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Monday, June 30, 2003


BOLLYWOOD CALLING

Browsing in the video store today, I was startled by Rajnikanth's ugly mug peering out at me from the shelves. ( For those readers who are not Indian, Rajnikanth is a very lowbrow action star from Southern India. I think I could best describe him as a sort of Indian Jean-Claude Van Damme, except he makes Van Damme look like Robert Redford. He used to be a bus conductor on a Bangalore bus, which really tells you everything you need to know about him). Most Indian video stores don't have Rajnikanth movies, so what is he doing here in Tokyo? Further browsing turned up several more Rajnikanth videos, an Aishwarya Rai movie, and a beautiful boxed and embossed set of Satyajit Ray's Apu trilogy. Curiouser and curiouser.

Japanese video watchers seem to be very sophisticated in their tastes. There's not much variety on offer, but the store has an amazing range of arty movies, ranging from Wim Wenders and David Lynch to Stanley Kubrick and Bernardo Bertolucci. So how does this square with their love for Rajnikanth and their obsession with David Beckham, surely the biggest prat to emerge from England? Metropolis personal ads these days seem to all begin with " Beckham look-alike seeks hot J-babe..." I am often surprised by the personalities I see peddling Japanese products. I can understand why they chose Beckham to peddle Meiji chocolate ( It is such nasty stuff it needs him desperately), but why pick Twiggy to promote a Japanese bank and Ewan McGregor to push English classes?


Saturday, June 28, 2003


PRADA EPICENTRE

What do you get the man who has everything? How about a Prada tape measure at only Y 33,000. Or a triangle (the kind architects use), a steal at Y77,000. I got a glimpse of how the beautiful people live yesterday, when I went to see the swank new Prada store in Aoyama. No, I haven’t suddenly become a fashion victim; I thought it could feature in the “Cool Tokyo” series I am writing for Tokyo Q. There’s been a great deal of buzz about the building, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and Maure in a very un-Swiss fashion. Apparently the store is called a Prada Epicentre. A very unfortunate term to choose in an earthquake region, I think!

The building is eye-catching, if nothing else. You can see some pix and read some rather pompous commentary here. Metropolis magazine describes it a “fat leg in a fishnet stocking", a really good description. The glass on the outside of the building is very thick; it looks like the coke bottle lenses you see on very myopic people. Inside, it’s like entering a space capsule. White plasticky walls, white carpets ( already looking rather grubby), plexiglass display cases, white ponyskin seating, headless mannequins and granite benches. All very retro in an Austin Powers meets Alien sort of way. There are all sorts of nooks and crannies, and I wandered around feeling like one of those lost space cadets about to meet some nasty blue alien.

I spent more time looking at the interiors and the knickknack section ( toolsets, backgammon sets, puzzles, hip flasks) than at the clothes or bags. I have never been one for designer clothes; I only like to buy clothes in places where the salespeople are dressed worse than I am. That rules out most places in Tokyo except for Uniqlo and Gap. I also hate the way designer stores never display the price tags clearly. I had to ferret around trying to find the tags, and the salespeople seemed to choose that moment to appear and look down their noses. Obviously it is the kind of place where if you need to know the prices, you can’t afford it. They did have some very covetable red and green bags, but carrying a designer bag seems extravagant for someone like me who works at home and carries lollipops, cookies and juice boxes in her purse at all times.

On the way out, I noticed there were black granite benches outside as well, just in case you needed to sit down and admire the building. Or in case you come over all wobbly after spending your rent money on a leather keyring.


Thursday, June 26, 2003


FAST CAR

I tend to take comfort where I can find it these days. Today I am taking comfort in the fact that two of my current favourite essayists, David Sedaris and Marion Keyes, cannot drive. ( For those of you who don't know me, neither can I). Obviously driving saps your creativity and humour. This is a Rule. Personally, I think it should no longer be O.K to make fun of people who can't drive, just as it is no longer O.K to make fun of people who are too fat , too short or differently abled. I can't help it any more than they can. I may have opposable thumbs, but in all other respects my motor skills are still several rungs below the rest of you on the evolutionary ladder. I should be admired for even tying my shoelaces, not ridiculed as I often am.

David Sedaris solved this problem by hitchhiking through America, and then living in cities with good transport systems. I have managed to live in cities with good transport systems so far, but since I move countries every couple of years, I think I may run out of them fairly soon. But if I hold out for another 14 years, Maya can drive me around.


Tuesday, June 24, 2003


PLEASE MR POSTMAN

I know I should be working on prettying up my blog, but today I had the kind of Japan experience that makes me want to check myself into an ashram somewhere in the Himalayas. I am putting it down in the hope that someday, years from now, I will read this and laugh.

It should have been a simple enough task: mailing some photos for one of my articles. But, since the photos were rather amateurish, I decided I wanted to look professional by putting them in a padded envelope. I went to the stationery shop, which had lots of padded envelopes. All of them had pink hearts, Hello Kitties and bunnies on them. Not quite the professional image I wanted. I decided to try at the post office, and things went rapidly downhill.

I had looked up envelope in my phrase book, but I had no idea how to tell them I wanted a padded envelope. I pride myself on my Marcel Marceau miming skills,and I don't embarass easily. In the past, I have mimed my way towards procuring a pregnancy kit in Bangkok, an earthquake kit in Tokyo, and vegetarian food in Beijing. ( As you can guess, I have no language skills whatsoever!) But how do you mime padding? After much gesticulation on my part, and smiling and bowing on theirs, the counter staff pointed me in the direction of the stationery shop. Their mouths said "Doumo arrigato" but their eyes said "Baka gaijin!"

Back I went to the stationery shop, where I tried to plead with them to show me something less kawaii. I could tell they thought I was way too picky. "This indojin thinks she's too good for Hello Kitty-san!"After much rummaging, they finally brought out a padded envelope with candy pink stripes. I took it, and rushed back to the post office, where the poor lady tried to scuttle away when she saw me. By this time, forty-five minutes had passed, and it was time to pick Maya up. But I was not going to leave without getting those photos off. I crammed them into the envelope, and handed them to the cowering lady. Then I ran like the wind, feeling like I had climbed Everest. Without oxygen.

There are two unwritten Rules for living in Japan. The first is to learn Japanese. I don't think it would have made much difference here though. I could have learnt Japanese everyday for a year and never learned the word "padded". And my landlady, despite being Japanese, claims that she can't understand the instructions for my answering machine. So this Rule does not always apply in tight situations.

The second solution is: If you can't fix it, forget it. This Rule always applies. So I will.


Monday, June 23, 2003


BLOGGONE IT

I am going to take a break from blogging for a few days and try to improve the look of my blog. I think you only get regular visitors if you have a snazzy blog with nice colours, photos and graphics.How else can one explain why so few visitors visit Karla's marvellously perceptive and funny blog on Japan and its vagaries, Confessions of a grade-school teacher?
Since the new version of Blogger leaves me even more baffled than the old one did, it may take a while before my blog wins any beauty contests. I am always reluctant to read manuals, and much prefer to plunge right into the battle. This is why the typeface on my blog keeps changing, strange spaces keep appearing and why the colours are so blah. This is also why I still don't know how to delete the messages on my mobile phone or operate my VCR. While Sanjeeb is never happier than with a good thick manual by his side, with plenty of charts and diagrams. I also don't follow recipes, and he always does, down to the last teaspoon. I think this says something about gender differences, but I am not sure what.

I suppose I had better read the Blogger manual.

Sunday, June 22, 2003


OGREAT!

In a previous post, I lamented about how Maya is currently obsessed with princesses, getting married and turning into a mini-Stepford wife. But perhaps there is hope on the horizon. This week, I had finally had it with the simpering helpless Disney princesses, so I let her watch Shrek. And, strangely enough for someone who has always wanted to marry Prince Eric ( smarmy Ken-doll hero in The Little Mermaid) she now adores ugly old Shrek. Most of the humour goes over her head, and Mike Myers' great Irish accent and Donkey's blathering is lost on her, but she does seem to get the general idea.

I thought she might be revolted by the scene in which Fiona imitates the warbling Disney heroines by singing at the top of her voice with a bird trilling beside her, then the bird explodes in a puff of feathers. Or the even worse ( or better, depending on which way you look at it) scene where Shrek and Fiona blow up a frog and a snake to make balloons. But she lapped it up. Now I have a new worry: am I teaching her to torment animals for amusement? Will she turn into the sort of kid who pulls wings off flies and tortures cats when she is older?
I think it still beats hanging around pining for a prince.

Friday, June 20, 2003


IRIS FESTIVAL

This blog was really meant to chronicle my travels in Japan, but sickness in the family, a heavy workload and the truly awful weather have conspired to keep me chained to my desk. Yesterday I did manage to break away long enough to see the Iris festival at the Meiji Shrine, a very impressive Shinto shrine in the heart of Tokyo. You enter through a massive cypress torii ( gateway), supposed to be more than 1700 years old, though the shrine only dates back to 1920.

The garden was full of dainty little old ladies with hats and parasols bigger than themselves, looking like elves carrying toadstools. Also little old men with high-tech camera lenses bigger than themselves, and painters sitting in front of their easels while us tourists looked over their shoulders. I felt like a goblin in an Enid Blyton story, tiptoeing through Jingle Dell spying on the little denizens. The irises were spectacular, 1500 or so of them massed together in a glorious spread of purple. ( Yes, I am sorry again for not being able to put up photos, and for forcing you to resort to your imagination. The shrine link above has some hazy photos)

What I like best about Japanese gardens is the way the landscapers very cleverly don't let you see everything at once. Every bend in the path brings a completely different vista. So you walk along a winding path, flanked by dense cedars, glimpsing a flash of purple ahead. Full of anticipation, you turn the corner, and come to yet another stream filled with lotuses and fat koi carp, some as big as your arm. And finally when you get to the irises, you notice another intriguing path ahead, leading to a delightful teahouse/lookout point. The only drawback is that like so many of Japan's beauties- the cherry blossom, the wisterias in Shinjuku gyoen, the flaming maple trees- the irises are very shortlived. Most were already wilting under the rain, and by next week, they will be gone, along with the camera clicking elves.


Wednesday, June 18, 2003


HAPPINESS IS A TALKING COFFEE

I was rereading Pico Iyer's sometimes- marvellous-sometimes-ludicrous travelogue "The Lady and the Monk" when I was struck by a passage on bizarre slogans in Japan. "Sometimes the objects here seemed more animated than the people," says Iyer. Anyone who has spent more than a few days in Tokyo will have noticed the baffling messages on practically everything from soda cans to T-shirts, and lots of Japan blogs have mentioned really funny ones. But I decided to find my own and not pinch anyone else's. These are ones I noticed on my 10 minute walk home from the subway station, so you can imagine how many I could find if I really tried.

Objects really do have distinct personalities here. There are:

Perky, bubbly ones: Seen on a Sara Li soya bean drink "The beverage that makes everyday feel Sara Sara. Begin a SaraSara life."

Raunchy ones: Seen on Nudy cologne. "You are holding a hot object for your everyday life." Also on Fire and Ice coffee "Standard coffee with NAKED beans."

Attention grabbing ones: Seen on Gravel chocolate, "Watch out! Try to eat it. It is nice, isn't it?"

Promise you the world ones: On Beauty shape Viga tights "Your wish will come true with Viga."

Bossy ones: Seen on Suntory Boss coffee. "Suntory boss is the boss of them all since 1920."

Informative, earnest ones: Seen on Tea Rela, "People who are conscious of their health recognise tea as a natural drink."

Mystifying ones: Seen on Lion Toothpaste, "Breath communication etiquette."

Rebellious ones: Seen on Geraid Mousse, "Claim of being wild and beautiful? Can't stand being just like any other guy. Make your hair and skin beautiful."

Which raises a question. If they can come up with creative English slogans like these, why can't they tell us if it is a shampoo, a conditioner or hair wax? I have lost count of the number of times I have come home with what I think is liquid soap only to find it is shampoo, conditioner or toilet cleaner!

Iyer is right though. These slogans make every visitor to Japan an amateur sociologist. I am now intrigued enough to go out looking for T-shirt slogans.



Tuesday, June 17, 2003



WE DON'T NEED NO EDUCATION

It is true what they say; kids just don't learn anything in school these days, except to cheek their elders. I was teaching Maya to play Snap, when she got a little annoyed by the steep learning curve. "You are a lazy houseworker and a bad-tempered goose," she barked. True, true, I must admit, but do I really need to hear this from a three-year-old? Then she decided to put the cards away by pretending to be a dog and picking them up between her teeth. "Where did you learn that?" I asked. "At school," she said.

Is this what I pay them US$ 1000 a month for? To turn my child into a badly-trained puppy? Pink Floyd were right.


BIG CHIEF CURRY-IN-A-HURRY


Still on matters culinary, Sanjeeb was in a big depato ( Japanese department store) when he saw a can of instant curry-in-a-hurry masala. "Genuine Indian curry!" it boasted. Except the picture on the can was that of a very replete Red Indian ( or should we say native American these days?) Probably dreamed up by some confused descendant of Columbus.

In other good news, I finally broke the longest dry spell of my career and sold a story to Tokyo Q, a webzine on cool things and places in Tokyo. I will post it when it appears.


Monday, June 16, 2003


MADHUR JAFFREY, EAT YOUR HEART OUT

I didn't do anything exciting today; mostly picked up the weekend detritus. But I did have a minor culinary triumph. ( Well, I don't think one has a triumph, does one, but you know what I mean). I made Idlis, something I have been trying to make unsuccessfully for years. Idlis are a typical Southern Indian breakfast delicacy which every Southern Indian girl should know how to make. They also take about 16 hours to make. For years I have turned out rock hard, gooey, sticky, burnt and generally inedible idlis, driving my mom into a frustrated frenzy. This time, it was perfect. And even Maya, the pickiest eater around, ate six.

Here is how the high priestess of Indian cuisine, Madhur Jaffrey, describes idlis: "savoury but tart lentil and rice cakes." Sounds appetising, don't you think? And here is how she describes another of my favourite dishes, rajma: "whole unhulled kidney and urud beans." It makes me positively drool at the mouth.

But Madhur is not to blame, poor soul. I always crack up when I read the descriptions of Indian meals in restaurants and recipe books. It is so hard to describe the cuisine without it sounding like one of those crazy diets followed only by Hollywood starlets.

It also really annoys me that real Indian food is so rarely available in restaurants. Instead we get tandoori chicken, chicken kurma, and gloopy orange curries that all taste the same. When I go back to India for my month long summer holiday in July, my mom will cook me vegetarian Indian meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner without ever repeating the same thing twice. She really should be taking over from old Madhur.

Sunday, June 15, 2003



A VERY SELF-INDULGENT WEEKEND

We had a rather indulgent weekend. Usually, we do at least one kiddie related activity, but this weekend we used the sultry weather and the humidity to cry off. On Friday we broke open our piggy banks and went to see "Who's line is it anyway?" at the Punchline Comedy Club , a great comedy outfit which tours the region. I had already seen its performances in Hong Kong for half the price plus a great Indian dinner. Here we had to line up for half an hour to get cold pizza at Pizza Express, but a great time was had by all.

Most of the jokes don't bear repeating ( You really had to be there), but they did do a great Bollywood impression, "I wish to marry you, O beautiful princess, and then we will live happily ever after, but never kiss!" Also memorable was the guess- what- I- do game. Richard Vranch ( who is only the pianist after all) was forced to guess a profession while the other members gave him clues. The sadistic Tokyo audience members chose the profession: the guy who boils emu eggs in an onsen to make a sento tamago( apparently some sort of delicacy which I had never heard of). Vranch did guess it in the end, but I think it may have taken a few years off his lifespan.

Then today I went to see Chicago for the second time, dispatching Maya to the park with Sanjeeb. This time I picked an empty theatre where I could hum along and tap my feet to my heart's content. Rob Marshall's genius is more apparent the second time around; you can see how marvellously the real life and reel life scenes segue together. And I can never get enough of Catherine Zeta-Jones' and Queen Latifah's "shimmy shake". Renee Zellweger has the most hideous squint. She really ought to get it seen to. But this is really a musical for people who hate musicals: no sappy songs, no uplifting messages, no endless love bit. In short, just perfect.

Friday, June 13, 2003



UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL


I see Lisa has kindly put in a link to my site and said some wonderful things. I actually have visitors now. Thanks for dropping by and leaving comments. I should apologise for the very amateurish look of this site. I am hopeless at anything to do with computers, and often find myself more eager to blog than do something about the layout. It took me ages just to reduce my font size and add comments. But I have been promised an new computer this weekend, so photos should soon be up, and then I will have a go at putting up an About site and some other links.

I was going through the latest Metropolis ( a free Tokyo magazine), and chuckling over the personal ads as usual. Men looking for women don't get any weirder than the weird gaijins looking for mates in Metropolis. I often find myself turning to the personals before I read anything else. Here is a very bizarre one:

Good-looking London guy, rich comedy writer, seeks sexy volunteer to help count and sort over 600000000 pachinko balls. No time wasters please. Must send photo of yourself to reply. Looksnot important@doglover.com

What do you make of that? Lisa, I bet your inner editor is just dying to have a go. Mine certainly is. Why would a comedy writer want someone to count pachinko balls? Why would she have to be sexy? Surely the ability to count accurately would be more useful. After going on about her looks, why would he want to choose that email address?

I am so curious about this ad that I am considering replying. Only the fact that I still use my toes and fingers to do the simplest sums is stopping me.

Then there was another one seeking women with very smelly feet; no other requirements. ( Sadly, I can't remember his exact words). I can imagine he will be flooded with replies.

Then there are the insanely hopeful ones:

I saw you at Tower records in Shibuya. You wore a white T-shirt and had long brown hair. ( like half of Tokyo) I was the shy white guy with a baseball cap. You smiled at me. I think you are beautiful. Please call me.

Then there are some very racy ads, unsuitable for a family blog.

There's nowt as queer as folk, to borrow an expressive phrase.




Thursday, June 12, 2003


Arms and the Man

Last weekend Sanjeeb and I went to see an English play in Tokyo, something that happens so rarely that I think it deserves a post. One of the things I miss most about India is the theatre. When Sanjeeb and I were first married, we went to the Prithvi theatre practically every week, and saw plays ranging from Hamlet (The Prince of Denmark sounds even more wacko when speaking with a thick Indian accent) to one very weird Hindi production called Superman underwear bahar kyon pahantan hain? ( Why does Superman wear his underwear outside his pants?)

Last week's play was Shaw's Arms and the Man, by Intrigue Theatre a new company. I left grumbling about the 4000 yen tickets, and my temper was not improved when I arrived at the Akasaka Playbox and found it most aptly named. We were crammed together tighter than JR passengers during peak hours.

But the play was hilarious and the acting uniformly good. It was set in Bulgaria during World War I, and was about the futility of war. The cast included a Kurd who has appeared on the Poirot series and in a Pink Panther film, a British guy who has appeared on Eastenders, and a very beautiful ( and good) young Japanese-British actress who kept the male members of the audience suitably attentive.With such a motley crew, the accents were all over the place, and only one actress, a Venezuelan, managed to sound Bulgarian. I wondered if it was too much artistic license to have a Swiss character speak in a thick Geordie accent, but still had a great time. Halfway through the play one of the characters, supposedly a Russian soldier, burst into a flood of Japanese! For a moment I wondered if it was some strange Russian dialect, but it was all part of the director's master plan to adapt the play to local tastes.

Monday, June 09, 2003



The pursuit of cute

It is time I commented on a very peculiar ( at least to me) trait of the Japanese: their obsession with being kawaii (cute). Much has been written about this already. Japanwatchers galore have pontificated about how Japanese women try so desperately to be kawaii because they are not allowed to be anything else in this male dominated society, how this obsession is a symbol of all that's wrong with Japanese society, how Japanese men want their women to behave like fourteen year old schoolgirls... and so on.

I am too much of a neophyte to comment on the social implications of kawaii or what it says about Japanese society. The pursuit of kawaiiness ( for want of a better word) does hit you in the face everywhere you go though. My credit card, library card, doctor card , and various other cards all have bunnies, kitties, squirrels and assorted kawaii creatures on them. I did ask for something a little more adult, but the bank assured me I would not have to pay extra for bigger, better kawaii. It seemed churlish to refuse free woodland creatures. Every time I go to a toystore to pick up a little bribe for Maya, I have to fight off crowds of twenty something office ladies jostling for Winnie the Pooh ( puuh-san in japan, if you please), Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty junk. And then there are all the Bo-Peep and Lolita wannabes who cluster around Harajuku, wearing flouncy frilly pink skirts, braids, and long lacy stockings which would be too young for a five year old.

Most annoying is the kawaii fashion that has taken over all the clothing stores. It is virtually impossible to find a basic tee or skirt here. Everything is flounced, frilled, ruched and puff sleeved. And they come only in baby blue, candy pink, lemon yellow and mint green. They might look good on a newborn, or even on a manicured, lacquered, bleached and blonded Japanese woman, but not on me.

Obviously my low-maintenance, rough -around- the -edges look does seem to hold a weird sort of fascination for the Japanese though, because complete strangers keep asking if they can take photos of me. One of them accosted me in Yoyogi Park while I was lying on the grass covered with mud and leaves. The other made me pose on the subway with Maya, plastered with biscuit crumbs and juice stains. I hope this is not the same sort of fascination we encountered in Beijing while travelling with my father-in-law. We had crowds of people asking to take pictures of him, eyeing him like they might eye a Yeti or King Kong. I think the same theory might apply here. You can't bear to look at a road accident, but you can't bear not to look either.

Friday, June 06, 2003



What's in a name?


I am still not sure what to call this blog. It was "Round the world in six years" when I started out ten days ago, but I discovered a video shop called aroundtheworld on blogspot, so changed it. Then I came up with Journeywoman, which had a nice nomadic-adventurous- "I am woman..hear me roarrr!" ring to it. It is also the title of a great travel zine. Until Sanjeeb pointed out in his pedantic way that "journeyman" actually meant an employee. It has nothing to do with travelling at all. I knew this already, but now that someone has pointed it out, it seems a bit illiterate to call this blog "journeywoman."

I'd like to choose a name which conjures up my very bizarre mobile life ( living in four countries in six years). So far, we have global soul ( pretentious) , frequent flier ( not bad, I think) , travel junkie, living out of a suitcase ( too long), nomad ( dull) and so on.

Anyone have any suggestions? By the way, if you are wondering how to add comments, click on the purple Comments link right after my name at the end of this post.

Thursday, June 05, 2003


Tokyo's unsolved mysteries

Soaking in my bath last night, I pondered over some of Tokyo's unsolved mysteries, far more puzzling and of more interest to me than crop circles or the paranormal. Here they are:

(1) Why does the post office have to hire a man simply to stand outside and greet potential visitors? I walk past the post office four times a day on my way to drop Maya off at school, so I have thought long and hard about this. The man in question (whom I call Noddy-san because the poor gentleman is so bored he nods at every passerby) appears to have no other duties. He chatted with me once, and I noticed that he speaks very good English, so could he not lick the stamps?

(2) Why is it almost impossible to buy movie tickets in advance? For those not in Japan, I must explain that in order to see a movie, we first have to queue up to buy the tickets, then queue up for the seats. Its first come first served. So you could buy the tickets a day in advance, then still not get in because you were too late to get a seat.

(3) Why does Fox, virtually the only TV channel worth watching, insist on screening the same episode of the same serial at the same time for two successive nights? Are they perhaps thinking to themselves "Oh, that episode of The Practice yesterday was rather complicated; perhaps we need to show it again today so that people can make more sense of it the second time around?"

(4) How do all the tiny shops in my neighbourhood make a living? For instance, there's a hat shop selling only hats ( though very stylish ones), a shop called "Big Twin" selling Harley Davidson memorabilia, and one called "Silver Gungu in the Raw" apparently selling silver gee-gaws. I have never ever seen anyone entering these shops.

(5) Why do most Japanese schoolgirls have such fat legs? It seems like the shorter the skirt ( and they get positively tiny) the fatter the legs. And how do they miraculously slim down once they are office ladies?

(6) Who are the mysterious men driving trucks with a big cat painted on the side prowling around the neighbourhood every hour of the day? Are they cat burglars casing the joint, perhaps? ( couldn't resist that!) I solved this mystery recently when I realised they were the takkyubin ( delivery) men.

(7) What are those shiny scary forcep thingies in the beauty section of the combini? And the tissue items with a picture of a navel on the box? I solved this mystery recently too. Eyelash curlers and navel cleaners! Suddenly my navel feels grubby.



The Princess diaries

It's time I wrote something about Maya. Maya is going through a Princess phase at the moment. I say "phase", but it may well turn out to be an obsession. She spends most of the afternoon reading her Princess book, dressing up in long skirts and trying on her vast costume jewellery collection ( all from the 100 yen shop).She teeters around the house on her three inch Cinderella slippers. ( hideous white plastic with pink rhinestones) She has watched her Ariel video at least fifty times and can even sing most of Ariel's song. She refuses to wear trousers, not even her pyjamas. The other day I absent mindedly called her "baby" in front of her best friend and idol Alexandra, and she burst into tears, then punched me. "Don't say such stuff," she yelled, in her own lingo. "You have to call me princess." Of course, I grovelled and begged for forgiveness, like any commoner would in front of royalty.

So I think it may be safe to assume that we are stuck with those awful simpering Disney heroines for some time. Those of my friends without kids who are reading this will wonder why I let her watch Disney in the first place, or buy her dresses and jewellery. To them I say: just wait until you have kids and are desperate for half an hour in the bath, or a good natter on the phone. I bet you will be popping on Cinderella before I can say bibbadee, bobbadee boo.

I do try and introduce more positive role models. Ones who can save themeselves and don't pine for a prince, like Mulan. But ladies, would you want to watch a grubby teenager with bad hair and worse clothes trek through China with a bunch of men?

I will just have to wait until she grows out of it. Meanwhile, I am taking copious notes, hoping to embarass her when she is in her grunge phase ten years from now.


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