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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.

A Real Tree

Whenever I come upon a tree which has not in it its entire long life ever been lopped or pollarded or tormented by human hands, my heart skips. On my 5 mile walk today:

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Cows in a row

This morning on my dog walk making way for one hundred dairy cows freshly milked and let out to pasture:

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

How I found a 190million year old fossil on Charmouth Beach

I discovered Charmouth Beach quite by accident- I had gone to church one Sunday while staying in Sidmouth on holiday. The couple who were sitting next to me in church and to whom I had not even spoken, invited me to coffee straight after mass. As it turned out, they had lived in Sidmouth all of their lives- they were in their 60s. I asked about fossil hunting and they suggested Charmouth Beach and so I headed off the next morning armed with a plastic bag to collect my finds and a sturdy pair of shoes.

I arrived at the beach in the pelting rain- oh, the joys of the British summer! I asked a passing local if I should turn left or right on the beach for the best finds. She said right which I did picking my way along the beach which is essentially a quarry of medium to large rocks forced out of their dormancy from the overhanging cliffs by rain. Heavy downpours soak into the cliff making it fall apart literally and as the cliff disintegrates, the fossils are loosened from their resting places. I was lucky- we had experienced a terrific storm the night before replete with thunder and lightning. I hoped I was going to get lucky.

Indeed I was one of the first few hunters on the beach which stretched for two miles or so before me. I rubbed my hands with glee. Off I went bent over peering earnestly at my feet. I quickly learned not to touch the crumbling cliff face as the disintegrating rock is tar-like and sticks to your hands like glue. Gloves would be the order of the day but I had none. Instead I would have to find fossils amongst the rocks on the beach. I kept going. One of the attributes you acquire living on your own is amazing concentration. Used to my own company I can literally go for hours on end on a single task like painting or writing. So bending over relentlessly scouring the rocks for something out of place was easy.

And here's what else I did- I meditated. I emptied my head of the figurative rocks in my brain and blocked out the ancillary noise- the sound of people's voices, even the crashing of the waves a few feet from me. I got to the point where there was nothing in my head at all just a silence punctuated by a sensation that I should stop and look near my feet and not move. That's what I did. The sensation grew stronger. I did not veer even one inch away from where I was standing but concentrated all my energy into examining the rocks as intently as possible. Suddenly I felt that I should bend down even closer which I did and that again, I should not move. I did what I was being propelled to do. And there it was. I picked it up not knowing what it was but sensing it was incredible.

There was a further strong feeling that I should stop searching as to want more than one prize would be greedy. I turned around and  retraced my footsteps away from beach.

By now in need of some sustenance I headed off to the nearby restaurant where a surplus of customers meant that we had to share tables. As I sat down I examined my finds. The gentleman at the same table who was in an amorous clinch with his girlfriend looked up. 'Very impressive,' he smiled, at the fossil not me, unfortunately. Turns out he was a palaeontologist on holiday with his new girlfriend and he knew just about everything on fossils and dinosaurs. He confirmed I had struck very, very lucky indeed for a complete novice with no knowledge or experience.

Later on the local museum re-iterated the same thing: my ammonite (an ancient type of squid) was rare and wonderful.

The sensation of our temporary passage on this earth is made all the more profound while standing in the rain holding a 190 million year old fossil.

So there you have it: when we abandon our will sometimes great things want to find us. Neither is this the first time where coincidence after coincidence has guided me towards something.

If I could, I would spend the rest of my life down on Charmouth Beach which has to be one of the best experiences ever of my life.



My ammonite. Photos copyright SvD.

If you'd like to know more about ammonites, this link has all the info: http://www.discoveringfossils.co.uk/ammonites.htm