off the Empire State Building or that Audrey Hepburn couldn’t walk into Tiffany’s and be given one of anything she asked for. We are delighted with the smoke and mirrors, the tricks of lighting, the CGI (but not too much of it) and the hyper-reality of a cinematic experience. And sure, it can be wonderful when real-life couples play opposite each other – Bogart and Bacall, for instance – but it can also be kind of icky: Cruise and Kidman, for instance. We don’t need the showmances or to have our hands held: Matt Damon can play Tom Ripley, Neil Patrick Harris can play straight in Gone Girl and all will be well.

Matt Damon could have created a very different kind of press storm by pointing out that if ‘they’ are cutting off actors with the vitality, looks and charisma of Rupert Everett because they think his private life has typecast him, more fool them. No one should have to keep quiet about their personal life – unless they want to – in order to reach the top. Unfortunately it seems Hollywood still remembers the morals clauses of the past, where actors had to promise not to ‘outrage public morals or decency.’ While it is slightly commendable for Matt Damon to hark back to those classic Hollywood days, before the gossip mags took over and we knew more about the goings-on of some inhabitants of La-La Land than we do our own family members, that particular horse has well and truly bolted. Instead, let’s have more quality film-making unafraid to risks with content and in casting. Let’s create more diverse stories showing truer representations of the mixed up, muddled up, shook up world we inhabit (when we’re not off bothering Martians, of course). And let’s celebrate love and the lovers, whichever category they may fall into.

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The wisdom of no escape by Pema Chödrön

wisdom of no escapeI highlighted many of the sentences in Pema Chödrön’s The wisdom of no escape and you will too, when you go and read it, right after you finish reading this post. Before I had even got to the end of first chapter, I had told my good pal Mr Maguire to order a copy (and he did!) so we could talk about it. It is that kind of book, you want everyone you know to read it.

The quote that first pulled me in is one you will see quoted on goodreads and in many reviews, as it must speak to something in many of us. The words have that ring of truth that see us turning down the corner of the page, or making a pencil mark if we’re the sacrilegious kind, or swiping to highlight if we are fancy.

The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression towards yourself. The other problem is that our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth. Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom.

The title of the book comes from its original existence as a series of talks given at Chödrön’s remote institute in Nova Scotia, where there are big windows looking out to sea and, literally, no escape. There is nothing to do but sit and meditate. You might as well get into it. It sounds heavenly, so long as you are allowed to take a big stack of books. And a teapot. And teabags.

But what Pema Chödrön is telling her students is that you don’t have to be in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by natural beauty and enjoying the peace and quiet to be doing it perfectly. She talks openly about her own struggles on the journey to enlightenment and is at pains to point out that she is not there yet and has stumbled along the way. You will too, she tells us, but you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it.

That is an essential lesson for us all, particularly as mindfulness becomes an industry like any other, determined to sell us the cure for the perceived problems of our hyper-connectivity. Her message, that you have everything you need if you could just be kind to yourself, is so simple that you would almost slap yourself on the forehead for missing it, if she hadn’t just expressly forbid it.

…each of us has all that it takes to become fully enlightened. We have basic energy coursing through us. Sometimes it manifests as brilliance and sometimes as confusion.’

Well, quite. Often veering from one to the other in the same few moments. When you are strong enough to face your own fears, you can get on with tackling the ones we are all facing.

…no withdrawing, no centralizing into ourselves. That is what we aspire to, the warrior’s journey.

Then you are ready to meet dragons, without fear and without armour. And if you are not sure exactly what I mean by that, go and read the book and then we can talk more!

If you are based in the US and wish to purchase the book from an independent bookstore, the link below will take you to IndieBound – a community of independent bookstores. ten minutes hate will receive a small commission if you do. Many thanks!

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Filed under The Golden Country