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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

How to Stop A River of Tears

In my 20s I was hopeful, in my 30s accommodating, in my 40s philosophical, in my 50s too wise for my own good but never too old to change. There is an old joke about what has three legs at dusk. Answer: an old man requiring a stick to walk with. In the process of aging it is not just the physical body that needs a crutch. We are now getting used to waking up to bad news- terrorist attacks, mosque attacks, deadly fires. Rather than becoming inured to bad things the opposite is happening: bad news makes us less reliant on the metaphorical crutch, somehow more resilient and yes, more emotional- suddenly we realise that we had better make the most of life on our terms as there is a very real possibility it could be curtains sooner rather than later.

When my father died I realised I was living half a life and needed to change it. The sight of my father lying in a coffin was a seminal moment. Whatever crutch I was relying on was suddenly whipped away and I felt myself instantly determined to change the way things were. The same must surely apply to the terrible news that greets us almost daily. The first question we must ask ourselves is what can we do? The answer is painfully simple. I'll explain why.

As I walked the hounds this morning, I reflected as I always do particularly on my mother with whom I had a most awful relationship. It suddenly dawned on me that my late mother's unkindness and the fact that she never said anything good about anyone was because she couldn't stop herself. In other words, when we do bad things and say bad things, we have to keep doing them. Bad engenders bad. Just like the evil we are faced with in the world today. As simplistic as it may sound, the solution starts with us.

Just for one moment, perhaps less than thirty seconds of your time is all it will take to change the world. Here's what you can do in thirty seconds: reflect on the last unkind/bad thing you said or did. Next, resolve to change your behaviour and do and say only good things from now on. I am certainly guilty of the opposite on occasion- just this morning I was cursing the truck driver who swerved ahead of me in the fast lane in order to overtake another truck. I think I used every expletive in the dictionary. But my behaviour was more about my state of mind and the anxiety which sometimes overwhelms me. In that respect I am like everyone else but my expletive-laden rant didn't actually change the situation.

How we cope in adversity takes courage. Courage to recognise our weaknesses and to realise we need to change the way things are, including the way we react. We can alter our behaviour but we can't stop bad things from happening. Doing good and saying good is the boomerang which will come back to greatly enrich your life.

Photo copyright SvD.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Down at the farm...

Sheep have been shorn of their Winter coats and are spending their days and nights outdoors munching on grass and a special feed the farmer delivers early in the morning. These are ewes which will give birth again in the Spring. Sheep are not that interesting and not half as curious as cows. Sheep are very skittish (like pigeons) and never want to say hello. Cows on the other hand would like to spend all day chatting to you:

The calves are one year old and will soon be 'osso bucco'. Here they are meeting my darling doggie. Some calves will join the dairy herd as well.

I call them babies and give them pats as I walk past but they are much bigger than me! Thankfully their teeth are quite flat and not very sharp!

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

The Direction of My Heart

I have written before about the different types of love, romantic, maternal, etc. There is another kind of love- silent and fateful, an obligation to yield because it makes us who we are. A person can be the direction of our heart. A navigator on our journey through life. I have been fortunate in my tumultuous existence to meet random strangers who were effectively in charge of the direction of my broken, damaged heart.

Throughout my life I have met people literally on the street with whom I have gone on to forge close friendships and connections which had a strength of purpose in that precise moment in my life. When I was a student, I foolishly headed for Bordeaux on a whim without any back up plan or knowledge of what I was going to do. I met someone at the airport who offered me a place to stay. That person taught me about what I didn't want- to take drugs and distance myself from the real world. I then moved into an unfurnished apartment and received a knock on the door that same day from a kindly lady who offered me her spare furniture. That lady would become my defacto grandmother- someone who utterly adored me and I her. My friendship with this angelic woman occurred just as my family was falling apart- my brother had caused my parents terrible heartbreak and the repercussions within our family felt like being on a rollercoaster where you wanted to scream but knew all too well that no one would hear. I had to learn how to deal with the unhappiness in my family and in the process, heal my shattered soul. If I hadn't had the affection of a little old lady who knocked on my door out of kindness, I don't think I would have managed to stay sane.

A couple of years ago the same thing happened in reverse- I was the stranger who helped someone in distress. A lady visiting her ill mother in a nursing home stopped me one day on the street and needed to talk. Again the connection was instant and over the course of several weeks it became apparent that I had something which could help her overcome her anxiety. Attention, interest, a demeanor that made her feel that I was wiser than perhaps I actually am.

Lovers engage the romantic desire we crave- the hope of being loved and cherished.  But as people, we are infinitely more powerful than we believe. Not because we are better but because we offer a type of sustenance to weary souls. We are all frazzled from the daily grind of living and sometimes it can feel that there is no light at the end of the tunnel and that the future is bleak. To quote my best friend, at our age all we can do is reminisce because there really is nothing to look forward to. She's right and wrong. If we manage to get to our age and still be capable of showing empathy and kindness to others we have won the stakes in the lottery of life. Once we understand how much we can mean to others by showing them attention and thoughtfulness towards their predicament, then we are fulfilling our prophecy as human beings. If collectively whole continents could harness such a force it would be for the good of all where no one would feel lonely, isolated and tormented by the things they cannot change. Each of us is a ray of light in a world becoming shrouded in darkness.

Someone once said to me that I make others happy. It took me a while to understand that there is a symbiosis between people which makes us relevant to each other. No matter how down or out we may feel or fearful of the future, it is worth remembering that someone else is having a worse time. We can't change the world but we can make small steps which in turn will have far-reaching consequences. So open yourself to the possibility that someone will be sent to help when your world is falling apart. And be that person for somebody else. The person who could change the direction of a heart.

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

My suppers this week!

These are the dishes that I cooked and relished in the last week. They say that if you love to eat you love to cook!

Roast Chicken. Home from work at 6.05pm. Chicken in the oven at 6.20pm, on the table at 8.15pm (having rested for twenty minutes).

Served with:


Petits Pois à la Parisienne. Cooked this while chicken was roasting.



Pan- Fried Tuna Steak with Fennel Seeds, served with Sauerkraut.


Fried Rice served with leftover Roast Lamb.


Omelette aux Fines Herbes with Home-Made Chips.




Broccoli Tempura- I could literally eat this all day every day. Easiest thing to make if the oil is just the right temperature. I ate a whole head of broccoli like this one evening.

Anyone can cook- please try! You'll be saving your sanity, health and the planet at the same time.

All photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The season of abundance

Summer fruits are in plentiful supply at the moment and the easiest dessert which everyone loves is sliced fruits soaked in a bit of freshly squeezed orange or lemon juice (or whatever booze is lying around, rum or cointreau, for example) and served with sweetened double cream. Choose fruits which are just bordering on overipeness- they are the sweetest. Refrigerate the salad before serving. On scorching days like today this is a perfect light and refreshing dessert.

The dollop of cream in my photo resembles a sheep's head for some strange reason....

Photo copyright SvD.