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).


Bonjour, mes enfants! Did you have a wonderful Easter? I certainly did; the Easter Bunny brought me three eggs (one in choc-hazelnut and two in Fabergé), and I spent the weekend at a villa in Thessaly with some dear friends of mine, whom it would be indelicate to name.

I was, as always, required to wear a small tracking device about my ankle (due to this ongoing nonsense with the National Gallery of Australia), but I simply had a replica made for the other ankle and adorned both with matching filigree, and now everyone’s wearing them, darling.

However you spent your Easter weekend, I hope you took the time to relax, and indulge in those things that bring you pleasure. We must be kind to ourselves first and foremost; guilt, as I have often opined, is a thoroughly useless emotion, and you’ll be all the happier when you learn to enjoy yourself in its absence.


Dear Penny, 

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for your advice column. It’s been amazing how telling people I am working as an assassin has stopped them asking about my PhD. Unfortunately, this has opened me up to unsolicited ‘hit lists’ from students, and with our strict gun laws, my lack of time management skills, and my general lack of enthusiasm for surprise murders, I’ve not been able to cross a lot of these people off. It’s amazing how many international students from Russia are named Vladimir.

My question is: as a moonlighting assassin and full-time research student, money gets quite tight. What are some fun ways to enjoy my small amount of spare time in Newcastle without ‘breaking the bank’ or having to resort to Russian… I mean, anonymous state-sponsored assassination on foreign soil? 

Kind regards,

Agent Fort E Seven


Dear Fort,

I’m so glad you found my advice useful to you! Wetwork isn’t for everybody, though, and I am sorry to hear that it has caused you some inconvenience. (I did list other options, you’ll recall. Next time, you may try mentioning the eldritch death cult or secret Romanian lover instead.)

In any case, you’ll be pleased to know there are many ways one can enjoy their spare time in Newcastle without engaging in bank robbery or post-Cold War intrigue. It’s a city of beaches and parks, darling! Nature abounds at every turn, so embrace it at every opportunity. Find a quiet spot and meditate. Close your eyes and let the sounds, the smells, the sensations, wash over you. You’ll feel it then: the great maternal energy to which we are all umbilically linked, the immensity of Mother Nature.

I have had some of my greatest epiphanies (and indeed, wrote much of my first book) while diverted in this way – cross-legged in a forest, wreathed only lightly in diaphanous silks, waiting to emerge, reborn, like a moth from a cocoon. Try it sometime, darling. It’s absolutely delicious.

Swimming is another fancy; Newcastle and Dixon Park beaches can be fun, but you have to keep all of your clothes on (which is a little gauche, to be honest). Dudley Beach, in my experience, is far superior: more secluded, more exclusive, more picturesque, and more enthusiastic about public nudity. Mother Nature isn’t prudish. Neither should her children be.

You may think all of this strange advice for me to give, famous as I am for my metropolitan savvy and my urbane and effortless chic. But whether I’m in Rio or Reykjavik, Perth or Paris, I am forever determined to maintain my connection with the natural world, and to remind myself that I am part of something impossibly large and immovably ancient. It’s especially humbling to someone like me, whose numerous accolades might otherwise lead her to be arrogant or out of touch with her readers.

Finally, if you are still looking for suitable leisure activities, I am a particular fan of ‘being seen’ – a delightful romp that involves walking through public spaces and being casually surprised when people recognise you and start pointing. There’s a terrific sense of buoyancy as they whisper excitedly among themselves, shout at you adoringly or ask you to sign a hardcover copy of your best-selling novel, which they are usually carrying.

It’s fantastic exercise.


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