Monday, 30 January 2017

Sunshine and showers

I was born at 2.30pm which explains why I was never an early morning person or so I thought until I conditioned myself to get up at the crack of dawn. Human beings have an incredible built-in mechanism which allows them to get used to most things and to program our minds however we want, even in matters of the heart.

I've been thinking of a former French boyfriend quite a lot in the past few weeks. When that happens it usually means the person in question is wondering about me too. I think we were madly in love once- I use the word 'think' because more than twenty-five years have passed since we met. Were we? Who knows? The fact is we're not together and much has happened in both of our lives, the equivalent of War and Peace in mine and I can only assume, the same in his.

There is no trajectory in anyone's life which is plain easy and nothing is ever what it seems. One of my university friends deliberately cut off contact because she struggled financially and found herself unemployed. I only learned of this some twenty years later and by chance from a third person. In our shallow and facile 21st century living where social media dictates that we are all wonderful, successful and beautiful, if you're out on a limb, you don't actually want to be reminded of not being perfect. The same could well apply to my French boyfriend. Although he was relatively successful and well-known when we met, there's nothing to be found about him on the internet. Does this mean he is dead? Or could it be that he disappeared into obscurity and is padding peacefully around in his slippers talking to his houseplants? Maybe he became a drug addict and his career crashed. Maybe he lost all his money and is living on social benefits on an estate reminiscing about the life he once had and the one woman he should never have let go.

None of us will ever fully understand if we made the right decisions in our lives. The late John Hurt famously replied when asked if he had regrets, that yes, he regretted everything because in hindsight he could have always behaved differently. Just as my heart was broken, I'm responsible for breaking a few too and pretty shamelessly at the time although I only understood that after the fact. And yes, I probably should have listened to my mother and married DR BORING WITH ZERO PERSONALITY but at least by now I'd have been enjoying a comfortable retirement trapped in an utterly loveless marriage for the sake of it but thankfully too comatose to notice. (Cue the joke of the husband and wife who claim to get on very well because they never speak.)

I still have the couple of love letters my French boyfriend wrote to me. The last time I found them by accident as I was throwing stuff away to prepare for a house-move, I couldn't believe my eyes. I remember it all as if it were only yesterday: the way we looked at each other when we were introduced (when kismet had to be and was not forced through a computer screen), that feeling of 'there you are', how he captivated every waking thought, and yet if we were to cross paths in the street we probably could not bear to speak to each other. I think that's true love. When no amount of words could express what could have been or should have been and how sorry we both must be that we didn't have the guts to forge a life together. Sometimes there are those who place their stamp so indelibly on our hearts that it is simply too painful to revisit the past or even see them again because we could never recapture what we once had. So what do we do instead? We convince ourselves that life must go on and we just carry on.

My late mother had no end of suitors in her time and turned down many marriage proposals before she deigned to marry my father. One suitor, a Frenchman called Claude, never forgot her. Several years into her marriage with children of her own, my mother was riding down an escalator in the London Underground one day when she heard someone call her name. It was Claude. They spent hours over coffee filling in the gaps of the previous two decades. Claude eventually died and to the end kept photos of my mother which he would often gaze at wistfully. Claude's wife, Marie, informed my mother of this after Claude had died. Even when Alzheimer's had destroyed Claude's memory or so it would seem, the one person he remembered and would speak of was my mother.

Love therefore shares a lot in common with our British weather which is notoriously unpredictable and follows no particular pattern. For example, it's not unusual for warm sunshine to follow an endless freezing downpour or for a menacing cloud to suddenly waft away revealing the bluest of skies. And in the summer we moan endlessly that it's too hot and how we wish it would rain! In the course of life we will experience both sunshine and showers and more often than not, it will rain on the days we forget our umbrella at home. We discover too late that matters of the heart are as transient as the clouds in the sky and when we look back, we only can see the happiness we thought we knew.

Photo copyright SvD.

Friday, 27 January 2017

'Clean eating' = AAaaargh!

I watched the lovely Ella Mills on you tube the other day out of curiosity as the 'clean eating' movement was garnering criticism in the press. She was making a 'risotto' by puréeing squash and pouring it over rice. That ain't a risotto, honey. That's puréed vegetable mixed with boiled rice. Risotto is made with Arborio rice, stock and takes time over a gentle heat. It's a bit like calling me Sophia Loren when I'm obviously not her.

I despair and have much experience of being a vegetarian- I used to live on soya mince and other 'good' stuff. Having been brought up eating bloody steak I eventually relented and returned to my carnivorous ways when I began working in London where the pace is relentless and the hours long. London is so competitive that you could arrive at work and before you've eaten your croissant, be shown the door. Stamina and balls are required to survive London and a vegan diet would leave you exhausted, cold and prone to much farting. Hardly conducive to schmoozing clients on The Sunday Times Rich List.

Here's the thing that all these deluded and no doubt, overly idle devotees are missing: a vegan diet was derived for the purpose of achieving spiritual awareness. By not consuming meat and the energy of animals, one was meant to become enlightened and closer to reaching nirvana or bliss. Meat is grounding- it is heavy and hard to digest and keeps us rooted. In order to achieve enlightenment, the body must be light and the mind clear. The yogi in India who's life is dedicated to spiritual awakening survives on fruit, nuts and pulses and would not dare to corrupt his pathway to bliss by consuming animals products, even cheese or eggs.

The trend of clean living is nothing new but its application in today's society is as always, misguided. One wonders who comes up with the next trend for the sheep to gobble because that's what it is. The irony in the preparation and purchase of ingredients of the 'clean living' movement is that it is expensive and relies on processed vials of this- or-that extract or powdered roots or enzymes extracted from the tooth fairy's breath. Let's be clear- those vials are overpriced and are made by a large scale manufacturer whose sole purpose is to turn a profit. The supreme irony therefore is that in order to clean out our systems, become healthier and save animals from being killed for food, we should spend more and support globalisation in all its destructive glory.

The lovely Ella Mills is 25 years old with an excellent pedigree. She clearly saw a gap in the market hewn from her own experience of eating badly, saw the light as it were, and in the process improved her health and her bank balance. Good for her. But as a serious French cook myself who loves food, the preparation of it, the respect for it and in memory of all those during the occupation of Paris who during WW2  ate cats to survive, please don't tell me that this trend of 'clean eating' is anything more that complete nonsense. If you want to get healthy- eat unprocessed food in as close as possible to its natural state. And don't eat a lot of it. Everything in moderation except fads of which none is better than any at all.

My homemade organic lamb stew with hand made buttery dumplings.
Photo copyright SvD.

And here's what I look like now- in my 50s, stressed out, work long hours, up at 5am to walk my hounds, red wine every single day with supper. No health problems, ideal weight, normal blood pressure. Just suffering with an aversion to gullibility.
Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

My favourite things

Every once in a while I find something in an antique fair that makes me go: 'Wow!!!' and I literally just have to have it. Here's an example: A disjointed hare. Around where I live, these hares are meant to bring you good luck. Isn't he lovely? Pride of place in my study where I simply cannot stop smiling when I see him.

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Radio- how to make an idiot of yourself publicly

What great fun I've had doing radio over the years!
Sam at Susy Radio, Ridge Radio and Meridian FM.

Whenever I have a nervous guest- all my shows are live- I suggest that they think of the interview like having a cup of coffee with a mate and having a good chinwag. It always works and they relax completely.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Of memories past.

'Yes, it was very good and glad you think so too.' This is a conversation I had with an old lover- I was 25 and he was 50, it was thirty years ago and our romance lasted for years. I had heard he was suffering with cancer and we renewed our contact. When I look back at all those years gone by and the way my life has turned out, I recall that he was the one lover who mattered a great deal. He taught me a lot about nature and about the excess of too much rum and sex. At his weekend forest home he had fashioned an open-air shower with a pipe from a nearby stream which poured cold water over you. Mountain crabs would nibble at your toes as you stood in this makeshift 'bathroom'. A chemical toilet which I absolutely loathed, was all we had. In the mornings I would watch in awe as a flock of oropendulas would descend onto a mango tree and demolish the fruit in seconds, in a noisy, manic gaggle. I remember my sister and a Canadian friend came to visit us on our weekend hideaway and marvelled at the 'wildness' of it all. We took them hunting for crabs after the rain flushed them out and we laughed and were happy. How life has led us all in very different directions and how we learned to live in the moment because after that there was nothing left. Thank you, G.

Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

The Hunt turns my legs to jelly

I was walking down the main street in our little 17th century village today when all of a sudden the most tremendous roar of horses hooves sounded suddenly behind me. As I turned around I had barely ten seconds to step out of the way as the local hunt, some fifty of them, so magnificent in their green tweed jackets, blazed past me along with their pack of foxhounds, gleefully chasing after them. Both lanes of traffic instantly ground to a halt to allow the thunderous ensemble to pass by. It was all quite a sight which literally took my breath away. If there was a fox somewhere in the mêlée, running for his life, I did not see him. I have to admit that the sight of the hunt is breathtaking to me and my legs quiver each time as it passes within spitting distance. I can only imagine how exhilarating it must be to charge along on a fine horse with a pack of excited hounds for company.

Today was freezing cold and my morning walk, my meditation, my hymn to the Gods, took place amongst the frosted fields and woods. How lucky am I to walk for miles and never see a single soul apart from the odd kestrel who fancies me for his breakfast.

Photo copyright SvD.