Saturday, 28 February 2015

On the subject of extremism

Now that the so called Jihadi John has been unmasked, it raises some interesting questions:

Firstly, why did his family not alert the authorities that the person in those sickening videos could be him?

Secondly, why do the family of the gentleman in question bear no responsibility for their offspring? From the moment immigrants are given the right to remain indefinitely in this country they need to ditch everything and integrate. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. I have met former refugees who have been housed and educated by the State and yet show disdain for Britain. They feel as if they don't belong and will never gain acceptance, well, guess what, respect is earned.

Thirdly, while multiculturalism is all well and good, anyone who is not proud of being British and swearing allegiance to the Queen should really just hit the road and go back to where they came from.

Fourthly, it is reprehensible to blame the security services for radicalising potential terrorists. The security services do a fantastic job and to blame them is grotesque. Adult make their own choices in life and clearly if that choice is to kill others then they will find a means to do it anyway.

This terrible mess that has become the world of Muslim extremist versus everyone else is without precedent. We are living in horrible times where our politicians are looking at the disarray and do not know where to begin. I was on the Tube in London yesterday and a Jewish family standing in the carriage looked as if the train couldn't go fast enough. Seeing their discomfort made me feel miserable. In the same carriage was a young woman wearing lipstick, heavy makeup and that scarf on her head- choose one or the other, please, and understand your faith properly. Much of the conflict in the minds of these extremists is utter ignorance- they do not comprehend the tenets of their own religion and have not even read their holy texts. One can interpret the word of sages in many different ways but religious understanding is based on the universal principle in all faiths- love towards fellow human beings. For the record, no religion condones killing or violence- that is a convenient interpretation of ignorant minds.

What is the solution? There are those who seem to think that political intervention through bombing or otherwise is the solution. I have lived for over five decades where nothing has really improved - wars never seem to end. Perhaps the solution is to bring back national service and ensure that a pride in the British identity is mandatory for everyone regardless of creed or race.

 Photo copyright SvD.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Escha van den Bogerd joins Art Soufflé

Best-selling Dutch artist, Escha van den Bogerd, whose evocative, romantic yet powerful paintings are held in numerous private collections around the world, joins Art Soufflé. Escha is one of the top-selling artists worldwide- we are delighted to represent this exquisite talent.

 Colore, Copyright Escha van den Bogerd.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Things I saw in the woods today, part 100

I call this one, 'chocolate log with mushroom icing'. Strange how the mushrooms have sprouted along the edges but not in the center...

A rare thing indeed- the leaf of a gingko tree which must itself be several hundred years old. The tree is not indigenous to the UK but comes from the Far East and is literally one of the longest living tree species in the world. How did the tree come to be in the woods?

And I just had to put this baby feather in again as I found it in the same spot as before, blissfully resting on fading autumn leaves- we haven't had any rain for a few days so there it is perfectly preserved still. It makes my heart sing- no other explanation there except that it is lovely to behold against those brown-end-of-season leaves and the arc of the perpetually green ivy. Death, beginnings, you decide.

This series has reached 100- who would have thought I had that much patience?

Photos copyright SvD.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Things I saw in the woods today, part 99

It's been a while since I posted any photos from my walks in the woods- the wintry weather makes it difficult to extract frozen fingers from gloves and press the aperture on a camera. But here are three from today. Enjoy!

 A baby bird's feather finds perfect symmetry in the arch of an ivy leaf.
 Darkness falls and three black streaky clouds appear on the horizon.
The inside of a fallen tree trunk- notice the squares- we are all building blocks of life.

Photos copyright SvD.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Dementia or Are We There Yet?

I was privileged to have lunch today with a lady who suffers with dementia. I found the entire experience of such value to me that I can only describe it as poignant in the true sense of the word. I often write about growing old and the blessings of a fuzzy memory. Today I realised that dementia sufferers live in a time warp that is positively surreal. They segue between the past and the present and time is simply not measurable anymore. A father who had died in the 60s, somehow had only just passed away. Winston Churchill who was a family friend and frequent dinner companion, also just died recently. Is this state of timelessness tragic? I found it to be rather revelatory about how we view our use of time and our lives.

Firstly, we should value time because it passes swiftly by.  When we face the prospect of growing old and eventually dying, we realise that time is more valuable than gold, silver and all the diamonds and rubies in the world.

Secondly, we should recognise that most things in life are trivial and unimportant and we should not sweat the small stuff- a dementia sufferer has absolutely no concept of worrying about anything. Their needs and requirements are pared right down to those of utmost simplicity- food, rest, warmth and all in the present moment, the NOW because past and future are alien concepts to them.

Thirdly, as we look back at our lives, what do we recall? In other words, what really mattered? The lady I had lunch with today kept talking about her father in the present tense and with great respect. When I asked her what she remembered about her father the most, she replied: "He was himself." She may be suffering with dementia but there are flashes of absolute clarity- a person, an idea, an experience in her life which had embedded itself so deeply into her consciousness that in a sense, it made her who she is. But the statement that he was himself is truly profound. In other words, he had a strong sense of what he stood for. (It turns out that he was an MP, a Baron, a playwright, a radio presenter, a naval officer and an author). The theme of knowing who one is and to which I return often in my writing, was proven resoundingly by my lunch companion today. Indeed her father was a visionary and a free spirited independent thinker- a fearless and courageous individual guided by a strong sense of self. And he is still very much alive to her despite the contrary which brings me to the fourth point.

Fourthly, death is just an illusion. When time disappears, death becomes a non occurrence. Just as this lady spoke of her father as if he were alive, the impression he had made on her life and the image she retained of him were so strong, in essence it was as if he had never died. We spend our entire lives fearing death and yet, if we were to reflect on death being as transient as life we would have no fear.

Fifthly, we cannot change who we are. Although age brings a rapprochement to an end which manifests in a loss of memory and an immortality of sorts in the present tense, our demeanour and the core of our being remains intact to the end. Consider this: the lady spoke with the same upper class accent and her table manners remained impeccable despite her advanced age (we were in a fancy French restaurant and ate many courses). An innate intelligence prevents us from degenerating- the old argument that humans are superior to animals because of our intellectual capacity or intelligence, is indeed a subtle affirmation that all human life is purposeful (until it is squandered by an abuse of that intelligence). A will to choose coupled with an ability to understand are quite simply the most extraordinary gifts but which we take for granted. Furthermore life is a forward line leading somewhere and we all share the same destiny in that regard.

Sixthly, aging is about saying goodbye and a reminder of the ephemeral nature of life. Botox and plastic surgery are the favoured companions of many these days but they appeal to our fear of life and by inference, death. It is a sad indictment of our society that we do not value older people or the process of aging. I learned more during a few hours with an old woman today than I probably have in years. As I sat opposite her at lunch I saw eons of wisdom in a complete absence of anything- Goethe helpfully pointed out that one essentially knows nothing and Chateaubriand remarked that by the time we gain any wisdom at all we are ready to die. The true wisdom is in fact the human spirit- an ability to be, to fade away with grace, to choose the roar of silence over pointless words, to proffer a smile, albeit a toothless one, and this in spite of everything. My lunch companion today held the mirror up to me and I saw myself then, now and tomorrow. My gratitude to her is immense.

Photo copyright SvD.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Latest painting from Johan Wahlstrom

 "Morning Has Broken"
 Pearl Metal, Acrylic, Color Pigments, Varnish On Canvas
 January 2015
Price: 6500£

Available to purchase through

 Morning has broken, copyright Johan Wahlstrom

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

My heart breaks

I have just learned of the alleged murder of the young Jordanian pilot and in the most heinous way. Social media is awash with photos of the poor man being burned alive while trapped in a cage. I am heartbroken and I did not even know him. What sort of people are we that we want to be voyeurs and feel a sadistic pleasure in watching a man die? What have we as human beings become. There is nothing human about us anymore. Worse than savages- thousands of years of civilisation through language and literature and art and this is humanity now. I often criticise our love and worship of celebrities and here is the proof you need- when we watch total rubbish like Big Brother or X Factor or Get Me Out of Here I'm a Celebrity or the nonsense that Top Gear has become- we glorify the wrong things. We are sucked into a vacuous pit of crap and seem to elevate that debased thinking as something worthwhile. When we watch Quentin Tarantino's take of killing and more killing, for example, we become inured to suffering, to tragedy and in the process we lose ourselves completely. This is sad beyond words. A young man is murdered in cold blood and we see the act as it happens. Where will it end? The real perpetrators of these terrbile acts are the ones who orchestrated the disintegraton of ancient cultures for profit. I will not go down the political route but it is on everyone's lips- we started this mess and now look what has happened! The world, and neither will we, ever be the same.

"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." John Donne.