Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Poor little mite part ll

On Tuesday 27th November 2012, a baby badger was knocked down by a car and died. On my morning walk that day I found the badger and moved her (as I later verified it was a 'she') away from the road and into the woods where she could rest in peace.

Over the last two months, my hound and I have frequently looked at the badger as she lay intact and undisturbed. The foxes later killed a stag and I recorded in this blog how they disposed of him.

The badger seemed of no interest to the foxes and she lay where I placed her- as the temperture dropped and it snowed, she froze and in the last couple of days, warmish at 8 degrees C, she thawed out.

This morning my hound averted me to the latest. I followed him to the undergrowth, the same thicket where the stag had laid down to die. In it I caught sight of the badger and I recognised her instantly by the placement of her front left paw which I had held as she lay dying.

This is what is left of her.

Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Thursday, 24 January 2013


My dear friend, Yasmin, who has been a rock in my life for so long, is not well. I first met Yasmin in 1988/9 when we worked for the same company. We have stayed friends ever since.

Yasmin is one of those irreplaceable friends who is like my own blood. We have shared our crazy lives, our ups and downs and our laughter thousands of times over 25 years. Every weekend we chat on skype and if we miss that catch up, we get terribly concerned for each other.

I cannot imagine not having Yasmin in my life and I pray that she will regain her health.

Treasure friendship: a true friend is someone who is unconditional in their affection and generous in their indulgence of our foibles.

God bless you, Yasmin.

Copyright SvD.

How many legs?

I am always fascinated by the paw prints in the snow- the four paws follow a straight line yet the hound is not designed that way!

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The painting of the Duchess of Cambridge

I would agree with the critics who slated the painting. The pose is all wrong for a portrait of a future queen. Those of us who are educated in art would see its flaws straight away. The main problem with this style of painting is that the subject ends up looking like a facsimile of a photograph. Art is about expression and this style of painting subdues expression-both that of the artist and sitter. Please go to the National Gallery in London which is free and look at Rembrandt's portraits. You will see straight away what I am talking about. Kate is not a great beauty and neither do her eyes come across as sparkling, but there is a softness and kindness in her face that would translate well in a portrait (by the right artist).

Monday, 21 January 2013

A hill with a view

This is one route I follow on my daily walks with the hound. This morning it was particularly lovely with the snow, the freezing air and the endless horizon. I am mesmerized by the beauty of this world; nature can be a soothing balm to the loneliest of souls. This vista lifts one up, far enough to hear what the clouds are saying to each other.

Photo copyright SvD.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama looked quite elegant today at the swearing in of her husband as the 44th US President. I can't help wondering what a great support she has been to President Obama and at times her popularity has even been greater than his. Human beings can sniff out a fraud through sheer instinct and Mrs. Obama seems to attract the best type of publicity plus she radiates warmth with that dazzling smile. It can't be easy being the adjunct to the star attraction but Mrs. Obama seems to pull it off. She hasn't attempted to fight battles that are not in her purview or reinvent herself constantly in order to outshine all previous First Ladies. It would appear that the reason she is so liked is that she is just being herself.

Good luck to the Obamas as four more (difficult) years commence.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Be true to yourself

Had my French friends for supper last night- we all live in the same area- more or less- and have known each other for many years. We are so comfortable in each other's company that many a long- held secret is revealed. The interesting thing of course, is the journey that each of us in on; we all suffer in our own way (as is the fate of the thinking human being) but we're still here. It's at times like this that one realises that indeed, we are no better or worse than anyone else.

The other thing we do very well together is laugh a lot at ourselves.

Listen: Your Happy Memories

 The theme this week was "The Odyssey of Love".

Your Happy Memories

Friday, 18 January 2013

Shall remain nameless..

The subject of this photo shall remain nameless until someone figures it out. I invite your suggestions.

Photo copyright SvD.

Slow cooking

I'm a real advocate of slow cooking. I work from home so cooking and eating have to be practical. I  throw a few things together and leave them to simmer forever and voila! a few hours later, the house is filled with a rich smell that tells me the dish is ready.

This economical dish is French in origin and devised by a farmer's wife. Sausages, potatoes and onions are cooked very slowly with whole cloves of garlic, thyme and white wine. A piece of wax paper (or parchment paper) is placed over the pan and water is poured onto it. The lid of the pan in placed on top and the dish is left cook for around two hours either in the oven or hob but in both cases on the lowest heat. The result is meltingly soft vegetables and the sausages are lifted into a higher realm.

Cheap and easy and delicious. Right up my alley.

Photo copyright SvD.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

How to be Happy

Read the reviews on Amazon 

Copyright SvD.

"How many times..."

The trees huddled together as the sun told them off yet again.

Photo copyright SvD.


Photo and painting copyright SvD.

The gift

I despair at the level of psychological disorders that many in today's society are plagued with. Is it that I am by nature more breezy and shallow that I don't dwell too much on the negative or get mired in sorrow? Who knows?

What I do know is that when I see a vista like this, I want to weep with gratitude for the marvelous gift that is life. This is what it looks like to be blessed. 10.230am, 17th January 2013.

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Old friends

This was a commission I did of an old friend. I think we have known each other for 30 years. He's a successful barrister.

Photo and painting copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Frozen poultry

The RSB says that many birdies die over winter but here's the thing: in my many years of observing birds, I have never come across a frozen-solid wild bird rigor mortis; it is a great mystery WHERE they go to die. However please do splurge on bird food, if you can- it is not that expensive and it does help our feathered friends stay alive during these cold months. I spend around £5-£7 per month on suet balls at this time of year. That is equivalent to a bottle of wine which I would rather do without if it can help my mates- who delight is using expletives at me when their feeder is empty.

Photo copyright SvD.


We're not used to sub zero temps in the UK- we're not Scandinavian, after all! Whilst our Norwegian friends get all excited at minus 26 degrees C, our British homes are not designed for freezing our t..ts off. These deadly-looking icicles on the window outside are testament in fact to how badly our houses are designed- God help us if the Ice Age cometh! I remove these "weapons" with a swot of a broom as they could hurt my hound (and visitors, I suppose).
Photo copyright SvD.

la, la, la, la,...

Here is my friend and associate ignoring me as I admonish him...
Photo copyright SvD.

How many leaves...

I often wonder how many leaves fall from the trees in the autumn...millions? Billions? The cycle of life is infinite and endless...

Photo copyright SvD.

Bounty from the sea

I am unashamedly a meat and fish eater. As I have said before, I eat like a peasant- whatever is in season and has been provided by the universe is worth eating. I really have no time with precious individuals who find looking at a dead animal (fish in this instance) upsetting. Our ancestors were lucky if they had food to eat! Food is not entertainment - it is sustenance.

This gurnard had left the water a mere five hours before he landed on my plate. I do admit, he looks rather cute. Gurnard is a cheap and delicious fish but full of bones....

Photo copyright SvD.

Sweet and sour pork

This dish is not seasonal (i.e winter fare) - I made this last in the summer and here it is. I LOVE sweet and sour pork and if made properly, it is not greasy or fattening at all. The sherry and vinegar in the sauce actually aid digestion.
Photo copyright SvD.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Cut your losses

Ivy strangles the strongest trees. Over the course of many years, ivy will eventually squeeze the life out of the tree which in turn is condemned to an inevitable and lingering death. Forest wardens take a chain saw to ivy where ever they see it and all over our woods we see the sign of their work: the cut is clean and serves to extinguish the life of the parasitic ivy in one fell swoop.

There are those in our lives who feed off of us and prevent us from being free and happy. There are those who wish us nothing that is good. To cut the ties that bind is hard but sometimes we are left with no choice.

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Make hay while the sun shines

Let me explain- unless you have lived in the country like I do, this expression means nothing to you. In short, it means that if you procrastinate and put off cutting the hay, the rain will come along and the hay will be ruined- damp hay rots and will not store though the winter (when it is needed to feed farm animals and is a cheaper and healthier source of food). I remember one year putting off picking the blackcurrants out of sheer laziness. The day I was ready to pick them, I saw a family of blackbirds gorging on the crop and not one berry was left for me.

Never put off what you can do today.

Photo copyright SvD.


It's a rare thing to come upon those who can see the wood from the trees and who have the ability to think ahead- that is the true sign of a leader. To possess foresight is to be able to see beyond the clouds in this photo.

Photo copyright SvD.

Look closely

Peer up close at this photo and it seems pretty hard to discern what it is. If I show you the photo below it, you immediately understand that it is in fact an autumn leaf.
Perception is everything in life. Sometimes we see only what we want to see, interpret it the wrong way and ignore the rest.

Photo copyright SvD.

The noble larch

I've never seen a crooked larch - the tree always grows dead straight. Some people are born that way.
Photo copyright SvD.

Listen: Your Happy Memories

This weeks' show. The topic was: do we end up with the love of our life?

Your Happy Memories

Friday, 11 January 2013

Les Miserables

I went to see Les Mis tonight as it opened in the UK and with my friend, Barbara. I call Barbara 'my valium' as she is a very good influence on my rather feisty nature. She calms me down for which I am very grateful. Barbara and I frequently go shopping in France together with me driving. We always find a nice restaurant for lunch and then go off wandering around antique markets before heading to Carrefour and stocking up on wine, obviously. I have learnt a great deal from Barbara over the years- she is just so gentle and sweet. These are wonderful virtues.

Les Mis is just spectacular. I wept like a baby and this is the best therapy you could hope for if you are feeling blue and down and out. This is a timeless story of forgiveness, love and redemption. These themes are the story of humanity and the story of us. Go and see Les Mis- leave your worries behind, take a large box of tissues and just feel.

Hugh Jackman gives the performance of a lifetime- he gives it his all. So rare and so perfect a performance. Hugh must win an Oscar- he simply must.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Pork chop with celeriac puree

Here's my supper tonight- the pork chop and celeriac both from the farm- cooked in less than an hour.

Photo copyright SvD.

A simple life

When I was little I wanted desperately to become a farmer. Now that I'm older and supposedly wiser, I still seek sanctuary is wide open spaces, quiet open spaces. Today I went to the biodynamic farm in East Sussex where I buy my meat and veg (in season). As I munched on my pork pie- I walked over to say hello to the sheep but most importantly, to take in the sky and the ancient oaks that stand sentinel-like protecting a peaceful, almost reverential way of life.

Yesterday I was dumped by a man I had just met but with whom I appeared to get along. He suggested that my insanely busy life would mean little time for 'us'. If he only knew that best of all in my life are moments like this one where I'm doing very little.

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Implement of torture

The spent outer casing of the edible chestnut. I picked this up on my walk this morning- the chestnuts in the UK are very, very small given our cold and wet climate. The fruit forms in late summer and is ready to harvest in late autumn when the spiky enclosure (pictured)  bursts open and falls to the ground. The chestnuts can then be retrieved by carefully pulling them out of their needle-encrusted home.  I have collected chestnuts near where I live but the pain ain't worth it. Even picking this one up from the ground hurt like hell and my fingers are now slightly swollen. It is useful to know where food comes from and the effort that goes into getting it to our plates. I can only imagine that machinery does the job of picking and collecting the chestnuts. Or the fingers of the pickers have been so frequently impaled they no longer feel pain. One has to marvel at nature: by making it quasi-impossible for predators to 'break in', the chestnuts have the best chance of germinating into saplings the following year.

The analogy being here that by protecting oneself to the hilt, one is less likely to come to harm. Although I would argue that it is wise to be a little bit nuts occasionally.

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Probably the best joke ever

This is one of the funniest jokes ever- I cannot stop laughing every time I hear it.

Golden Girls desert island joke

 'Two Teeth Only' Oil on canvas. Painting and photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

How to open nuts

With a meat tenderiser. Ouch!
Photo copyright SvD.

The pine galaxy

A neighbour recently cut down a large pine tree- of course I saw a galaxy inside the cut logs- my vivid imagination once again! These swirls are reminiscent of Munch and his paintings....

Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Beef stew with roast potatoes

This beef stew is the easiest thing to make- long, slow cooking is what ensures a deep, rich flavour. I make enough for two or three meals and keep it in the fridge or freeze it for those days when I really cannot be bothered to cook. If you don't have red wine to hand, deglaze the pan with whatever alcohol is lurking around. I've used gin, pear schnappes, whisky, anything alcoholic I could find when supplies of red wine had run out mysteriously. Roast potatoes, sauerkraut, a 'bout' of Emmental and of course, chocolate, completed my meal.

The recipe for this and other meals will appear in my soon-to-be-published cookbook.

Photo copyright SvD.

Which one is the odd one out?

Photos and paintings copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Seared tuna with fennel seeds

I discovered tuna in my 20s, that is the raw tuna, not the canned variety. I remember cooking the tuna steak and thinking it was pretty terrible- dry and unpalatable. I've since learned how to pan fry the tuna until it is still very succulent inside and not dry at all. The aromatic fennel matches the robust flavour of the tuna- try it. I serve the tuna with kale, sauteed with garlic and white wine. No carbs in sight. A mouthful or two of Stilton and a couple of squares of dark chocolate completed my meal.

Photo copyright SvD.


Amazon reviews

Barnes & Noble reviews

Blue sky

Here's the sort of morning sky we dream about but see very rarely.....sob! I took this shot one Autumn morning but alas, within a few hours the sky had returned to its usual grey. The morning dawn and the setting of the sun continue in spite of us and are a reminder that in the grand scheme of things, our worries and frustrations with life are pretty irrelevant.

(When I was little, I thought that clouds were faraway lands. I still do.)

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

In praise of neighbours

My neighbours are absolutely delightful, helpful and full of stories of shared life experiences- she's 75 and he's 80. We help each other out and generally offer a hand of support whenever required. The affection I am blessed with from my neighbours, the shared cards at Christmas and the genuine sweetness of their character and what they bring out in me, reaffirms my faith in human beings every day. Thank you Pam and Allan.

Two socks

What do two socks say to each other when they find themselves alone?

Photo and feet copyright SvD.

January 01st Rice

This dish is called January 01st rice- a compilation of vegetable leftovers and key ingredients to enable me to detox and overcome the excesses of the past two weeks. Vinegar and ginger both aid digestion and have cleansing properties. The other key element is onion- in copious quantities- this frees up the lungs which are already overworked to fend off colds and flu at this time of year. I add an omelette of two eggs cut into strips as the only protein in this otherwise vegetarian dish. Photo copyright SvD.