Archive | Weekend Magazine Columns

Don’t let life become a pain

Experts now reveal chronic pain can be ignored

I MET a former doctor last year through a friend of a friend who was giving me some information on the pain in my shoulder. Mysteriously, some people develop an awful condition called frozen shoulder. It can come at any age and hit anyone: the capsule around the shoulder joint contracts, making it excruciating to move or sleep on. The dreaded frozen shoulder can last one to two years, with no known cure other than surgery — which I elected not to have.

Knowing the man’s history, I didn’t think he’d have much sympathy. He’s an adventurer and a risk-taker. He jumps from planes, abseils down the steepest cliffs, goes trekking in jungles and sailing down remote rivers. It’s hard to whine to a person who you just know would suck snake venom out of their own leg and keep going. Continue Reading →


You can’t buy bliss

The Rinehart famly saga proves there’s no automatic bliss for billionaires

IN the wake of the Rinehart family brawl, it’s obvious to onlookers that there’s no correlation between money and happiness. While most of us ponder the thrill that can come from having trough- loads of moolah, and indeed of power, the cost can often be huge.

Australia’s wealthiest person Gina Rinehart’s three eldest children have launched very public, very bitter action against her in court. The family feud is over ownership of the trust set up by their grandfather, Lang Hancock, for his grandchildren.

In the 1980s I wrote a bestseller, The New Boy Network, about the rich and powerful who dominated our business scene. The premise of the book was that the subjects all came from immigrant backgrounds and were self-made millionaires and billionaires. Continue Reading →


Thinking Positive

Neuroscientists have discovered that if you want to break a  habit, stop trying to.

AN interesting thing happened recently. After two years of being over my desired body weight, I suddenly lost the weight very quickly. Of course, as the weight started falling off, I went to the doctor, who ordered all the mandatory tests. But I’m happily healthy.

So what happened? It’s a psychological phenomenon. There’s an old adage which is one of my favourites: ‘‘What we resist persists.’’ I had decided to go on a diet and a health kick. Which — as those who diet know — just puts on more weight. You are always going to ‘‘start tomorrow’’, which gives full licence to eat a lot today; and tomorrow never comes. And if it does then the feeling of deprivation hits so hard, you binge-eat. You ‘‘forget’’ to exercise because it’s hard carrying all that weight.

The attempted diet lasted two years. But then I gave it up.

So here’s what happened. I changed my goal. By going for something far bigger and more positive than losing weight, I stopped focusing and lost interest in the whole thing — thus not needing to eat to placate myself.

Let me explain. We develop an obsession when are trying to give something up. It becomes the whole focus of our being, making us feel powerless and out of control. Continue Reading →


Filthy hands make food hard to swallow

Filthy hands in juice bars to butchers make food and drink hard to swallow

THE other day I was thirsty, having walked for an hour in the boiling sun.

I pulled up at a gorgeous little cafe that promised freshly squeezed juices. It was just what my heart desired.

It was a quiet day so the owner was in the street having a conversation with friends and smoking a cigarette. Someone gave him money which he put in his pocket. He shook hands with another man; and while I waited at the counter he was picking up food and tissues from a table before he served me.

When I looked up from the newspaper on the bench, I saw him making the juice with the same filthy hands he had performed all those activities with — and I shudder to think what else. He was handling the fruit and putting it in the blender. I was almost sick but, having paid and being too hot and
bothered to argue, I just took the juice and threw it out. Continue Reading →


Going for what you want

Most are just too fearful to go for what we deeply want: passion, adventure, the creative or crazy life. We say no to opportunities out of fear.

I’VE just done a scriptwriting seminar with visiting Hollywood writer Michael Hauge on how to construct character and plot. The interesting thing is that when it comes to looking at the main character’s motivation, it could have been a lecture on psychology.

A story is like ordinary life. You take a character and you give them something they desire. An external goal: getting the girl; getting away from the small town; getting the loot; leaving the bad marriage or job. And always an outer obstacle — the other man; the bank security guards; the boss. But the most interesting thing is what Hauge said about internal goals. Continue Reading →



The annual Hoarding Conference was held recently in Sydney, but no one could find their car keys to come.

A FEW weeks before I went overseas in December, I made a pact with myself. I would go through all of the boxes I’d stuffed in my wardrobe and do a spring clean. Worse than the boxes in the cupboard are the boxes in the garage, because they contain clothes that need to be sorted so that most can be given to charity. I feel guilty every time I get into my car.

I also feel depressed when I go looking for something that lives in something, put somewhere, under something, and most probably inside of something else. Like my car insurance papers, in a file that never got returned to the filing cabinet, so it was put into a plastic bag which went into a box, which went into a cupboard of unknown location.

Continue Reading →



Mortality sill confounds me. If Davy Jones can die then what about the rest of us home coming queens?

THE other night we were flicking through the channels trying to find something to watch. We ended up on an old movie with Natalie Wood, who was once one of my favourite actresses. I felt so sad that she died young, and spent a moment reflecting on her brief life. We flicked again. There was Heath Ledger looking beautiful and fragile. Maybe it was because it was a Saturday night and there were so many old movies showing, but on our third try a young Burt Lancaster flashed on to the screen.

For my partner it was too much to bear. ‘‘Everyone’s dead!’’ he said, almost alarmed. For most people it never sinks in. We never get over the shock that people we love or admire die. The fact that actors and actresses are beautiful, famous and seemingly immune always fills us with more fear when they die, or get Parkinson’s like Michael J. Fox. We get a more acute sense of mortality breathing down our necks. Continue Reading →


The mighty pen

The power of the pen can be great when the unfairness of the world is too much to bear.

“Please missus, please pen,” cries a little boy amidst a throng of children all begging for pens and school books. But I’ve just run out.

I’m in the heart of Africa, in a village in Tanzania. Like many villages it’s wracked by poverty; no running water, no electricity. Malaria is rife. Though many children are now being educated, far too many lack the basics for school such as pens and note paper.

I’ve gone and bought a box of pens to give the kids. It cost me the equivalent of two dollars to buy 50 pens. And yet most parents can’t afford even this. I stand throwing pens into the crowd of anxious faces and clawing hands as my partner snaps photos. Later we will look at the photos in the safety of our hotel room and be shocked by the desperation.

Continue Reading →


Fear Bucket List

We should be out there doing the things we most fear before we die: A Fear Bucket List

I’m out at sea in a small boat shivering as if I were cold. But the wind is warm. It’s just fear. Ever since I was a little girl I’ve feared deep water. The reason is sharks. I grew up with a father obsessed with sharks. The story he told was that he watched a man taken when he was a boy. We grew up with posters on the walls of gaping jaws and a constant diet of shark films like Blue Water White Death and later Jaws 1, 2 and 3; with me at the drive-in hiding under the seat.

But on my recent trip Africa I made a pledge. I would tackle as many of my fears as was possible in a month. A “Fear Bucket List”. I’ve always believed a person can be summed up by the risks they’re prepared to take. One of my greatest fears is heights. Ladders make me queasy from the second rung up. But out in the middle of the great Serengeti plains I was offered the chance to go up in a hot air balloon to look down on elephants, lions and giraffes roaming wild. And so up I went, terrified but proud of myself.

Today is sharks. My partner wants to swim with whale sharks off the coast of Mozambique. Originally choosing to stay on the boat, I’ve listened to the pleadings of the dive instructor who assures me that this is “the experience of a lifetime”. Yes, there are dangerous sharks in the water, but they never swim with whale sharks. Thus we are quite safe as long as we stay next to the huge, gentle giants. So I decide to follow my motto: “Feel the fear and do it anyway”.

Continue Reading →



Are there really failed marriages and relationships or do we just change?

I met an interesting man while travelling in Africa. We stayed at his hotel on a remote island in Mozambique. It had been his dream to run a resort. His great passion is the sea. Before he built his hotel he did many jobs in different industries but would always retreat to the ocean in the evenings and on weekends, fishing for endless hours, scuba diving, and snorkelling.

One night over drinks he talked to me about his “failed” marriage. He said he was still grieving the loss of his wife and regular contact with the children. But he told me something that surprised me. “The problem was that she hated the sea. She wouldn’t even walk on a beach. She hated sand … We always fought about it.”

Strangely on the same trip I met a woman whose passion was surfing. Similarly, she had spent many years with a bookish intellectual who couldn’t understand her need to get up every morning and drive to the surf; accusing her of not loving him enough to stay in bed. Continue Reading →