Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Channel the Iguana

Last year I wrote a post called The Obstacle Course which has been shared and recommended more than anything else I've written. In it I described what quitting booze feels like, and why you really, really don't want to keep doing the early days over and over again.

(To read the Obstacle Course click here).

Well, last week I was watching David Attenborough's incredible Planet Earth 2 with the children and I came across a scene which reminded me vividly of those initial days wrestling with the obstacle course.

So, if you're at that horrible stage when you're sitting on your hands and grinding your teeth every evening at wine o'clock, and you can't believe that life is ever going to feel good ever again, then please watch this clip, it'll really help.

David Attenborough films a volcanic island where hardly anything lives except a lot of iguanas and even more snakes. These are no ordinary snakes - they are called 'racer snakes' and they live up to their name.

Pretty much the sole diet of the racer snakes is iguana.

The adult iguanas lay their eggs away from the shoreline to protect them from the waves, but this means that the very first thing a newly hatched baby iguana has to do is to make it across the beach to the shoreline where the mummies and daddies are hanging out.

The racer snakes know this, and they hide in the rocks just waiting for a tender young iguana to run by, at which point it's dinner time.

This clip shows a heroic baby iguana - his first day on the planet. He knows instinctively that there is danger around him, and initially he stays very still, hoping that an approaching snake won't see him (this is the denial stage, remember that one?).

Eventually he realises that he has to run, or he's toast.

As he charges towards the shore he's chased by loads of snakes - at one point they are literally coiled around his body - but each time he escapes with amazing determination, courage and death defying leaps.

Finally, he makes it to safety.

So, next time you're wrestling with the racer snakes, channel your inner iguana. You can do it. You can make it to the shore. You will find peace.

(To watch the clip, click here)

Love SM x

Saturday, 26 November 2016


A few days ago I was having tea with a girlfriend who has just returned to London after 3 years of working in Manhattan and living in New Jersey.

I told her that, since she'd been out of town, I'd quit drinking, started a blog and was now in the process of (hopefully) selling a book.

"Do the New Jersey housewives drink the same way the London ones do?" I asked.

"Oh no," she replied, "they're generally far too worried about smelling of booze. They take pills."

"What pills?"

"Usually a whole cocktail of prescription meds. The doctors dole them out like Smarties. Prescription painkillers, sleeping pills, anti-anxiety meds, anti-depression meds. They're obsessed with perfection - always at the gym, dressed in Lululemon, driving the latest Range Rover, but I swear, they're like zombies."

I confess, I was a little sceptical. I thought she was maybe exaggerating to make me feel better about my own little addiction issue. But then she told me this story:

"When we were selling our house the real estate agents said 'remember to empty your bathroom cabinet.' I asked why, and they were amazed that I wasn't already aware that if you leave your medications in the bathroom people steal them during viewings!"

So, different continent, same problems, same 'solutions'.

We are all so stressed out by trying to keep up with the faked perfection of other people's lives, of Facebook and Instagram, that we look for something to blur the edges, and pills do the job as effectively as booze.

I have to confess, just a tiny bit of me was desperate at this point to make an appointment with the GP. But then I remembered reading about a sign that David Hockney has hanging in his studio in Los Angeles. It reads:

All visitors, please please.
No photography and video.
Look with both eyes.

We spend too much time looking at life through a lens of one sort or another - blurring the focus and changing the reality.

It's time to look with both eyes.

Love SM x

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

AA Gill

AA Gill announced in his Sunday Times restaurant review this weekend that he has cancer.

Not just a little bit of cancer, like I had, but 'an embarrassment of cancer, the full English. There is barely a morsel of offal not included. (He has) a trucker's gut-buster, gimpy, malevolent, meaty malignancy.'

This made me cry. Not because I've ever met AA (Adrian Anthony, not Alcoholics Anonymous, although more on that later), but because he is a genius and the world would be a less interesting and vibrant place without his words.

I can, I hope, make words line up on a stage and take a hesitant bow, but AA can make words do aerial acrobatics and death defying somersaults. His metaphors and analogies make me laugh out loud with their originality and utter rightness.

AA is an alcoholic which is, in my book, another reason to love him. In his early thirties a GP told him that unless he quit drinking he would only live another six months.

'It's not death that terrifies me,' Gill said, 'it's life.' And isn't that just a perfect explanation of why we drink?

Gill dried out, did the steps and was introduced to an editor at Tatler who commissioned him to write an article about his experience in rehab. The rest, as they say, was history.

It's not his years of drinking that caused AA's cancer, but his other addiction - nicotine. Despite having ditched the smokes fifteen years ago he has smoking related lung cancer.

AA says of his future: 'I don't feel I've been cheated of anything....I gave up (alcohol) when I was still young, so it was like being offered the next life. It was the real Willy Wonka golden ticket, I got a really good deal.'

So, if you're still humming and hah-ing about quitting then please just grab that golden ticket while you're still young enough to make the most of it.

And Adrian, if you ever come across this post, then thank you. Thank you for showing us all how words can change the world.

SM x

P.S. If you want to read my blog from the beginning then click here.