Closing Circles

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The penultimate instalment of my autobiography before I revert to my normal blogs

A year after Arthur Thomas’s pardon, a Royal Commission condemned the policeman who’d planted the cartridge, and said Arthur should never have been charged. I sat through the weeks of testimony, crocheting a colourful rug from all the scraps of wool I had, and I think driving the male chauvinists around me quite mad!

I was back home towards the end when Patrick took time off from his office to hear the last stages of the inquiry which was all based on his findings. He rang and said they were being asked to put in a claim for what the investigation had cost them, and Jim Sprott was claiming $150,000. Patrick said it didn’t feel right climbing on this bandwagon of claims… so I told him about the painter Whistler’s damages of a farthing in England when he sued Ruskin for defamation in 1870, and suggested Patrick likewise claim a dollar – otherwise you’ll be written out of the court’s findings, I said.

So he did claim a dollar. Arthur was given a million dollars in compensation, and Patrick was rewarded with an OBE. The following year the Queen presented it to him, at the same time that my daughter received her Gold Medal from the Duke of Edinburgh

While all these dramas were playing out, I resigned as Woman’s Editor of the Star, feeling that the increased attacks and hostility from feminists would lose their sting if I wasn’t there, and the women’s pages might become unmolested!

I took the children to England for a holiday, and when we returned took up writing my columns again, and was commissioned to write several books. I once calculated that fifteen years of writing two columns of a thousand words a week, probably added up to about 780,000 words, and that didn’t include all the articles and interviews I wrote in that time as well. At least half as much again, I suspect.

A column which covered vivisection and the experiments and horrible operations that people like South African heart surgeon Dr Christian Barnard performed on animals, caused huge repercussions. It revived the moribund anti-vivisection society known as SAFE, (Save Animals from Experimentation) and Patrick and I became president and vice-president.

This column also triggered a big meeting of angry doctors at the Medical School at Auckland University where they reportedly discussed: ‘What to do about Valerie Davies’. At the time I had also castigated the practise of every medical student having their own rat to kill – they  bashed it on the table by holding its tail, before dissecting it.

They sent my article to Christian Barnard in South Africa, who’d become a high-living celebrity by then, and he responded by sue-ing me and the Star. The Star cravenly paid up the money he demanded, but I refused, telling my solicitor I’d rather go to jail. The children were devastated, and my son even had tears rolling down his cheeks when I explained what I was doing.

In the event my clever lawyer wrote told Barnard’s solicitor that my defence would be that I’d found all the hideous boasts about making a two headed dog, and the screams of a baboon wrenched from his mate to take his heart for an experiment, in Dr Barnard’s own autobiography, and a TV interview. We heard no more!

I continued writing columns that enraged people, writing of the barbaric treatment of calves in modern farming, to the use of 245T (a dioxin based pesticide) the indiscriminate felling of trees, and other environmental concerns. After a column on climate change and the ozone layer, a university professor wrote a scathing letter to the paper calling me a ‘knee-jerk environmentalist’, while a professor of paediatrics, rang me at home he was so furious when I wrote that babies should never be left to cry as it broke their trust in their parents.

Now all the research into brain function has proved me right. Child psychology preaches the benefits of cuddling and of feel- good pheromones  connecting in the brain, and the dangers of cortisone building up in the brain if babies are left to cry, which leaves them prone to depression and a host of problems as they grow older…

Sometimes, in the rain and misery of the Springbok winter, traipsing in and out to the Royal Commission in the city- an hour’s drive each way- struggling with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, living on willpower, not energy, seeing the miseries of modern farming as I drove past fields with bleak herds of cows deprived of their new calves, stopping the car to untangle desperate goats tied up and used as lawn-mowers on the road-side, I used to wonder what was wrong with me.

Why was I so out of step with everyone and everything? And then I discovered a group in England called Women for Life on Earth, and I knew I wasn’t mad after all, and that my concerns were those of many others too. Knowing this restored my confidence and gave me heart. (This group morphed into the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, and their historic resistance to nuclear weapons.)

My illness had got worse. I couldn’t bear light, and had tortoise shell rattan blinds on every window as well as curtains, I had difficulty understanding speech and used to exhort the children and my husband to speak clearly. I couldn’t bear any music except formal baroque tunes, and was in constant pain.

Somehow, I kept up with driving the children around, having friends and Patrick’s family to stay, his other four children and their friends for meals, walking the dogs twice a day, cooking decent nutritious food on time, fulfilling numerous speaking engagements – teachers conferences, school prize-givings, parents groups, schools, Rotary and other clubs, even the annual lunch of accountants – to mention a few – writing the columns which generated so much controversy and so many letters to answer, not to mention the dreaded housework. I paid the teenage children to help… my daughter to do the washing, my son to clean the bathrooms.

And at the end of this hard, sad winter we left our dream home in the country, where no-one had waved or spoken to us in over a year, and moved back to town, where friends welcomed us, strangers called in with fruit and flowers and cakes, and we felt we had come home.

A young, unprejudiced and open-minded woman doctor friend dropped in to see me, while I was having an episode of CFS. Mimi introduced me to Re-birthing, a system of connected breathing which was all the rage at that time, and this was a turning point for me. The breathing got me on my feet, and I was now strong enough to become involved with a personal growth group, Self-Transformation, which I helped to establish in this country.

It grew exponentially. This was the early eighties, when groups like EST were breaking down so many barriers, and people all over the world were ready to start their journey towards self-actualisation. Jung was often the starting point, his book and his theme ‘Modern Man in Search of his Soul’ in tune with the new age.

Abraham Maslow, Ken Wilbur, then Dipak Chopra, Jean Houston, Caroline Myss, one after another, names and techniques came crowding into our consciousness, and people like me couldn’t get enough…meditation, yoga, Reiki, shiatsu, rolfing, holotropic breathing, aromatherapy, sweat lodges and other methods of bodywork we explored put us in touch with our emotional blocks and old traumas, and kept us busy for years.

Buddhism, the Essenes, Hawaian Kahunas, Shamanism, gurus from Ram Dass to Sai Baba, Raj Neesh, and the Dalai Lama held many in thrall – though gurus were not for me – and this is only to touch on a few of the influences, techniques and people who influenced my friends and I as we journeyed on. I sold most of my precious things to pay for all this… silver from my first marriage, oriental rugs I’d collected over the years, a precious French provincial table… it was worth it.

It was all a mystery to my husband, who called me a New Age Nutter, which didn’t bother me at all. I tried often to explain what I was doing, and it didn’t matter how often I did, he never understood or remembered.

He had a different journey. He had ten jobs in twenty years, travelling from radio back to newspapers, then magazines to public relations, radio again, magazines, to teaching journalism and back to newspapers, finally becoming editor- in- chief of a group of suburban newspapers when he was in his early seventies. They were years of financial insecurity, when he was badly paid, and I was glad to still have some money from my writing and then the counselling practise that I managed to operate for all those years until I was in my mid-seventies.

In every job he found, pressure would build-up, and he would be unable to see eye- to-eye with his boss, just as he had been so often at the Star. It’s only as I look back that I realise that this was his modus operandi.

He’d come home and I’d sympathise and take on the angst and the anxiety. We moved house often, buying old wrecks which I restored and beautified, each time hoping that by reducing the mortgage or making life easier at home, with less travelling, or some other excuse, it would reduce his stress. It never did.

He had also become obsessed with Japan, and apart from writing books about it, studying its history and customs, and collecting anything Japanese, he became an expert on samurais, Japanese sword-play – kendo and eido- and antique Japanese swords, which were hugely expensive. He was always buying more and more precious ones, as he learned more and more about them, and went to Japan half a dozen times.

As my car fell to pieces, because we couldn’t afford to replace it, he was ‘investing’ he assured me, in his swords, which would pay for our old age, so we didn’t need to save or pay off the mortgage. I believed him.

And so we came to the end of our roads. As Paul Coelho wrote: “It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.”

Next week is the last instalment of this series. The Who-dun-it of the Thomas case will be told in an Appendix the week after that.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

 

As we talked about our go-to puddings over a nice drop of affogato in our favourite restaurant, one of my closest friends asked me for the recipe for my hot chocolate sauce for ice-cream I was boasting about. This is for her.

It comes from good old Mrs Beeton, and my children loved it over ice-cream, while I serve it for guests now with pears baked in wine plus ice-cream.

Blend together a rounded dessert spoon of cornflour, two rounded dessertspoons of cocoa powder, and three rounded dessertspoons of sugar with a little cold water measured from half a pint. Boil the rest of the half pint of water and pour on the mixture. Pour into a saucepan and boil for two minutes, stirring all the time. Add three drops of vanilla and half an ounce of butter. Simple and  delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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29 Comments

Filed under consciousness, cookery/recipes, environment, Japan, self knowledge, The Sound of Water, Uncategorized, womens issues

29 responses to “Closing Circles

  1. Dearest Valerie,

    What a horrid malady is CFS. That and Fibromyalgia, both of which have been dubbed my some ‘experts’ as imaginary. I’ve had friends who’ve suffered both and there’s nothing imaginary about them. I’m glad you found a way to heal. I have a wonderful female doctor whose philosophy is “if it works, do it.”
    I find it amusing…if not a little infuriating that 40 years ago environmentalists were referred to as tree huggers. Now saving the planet is in vogue. I hope it’s not too little too late.
    This has been a wonderful series and I’m going to hate to see it come to an end. Thank you for sharing your life, my friend. Hugs to you and himself.

    Shalom v’ahavah (Peace and love)

    Rochelle

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Rochelle, thank you for being such a faithful reader…you’re right about the vogue now for saving the planet, and I do wonder if we are too late… the acres of Amazon being destroyed, the pollution of the oceans…
      the problems seem huge… though I firmly believe that in her own time, not our time, Gaia can/will sort things out …
      Love and peace to you too, Valerie

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What an interesting quote from Paul Coelho. It seems very apt for your entire autobiography. Love the header photo.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. eremophila

    Your capacity to Carry immense loads is incredible, and I struggle to find words to express my deep respect and gratitude for your persistence. Thank you a hundred times over.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for your generous words, I am grateful … what you see in my story is so interesting, the perspective of others gives me insights and understandings that I hadn’t previously explored… thank you again…and I always think that we can only recognise in others what we are ourselves… which is the gift of blogging – that we attract others of like mind…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Being the first to grasp an idea and share it will others always bears significant risk. Most people, when they initially experience the outrage that comes with standing up for a just cause, never do it again. But your courage and resilience make you an implacable giant for worthy and noble causes. Have you ever wondered why you never feel you are on the “same page” with others around you? I have found that generally that it is because you are on a page in the chapter ahead. And that is a very good thing. Looking forward to you next installment. I love your photo. Beautiful!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dearest Rebecca,
      What a typically generous and thoughtful comment freighted with insight and understandings and your wonderful wisdom..
      Thank you for what you say, which gave me food for thought, and an understanding too, of the past, and of the future, that I hadn’t grasped before.
      I love reading what you have to say, it’s always supportive and inspiring… thank you lovely friend…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I am in awe of your strength and determination and your ability to write about it without self-pity.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That’s a lovely photo of you Valerie, you look positively luminous! It must be very satisfying to look back on all those things you wrote that made a difference, even when you were suffering from illness and other challenges at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your generous words, Andrea… what you say about it being satisfying to look back is partly true, but the amazing thing for me, has been to write my story and receive the feedback and understanding of people like you… that is so satisfying and has been such a gift as I’ve worked my way through this story of the past.
      The photo was taken five years ago by NZ Woman’s Weekly when they interviewed me…glad you liked it !

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Rose Francis

    Dear Valerie,

    I have been reading your posts with great interest.  Thank you for your honesty in sharing such personal details of your interesting and challenging life.

    I have had many similar experiences, and am struggling to record them honestly, because adult children will be unforgiving when they know the harsh home truths.

    Where are you living now?  I’m in Blenheim, New Zealand, widowed and 73 years old.

    It would be a privilege to have a Skype chat or conversation with you sometime .

    Like you, i’ve been a journo & columnist, and author of books. etc.

    Looking forward to all your readings.

    Blessings,

    Rose

    Like

    • Hello Rose,
      Thank you so much for your lovely friendly comment. I really appreciate your encouraging words, intelligent appreciative readers are a gift!

      Blenheim must be a lovely place to live… it always sounds a congenial environment.
      I’m now living in a remote forest in the Coromandel ranges out of reach of cellphones, and other technology!!!

      Thank you so much for contacting me,
      with very warm wishes,
      Valerie

      Like

  8. Angela

    Ha ha I did quietly smile Valerie at the thought of you crocheting away diligently while the ‘men of importance’ pontificated away!! Much like the women of Greenham later with the bootees & handknits pinned to the base fences….ah thank God for the women of the world! Heavens you’re nearly at the end of your story…& ive simply loved every word…thankyou
    Angela xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Angela.
      Lovely to see you,,, ha ha… yes, women knitting or crocheting really bug some men !!! and yes, I love the women of Greenham Common too… it was a wonderful way to make their point…
      Thank you for sticking around to hear my story, good friend,
      love Valerie

      Like

  9. I agree with other comments about the lovely photo above. I have searched far and wide for 19 years for a cure for fibromyalgia. I have managed to live with it but never to get rid of it. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment about my photo !!!
      My heart goes out to you coping with fibromyalgia for so long… I’ve always thought I was lucky not to have that particular malady… is it my imagination, or is it mostly women who suffer from it? I have several other women friends who cope with it too… with not a lot of sympathy or understanding either…

      Like

  10. A sad reflection how often people are hated for being right.
    What was it with you and husbands with irresponsible spending habits?
    What a pity The Star buckled in such a shameful manner. Instead they should have taken him on for gaining his fame at such awful expense, and for an unforgivably callous attitude.
    Have I missed something with the medal to your daughter at the same time as Patrick’s much-deserved OBE? What a thrill!
    How you carried on with that schedule while fighting the ‘imaginary’ CFS I can’t imagine. Just imagine how poetic if those that dubbed it imaginary were all suddenly afflicted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great to hear from you Leslie… I think I must have some karma around husbands and money !!!!
      My daughter slogged away at the Duke of Edinburgh’s award going over and above the demands …when they had to perform some service to society, rather than picking up rubbish around town which her school arranged, she went to help at a geriatric hospital for altzheimers and elderly downs syndrome people, and went back every holidays after that, to be with these people she grew so fond of…
      I like your idea of payback- those who fail to be kind to sufferers of unnamed maladies then experiencing it for themselves!!! I’d even revel guiltlessly in some schadenfreude !!!!

      Like

  11. WOW! You are my hero! I am stunned at the load you carried and the paths that you forged forward into where we are now. I thank you, most humbly and gratefully!
    That is a most stunning photo of you. My heart reaches out to the struggle you endured and the amazing ways you found to turn each set back around.
    In a very wonderful way, you blazed a trail right through each and every day of your life setting an example of enlightenment for all of us today.
    Much love my very dear friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda, as usual, you give me such encouragement and understanding… you are a darling… thank you for your enthusiasm about my photo…
      I love the way you interpret my story and see things there that I had not…
      you make me feel wonderful…. I am still thinking about your last letter…
      very thought-provoking… I’ll be back to you !!!
      Much love as ever XXXX

      Liked by 1 person

  12. A beautiful picture of you, Valerie…it glows with light. CFS is so tough to deal with and to live through. I am glad you found your way with it. Your poor body was speaking of all the weight it had carried for years. Forgive me to saying, but no number of Japanese antique swords would ever have been enough! I hold the picture of you crocheting in court in my heart, as I hold you. ❤ xXx ❤

    Like

    • Dearest Jane, lovely words from you… thank you for what you say about my photo, and for your understanding about the challenge of CFS… you’re absolutely spot on with your remark about the Japanese swords… my husband’s greed, – not just about swords – was a joke in the family…
      Glad you enjoyed the thought of my determined crocheting amongst all the men!!!
      XXXX

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Wonderful post, Valerie and what a perfect title for it too. All those new age courses and books to read, how stimulating and fresh, so apt for CFS effects and old emotional baggage, which we all end up carrying as a load within us. I have gleaned how much those rugs meant to you, as they would to me too, but what price can you put on enlightenment? Lovely portrait picture of you too. I too will miss this series, but circles have to close. Looking forward to the final installment!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hello Lynne,
    i love your lovely intelligent comments… thank you for your enthusiasm… yes, you would understand about all that new age stuff, and how interesting that you picked up on my love for my lovely old rugs… and as you say, you can’t put a price on enlightenment, even though I hesitate to dignify my journey with that legendary description !!!
    Thank you for sticking with me through this series…

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Juliet

    Oh, Valerie , so much suffering! And yet your resilient spirit and desire to seve the highest good has always taken you into growth. You photo at the top shows your beauty and inner radiance, which has survived all attempts to undermine you.

    Like

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