Gaslight and the Forgotten Abuse



From Picard’s four lights to a teacher’s “apologise!” to a student, gaslighting exists all around us…

The other day, yet another charming young lady made a beeline to my door. Like the ones before her, and no doubt the ones to come, she presented her credentials and asked whether she could take up some of my time – in this case, fifteen minutes.

The topic of this particular survey was domestic and other types of abuse, as well as women’s rights, and the much-hyped “equality”. The last two items in the list set my teeth on edge; but I decided to see whether the questions lead before commenting.

Abuse by my partner would have included anything from being beaten up, whether or not he would have been blind drunk at the time, to being forbidden to associate with my friends; abuse from associates would have included being discriminated against because of gender, and abuse from strangers would have included flashing or inappropriate touching.

I was asked whether I was aware of any media campaigns on the topic – and frankly, whereas the repetitive Nista’ ones flooded my mind, I had to really wrack my brain to remember the Dignity for Domestic Violence Survivors posters in the street which urged us to seek help should we need it, as the woman in the picture who “used to be a victim” did. And yes – the persons portrayed in the posters were all victims of physical abuse.

Another question asked whether I knew of any entities that were “doing their best” for women’s rights – and, in truth, the very need that there is any need of “equality” unit sets my teeth on edge. Mention of Parliament made me say that politics did not interest me, but I am sure that if “they” had done something about it, we would have known for sure, because the MP responsible for it would have touted the news from the church steeples, not to mention the newspapers and sundry social sites.

The young lady asked me whether I had anything to add, and I said “lots”. She raised an eyebrow and opened her eyes wide, but which I assumed that I had been the only one on her list (“from the electoral register”) to say so with such vehemence.

In the name of all my friends and acquaintances who had ever been abused, I insisted that it was not fair that in the majority of the cases, it was the woman and the children who had to leave the home for their own safety, whilst the perpetrator usually remained and thumbed his nose at them… or else promised to ‘behave’ and repeated the abuse “as soon as she misbehaved again and ‘made him do it’ ”.

That was not all, however.

Although I was given a form with multiple-choice answers to some of the aforementioned questions, to fill in anonymously, and asked to seal it in an unmarked envelope, there is no way I noted it was not placed randomly in the sheaf of envelopes; and moreover, the company that commissioned the survey will probably check that the young lady did indeed interview me – and now they can pair my information, my details, and my telephone number.

This in itself raises several questions.

Would a woman whose partner abused her, or who had been raped (by a family member, friend or stranger) and kept it secret, actually admit this if there was anyone within earshot?

But the most important point I raised had not even been hinted at in the questionnaire – and this brings me to my point; nobody considers psychological tactics, or Gaslighting, as abuse.  It is assumed that if you have no bruises to show, they you are imagining things – or lying to get your partner into trouble.

Women who have been through this say that they actually believe they are crazy.  Their partners do not lift a finger, because they know this would leave a mark that may – probably will – be photographed.

And yet they continuously denigrate the woman’s cooking, he hair, her figure, her clothes, her family, her friends… anything that could make her feel good about herself.  They pick on her manner of speaking; they make her feel inadequate in and out of bed; they compare her to other women – and she never matches them in anything. Abusers use ambiguous words so they can claim “it’s not what I said, it’s what you think I did… and as usual, you’re wrong… because you’re stupid.” And anyone who does not share their point of view is wrong.

They stretch the truth and move her things about so that they are not where she put them last, and then accuse her of having her mind “on other things” when she looks for them. The implications of this are obvious; a man will act suspiciously on purpose, to make her think he has a lover, just to goad her into a reaction.

Alas, these women spend hours trying to figure out what it is they would have done  wrong; they may even resort to staying at home so as not to face a barrage of questions about where they have been and whom they have talked to, and about what. They know that the supermarket closest to your house does not have the items they want but fear going to the one across town because he “knows” that the man at the cheese counter flirts with you each time you go.

They think that if they sit their partner down and explain that they love him beyond life itself and that they would never do anything to hurt him or endanger the relationship, all will be well. The man says he sees her point – but rarely does he say he understands it, for to do so would mean he loses his power over her. He will tell her that he knows it, and that she is nagging. And she thinks this signals an end to the interrogations and the negative comments.  It does not.

These tormentors have their own version of the truth; a woman watches television because she has a crush on an actor; she was already sexually active as a child to have money for sweets and he has “saved” her from prostitution; she got her degree by sleeping with the lecturer, or that she is pretending to be a good wife but she is actually an evil woman; he is “only joking” and she is a “head-case” to think otherwise.

There is only a thin, barely discernable line between verbal, and emotional, abuse. Abandonment, accusations, anger, belittling, blaming, brainwashing, bullying, comparisons, control, criticising, cruel jokes, discrediting, devaluing, gaslighting, insults, isolation, judging, manipulation, name-calling, ordering, silence, unpleasantness… all these are abuse tactics.

But if even those who undertake nationwide questionnaires do not realise this, what hope is there for the “ugly, stupid, fat, dirty, scrounging whore” crying herself to sleep… again?




Let’s Pretend…

Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 11:43

The other day, one of my vegan friends asked me over for lunch for the first time ever. I don’t really like fish flesh or fowl; so when she asked whether it would be a problem, I said it would not.

When she dished up, my eyebrows rose of their own accord. A huge, beautiful salad was topped by two cutlets. “Cute, aren’t they?” she asked. “They’re soya, and they’re simply delicious…”

Frankly, I cannot comprehend the pretence of eating meat when you profess to abhor it. Is this not the humorous version of The lady doth protest too much?

This blinkered attitude, moreover, is rife all around us.

Probably the one that hurts the most is the current exposé of Jimmy Savile and his cohorts. It is beyond obnoxious that when people tried to divulge their suspicions or even reveal what they knew, they were shushed up with complacent cajoling comments such as That’s the way it goes, or that’s Jimmy for you, and so on. This, the ugly version of eppur si muove is telling of how those who are in a position to do something, anything, often fear to rock the boat because complacency brings a hefty cheque at the end of the month.

So because the dirty old man (who began his nefarious career of abuse when he was still young) raised millions for charity, we condone his behaviour, and, worse, pretend that nothing was happening?

It was the same thing with the other predatory paedophile Jerry Sandusky’s reign of terror on the boys under his care. Let’s pretend, his defence attorney said, that he was teaching these inner-city boys how to use a bar of soap.

A lot has been said about how we must pretend it is only the people of Mellieħa who take exception at being called pufta. This, again, makes no sense at all; I do not see why anyone should consider it an affront to have his sexual orientation questioned. I don’t; I am content inside my skin and nothing anyone will say can make me change what I am into something they say I am, or that I ought to be.

More pretence comes with the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Let’s pretend that women secretly want to be dominated and beaten into submission is part of the spiel that has many men “buy it for their wives” and women fantasise about how they would like to be seduced and ravished in a way that involves pain. It could also be, of course, let’s pretend that most women’s sex lives are so vapid that they need lessons in how to get titillated.

This is as risible as the argument recently brought forth by Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. As he begins his Hague war crimes court defence, he insists that not only should we pretend his ten charges of genocide and other crimes against humanity during the war in the 1990s never happens, but that, moreover, he ought to be awarded for all the good he did – including “reducing the suffering of civilians”.

Abuse of power is something that happens not only nation-wide, but also inside a home where children have a right to be safe. It is beyond my comprehension how an incestuous father could be so wickedly diabolic as to pretend to each of three daughters she was his only victim – and doing this by placing a price on the life of a sibling.

And it must be said that the risible sentence he has received gives the message that – make no pretence about it – this taboo, at law, is certainly not held in the same way as it is viewed by mothers of children the same age as this fiend’s daughters, and many others too.

Hoaxers and conmen throughout the ages have long known that people tend to fall for the “let’s pretend” ruse most of the time. Some of the fabrications are fun; others could possibly have lethal consequences.

We used to laugh at The Addams Family cocktails emitting chill-and-smoke effect fumes that could have been obtained by dry ice or liquid nitrogen. However, we never saw Morticia Addams or anyone else on the series actually drink the potions. Yet, pretending it is trendy thing to drink a Nitro Jägermeister has landed at least one teen in hospital with a perforated stomach.

We have enough of “let’s pretend” in the cinema – and in certain so-called news bulletins.

Reality is something that isn’t even present in reality shows, or many of the magazine programmes in which opinionated people mouth off, often speaking over others, hoping that their loudness will make them credible.

Why are we allowing let’s pretend to rule, and truth to be so elusive, in real life?

Sex Appals


The other day, Welsh international footballer Ched Evans raped a teenager. His friend, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald had sex with her.

Is there any difference between the terms, seeing that both men claimed it was consensual? Does it make any difference that she was drunk at the time, and that she has no memory at all of what happened, perhaps because one or more of her drinks (allegedly wine, double vodkas with lemonade and a Sambuca shot)  had been spiked?

The Court held that Evans was guilty of rape, and sentenced him to five years in prison; McDonald was deemed ‘not guilty’ of rape.

Sheffield United player Connor Brown sought to ‘defend’ his friend by calling the victim ‘a money-grabbing little tramp’. He then went on to use bad English and worse words in his Twitter account to insult the girl, but later removed his posts.

The aura of the rich, the powerful, the handsome, the popular, and those who consider themselves above the law, sometimes translates into these wannabe studs (correctly) thinking they can pick and choose women for sex. Some go even further and expect the women to think they are being done a favour, and, hence, no type of compensation to her would be due.

This, essentially, means that any girl who decides to complain – or, heaven forbid – press charges later, will automatically be branded a bitch, a liar, or  a  gold-digger, and sometimes all three at once.

Consider, for a moment, the current crisis assailing the American Secret Service.

About 11 Secret Service agents brought prostitutes back to their rooms while they were preparing the venue for President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas. Although such doings are illegal, the police in the area have some ‘tolerance zones’ – which apparently are both in the concrete and in the abstract.

However, as it happened, one of the women refused to leave the premises after 7.00am, as is the praxis. But she had a reason; she had not been paid adequately for services rendered. And this is, basically, what lit the fuse that exploded the bomb that blew the story open.

There will always be  teachers who will try to din into students’ minds that ‘sluts’ (read a girl who has sex before she is married, with one person or more) are merely fornicators with a more modern name.

There will always be people like Albert Locher, the Sacramento County District Attorney, who actually arrest rape victims to make sure they are present to testify against their aggressors.

But the worst thing of all is that there are a whole slew of myths, masquerading as reasons, why many people do not accept that rape would have happened.

We are asked to believe that it’s not rape if the woman:  didn’t put up a fight;  had been with another man twenty-four hours before or after the attack;  had no signs of violence on her body; has an active sex life; is a prostitute ‘anyway’;  is old, and ugly, and might not otherwise have had sex; is a lesbian; is young and  attractive, and therefore a temptation;  did not know what was happening anyway; ordered, tempted or dared the man to have sex;  uses birth-control; was dating the man; was dressed indecently; was drinking to make herself lose her inhibitions; was not supposed to be where she was; or went to his place of her own volition.

Moreover, if “her no obviously meant yes”; if the sex was consensual, and / or the man used a prophylactic; or of the act happened in her house or a neutral place, we are supposed to think that the woman is crying wolf as well as rape.

These conditions nicely cover just about any situation, do they not?

As far as I am concerned, a “slut” is someone who uses sex-related accusations to lie about a man for her own ends – when no sex at all would have taken place.

Yet it remains a sad fact of life that in most countries, sex crimes are treated differently from other types of crimes.

If you sell stolen goods, you are guilty of that.  If you help someone hide a murdered body, you are an accessory after the fact. In a nutshell, if you aid and abet someone in a crime, you have to pay the penalty.

Just because someone entices you to commit murder, fraud, theft, or perjury, you do not just play along willy-nilly. Whether the issue involves stealing a car for joy-riding, beating up someone, robbing a house, doing drugs, or jumping off a cliff, it cuts no ice to tell the judge that “peer pressure” made you comply.

Yet sex between consenting adults is sometimes considered all right; especially if it is the word of one person ‘with a reputation’ against an abuser who may or may not be in collusion with other witnesses.

Incidentally, most women who have had unwanted sexual relations, inclusive of rape, usually go home to scrub themselves physically clean from their emotional trauma.

This, too, may count against them – because they are ‘supposed’ to hie off for an examination that would document evidence of any kind available.

I Am Not Pregnant…

Thursday, September 15, 2011, 20:34

… and frankly, I still haven’t got around to testing for any one of the various types of cancers that may be tested for, which have beset both maternal and paternal sides of my family over the years.

But that is not the reason I shall not be posting the pseudo-lie about how far into the Club I am, and what I am craving.

This is the third meme that is supposed to make us aware of breast cancer. In the first one we were supposed to inform people of our social networks of the colour of our lingerie, and in the second, where we place out handbags.

The first was supposed to elicit a nonplussed question; the second was meant to be a double-entendre.

This third statement, for some reason, makes a connection between pregnancy and awareness of breast cancer. Seeing that this condition often leaves women infertile – desperately wishing, in fact, that they were “six months in and craving pickles dipped in hazelnut spread” or some other disgusting concoction of the sort. And desperately wishing that they could have, eventually, breastfed the offspring they will now never have. I find it ‘distasteful’ – on all counts.

It is interesting to note that all three “chain letters”- for that, in effect, is what these things are- concentrate on sexuality. Moreover, they focus on a woman’s sexuality, totally ignoring the fact that males do get breast cancer too.

Would you pass on a message that threatens you with disaster and death of you do not make fifty copies forthwith, and forward them to people, asking them to follow suit? Does it sit well on you to play on people’s emotions and fears, and make them waste time?

Ah, you say, but this is “in jest”… rather as if breast cancer is funny.

It is not awareness of breast cancer that we need; it is education, information, and action about all types of cancers. Not just one of the many types that steal people’s lives when their deaths could have been avoided.

I speak from experience – two members of my immediate family were mis-diagnosed and told there was “nothing to worry about”. By the time someone realised we were not simply “making a fuss about nothing” and picked up all the clues and thought to investigate further, it was way too late for both of them.

However, silly pass-it-on messages are not the only way that the female body is being exploited in a pathetic way with regards to this notion.

Some internet sites have been specifically created for the posting of cleavage – no head, no torso, because “that” is the important part of the female – with the same warped view. And I use the term deliberately.

Because just as sites that show child models made up to look like adults pander to a paedophile’s dreams, so do these sites indulge voyeurs. In both cases, the perverts win hands down.

If you ostensibly want to draw attention to an illness, you do not draw attention to ‘perfection’ – despite fetching slogans about ‘protection’ and ‘reminders’. Just for the record, I also object to pictures posted by women who have had mastectomies, who do re doing this in a bid to counteract the obsession with breasts.

Women are stricken with many types of cancers – most of which effect men, too. However, since (probably) most of us consider man-boobs unattractive, and it is not necessarily those that get breast cancer, it would not be a good gimmick to include snaps of them in any site purporting to “care” about “awareness”.

A woman who has bone, lung, or ovarian cancer, or metastatic colo-rectal cancer, apparently cannot be “represented” by a series of partial snapshots of her sisters sporting variously bejewelled, frilled, striped, or polka-dotted bikini tops. Let’s face it; a face wracked in pain is not “sexy”. Neither are gel-filled prosthesis in a box.

The equation seems to be that if you say you are booting awareness of breast cancer, you can sell pink earrings, special edition pink sweets and rubber bracelets, pink cellular telephones… and have an excuse to parade your assets, if you are a ‘consenting adult’, because it’s “all in a good cause”.

If, like me, you do not pass on the e-mail, the social site posting, or the series of photographs, you are labelled an old sourpuss with no sense of humour.

Being ‘aware’ of breast cancer does not mean you will never get it. It does not mean you are free to compare and contrast photographs, either.

What it does mean is knowing that there are many other types of cancer. It means cooking a meal for a family that has one member so stricken, and offering to look after the children during those interminable hospital visits or stays…

It means getting the patient – male or female – something nice, which they would not think of getting themselves, or cannot be bothered to do so… because they know they might be going to die soon.

The Prisoner

Hey, you, out there; you think you know everything, but you are misinformed.

Just because you watch re-runs of Prisoners, or the dubbed version of Santa Monika, you don’t even begin to know what life is like behind bars.

Oh yes, the dramas about favouritism, butches and Nellies, and physical and psychological violence do exist. The script-writers have to provide colourful back-stories to explain why the motley assembly of actresses portray us inmates. But when the cameras stop rolling, your pin-up girls go home to their hot cocoa and more.

Nobody tells us to take five; if we act up, they just remind us that solitary is only a warden’s whim away. To the blazes with human rights; we signed them away when we broke the law.

Only one more day to go.

Six months ago, we’d got a new librarian. Right place, wrong time? Or was it wrong place, right time? She seemed to be harbouring a secret.

I was like that, once. A quarter of a century ago. Except that then, I had been pregnant. The father of my child told me that he had only seduced me because his pals had dared him to do so. He said that I flattered myself to think that he would really fall for Miss Goody Two-Shoes (oh, how that jibe hurt!).

There was no one else, he said; it was just that he did not want to be bogged down with a partner and child. In those days, you did what your parents told you to do. Dad made me go to Gozo to an aunt’s house. My child was, as they told me, stillborn.

I wanted to prove myself. I went to University and got a first class degree, a Master’s and then a doctorate while still working, hell-bent on erasing my sorry past. All along, I wrote as if my life depended upon it – perhaps it did. My pot-boilers, under a different name, kept me in clover. People would be shocked to know that the same person who wrote textbooks and treatises also authored hardcore erotica.

On his deathbed, my father confessed. My child had not died; she was given up for adoption to a couple who would have gone their separate ways had it not been for his intervention. An Elestoplast child, go figure. He said I ought to count myself lucky that my child was, as he crassly put it, sold into a better life than I could ever give her. That is when I lost it. The judge said he could not understand why I was such an ingrate; after all, my father had acted to the best of his ability. He had saved me from the stigma of single parenthood, and my child from the shame of having “unknown father” on her birth certificate. I had to be restrained. My sentence was harsher because I had shown contempt of court.

I kept writing throughout my stretch. The academia was easy to get past the guards. Anything else required a battle plan.

Our new librarian had probably been warned about me; I noticed she gave me several wary sideleye glances as she pushed the tray with books along the common room floor. So I gained her trust little by little; and discovered she was familiar with my educational works and boy, was she impressed! I did not mention my pen name, lest I scare her off.

We became friends; and I know she’s going to miss me when I leave, tomorrow. Her eyes are aquamarine with golden flecks. Just like her father’s.

Be My (Chinese) Valentine!

ONCE upon a time, as all good stories go, on the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar (July 30th in North America and July 31st in China in the year 2006), the seven daughters of the Goddess of Heaven were visiting Earth and caught the eye of a Cowherd called Niu Lang.
Niu Lang’s parents had died when he was a toddler; he lived with his elder brother and his wife, cruel, mean-spirited people who treated him as a serf. She was even worse than Joe’s wife in “Great Expectations”, and that’s saying something.
Kept on a starvation diet, for which, moreover he had to work really hard, he suffered. Eventually, they – or rather she – decided he was not earning his keep, and kicked him out of the abode, with nothing but the clothes on his back and one scrawny ox.
He constructed a tiny thatched cottage on the side of a mountain, and created a vegetable garden out of the rocky soil, sharing the produce with his pet. One day, the ox talked. It insisted it used to be Taurus, the proudest star. Taurus had committed the heinous crime of stealing in the night sky. He had violated the law of the Heavenly Palace by stealing cereal grains to give to Man; and he was banished to Earth as an ox.
Like many other young ladies in many other legends, the seven sisters had gone bathing in a river. The ox had told the man that, if he took away the silk robes of the maidens, the one of them whom he would glimpse naked would be his wife.
The youngest, daintiest, kindest, most virtuous, and prettiest daughter, Zhi Nu, the Girl Weaver, (who wove rainbows and clouds to beautify the world) took the short straw, and was delegated to ask for their clothes back. Their eyes met and it was the proverbial love at first sight. And as tradition would have it, since he had glimpsed her naked, they were duty bound to wed and, because the husband was mortal, take up residence on the planet rather than in the sky. This was a marriage that was frowned upon by the gods.
Zhi Nu raised silkworms, and made sure there was enough to give her exquisite silks and satins, much sought-after throughout the land. Three years later, Zhi Nu gave birth to twins, a boy, Gold, and a girl, Jade.
After some time, however, the Goddess of Heaven decided that a broken family would not do, and was adamant that the daughter should return to her.
One day, Niu Lang came back from the field to find his children sitting on the ground, crying, because an old lady had kidnapped their mother away.
Niu Lang remembered that shortly before dying, the old ox had told him that its hide would enable a man to fly. He placed the children in wicker baskets on a yoke, put on the magic hide, and flew up to the sky. But the Queen heard the crying of her grandchildren, and the game was up.
She waved her arms and created a river between them. But eventually she had pity on the separated couple, with the upshot being that, just once a year, the couple would be reunited.
Qi Qiao Jie, the day that is The Seventh Eve or the “seventh night of the seventh moon” is when magpies make a wing-bridge for Zhi Nu to flit across and meet her husband.
The Legend of the Fairies
There is, however, another legend that purports to indicate the origins of this Chinese Valentine’s Day equivalent. This festival is also known as the Seven Sisters’ Festival or the Festival of the Double Sevens.
Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were fairies, who, as luck would have it, lived on diametrically opposite sides of the Milky Way. The Jade Emperor of Heaven, saddened at their plight decided to do something about it.
Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, so to speak, were in the seventh heaven to be together, with stars in their eyes – but they began shirking their duties. So Jade Emperor ruled that henceforth, the couple could only meet once a year – on the seventh night of the seventh moon.
Look to the Stars
It is the done thing to celebrate Qi Qiao Jie by gazing up at the star Vega (the maiden who weaves), east of the Milky Way, representing Zhi Nu, and at the star Altair (cowherd) in the constellation Aquila, on the west side of the Milky Way, the place Niu Lang waits for his lover to join him. The two stars, Alshain and Tarazed, next to the Altair, are the Cowherd’s two children.
On a more mundane level, people in love like to go to the Matchmaker Temple. Single girls look to the Waving Maid star to help them become “smart”. When Vega is in the sky, they try to place a needle horizontally on a bowl of water. If the meniscus does not break, the girl will be savvy enough to find a partner within a year. This test, however, may only be done once annually. Other customs involves decorating an ox’s horns with flowers, and tying coins with a red thread to hang around the neck of children under sixteen years of age as a protective amulet in the tradition of Chiniangma (“Seven Mothers”).
Women traditionally wash their hair on the eve of this festival, to have it clean and fresh on the day, whereas children are supposed to wash their face in the dew collected overnight, for inner and outer beauty. Young ladies throw the five-color ropes, made at Chinese Dragon Boat festival, on the roof for the magpies to use, if they need help with the bridge.
Chinese woman who are seeking to become pregnant think that this is the best time of the year to plead with Chusheng Niangniang, the Goddess of Birth, who could well be an avatar of the Weaving Maid or any of her sisters.

The colours of Christmas


Deck the halls with boughs of holly… And indeed, a surfeit of green and red fills many homes during Christmas time, rather as if no other colours existed.

Strictly speaking, no one who subscribes to the Feng Shui school of thought would go for red and green as the first choice of colours for home decorations at Christmastide; they would probably pick a light blue and cream, and pastel hues, for a calming atmosphere.

Be that as it may, red and greed still reign supreme in most homes during this season – for tradition’s sake as well as for other reasons. Indeed, the combination of red and green is what is usually understood by the term “Christmas colours”.

Green, of course is life. Transmuted to the Christian ideology, the greenery with which we decorate our homes symbolises eternal life…. despite that fact that most plants in use at Christmastide were held sacred to pagan deities.
Red, to the Christian, symbolises the blood of the Lord. To the more profane, it is the colour of Santa’s suit, and the berries on the holly…

In Feng Shui, red is used for many purposes – against listlessness, to alleviate respiratory tract conditions, to boost physical energy, physical strength, power and self-confidence. It is also associated with change, and the power of transformation.

Red also increases the appetite. This is something restaurant owners know full well – they have red tablecloths, because this also has the effect of making diners leave the place (leaving room for other diners) when they are satiated, because when the plates are cleared away they will not like facing a great amount of “simply red”.

However, some people associate red with the fire that wreaks havoc – and people find that more quarrels begin in rooms that have red walls, than in any other. Too much red, indeed, agitates some people to the point of violence.

Red is the stimulating, hot colour that invigorates the root chakra, and the circulatory system – apart from being the colour of desire and passion and blood disorders. It links to our basic needs of survival and security and is the colour of passion and desire.

In the typical minimalist fashion, therefore, with red it is good to remember that less is more. You wouldn’t want tempers to flare because you overdo the red bunting and bows.

Red must not be allowed to insinuate itself into the home with the excuse that you are ‘merely decorating’. Red demands attention and this is a time when you must be aware of the people in your home, and not the objects.

Green is the colour of balance, harmony, love, and self-control. If used judiciously, it will relax the muscles, thoughts, and nerves of the people in the environment. Green is unconditional love that balances the being, and makes for goodwill towards all mankind, because green governs the heart chakra.

Most Feng Shui practitioners will recommend placing something green near the windows that open onto a natural view, such that they unite the interior with the exterior, by making a part of the frame, hence the margins, of the window indistinct.

Green is a very versatile colour, ranging from the yellow-suffused lightest hues which convey a sense of freshness, to darker ones such as khaki green which make for relaxation and conversation. In Feng Shui, green is associated with feelings of happiness, fulfilment and self-reliance.


Branching Out

Sunday, December 13, 2009, 12:05

The Christmas Tree has nothing to do with Christmas. It is merely a pagan tradition dating from when people revered evergreens as symbols of sexual prowess, fertility, and reproduction. Today’s Christmas tree is the direct descendant of “Yggdrasil”, the Great Tree of Life Norse mythology.

To Vikings, evergreens were reminders that Winter would be banished by Spring. Druids venerated the oak, which they adorned with fruits and candles as harvest-time approached. Romans placed candles, metal objects and lucky charms on their trees during their Saturnalia festivals. Indeed it is said that this custom begat the modern one of placing gifts beneath the tree.

Later, in non-Christian homes in mainland Europe, trees were set up as temporary domestic winter-season idols. Eventually, even Christians in Germany would have decorated trees inside their homes. If evergreen trees could not be had for love or money, the alternative was a pyramidal wooden structure to which branches were attached. Candles were placed on the branches.

Does anyone remember the commotion that ensued when last year, in the town of Armonk, New York, an Islamic star and crescent as well as a menorah were placed by the town’s Christmas tree? This was not called a “politically correct” gesture, but an “all-inclusive” one.

This year, it may be worthwhile introducing a new twist to the tale by combining a “traditional” tree with some Feng Shui principles in order to make it a pleasing addition to the Christmastide home-scene, rather than a flashy must-have that means nothing except an excuse to show off baubles and trinkets.

Feng Shui aims to create balance and good fortune. Here, we will just ‘customise’ Feng Shui tree decorations for aesthetic, interior décor purposes, since there are some time-honoured knick-knacks that also fit into the Feng Shui mould.

When you decide to decorate the tree, it may appear easier to get it over and done with while the children are still asleep. Yet doing this together will provide memories for years to come, and despite the frayed nerves this exercise may entail, it will contribute to tranquillity within the family… eventually!

Feng Shui Meaning of Christmas Tree Ornaments:

Angels – God’s protection and miracles
Apple – Good health and peace
Bells – Peace and harmony
Bird – Happiness and good news
Candles – Unselfishness and brightness Carousel Endless joy and happiness
Cat – Money luck and to attract affection
Champagne – Celebration and party time
Cherubs – Goodwill and tranquillity Chimney Sweep Good Luck – sweeping away the bad luck
Cow – Wishes coming true and a comfortable life
Dog – Faithful friend and ally Dove Purity and peace through the year
Fish – Blessings with food all year round
Flower – Beauty and good fortune
Frog – Good luck in business Fruit Generosity and goodwill
Gold – coins Prosperity
Grapes – Friendship and abundance
Heart – True love and romance
House – Shelter and support
Owl – Wisdom and intelligence
Pig – Wealth and good fortune
Pine – Cone Motherhood and longevity
Rabbit – Hope and security
Rose – Madonna and Beauty
Santa – Goodwill and presents
Sheep – Devotion and loyalty
Snowman – Patience and loving energy
Star – God’s Guidance
Stork – Fruitfulness and fertility
Tea / Coffee Pot – Hospitality
Teddy Bear – Companionship

Teens, Thugs and Taunts

Monday, January 23, 2012, 16:29


A penny will hide the biggest star in the Universe if you hold it close enough to your eye. Samuel Grafton, liberal newspaper columnist and  author of the syndicated column I’d Rather Be Right was a wise man, bless his soul.

He could have written the above sentence about the hullaballoo surrounding the recent attack on a young lady, some days ago, as reported in this newspaper: .

I gave up reading the comments after the first clutch – and I think I am safe to assume that the rest of them harped on the same issue – that “Amy is a lesbian and she was beaten up because of that”.

Alas, we are missing the wood for trees. Before this simplistic Q.E.D., there are several other factors to consider.

The attack happened at 7.30 p.m. – a time when the area is teeming with people. Is it possible that not one of the layabouts always watching the world go by from the square and its peripheral areas, including a couple of bars, or all the people who happened to be passing by, did not deign to run to the Hamrun police station?

For those who are not familiar with the area – this is just a stone’s throw away from where this incident happened.

The newspaper report tells us that there were four girls in the group, two of whom were set upon by a pair of brothers. How did the two girls who were not attacked react? Did they run away? Or did they put up a fight on the premise that since they outnumbered the boys, they could at least inflict some damage, or at least damage control? Logic tells me that if two of them had clambered on the boys’ backs, the ruffians would not have been as capable of beating up the girls. Instinct, if not a knowledge of self-defence tactics or a yen for self-preservation, might have made all the difference.

Did the girls not seek to protect themselves by tooth and nail? Or at least, did they not scream to attract attention before trying to run away from their tormentors?

Again, I have to ask – is it possible that not one of the persons present sought to defend Amy and her friend after the first blow was struck, or were they too afraid of being dragged to court as potential witnesses?

We have heard atrocious stories of hate campaigns and suicides – and, I hasten to add, these cases have not always centred on the sexual orientation of a person. Bullies will always find something about which to harass others.

Yet it is understandable that the pro-homosexual movements would use this as a poster case. Will any of them – or even the Police Department itself – sue the perpetrators in Amy’s name, even if she decides not to pursue the matter herself?

There is another point that people are not considering.

The fact that someone feels he has a “right” to invade the personal space of someone else, and moreover, beat up this person, whatever the reason, shows that there is something drastically wrong in the way justice is meted out in our courts.

A teen who picks pockets because he has to fend for himself, is sent to prison. A teen who turns to prostitution or steals because she thinks it is the only way to go, would be likewise penalised.

But teens who go around terrorising others could well get away with a slap on the wrist…unless the people who have anything to do with it realise that Amy could have been their daughter.

I do not make any reference to the excuse for this beating, as evidenced by the boys’ spiteful words, on purpose. The motivation for it could run much deeper than a mere hatred for people with a different lifestyle from the one embraced by the muggers. Yobs beat up people for many reasons – theft, dares, racism, emulating action heroes, love affairs gone awry… or simply boredom.

Who’s to know what was really inside the minds of these self-styled heavies when they assaulted Amy and her friend, despite what they were reported to have said?

All I want is to see Amy’s rights, as well as those of people who become victims of hooligans for any reason, respected. There are no excuses; the victims and the attackers (as well as the place from where the verbal taunts began) have been identified; the bruises and cuts have been recorded on film.

Prevention is better than cure – and if this case is used as a deterrent, we might have less crime on the streets, literally and figuratively.




Naked Ambition

Oh, the irony of it all.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were presented with beautiful traditional Solomon Island necklaces – by a bevy of bare-breasted women.

Kourtney Kardashian gave birth in front of cameras and actually pulled out Penelope with her own hands, in front of her family… and anyone who is besotted enough with the exhibitionist family to watch their show… just as people like Paris Hilton managed to garner an audience of millions by cavorting in front of the cameras.

Fred Willard got arrested for lewd conduct while watching  a three-film loop in an adult cinema, and Kate Middleton’s second cousin once removed, burlesque artiste Katrina Darling makes the best of her royal connections and flaunts her body (and tasteless tattoos) all over the place.

Nicole Richie wore a dress with a top made up of hundreds of little leatherette leaves – but there were not enough of them to cover her cleavage, and  Scarlett Johansson boasted that she knows her “best angles” when someone posted pictures intended for then-husband Ryan Reynolds.

The soap opera Hollyoaks introduced a post-watershed spin-off called Hollyoaks Later where the action gets hot…and of course, Lady Gaga wore a burka decorated with raccoon tails to generate a different kind of interest, or, perhaps, to hide her poker face.

What is it with this obsession about the bodies and bodily functions of other people?  Why is it that the bodies of the British Royals that have the chattering classes… well, chattering.

There was the incident where Prince Harry’s nether regions were revealed to all and sundry – or at least to those who wanted to see why what happened in Las Vegas did not stay there.

There was the infamous God Save The Queen incident where 91-year-old Prince Philip, wearing a kilt for the Gathering for the Highland Games in Scotland, appeared to be following tradition.

Now there is the spate of magazines embroiled in the “publish and be damned” attitude that comes with the knowledge that any subsequent court fees will be peanuts when compared to the income from the number of copies sold, and outdone by the amount of publicity the  rags garner,. And there is always the possibility that the Palace will accept an out-of-court settlement, as tends to happen.

I would be the last one to say that paparazzi have the divine right to hound and haunt people. To me, privacy is a holy issue; I take my own and that of others very, very seriously.

However – and this is a big however – I cannot see from where people who have their privacy invaded in a way that could have been avoided, get the idea that they have been wronged.

A private holiday is supposed to be just that.  That is why we use the terms “inaccessible island” “secluded chateau” and “isolated love-nest”. But when zoom lenses enter the fray, a home is not a castle.

However, in the short time I spent on the broadcast media, I was taught that we should treat every mike as live, and every camera as taking us.  Old wives reminds us that “if you want to keep a secret, keep it to yourself”.

On the same principles, if you don’t want hacks to photograph you in compromising positions, please get naked behind the  curtains, and do not let anyone suck your toes when  there are other people around… especially if you are a Royal – or married to someone other than the person with who you are mucking about.

If you do, and someone finds a market for the inevitable photographs, you can say that you are saddened, and issue all the scathing press releases you want; the damage would have been wrought. Whether it is in the local blogosphere or mainstream media, on in an international magazine or newspaper, you may be sure that the escapade will find an audience if it is published or broadcast.

Peeping Toms are not just dirty old men in even dirtier raincoats armed with binoculars. They exist in offices and shop floors; on committees and in the street.

I do not consider myself a “public person” – yet if I go to a restaurant with a friend, I lose count of the people who stare at me in quasi-recognition. If my friend happens to be someone whose face is more familiar, people’s heads tend to go like Ping-Pong balls. It is as annoying as it is unjustifiable; no wonder some people wear wigs and sunglasses when they go to Sliema or Valletta (but their voices and mannerisms give them away).

That having been said, there are several people – politicians, models, media personalities, actors – who thrive on the attention of others.  It is so obvious that some of them actually stage their “wardrobe malfunctions” and “trysts”.  There are people like Carly Rae Jepsen, who describe themselves as “victims of hackers”.

The question begs itself – why do you have hours of sex-tape type footage, and stashes of X-rated pictures of yourselves and others on your telephone or computer, if you know there is the possibility however remote, that someone will hack you, filch them, and place them online – even if it’s not for money?  It is, by the way, even more possible and plausible that an ex-lover or ex-friend will post this pornography out of revenge.

Damage Control will often have a Streisand Effect.

The invasion of privacy of the Royals has been called grotesque, as well as “a service to readers”. It inevitably harkened back to the hounding of Princess Diana.  Royals are considered ‘interesting’ in the ordinary course of things, and even more so  if they wear sticking plasters with cartoon characters, or if they  go to a gym or purchase sweets from a shop ‘like commoners’. So it stands to reason that scenes that are considered racy would garner a far wider audience.

As long as there is a market for this material, it will continue to be produced, and flogged…not necessarily to the highest bidder.