Friday, 31 May 2013

Your happy memories | Blog Talk Radio

Your happy memories | Blog Talk Radio

Join me this Sunday when my very special guest is social entrepreneur Marko Kasic, founder of Fund Life.  Marko will be explaining his vision of philanthropy that will change the world without giving money or charity to those he wishes to help.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 23

'Tis the season for making babies and seeds if you're a plant. The Spring is coming to an end and despite the chronic lack of sunshine, nature is galloping along as it must. We are almost in June and still wearing our winter clothes but the innate timing mechanism in nature means that the cycle must go on regardless.

Scots fir - immature cones
The cones of the fir tree are abundant on the tree. To the touch they are soft and pliable. Towards the end of the year they will fall from the tree, by then hard and dry- a metaphor for life, surely.

The horse chestnut is a magnificent tall, strong tree. The flowers are either pink or white. The white horse chestnut tree is bigger than its pink cousin and perhaps a bit more grand. The flowers will soon be replaced by conkers that school boys love throwing at hapless victims and each other.

White horse chestnut flower

Pink horsechestnut
This last photo shall remain nameless. I think you have enough clues in this post to figure out what it is. Clue: it's NOT a lettuce.

Photos copyright SvD.

A dark place

My father used to say to me when I was growing up, that it is important in life to have friends who teach us something. There is one person in my life who is my defacto mother, sister and best friend. Her name is Yasmin. We met more than 25 years ago when we were both employed by the same company. Just over a year ago I discovered something quite awful that had taken place in my family and which I am glad my father did not live to see. Since that terrible moment of discovery, Yasmin has been a devoted friend to me and has tirelessly attempted to make me understand the importance of forgiveness. To be truthful, at times I felt that my heart was being torn out of my chest. There were two saviours who rescued me in this sad tale: Yasmin and the simple act of going to church every Sunday. I continue to light a candle for those who have dishonoured the memory of my beloved father and I beg the Virgin Mary to give me strength. We all go into a dark place at various times in our lives just like the entrance to the woods in this photo. Once inside we could get too used to the absence of light and become lost forever.

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 22

I'm rather fond of all animals including insects. If you keep reading this blog I shall show you how to remove spiders from the house and ticks from the dog. This photo is of the Burnet moth- a British speciality. The moths develop in cocoons and then emerge full formed. There's a wonderful story in there somewhere about metamorphosis and rebirth but for now, please just enjoy the picture.

Burnet moth- in the field today
The parasitic fungi that lives off of tree branches. Here is a branch that fell off with the wind today. If someone chooses to suck you dry, at least give them permission first.
On the way back from the woods today
Photos copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The present moment is inevitable

I just about caught the baby robin on camera- that circle in the middle of the photo is the fledgling who had hopped out of his nest (which is next to where he is standing) to watch the hound and I walk past. Apologies but I had around 10 seconds to take the shot and the sun was in the wrong place! I now recognise the 'tweet, tweet' of the baby as he sits in the nest calling out to his mum to bring him food. I see the mum flying back and forth. But the baby is also inadvertently calling his enemies. I saw a squirrel and magpie - the evil Darth Vader of the poultry world  - circling under the nest. Both were licking their chops. The baby robin is easy prey for his predators and by tweeting for his mum he is making his location known to all and sundry. Isn't the baby's predicament the height or irony?

On Sunday I did my usual show Your Happy Memories and the topic was "the evil that men do". I suppose that one would be quick to point out that the world is full of injustice and wouldn't it be awful if the baby robin became someone's lunch. Suddenly the magpie and squirrel would be called 'bad'. I think there is an inevitability in life that is neither 'good' nor 'bad' and try as we might, we cannot prevent it.

Photo copyright SvD.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 21

Lots of pretty white flowers in the woods today. The smell of hawthorn can be overpowering- a bit like walking into a room full of raw eggs. The sulphurous smell is not that pleasant. In the past I have tried to make liqueur from the berries- it was pretty astringent, enough to make the teeth melt. Bees love the flowers though!

Hawthorn flowers
Cow parsley flowers
Ramsons/Wild Garlic flowers
Photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 20

Ever since I was a child I have been fascinated by the natural world. As a very young thing I remember disappearing into shrubs and bushes and going to commune with the fairies therein. I was a solitary little kid and probably still am the same. Images like this tree which remains a favourite of mine in the woods near where I live now, mean everything to me. I could lay under this tree forever and simply gaze at it in wonder.
This next photo is of some lilac coloured flowers in the meadow- I know not their name so please just enjoy looking at them as I do.

This last shot is the flowering plantain which is captivating with its halo of flowers. The plantain keeps the buttercups company and the two are inseparable in the meadows. Some plants just like being together like beet and nettle which are always found within very close proximity of each other.

Photos copyright SvD.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Rock on!

I've just spent a few hours at a rock festival helping out my colleagues at Ridge Radio. I must be getting ancient as I am convinced that my eardrums are now perforated. Only at a British rock festival do groupies drink mugs of tea!

I met some delightful teenagers today who were polite, well mannered and quite charming. In fact everyone was just plain gracious. Despite what we read in the media, not everyone is a hopeless layabout and a potential criminal, if not one already. The majority of people are good and kind.

After I present Your Happy Memories tomorrow at noon, I shall be back at the festival for the second day of ear-shattering thrills.

The topic for tomorrow's show: The evil that men do (in light of the terrible events in London this week). Email me your thoughts:

This is what a hopeless layabout and criminal looks like
 Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 24 May 2013

37 degrees C in the shade

I remember a film called '37 degres a l'ombre' (37 degrees C in the shade) which came out when I was at university. The concept of it being so hot in the shade was something I could not comprehend as I had never experienced such high temperatures. It was so perplexing to me and puzzling, that it took many years to understand that when we have no experience of something, it all seems very strange. And sometimes the unknown is so shocking that our reaction is one of sheer terror. In London this week, a young man lost his life in the worst possible way. He was going about his business as we all do every day. In the course of doing what he always did, he died. We live in confusing times where the unknown is quite literally causing outrage and intense emotion, one of which is fear. Society evolved because a majority agreed to follow a code of conduct and one which obtained acceptance through trial and error and judgement. If that code is rejected by a fraction who wish to view the world differently then we must must determine how best to uphold the values that have taken thousands of years to become accepted practice. In my understanding, this is also how the law evolved.

A man lost his life. And every time one of us, regardless of colour, race, belief or anything else, is murdered in cold blood, we cannot just carry on. We must consider why we have reached this point and how we will make sure it will never happen again.

We look to our politicians who I can only imagine whilst sipping their G&Ts, were suitably aghast at what had happened. But since then, silence. I do not buy that certain sectors of the society are disenfranchised and feel that they do not belong or have a future. The world is populated by thousands if not millions who have escaped poverty by hard work, sacrifice and a belief in themselves. Why is that such an alien concept to us in the West where we feel that the world owes us something? And why are we so skewed in our thinking that instead of developing a soul life and becoming better human beings, we choose the easy way out. One where the lazy mind chooses destructive, criminal behaviour. Men do bad things because they can. This is the fundamental issue that sums up the human condition and which has eluded us all, as to why we have that choice, since the beginning of time.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 19

Bracken is one of the most ancient plants in the UK. Thought to date back to prehistoric times, this fern is one of the most primitive yet intriguing. The opening (unfurling) of the bracken fronds is mesmerising as they take on many forms. In this photo I almost see a bird.  "Bracken grows throughout the world occurring almost everywhere with the exception of hot or cold deserts. In fact it may be the single most widespread vascular plant in the world." (Chavez and Gill, 1999). Contains carcinogens and not recommended for eating although considered a delicacy in some countries- not in the UK.
The dandelion flower and its cache of seeds waiting to erupt with the help of a strong burst of wind.

Upon leaving the woods and heading home, I came upon a baby robin who had valiantly flown out of his nest and landed on the ground at my hound's paws. Luckily my hound prefers to play with rather than eat his new found friends and looked upon this fluffy white thing with some bemusement. At the sight of the hound's muzzle moving in on him, the baby robin used all his might to fly upwards until he landed a safe distance away from us.  Even though a mere infant the robin already knew that we represented danger- they must be born with a sense that anything not like them is a potential threat. I wasn't lucky enough to take a decent photo of the baby robin but I did get this shot of the feather he left behind in his frantic escape. This feather has 'baby bird' written all over it.

Photos copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 18

I often refer to my salad days- a term which means 'youth' and which I learned when I was doing the I Ching quite a lot and when I was reliant on these props to get through life. I don't have anything against astrology or the I Ching or any form of divination. I just see the world differently now. Life is an enigma wrapped in a riddle and we all struggle to make sense of it. I do not profess to know anything or very much. I just am.

This photo in the woods today reminds us that we all have to start somewhere. And the mighty oak once looked like this. The seedling is surrounded by rocks- perhaps millions of years old. We just go on until the end of time.

I am fortunate to live in a very green part of the UK and one where I frequently see deer dart past my study or horses and their riders gallop along. Here is a horse's 'hoofprint' in the woods today. We have a horse etiquette in this country where if we are driving we slow down to dead slow near horses or if we are out walking with dogs, we put them on a lead immediately. These gentle good manners cost nothing at all.

Photos copyright SvD.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Keep calm and carry on

If there is one thing that I dislike in others it is histrionics. I cannot bear shouting, bad tempers, argumentative types or incessant arguing and conflict. These things drive me far away into a place where I refuse to budge and disappear for good. I honestly cannot think straight around those that are so out of balance in their minds and spirits that they become oblivious to the misery they create. In such circumstances it is simply best if I retreat.

Don't let anyone make you feel so deflated like the ball in the picture that you find it hard to be yourself, let alone breathe. Life is too short to be miserable. It really is better to be happy.

In the woods today
There is very little that a long walk, even in the rain, cannot cure.

Me walking the hound in the rain today
Photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Blue, bluebells

At long last, I was able to take a decent shot of the bluebells which finally look as if they have opened. This event is over one month late. But that's our crazy, unpredictable weather for you. Here you go- a pretty, pleasing sight indeed.

Photo copyright SvD.

Things I saw in the woods today, part 17

Wild strawberries! These grow everywhere- very opportunistic indeed. They can become very invasive so there is no surprise that they are in the woods and meadows. The wild strawberry is much smaller than the variety we see in supermarkets but the flavour is ten times more intense. The flowers are out now and many have been pollinated already. In early June the first fruit should be ready to pick.
Wild strawberry
The copper beech looks positively dazzling and a fiery red in the sun today!

Photos copyright SvD.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Your happy memories Online Radio | Blog Talk Radio

Your happy memories Online Radio | Blog Talk Radio

The topic tomorrow: Can we love too much?

Email me your stories:

Join me?

Te amo

Yes, I am teaching myself Latin. As if I don't have enough to do in life however I digress. Many a young Italian has whispered 'ti amo' and clearly not meant it but I wanted to understand the language from which my beloved French is derived. Latin is exceptionally difficult as with German, the verb is all over the place. In German, for example, the verb can be at the end of those very long sentences! I shall persevere with Latin if only to understand such marvellous bits as this:

Qui in amorem praecipitavit, pejus perit quam si saxo saliat. He who plunges into love is more lost than if he leapt from a rock. - Plautus

Te amo indeed.

Things I saw in the woods today, part 16

I had earlier posted about Wild Garlic and mentioned that once it starts flowering the picking season is over. Here is a photo of the Wild Garlic today: the first flowers are emerging so I won't be gathering it anymore. The taste now is less pungent and the leaves more indigestible once the flowers appear. Ironically the flowers signify the end of the plant. Another garlicky story follows afterwards...

Wild Garlic or Ramsons

After the Wild Garlic, we now have Garlic Mustard photos of which are below. This garlicky smelling plant was used by herbalists in medieval times as 'an outward application of cancerous ulcers and gangrene.' (British Wild Flowers, Charles A. Hall, 1937). Notice the heart-shaped leaves.
Garlic Mustard

Garlic Mustard

The following photo is of Common Vetch- the pinkish flowers and distinctive pear shaped leaves are easy to spot among the grasses in the meadow. Vetch is a member of the pea family.

Photos copyright SvD.

Woof! Woof!

My hound barks at me when he wants something - in this case I had forgotten to take him out as I was so engrossed in my work. Here are the various facial expressions trying to catch my attention:

Photos copyright SvD.

Friday, 17 May 2013


I hold that to need nothing is divine, and the less a man needs the nearer does he approach divinity. - Socrates

Things I saw in the woods today, part 15

The pollinated dandelion flower metamorphoses into a puffball of seeds that the wind will literally blow away. I'd take a photo of me blowing the seeds but you've probably seen that type of photo before. Instead I offer one as an example of the perfect symmetry in nature. Look intently at the photo and marvel at it. I doubt atheists or scientists would get this.
The meadow flowers are in full swing now and soon they will go to seed. I used to hate cut flowers stuck in a vase and always preferred to see them growing wild in their natural habitat. I've become more mellow with age and don't rail anymore against things that ultimately are not that earth shattering. In this photo can you spot which is the dandelion, the plantain and the buttercup?
The following photo is cow parsley which is very similar to hemlock of Socrates fame. The stems of hemlock are smooth and green but dotted with purple- that is the best way to differentiate this deadly plant from cow parsley. It goes without saying that one should not risk eating wild plants unless one is entirely sure of what one is doing. Cow parsley is also known as wild chervil and is edible although I cannot vouch for the taste.

Photos copyright SvD.

Ridge Radio

I hope you'll join me today at 1-3pm when I present WIND DOWN FRIDAYS Live on Ridge Radio. Do send me your requests, comments or anything else you'd like to say to

I look forward to hearing from you!

Wind Down Fridays

Thursday, 16 May 2013


The sun made an appearance today so I caught my shadow as I walked the hound.

Photo copyright SvD around 4pm when I got a shadow from the sun!

Bees and the sweetest thing

I eat raw honey every morning in my porridge- yes, porridge is a very healthy and filling breakfast which keeps me going for ages. I recommend organic Scottish oats, which have a sweet flavour, cooked with water instead of milk. Today I was lucky to see some bees and I have noticed that they are very visible on days when the sun is out. Here are some shots I took this morning on my patio. The pretty blue flowers are of the borage plant, favoured by lovers of Pimms. I eat the leaves and flowers in salads- the flavour resembles cucumber. Borage grows wild and this plant just turned up unannounced in my garden.

Photos copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Something to do with a can of fish

I love to cook because I love to eat. I would describe myself as a 'bon vivant'. Life is a glorious festival of craziness, happiness and tragedy, speckled with moments of eating. My friends know that my home is a place where they must remove their shoes and be prepared to be themselves whilst eating copious amounts of home-cooked food. I do not have a TV in my house so I would be loathe to tell you which celebrity chef I worship. Suffice it to say that I read old French, English, Jewish and even Roman cookbooks and my love of nature guides me.

However there are times when I prefer to eat a can of fish and some vegetables. This recipe is economical and truly easy to prepare. My supper last night:


Peel and finely chop an onion. Saute the onion in olive oil until softened and slightly browned.

Add one can of wild Atlantic salmon to the following in a mixing bowl:

The sauteed onion
Handful finely chopped coriander and parsley (or chives or whatever is floating around in the nether regions of the fridge)
Half the weight of the salmon in breadcrumbs
One egg
Pinch salt and pepper

Mix well until all the ingredients are incorporated but the fish is still in small chunks. Shape into quenelles using two spoons- this means that all the patties will be the same size. Flatten into rounds not more than 1 inch thick. Lay the patties on a tray and place in the fridge for around 30 minutes (or in the freezer for 15).

Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan until quite hot but not smoking. I usually drop a few chilli flakes in the oil and if they sizzle madly the oil is hot enough.

Dredge the patties in flour and shake off any excess. Drop in the oil and fry until golden brown - 2-3 minutes. Turn the patties over once only to brown the other side.

Serve the patties hot with chips (and mayonnaise!!!).

Raw fishcakes
Cooked fishcakes
Photos copyright SvD.

Things I saw in the woods today, part 14

A deer standing perfectly still as the hound and I walked past him.

Photo copyright SvD.

Ahhhh....the stinging nettle. That piercing, painful sensation like a large needle entering the flesh is not easily forgotten; long after we have run from the nettle the sensation remains for hours, sometimes days. We should thank the Romans for bringing nettles to the UK (like walnuts, bay leaves and thyme, to name a few others). The Romans favoured being thrashed with nettles to increase their circulation in our dour climate. The issue of the pain we feel when touching nettles is quite profound: as the French philosopher  Malebranche pondered: if we were not aware of our hand in the flame, would we still feel pain?  I can only answer this one way: my friend, Sabine and I once went foraging for nettles to make soup. We began picking the nettles and felt a lot of pain the first few times. After that we just got on with it and ignored the pain. Does that answer the question? The soup by the way, was delicious.

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 13

I think this is from a hen pheasant (very tasty).
Photo copyright SvD.

Psychoda seeks Cuckoo Pint - Update - The story has almost ended

The Psychoda is a type of fly that has a penchant for the Cuckoo Pint (photo below), an Arum growing in the woods. The Cuckoo Pint has an unusual set up; the purple coloured club (inside the whitish flower) emits an offensive odour when ripe. That odour attracts the Psychoda which are tempted deep into the inflorescence. Once they enter the chamber they become imprisoned as escape is prevented by radiating hairs pointing downwards and filling the neck of the spathe. Eventually when the flower is pollinated, the Psychoda are sprinkled with pollen but must wait until the club begins to rot in order to make their escape back into the wide world. They then set off to pollinate other flowers. The Psychoda do not appear to suffer any damage from their temporary imprisonment as they while away the time gorging on the plentiful nectar within the chamber.

Of course there is a long list of lessons and analogies to be made from this natural wonder but I shall leave that to your imaginations! Please do have one as life is very boring without creative thought!

Photo copyright SvD. Today in the woods and yes, it was RAINING! Cold and wet summer awaits....

Update: It seems that the flowers have been pollinated, the club has rotted away and Elvis has also left the building: the flies have escaped! One can see how the flies escaped upwards but what of the mysterious teeth marks on the walls of the chamber (where the pollinated flower is visible)?

Update: 30th June: here is the pollinated Cuckoo Pint flower which has turned to fruit. Watch this space....

Latest photo: July 27th 2013:

And so, all things must come to their end. The psychoda were fated to pollinate the secretive cuckoo pint. The luscious, ripened red fruit will soon be gone. One can almost hear Shakespeare: "Men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither: Ripeness is all." (King Lear) We will have to wait another 12 months to return to this very moment again, if ever.
August 16 2013

August 16 2013

August 16 2013

Photos copyright SvD.