Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Eternal Struggle

Women and men have many things in common. However, because physically they are both different, women are liable to show their emotions more readily than men, basically in order to remain in their natural comfort zone.

With the advent of sexual equality, this had led to distress being expressed in psychosomatic illnesses, suggests a neurologist.

The drive to equality in all things may have instigated more women to suppress their emotions and behave more like men, with the result that more women are now suffering psychosomatic illness that’s likely to cause them an imbalance in their normal behaviour.

Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan said: ‘The majority of patients who display psychosomatic illnesses were women, which was due in part to how they express their distress.’

Speaking at the Telegraph Way with Words festival at Dartington Hall, she said it did not mean women were ‘weaker’ but that they were ‘suffering differently’ to men of the same age. When asked if there was a ‘feminist aspect’ to the statistics, she said she ‘agreed wholeheartedly with the theory that emotional stress, often seen as “feminine”, could be expressed in physical symptoms as women are taught to behave like men to get on’.

Psychosomatic illness refers to disorders with genuine physical symptoms which cannot be explained by medical tests, and can include seizures, paralysis of limbs and blindness. Dr O’Sullivan, a consultant at the National Hospital for Neurology and the Epileptic Society, estimated that one in three people referred to a neurological clinic has a psychosomatic illness, but said it has not always been taken as seriously as other conditions.

‘Most of my patients are women, and I think there are a couple of reasons why that happens,’ she said. ‘One reason is because there are different ways that men and women are allowed to express emotion. I think men and women are both suffering but they are suffering differently.’

‘It does depend on social acceptability of how men and women express their distress,’ Dr O’Sullivan added. ‘It does not mean, as people sometimes think it means, that women are weaker. Men drink more. Men are more likely to commit suicide.’

Dr O’Sullivan said she hoped psychosomatic illness will be taken more seriously, with further research to investigate it. Patients are resistant to accept such a diagnosis, she said, for fear people believe they are making it up or deliberately faking symptoms.

Writing for the Telegraph earlier this year, she said: ‘When we are unwell, we tell ourselves that if we adopt a positive mental attitude, we will have a better chance of recovery. I’m sure that is correct. But society has not fully woken up to the frequency with which people do the opposite – unconsciously think themselves ill.’

Women bosses make men feel threatened and are often met with more disruptive subordinates than male counterparts, according to a study by Bocconi University in Milan. Even men who believe in gender equality said they felt their masculinity was at risk.

As one who has always surrounded himself socially, and at work, with women, I found them to be a great asset to any institution,  particularly when they refuse to behave like men and use their ingrained femininity and understanding to resolve a problem without the usual panic and impatience that men display when under pressure. They don’t need to imitate men in order to succeed. This is a dangerous mix which should be rejected out of hand as it causes more division in our society and robs us of the positive differences that bring a sparkle to our daily existence.

Men, on the other hand, should respect women, not fear them and accept them on an equal footing – for without them life is dull and becomes rather meaningless.

We Still Haven’t Seen the Last of Boris

Although the House of Lords has, of late, lost its prestige and significance, this week’s rebellion against the Conservative government’s Tax Credits created a constitutional dilemma as to what will happen next.

Cameron’s threat to fill the Lords with more hangers-on aimed at supporting his shell-shocked government is disgraceful, to say the least.

The House of Lords is already crammed with people of low quality and loose morals that bring shame to the nation. Any increase in its membership will bring yet another wave of utter public dismay, and further demean Britain’s political institutions, rendering our democratic values into a shambolic state of derision, worse than any seen so far.

To top it all, George Osborne’s arrogance seems to have reached the stage where he now falsely believes that he is the new Messiah of British politics.

The Tories were voted to power during the last election simply because the opposition were in total shambles, reliving bygone eras, yet claiming to be innovative and a caring lot; whereas, in fact, they were intellectually bankrupt and constituted a real threat to economic common sense.

The Tories, on the other hand, ran a good campaign promising fairness to everyone in the realm, encouraging initiative and pretending to create a new dynamic society which would prosper under their guidance.

So far, they are still to keep their word, finding themselves in a tight spot of their own making. Their Tax Credits policy is their new Poll Tax, partly instrumental in the bringing down of Mrs Thatcher. How history repeats itself is incredibly unfathomable!

Boris Johnson must be laughing his head off. The witless George Osborne, his main opponent to the Tory crown, is losing his grip. Many will say good riddance and hallelujah, but Bonking Boris is at the door, grinning like the Cheshire cat…

One Swan Can Cause Havoc to the Weatherman

The Met Office is becoming more precise with the passing of years.

They have now dismissed claims that the coldest winter for fifty years is coming, after developing the world’s most accurate three-month forecast.

Adam Scaife, Head of Monthly Decadal Prediction at the Met Office, said that our late autumn and early winter is more likely to be milder and wetter than average. However, there is an increasing risk of a colder-than-average end to winter because of the effect of El Nino on the global climate.

Predictions of the coldest winter for decades were based largely on the earlier-than-usual arrival at a lake in Gloucestershire of a single Bewick’s swan from Siberia.

‘In recent days we have had easterly winds which could easily have helped them in migration,’ Professor Scaife said. ‘That is the more simple explanation, rather than it having any long-term weather forecasting powers.’

Professor Scaife, a leading climate scientist, said the coming winter was less likely to be as cold as 2009-10, when El Nino caused temperatures to plunge to their most severe for thirty years.

In the meantime, the Met Office has developed the world’s best long-term weather forecast, capable of predicting the average temperatures for a three-month winter period to seventy per cent accuracy. The increase in computing power allows it to zoom in to a greater detail in sea and atmospheric conditions, so it can take into account much smaller changes in the Gulf Stream and Arctic sea ice coverage that can have powerful impacts on our climate.

The improvements also allow forecasters to model the North Atlantic oscillation – a see-saw in weather patterns across the Atlantic that determines whether the UK has a wet, windy and mild or dry, calm and cold winter.

Professor Scaithe said, ‘What we are trying to do is fill the gap between five-day weather forecasts and long-term climate predictions. We want these climate predictions months and years ahead to be of benefit to society.’

These are admirable words coming from a learned and distinguished scientist, but despite all his knowledge and experience in this field the weather can be a mysterious quantity, rebellious and often unpredictable. Global conditions are terribly misleading at times and can, as a result, create no end of problems.

His positive outlook is commendable, as to the way man will eventually be able to somehow win the monumental fight to predict the destructive consequences created by unforeseen circumstances that often turn science on its head.

Let us, however, give the professor the benefit of doubt and applaud his achievements so far.

A New Sparkle on the Horizon

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Nouneh Sarkissian, the author of The Magic Buttons, born in Armenia and now living in London, has been writing stories for children since her early university years.

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Her books, written in Armenian, proved popular in her country with young children. Now, for the first time, Quartet is proud to publish the first English version of one of her books, The Magic Buttons, to be followed by others, in order to acquaint the British reading public with a new vibrant talent that deserves world-wide recognition.

The first of the series is a delightful tale of resourcefulness, courage and friendship which will charm both children and adults alike and introduce a writer of considerable imagination and verve.

The International Conference of Wizards and

Witches has been sabotaged!

Izzie Berton has stolen all the magic from those

attending, causing havoc everywhere.

Can Pearl save the magic and cure the people

from the terrible Blue Fever?

Buy at least one copy of her book and discover for yourselves why Quartet is excited with the launch of a writer whose skill and charm knows no boundaries.

Believe me, when I tell you that backing her is worth more than the usual flutter.   

The Swift Transformation

Is Taylor Swift succumbing to the current trend of turning herself into a sex icon?

Her transformation signals ‘new all-female celebrity packs who share holidays, outfits and even men’.

It’s a new marketing strategy that seems to take root, reminiscent of many a Hollywood-style that adapts itself to an ever-changing perception of female power.

Operating as a ‘sisterhood’ allows their fan-bases to ‘cross-pollinate’ on the same basis as plants do.

Taylor Swift, perhaps the leader of the pack, says that her mother is a great influence on her life and gave her the courage to stand up to Apple after the firm announced it would not pay artists for music streamed on a trial service. Her move and influence gained her a reputation of a woman determined to lead the way in a crusade that has catapulted her to greater heights than ever before.

And, in a remarkable revelation the twenty-four-year-old singer said that she and her close coterie of friends have occasionally dated the same men, and that ‘sisterhood is more important to them than any man’ so they don’t mind having shared boyfriends.

That’s something bizarre, coming from a clean, traditional American young woman who has a worldwide following of ninety-two million people that gives her a tremendous clout in whatever she does or says.

Recently her sexuality has come to the fore when Vanity Fair showed pictures of her taken by the world-famous photographer Mario Testino, where she truly glitters with a thigh that demonstrates that her hidden physical attributes are of the kind that will certainly install her as a sex icon – with much greater impact than those women who flaunt theirs without the elegance she displays.

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She is without doubt blossoming into a new image as she now poses in a series of low-cut floral outfits as these photos show. For her swift transformation I choose her as my woman of the week.

The Day I Nearly Bought Tiffany

August, 1984, was a busy time on many fronts.

Asprey was doing well, despite the periodic falling out between family members, and John Asprey and I were still on the lookout for opportunities to expand our customer base.

It so happened that Avon Products, who owned Tiffany in New York, had made an announcement in June about their willingness to dispose of their subsidiary at the asking price of a hundred and sixty million dollars. Three investor groups had put in bids ranging between a hundred million and a hundred and forty million dollars, so falling short of the price tag.

We did not have the resources to enter the arena, but were nevertheless confident that, at the right price, we would have no difficulty in heading a consortium with sufficient funds to qualify us as a serious potential buyer. The name of Asprey was second to none in the luxury world and our progress with building the company into a successful concern during the past few years gave us a certain standing and credibility among our peers – enough to enable us to make the provisional enquiries needed.

The task fell to me to examine the business, with a view to reaching a conclusion as to its viability in commercial terms. Avon Products were highly cooperative. They were keen to shed the subsidiary as quickly as possible and arranged for me to meet the Tiffany management on many occasions.

The trouble was that the figures did not add up. They were overstocked and their sales were in decline despite a programme of expansion through the opening of many outlets in recent years. Even so, the Tiffany name still had its magic, despite their focus on the corporate gift market which had become their bread and butter and to some degree had lost them the special cachet they used to have. There was every chance that the glorious past could be revived with a new management intent on restoring the principle of exclusivity.

At the time of their artistic supremacy in their splendid époque in the 1920s and 1930s, their name and product were cherished by connoisseurs the world over for desirability and craftsmanship. Proof of that statement lies in the prices being fetched today for Tiffany objects from that period. In the event of a successful bid for the company, my strategy would have been to shut down most of the peripheral, insignificant outlets it had recently established and forget about competing in a glorified mass-market. Then we would see Tiffany become again the cathedral of quality on Fifth Avenue to which the rich and successful had once flocked to pay homage.

Perhaps I was carried away by memories of the film of Truman Capote’s book, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, starring Audrey Hepburn. Ever since seeing the movie I had dreamed of being part of that milieu where fairy tale combined with vast reservoirs of wealth – the gateway to paradise.

It was a dream I almost accomplished. The New York Times, in reporting Asprey’s interest, quoted me as echoing certain other American retailers, intrigued by Tiffany’s potential, when I said I found the asking price ‘outrageous’. I had in fact done my homework. Over six weeks I took to spending five days alternately in London and New York, trying to arrive at a sensible deal. I even hired a private jet to take me to visit Walter Hoving, who was on vacation in Newport. Mr Hoving, a legendary figure as a former chairman of Tiffany and a large investor before the sale to Avon, gave me valuable information. If Avon could get a hundred and fifty million for Tiffany, then, he said, they ought to grab it. This indicated to me that my own assessment of the value of the business was correct.

The story the figures told was that Tiffany could not be worth more than a hundred million dollars by any stretch of the imagination. However, I was prepared to live with the figure of a hundred and fifty million, provided no more than seventy million was in cash.

Negotiations reached the point when I felt we were almost there. Then, at the eleventh hour, an investment company based in Bahrain upped the stakes and promptly concluded the purchase. Many analysts believed the price they paid was far too high, but when they sold the business many years later, they showed a healthy profit.

Had our concern for prudence been too strict for our own good? The wisdom of hindsight returns us only to the realm of dreams of what might have been.

A New Trend in Gardening

Is Britain changing its eating habits and adopting a new kind of diet, where the sale of olives and figs are becoming a familiar sight, as gardeners increasingly try to emulate a Mediterranean lifestyle?

Figures show that the trend is gaining accessibility as higher demand for foods traditionally eaten in Italy, Spain and Greece, are now common in the market place and no longer a rarity.

Gardening experts say the change to rainier and milder winters may even be helping the trees and vines to thrive. Many gardeners are choosing olive and fig trees in preference to traditional fruit trees, opting for more modern-looking outdoor spaces than the country cottage garden look.

According to Homebase, sales of fig trees and grapevines have risen to twenty-eight per cent in the past six months compared with the same period last year and olive tree sales are up twenty-five per cent year-on-year. Andrew Dyer of Homebase said: ‘We have seen a trend towards more exotic fruit growing, such as olives, figs and grapes. An increasing number of people are holidaying in Europe and choosing a Mediterranean diet, and they now want to have a go at growing their own. Growers have had a lot of success with tasty olives, figs and grapes as fresh as they can possibly be because they have not been on a plane before ending up on the dinner plate.’

It is a welcome change that we now realise the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet likely to prolong our life and moreover considered by most to be a culinary bonus. I, for one, have always been a great believer in olive oil which I consume on a daily basis and can’t live without.

And as for figs and grapes, no one in his or her right mind would scoff at their delicious nature.