Saturday, 31 August 2013

Come closer....

The deadly poisonous yew berry hypnotises, mesmerises with its lip-red beauty, calling us in like a siren. The berry itself is sweet and succulent but the dark pip within is fatal to both man and beast. Animals and birds covet the juicy fruit and delicately remove the harmless red flesh from the dark, toxic pip. Red is a colour that is loved and hated in equal measure. The colour of passion, red blood pumps through a body arched with desire. Red conveys warmth and life but also warns of danger. When we are angry we are said to 'see red'.  When we are in love, we long for red roses.

And as with the yew berry, red also signifies death.

Attraction, passion, love, desire, anger, death. The end.

Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Wind Down Fridays 30 August 2013

Here's me making an ass of myself as usual every Friday on Ridge Radio. For today's show, click here:

Wind Down Fridays

Things I saw in the woods today, part 45

Edible fruits growing wild - there is so much this year with the warmer than normal and dry summer.

Hawthorn berries make a decent liqueur although they are not terribly sweet. Their waxy, deep burgundy berries are a pretty addition to hedgerows though.
Rosehips are a very old-fashioned British remedy for coughs and colds. They make a wonderful blood-coloured jam and have a very high Vitamin C content.
Rowan berries make a great jelly or paste to eat with cheese. Pretty orange-coloured fruit but we don't really appreciate these berries in the UK for their gastronomic qualities and prefer to keep the tree as an ornamental addition to gardens.

Photos copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The deep blue sea

Brighton (with the magnificent pier in the background) today in the late 20s (C). Pretty blues that we see too rarely in our grey climate. Seize the moment for you never know when it will (if ever) come again. (Notice no one is swimming in the sea- too damn cold and we're in August!)

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Plan ahead

Our generation surely does not bother to save like our parents did. Our lives have become so unpredictable that most people will have an average of eight jobs throughout their lives. Whole communities that were made up of generations of families working in the same industry are now a thing of the past. We're the global generation- our peers come from all over the world and usually live continents-away from their families. Traditional families have been replaced by make-do support networks - friends, waifs and strays who all help each other out as the need arises. Long before there was globalisation in manufacturing and supply, there was cross border confusion and cultural schizophrenia of lonely souls. These lost souls exist to this day. Look around you.

The squirrel however looks at a British beech nut and does a tap dance of joy. The grey squirrel was once a foreigner brought in to the UK from the US. The indigenous red squirrel found the grey squirrels impossible not least because they stole all the food and worse yet, developed a maddening habit of eating fruit and nuts in their immature state and not even waiting for them to ripen. This particular survival technique of the grey squirrel ensured that it thrived to the detriment of the red squirrel who, well, preferred their fruit and nuts a point.

In 2008 the credit crunch came upon us. A sort of oxymoron, credit crunch really only signified that the schemers had miscalculated. Those who manipulate and play God usually find that the party eventually ends but like the grey squirrel, their propensity to adapt and prosper also becomes their saving grace. After all, the parallel universe in the trading markets is not exactly the real world.

In the meantime, beech nuts are aplenty in the woods these days and when the squirrels have feasted upon the nuts and thrown away the shells, we can take photos of them like this one. There are so many nuts that the squirrels are exhibiting a trader-like mentality- the ground is carpeted with nuts that are half eaten as if to say "Let then eat cake!"

Photos copyright SvD.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Sometimes we lose

This turtle dove egg had been feasted upon most likely by a crow or magpie. Like a soft boiled hen's egg that we gingerly remove the lid from, the top 1/4 inch was laying a short distance away. The predator had stolen the egg and as any thief is wont to do, would have run off with its prize. Away from prying eyes, the thief would have landed in a secluded spot, sliced off the lid and devoured the rest. The egg measured around 1 3/4 inches - quite a cargo to carry in a beak! As Hercule Poirot would have deduced himself, the thief was probably larger than a sparrow. Interestingly, predator birds do not smash open eggs but ensure that there is minimum spillage of the precious contents by making sure a greater portion of the eggshell is retained after opening. Foresight honed by experience- not dissimilar to humans on a good day.

"The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry." (John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men).

Not everything works out according to the most cast-iron plans or even our best intentions. There will always be a more astute and cunning predator with a razor-like, precision-cutting beak who will outsmart us. The turtle dove carries on regardless, its dainty character unchanged and on a summer's evening can be heard purring gently, as it always does.

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Your happy memories 08/25 | Blog talk radio

The topic this week: Order and routine as inspired by Wuthering Heights.

You can listen to the archived version here:

Your happy memories 08/25


In our facile society, perfection is glossy, fabricated, manipulated and made to order. Yet we are surrounded by unmistakably perfect moments- a smile from a stranger,  a funny joke that makes us laugh so hard we almost fall over, being told someone cares about us, a warm, soft puppy falling asleep in our lap. Perfection is simple and unfettered, a single moment that once it is gone, is impossible to replicate on demand.

This photograph is one such moment: on the way back from the woods today, it was raining buckets and the hound and I were drenched. This tiny leaf had landed on the road and two perfectly formed drops of rain set sail upon it.

When we just stop from the crazy pace in our heads, we see the most extraordinary things. Right there. Waiting.

Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

What it means to be happy

A discussion tonight with an old friend who has lost her cat. The acceptance of things as they are and not railing against "God" when bad things happen. We spoke at length of what it is to be wise. A broken heart is a part of the suffering of what it is to be human. We cannot escape from these things. We concluded: contentment is not about 'ha-ha happiness'. Contentment is a state of being, an awareness of a resource within oneself to overcome most of the bad stuff that happens to us all. Like a well that we can draw on. I have learned from my own life that without having suffered as I have, I would have not been in the position that I am now, with an ability to love still intact. Unfortunately, this understanding of the universe and life is not that dissimilar to religion: one cannot be taught to understand just as one cannot be taught to love.

Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Wind Down Fridays

If you'd like to be entertained by my Friday live radio show, do listen here (Ridge

Wind Down Fridays

 Photo copyright SvD.

Still life with dogs

The blackberries are ripening early this year and this shot was taken on the way back from the woods today. Excuse the hound who is partly in the photograph. The contrast of one ripe and other berries in various stages of maturity is useful if you're an artist creating a still life. There's a poignancy in still life paintings - a silence accompanied by a story evoked but not fully expressed, one that you can only follow with your eyes and not your ears. Hence if all the berries were of the same colour.... you see? In the history of art, small dogs (in paintings) usually represent fertility. My large hound wasn't bred in the days of medieval art filled with symbols- Labradors only appeared on the scene in the 20th century. I should have eaten that ripe berry....

Photo copyright SvD.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Measuring time

The summer is coming to a close and in the natural world the signs of decay accelerate with each day. We are reminded constantly of the passage of time. We measure it with a watch or even in the woods as the rain lands on tree leaves, the sound being reminiscent of a ticking clock. Try listening the next time you get caught in the rain in the woods without a brolly.

Elizabeth I as she lay dying, cried out: "All my possessions for one moment in time!" What use are material things in the next realm, she must have wondered.

Like nature, we are decaying: the greying hair, the creaking knees, the crinkled skin but worst of all, the detachment that an ageing soul encounters, a disinterest, a bitterness that runs through veins like vinegar. Time is measured not just by the reflection in the mirror but inside one's heart.


Photo copyright SvD.

How to terrorise fleas

Look away now if you don't believe in harming small creatures.......

I've been bitten by a few things in my time, some human as well :)

There's a threshold for pain that is rather interesting demonstrated by varying decibels when screeching. I recently discovered the flea bite from those caramel-coloured little insects with a distinctive arched back. I was walking in the woods with the hound when suddenly I shrieked, yes, yelped loudly. A flea had attached itself onto my hand and was munching happily away - or rather sucking my blood. The hound looked alarmed and naturally trotted off. A nanosecond later the flea disembarked or to be truthful, was swotted to a pulp.

Some basic research on the net revealed all manner of chemical deterrents to ward off fleas as by then I was convinced the hound had become a host. Indeed a quick examination revealed ten happy-looking fleas all rather plump and hidden away in the hound's luxuriant fur.

I am pleased to say that the hound is flea-free a week later although he smells, well, somewhat continental. I juice raw garlic which I mix in with his food. The fleas have run screaming from the house and peace has been restored.

Full of useless information

Photo and painting (oil on canvas) copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Easy peasy supper

Food is all about flavour and texture. I'm a harassed, harried cook and very often I forget to cook as I become engrossed in whatever I am doing. A big batch of puy lentils, slow cooked with an onion studded with cloves, a bay leaf, two or three cloves of garlic and then drained, tossed in more garlic, crunchy fried lardons, olive oil, salt and pepper and stored in the fridge. I LOVE lentils which appeal to my peasant roots- cheap, hard working, easy to feed (that's me in a nutshell). But appearances can be deceiving- I dress these lowly lentils up by placing them on a base of polenta and topped with prawns sauteed in olive oil, loads of garlic and a slosh of white wine. A few chives and everyone goes "darling! How positively divine!"...

Photo copyright SvD.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

It's OK to howl at the moon

"Because the moon spins on its own axis in the identical time it takes to orbit the Earth, its lighted 'near side' is always turned earthward, just as its perpetually dark 'far side' is always turned away. "Everyone is a moon," wrote Mark Twain, "and has a dark side he never shows to anybody." (Taschen, The Book of Symbols)

We can emerge from the far side or become irretrievably lost into darkness. Or we can howl at the moon.

The full moon as seen from my patio tonight.
Photo copyright SvD.

Your happy memories 08/18 | Blog talk radio

If you'd like to listen to last Sunday's show, please click here for the archived version:

Your happy memories 08/18 

The topic: What we have in common with King Lear.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 44

As you may know by now, I never stage my photographs; if something catches my eye, I take the shot and move on. I wish to convey through these photos the natural world as it occurs and in order to project that as truthfully as possible, I never ever touch or move anything.

These leaves are as I found them in the woods forming a symbol of sorts which perhaps only the fairies understand.

These berries could pass for  apples (which they resemble closely) but instead are those of the Bastard Service Tree. Fruits and nuts are currently plentiful in the woods as summer draws to a close. The squirrels can be seen stuffing their pockets with beech nuts and the woods are littered with half eaten nuts - like money, when we have too much to it, we never worry about wasting it! Now is the time to be busy making preserves, chutneys and jams in preparation for the winter months when nothing will grow at all.

Autumn is not far away; the leaves have begun to turn yellow and fall where the winds take them.

Photos copyright SvD.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

An emergency on a Saturday afternoon

There I was in A & E for three long hours this afternoon. I have to say that I am so proud to be British- we do things in our own way, some of it chaotic, most of  it genuine and occasionally, we strike gold. Our National Health Service is a gem- a prime example of something so darn good, it should be shouted from the rooftops. But back to me....

I arrived and was asked the usual question- what is your date of birth? They found me on the system and then told me to sit down. I sat and observed a mottley crue come and go.

A man who was holding several tissues to his eye. A middle aged man with blood pouring out of the right side of his head, trickling down his ear and onto the floor. An angelic-faced child wearing a long-sleeved white nightie with blood all over it (like something out of The Omen). A blond young boy in his mum's arms, huge gashes across his face. "He got tangled in barbed wire," the mum wailed as the child buried his bloodied face in her neck. A teenager hobbling in with her mum who could be heard explaining how a horse stood on her daughter's foot. An elderly woman, beautifully dressed, led in by her man servant and who berated the receptionist loudly: "I'VE COME TO SEE MY HUSBAND WHO IS DYING. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? TAKE ME TO HIM AT ONCE." A woman, no more than 30, accompanied by her parents, all wrinkled  and toothless and her young daughter of around seven. " I fainted twice today, what's wrong with me?" the woman whispered, "I need to see someone, please." A man of about sixty who barely able to stand and his face a throbbing red, telling the receptionist that he was breathless and feeling very unwell.

Three hours of my life and what an eye opener. We forget the great mass that is humanity with all its stories and in all its glory. We are all different and yet we all suffer in the same way.

When it was finally my turn and as a doctor was seeing to me, needle in hand, another doctor unexpectedly popped his head in and demanded guidance from his colleague on a matter. It was as if I was invisible. We are. We come into this world and occasionally suffer. That soon passes. And many more, just like us, will take our place.

 A fox encounters a pigeon. On the way home from hospital today.
Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Wind Down Fridays today at 1pm

I hope you'll join me as I broadcast LIVE at Ridge Radio today at 1pm British Time. I'll be going back in time today. Send your special requests, comments (or insults) and funny jokes to me live on air at:

Wind Down Fridays

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Need a proofreader?

I was recently approached by a number of people to proofread their articles for newspapers, for example, and also their draft manuscripts. I'm really delighted to help when I can and if you'd like me to be of some assistance, why not drop me a line? Warning! I charge for my services. Please do get in touch if you'd like a second opinion on your masterpiece! From this blog you can tell that my interests are wide and varied so I'm sure that I could add some value - only if you needed it, of course!

Kindest regards


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 43

The Woodland Project creates havens for butterflies within British woods. To do this, they raze mature trees to the ground and thin out smaller copses. I've always been an opponent to their work as I despise seeing old trees being felled and the wood left to rot. If the wood is used to keep a home warm, I can see some sense in it. This year I was proved wrong: where the trees had disappeared they were replaced by an exquisite meadow of all types of herbs and wild flowers; more importantly, the air was so thick with butterflies I almost needed a mask!

Here's a surprise newcomer which wasn't to be seen last year: St. John's Wort. You may know it as a treatment for depression but in ancient Britain, it was known thus:

'St. John's Wort has been dedicated to John the Baptist. The reddish sap was said to be the blood of John. The superstitious have credited the plant with remarkable mystic qualities. It is the practice to wear the plant as an amulet in order to ward off witches and evil spirits. The plant is also known as  Fuga daemonum- Dare devil.' British Wild Flowers, Charles A. Hall, 1937.

I also came across a sleeping giant on the way back from the woods today.

Sleeping giant
Photos copyright SvD.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 42 - Shocking!!!

Scandalous goings-on! If you're under 18, look away now...

And a British sunset on the way home from the woods this evening.

Photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Your happy memories Online Radio | BlogTalkRadio

The topic this week: 'Gott ist tot.' - A look at my favourite atheist and this week's news that religion will disappear forever.

You can listen to the archived show here:

Your happy memories 08/11

Friday, 9 August 2013

Thank you

London Souffle is one year old this month and has reached proportions that I never anticipated. Thank you for dropping by and most of all, tolerating my musings and me. I will eventually get 'round to inserting a visitor counter on the main page - please bear with me on that.

Photo and oil painting copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Things I saw in the woods today, part 41

Another bird feather mysteriously laying dead center on a burdock leaf. Burdock, incidentally, is the most difficult plant to remove from the ground. The tap roots can grow to three feet in length! I have never been able to remove a root by hand as it always breaks. Like half eaten carrots which badgers famously eat the tops of and leave the bit that is still in the ground- of no use to any man or animal. Burdock has many medicinal properties and I have yet to eat the roots which are considered a speciality in Japan. We are very fortunate in the UK to have burdock growing in abundance but we do not eat it, sadly. Instead the leaves catch falling feathers (from errant magpies):

On the subject of leaves, these need no description as it is plainly obvious:

The meadow flowers and grasses were turned into bales of hay last week and dried stubs are all that remain. Well worn animal trails and paths disappeared when the tractors scythed the meadow down. The animals however kept an imprint in their minds of where they must travel and their tracks are re-emerging. The cycle never ends.

Photos copyright SvD.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Mysterious radio bursts

I've been versatile in my life- to say the least (more a case of do or die :)). Typical Aquarian, we rise to any and all occasions. I was fortunate to be offered my own show at Ridge Radio which I present every Friday and on Sundays I ramble on about life at blogtalkradio.  Here I am, warts and all. Have a listen. If you can bear it.

Wind Down Fridays 02/08/2013 Ridge Radio 

Switch your view

This idea of turning a photo on its head is not mine but I think it makes a valid point: look at things from a different angle occasionally.

In the secret meadow today.

Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie

It is unusual to see a blackbird at a bird feeder. Blackbirds prefer a diet of worms dug up in the ground or snails that they bash relentlessly to 'loosen up' before extracting the dazed molluscs from their shells. I have observed a blackbird come to sleep every day in this buddleia outside my kitchen window. I also receive a visit from a blackbird- impossible to know if it is the same one- who stands and looks at me as if to say, "excuse me but the bird feeding arrangements are somewhat unsatisfactory. You see, I hate perching on that damn thing you call a bird feeder." The blackbird has a thick beak that is not best suited to extracting the suet balls from a feeder clearly designed for smaller birds.

I have eaten many blackbirds during happy years spent in France where my best friend, Madame Bue, would frequently stuff them with sultanas, drizzle with cognac and roast in the the oven. I was a bad guest mostly and would arrive late for lunch every Sunday when the blackbirds had waited a bit too long in the oven and were, ahem, let us say, singed. I was told off frequently for my tardiness. It is customary to eat the bones and all in one sitting. For the faint-hearted, I offer no apologies. Food is not entertainment but rather sustenance.

Photos copyright SvD.

Thursday, 1 August 2013


Lady bugs are beetles with huge appetites for aphids in particular. Like the horse fly, the female lady bug needs a substantial meal before she can mate (in the human kingdom the same seems to apply especially if he's buying dinner). Here is a lady bug feasting in the secret meadow. These latest photos I have posted on insects have proved extremely popular, perhaps because they have faces that are strangely mesmerising.

Photo copyright SvD.