Penelope Grundle is a life coach, New York Times best-selling author and twice-Editor of Australian Vogue. She is also NUPSA’s resident advice columnist, in accordance with the terms of her Community Service Order (Crimes [Sentencing Procedure] Act 1999).


 

Bon hiver, my little sparrows! There’s nothing I adore so much as winter: a time for rugging up and nestling down, and for sharing our warmth with each other, as the world shimmers and crystallises on each window and eyelash. Snow, in particular, is sublime – and all the rarer now, of course, since we’ve brought the Earth to a boil.

This year, Daryl Hannah has invited me to winter with her at her cottage on the coast of Nova Scotia, just an hour’s drive from Halifax. Though we’ve been dear friends for many years, I am, I confess, somewhat sceptical of her intentions. Two years ago, she took me yachting on what I later discovered was the Sea Shepherd; we spent several hours hunting a Japanese whaling boat before being unceremoniously boarded by pirates, and things took a decidedly unpleasant turn. And the year before that, what was meant to be a simple hiking trip ended with the two of us shackled to the Keystone Pipeline, fending off federal rangers with nary more than a canteen and gilded monocular.

I am (as you well know by now) an eternal supplicant of Nature and champion of all her wonders, but even I have my limits on occasions such as these. I do not enjoy having to carve my way through a horde of Indonesian pirates, detonate a small tanker and then subsist in a filthy inflatable for three days in wait of rescue. Nor do I savour having to dislocate my own arm to wriggle out of a set of iron chains because Daryl (in one of her ‘classic Daryl’ moments) misplaced her key in the middle of a firefight.

I’ll go, of course; Halifax is wonderful this time of year, and the salt air so invigorating. But I have made it abundantly clear to Daryl that, if she has any further ‘ecological adventures’ in the offing, I am to know about them well in advance. Friends to do not place friends in mortal peril, my children, or at least not without their consent.

Now then! What shall we talk about this month?

 

Dear Penny,

As my research keeps me so busy, I have very little time to keep abreast of current affairs, fashions and trends. I don’t want to seem boring and uncool on those rare occasions I do get to socialise, so I need you to hook me up. Penny, could you please tell me the things I need to know right now? As the epitome of style, I am sure you have some sage advice.

Sincerely,

Make Fetch Happen

 

Dear Fetch,

Oh my darling, I thought you’d never ask! And you flatter me, you really do.

In the modern age, trends of fashion and politics change as capriciously as the weather (and even that is now a matter of some contention), so I completely understand your dismay. But fear not: with respect for your busy schedule, here is a quick primer on the movements, arguments and styles that are currently HOT and NOT.

 

The planet: HOT. And getting hotter by the day, by all accounts. Climate change denial may have been in vogue a decade ago, but its only great proponents these days are ageing politicians, unscrupulous media magnates and avaricious billionaires – none of whom, I can tell you, are any fun at parties. (And none of whom will ever live in actual proximity to a coal-fired power station or contaminated river, while we’re on the subject.)

Common sense alone should tell them that harvesting the world’s forests, poisoning its soil, filling the ocean with plastic and the sky with toxic fumes will invariably have dire consequences for everyone, but then, ‘everyone’ has never been of much concern to these relics of the Industrial Age. So don’t be a denialist, darling: support our leafy Mother and all her glorious creations, and you’ll be very much on trend.

Swastikas: NOT. I must say, I have never understood the appeal of the Third Reich. The crimes they committed were monstrous, of course, but even in aesthetic terms they were obscene: the goosestep, the severity of uniform… the burning of books, the destruction of art… and the epaulets. Ghastly.

It goes without saying, then, that dressing as a Nazi – even ironically – is unlikely to endear you to anyone at a social function. Even when our beloved Prince Harry attempted it (against my express recommendation), he was branded as unspeakably gauche. The swastika is not just a symbol of genocide, my darling. It’s the ultimate fashion faux pas.

And as for those skinheads one sees at the beach or in the park, endorsing such brutality with swastikas injected into their neck and scalp? Well, I’m needn’t even say it, but… hot they are not.

Extra-long scarves: HOT. Isadora Duncan – that beacon of timeless elegance – was a great purveyor of the long, flowing scarf (until one of them caught in the wheel of her car and snapped her neck, poor thing), and I have it on the best authority that they’re due to make a comeback this winter. An extra-long scarf, to be considered such, should be at least the length of one’s body and half a length again, and able to be wrapped, draped and shrouded in any number of arrangements, depending on the occasion.

Last year, silks were in; Gucci, Moncler and Alexander McQueen all led the way with hand-painted designs in violent colours. This year, however, grunge fabrics will make a reappearance. I’ve already acquired a rather striking wrap-around by Dorothy Hayward: a roughened, nine-foot bolt of white hessian smeared with disparaging remarks about the patriarchy. I can’t wait to wear it to Judy’s garden party in July.

Find yourself an extra-long scarf, and you’ll be the cynosure of every eye this season. And don’t worry about the cost! That’s the best thing about grunge fabrics, darling. The cheaper the better.

Eating live animals: NOT. I’m not sure how this one even started, to be honest (though I suspect it was Jenny McCarthy, who’s never had the faintest idea how her own body works). It’s becoming something of a novelty in parts of Asia; evidently, sushi and sashimi weren’t quite ‘unprepared’ enough, so now we’re told to eat the fish and kill it later.

In any case, I don’t expect eating live animals will ever be hot, and even eating dead ones is quickly falling out of fashion. A live animal is also likely to defend itself, once you start putting bits of it into your mouth. Octopuses have beaks, you know.

Michael Fassbender: HOT. And getting hotter by the day, by all accounts.

Starfishing: NOT. No no no. Sex is like anything: you only get out what you put in. It relies upon the agency and pleasure of both (or more) of its participants; without these, it’s simply not on, darling. If you’re that tired, read a book, have a lavender bath. Retire to the oak-nook in your salon, and commune. He can finish himself off; there are toys for that.

 

I could go on for hours, of course, but hopefully these tips will guide the needle of your social compass toward true north. If I had to simmer them down to single idea, it would be this: care for this earth, and for all the beautifully imperfect creatures that walk upon it. Fight cruelty, snarl at hatred, defend the downtrodden and shatter the status quo. Because that, my darling, will never go out of style.

 


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