Tag Archives: New Age

The future in the distance

100_0404I know I said this would be the last instalment of my autobiography, but as it turns out, there is one more chapter to come.

 When I was in the army as a twenty- two- year old lieutenant, I had to take a detachment of my girls to help at a local fete at Stratford-on -Avon. My job was to look after John Mills, the film star, and his daughter Juliet, also a film star. They were opening the village fete.

When this not-too- onerous task had been completed, I was free to wander round the fair ground, though feeling somewhat conspicuous in my dark green army uniform. I ducked inside a fortune teller’s tent for fun and sat down in front of her crystal ball. She took my hand, and peered at it. “There’s writing in this hand,” she said. “you’re going to start writing and you’ll never stop. It’s all through the rest of your life.”

Nothing was further from my thoughts at the time, and I dismissed it as a fortune teller’s fantasy. It took another seven years before her prophesy came true, and I’m still writing! During the years of Patrick’s retirement when he was still churning out a weekly column and editing a grey power magazine, I was still writing too.

Not only did I write for his magazine – interviews, columns, and cookery articles, (all unpaid) helping him design covers and acting as courier to and from the printers, but I also checked his books before they went to the printer, thought of titles like: ‘Sons of the Sword’, ‘Dangerous Journeys’, and provided material to give them extra depths like the extracts from the Mahabharata about a nuclear explosion, when he wrote of Hiroshima in ‘Sons of the Sword’.

When he ran out of ideas for his column, I’d cook up a reader’s letter for him to discuss, or find and research a topic for him, and as he grew less able, I’d check over every column trying to re-write confused sentences and connect unconnected trains of thought. He used to get very angry with me at correcting his work, and I dreaded doing it every week, but it had to be done to maintain his credibility.

A publisher commissioned me to write sixteen illustrated books on New Zealand, I wrote for a parent’s magazine, and for my pleasure also began writing a book called ‘The Sound of Water.’ Through all the sadness and despair of the last years of our marriage this writing energised me and gave me pleasure.

Patrick had six major operations during this time, and they were always followed by complications. When we could still afford private care, it was daunting to discover that once the operation had been completed, and paid for- we were out on the street! Not even any help into the car with a severely disabled heavy patient, and there was no follow-up care.

When we had to fall back on the state health system, the follow-up care was meticulous and took a great weight off my mind; but we still had the long treks into the pain clinic, the geriatric department, the heart unit, operations for cataracts, endless visits to the hearing clinic for hearing aids, and regular trips to the doctor… I was now facing what so many women who marry much older husbands have to cope with.

When he fell over, a frequent occurrence, I would have to ring the local volunteer fire brigade for help in lifting a heavy and inert old man – it would take four men to get him off the floor, and then onto a stretcher and into an ambulance to hospital.

The army of medical practitioners involved in his care all told me that now was the time to ask for family help, ‘you can’t go it alone’. But like so many other families, mine too was spread around the globe or coping with their own burdens.

Though I was frequently ambushed with depression in this time, and so stressed that heart pains made me wonder if I was having a heart attack, the support of friends, coffee, lunch or little get- togethers kept me going. And now I discovered opera, becoming an afficionado of the New York Met’s filmed operas which showed at our local cinema regularly.

Back home I’d compare different versions on Youtube, and found solace and stimulation in this new passion. And then blogging became a hobby too – more writing! And because I always looked bright and efficient, loved my garden, books, music, clothes, good food and friends, no-one ever thought I wasn’t coping.

Once I organised a two week stay of what was called ‘respite care’ in a nearby retirement home, paid for by the health service, and Patrick’s children were appalled at my callousness. During this time, I was so exhausted I slept most of the time, which I’m told is typical for carers. I began to wonder guiltily if I would ever have any life left to enjoy, when this long period of illness and frailty was over for a husband – who in spite of all his operations and constant illness was still, it seemed, indestructible.

I began to seek comfort in the words of people like Ibsen:

‘ELMER: But this is disgraceful. Is this the way you neglect your most sacred duties?
NORA: What do you consider is my most sacred duty?
HELMER: Do I have to tell you that? Isn’t it your duty to your husband and children?
NORA:I have another duty, just as sacred.
HELMER: You can’t have. What duty do you mean?
NORA: My duty to myself.’

I found the lines in Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s poem gave me courage:

‘… I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.’

And Hillel’s words written two thousand years ago: ’If not you – who? If not now – when?

So in the end, after giving him a rousing eighty-fifth birthday party which all but two of the children were able to attend, I decided I had to make a decision. Three weeks later, with my doctor’s encouragement, I told him I couldn’t go on any longer, and that I’d found several good retirement homes for him, which of course he refused to consider, saying he was not ready for that yet.

It happened, and I incurred odium and ostracism from all his family and most of the people connected with him. Even during the first year on my own, struggling with too little money, a burden of guilt, and legal woes, I was happier than I’d been for years.

Patrick lived in a luxury retirement home, where his daughter was the manager. He was immediately assessed as needing to be in the hospital wing, which I felt justified my decision. Family and work associates all made the trek out to see him regularly, though no-one had bothered to do this when I was looking after him!

He was still collecting Japanese artifacts and still writing his monumental and unreadable history of Japan and the Pacific War. I moved to the Coromandel peninsula, a four hour drive away, and when I received a phone call one evening three years later, saying he was ill and unlikely to last beyond the next day, I drove through the night to see him.

He was unconscious, and I sat by his bed for three hours until I felt his daughter wanted me to go. I bent over to kiss him and say goodbye, and he opened his eyes and looked straight into mine.

He had been twenty-one when he joined his beloved Auckland Star. On its masthead back then were the lines:

For the cause that needs assistance,

For the wrong that needs resistance,

For the future in the distance,

For the good that we can do.

He faithfully and steadfastly lived those words for the next sixty- eight years of his life until he died at nearly eight-nine.

At his funeral, as the hearse was about to pull away, an elderly man stepped forward and placed a flower on the coffin. It was Arthur Thomas.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

 This is a wonderful lunch dish for a special occasion. I found it in a magazine a few years ago, and now that spring is here, am about to dust off my quiche tin for it. Having prepared and cooked a short crust pastry shell, the recipe suggests to cook six sliced red onions in two tablesp of oil and four tablesp of brown sugar until soft. When golden leave to cool. Mix five egg yolks with three hundred g of crumbled blue cheese, 22 g mascarpone, six slices of prosciutto or thin streaky bacon and eighty g of pine nuts. Stir in the onions and spread the mixture into the pastry case. Bake at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until cooked. If the top starts to brown too fast, lower the oven to 160 degrees.

I like it with half cheddar and half blue cheese, use cream instead of mascarpone, and chopped fried  streaky bacon – still good…The magazine recommends six small onions, and the quiche is double the normal size I cook, serving ten people. When I make it in a normal sized quiche tin for five/six people, I use two onions, and 100g of blue cheese plus several ounces of cheddar and a good helping of cream.. I also use five whole eggs. Hope this answers your query Nicki, from Expat Alien… I’d feel the same if I saw those amounts recommended by the magazine !

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A Winding Path or the Dance of Life?

100_0221I’m an unashamed veteran of every whacky new age activity that has ever been available. Some of them are reputable, and some have a reputation for what is known as new age mush – a description which is usually wholly accurate!

The first steps along this eccentric path were taken at a little village fete just outside Stratford- on -Avon. I was detailed, as they say in the army, to look after the guests of honour, actor Sir John Mills and his daughter Juliet – I can’t remember why at this distance, and when I had done my duty I wandered off in my dark green uniform to the fortune- telling tent. The gypsy had a crystal ball, and I didn’t think she needed one to tell that I was in the army. But what she said was that my hands were the hands of a writer and I would spend my whole life writing. As a twenty- one year old lieutenant this was a surprise and seemed unlikely to me – like reaching for the moon.

The next significant step along the road less-travelled was when a friend told me that her stepmother could read tea-leaves! This seemed so really off the planet, that I really wanted to experience it, and it so happened that her stepmother was going to be changing planes at Heathrow, on the way from Bonn where her father was stationed,  to Ireland where their family home had been burned down by the IRA.

We met the stepmother, and rushed off to get cups of tea. But at places like air-ports you don’t have tea-pots. You have huge urns with made-up tea. We explained to the waitress that we really needed tea-leaves and she obligingly scraped the bottom of the urn and tipped a handful of leaves plus some tea into three cups for us. We had a very successful tea-leaf session, and as time went by I saw the various events she’d foretold, unfold.

At the Derby a couple of years later, my first husband mischievously asked an ancient gypsy crone who was going to win the Derby? She went into a trance and kept muttering mysteriously:“Where d’you come from, where d’you come from?” which we dismissed as gibberish. We came from Larkhill actually, and twenty minutes later an outsider, Larkspur, won the Derby.

Marriage, babies, career, all these kept me distracted from esoteric pursuits until the children had left home. And then I became involved in helping to set up a group who ran self-transformation courses ranging from a week to six months. I did every one. It took about seven years of my life. And along the way I began dabbling and experimenting with every other form of New Age activity that offered itself – and have done ever since.

They ranged in alphabetical order from acupuncture, aromatherapy and aura- soma to breath-work, body talk, body harmony and Bowen work. There was chiropractise, channelling, chakra cleansing, cranial osteopathy, flotation tanks and Feldenkrais.  There was holotropic breathing, homeopathy and hypnotherapy, kinesiology, massage, minimum movement, sitting in a pyramid to ease the pain of a chronic illness, psycho-therapy and breath-work to cure it, re-birthing, Reiki, Shiatsu, Tai chi…. I know this isn’t all…. I’m sure there’s more!  There was The Journey, The Enneagram, NSA,( Neuro Spinal Adjustment ) Spiritual Geometry, various Indian groups teaching breath and meditation, and yoga of course.

Then there were the courses with people like Zondra Ray and Jean Houston and Denise Linn,  lectures from Dipak Chopra, Wayne Dyer, Stuart Wilde, the Dalai Lama. The books – beginning with Sir George Trevelyan’s ‘A Vision of the Aquarian Age’ and the New Age bible, Marilyn Fergusson’s  ‘ The Aquarian Conspiracy ‘, going on with  Barbara Anne Brennan and Caroline Myss,  Marianne Williamson and Jean Shinoda Bolen’s ‘The Goddesses in Everywoman’. There was ‘The Feminine Face of God’ and Eckhart Tolle and ‘Conversations with God’ and our philosopher and guide to the consciousness evolution, Ken Wilbur, among a host of others we read.

There were years with Self-transformation, years learning about herbs and nutrition, and others. There were Shiatsu courses, Reiki courses, re-incarnation courses, counselling courses; the cleanses and the retreats; meditation, Tibetan chanting, circle dancing – the thing I loved best of all – then there were diets, the Pritikin, the Zone, the Blood Type diet, the Sandra Cabot Liver Cleanse… we were suckers for them all. And the fun fringe, the palmistry, the crystals, the tarot cards, the angel cards, the I Ching – hmm, not so much fun – very severe and serious.

You’ll be surprised to learn that I haven’t done colonic irrigation, Rolfing, sweat lodges or vision quests. I’ve listened to various gurus including the startlingly beautiful Gurumayi.  But I never wanted a guru. So I gave Rajneesh and Sai Baba and Da Free John in his various guises a wide berth.

None of this came cheaply… In the thirty years since I began this career of New Age dissipation I’ve sold old silver, precious rugs, loved china to finance my expensive hobby… I’m an object of ridicule to some members of my family, though not to those closest to me,  I’m glad to say. They also dabble sometimes. Not my husband, who calls me, with some justification, a New Age Nutter.

The others wonder why on earth I do all this… surely one course is enough to discover the secret of life, sort out old personality quirks, learn who and what you are? Why would you want to meditate when you can take Mogadon? And why on earth would I want to buy vitamins and herbs when I could have Prozac and statins, blood pressure pills and flu injections for free! The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I have none of the health problems the others have, and when I had to have a medical this morning for a new driving license the doctor said I was amazing.

So apart from good health, what else did I get out of all this seeking and experimenting? Lots of good friends, on the same path, for one. I have several friends who’ve been on nearly every course with me for the last thirty years. These friendships go deep. And as we’ve let go lots of old tensions, energy blocks and limiting beliefs, life has become easier, more fulfilling. Troubles come, as they do to everyone on earth, but we see them now as flags waving to show us something we haven’t mastered yet. Like many when I first began, it was like rowing across a river, and looking back to the other side, realising there was no way back, no way to go back to thinking the way I had. That from now on, life would be different.

I sometimes think all these activities, books, fads, are like tourist souvenir booths at places like NASA. They keep us amused and busy. The courses are like a conducted tour of the space programme, showing us how things work.  But none of these things take us into space. They can show us what it’s like, but to explore space, we have to do it ourselves. And all the crystals and courses and mushy wallpaper music make outsiders assume that this is all the New Age is about. When really, it’s a rocket taking off to explore and experience the furthest reaches of consciousness. Going, in that old cliché, where no man has gone before – except the mystics. But travellers in these realms feel that this is the next big step for all mankind.

And there are now millions of people all over the world on this journey – ripe and ready – they only needed a nudge, unlike all our exploring. They are, in the words of Arjuna Ardagh, ‘No longer willing to separate spiritual experience from the fabric of our everyday existence. Our most mundane circumstances are the very context in which realisation lives and breathes. An unattended life segregates realisation into a small box called “spirituality.” A well- attended life can make a trip to the grocery store a sacred pilgrimage.’

So did we need to do all that stuff?  Maybe not, but we enjoyed it, learned to love the present, and love creation and all that is, had many moments of insight and bliss, discovered a lot about ourselves and others, and became happier, more relaxed parents, partners and people. If life is a dance, that was our dance. And the more I experience the cosmos, the more I realise it is all a dance, a dance of galaxies and grains of sand, a dance of asteroids and atoms, a dance of energy and ecstasy, a dance of light and love, a dance of you and me.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Family coming for lunch in this freezing weather, so a good hot pudding seems to be called for… blackberry and apple crumble. I’ll be using a tin of boysenberries or fresh frozen if I have any in the deep freeze, with stewed apple, gently mixed together. The crumble is rich – eight ounces of flour, two of ground almonds, six ounces of brown sugar and four of butter. Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and almonds, and at this stage I often add the grated rind of a lemon. This mixture keeps in the fridge for a couple of days until I want to use it. Put the fruit in an ovenproof dish, cover with the crumble and bake in a hot oven for forty minutes. Serve with cream or crème fraiche.

( Boysenberries are a cross between a raspberry, a blackberry and a loganberry. They were first bred in California by a man called Mr Boysen..)

Food for Thought

Will the old dinosaur minds draw us all into their conflicts, destroying life as we know it in the process, or will the emerging translucent view midwife us into another way of loving? In the translucent vision of the world there is no other, no enemy. It is a political view that encompasses the well-being of all sentient beings, not just of one group or another. Either we all win or we all lose.

Arjuna Ardagh  – teacher  and writer of ‘The Translucent Revolution,’ a book which has become the equivalent of Marilyn Fergusson’s ‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’ for the 21 century.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Wizard of Oz

100_0347He was a wizard, and he flew from Australia – always known as Oz in Down-under. So of course I called him the Wizard of Oz, even though he was basically an inspired and eccentric architect, and an inscrutable, irascible, metaphysical teacher who couldn’t stand fools. This meant it was tricky asking a question. I had the feeling that if you needed to ask the question, then you weren’t worthy to receive the answer!

His devotees were doctors, including a very illustrious one, teachers, estate agents, salesmen, housewives, seekers. I studied with him for several years at the end of the eighties, ostensibly learning about herbs and nutritional medicine. The herbs were an old idea, the nutritional stuff quite new, much of it channelled. He had studied with other New Age luminaries like Stuart Wilde and Denise Linn in London.

We learned lots of other things besides herbs and supplements – at the time they seemed avant garde, and a bit out of left field, but we now read reports on just what he told us back then – that pouring boiling water on coffee draws the oil out, which is a no-no… so never make coffee with boiling water he told us. So we didn’t. Never drink instant coffee either he said, drawing our attention to the smell of dry cleaning fluid emanating from it. Eat butter, not chemicals was another nugget of wisdom!

He told us that teenagers have their best sleep between seven and eleven a.m. and that they need it. Twenty five years later, one secondary school here doesn’t start lessons until after ten in deference to what is now known about teenagers’ sleep needs. I think of him every morning when I test, using a method like muscle testing, to see what nutrients I need … sometimes I need more calcium, sometimes more amino acids, or niacin… or whatever. This way I almost never have a cold, flu or other health problems. My husband has always called me a New Age Nutter, but the proof is in the pudding.

During the years I worked with the Wizard, we were required to have a thirty minute afternoon nap, he said it was good for the system and kept us young. I still do. Starting off with Reiki, before I know it, I’m deeply asleep, and wake exactly on time.  Our spiritual destiny is to be in the right place at the right time, he mentioned almost as an aside. And since wherever we are, is right place, right time, this was immensely comforting – and practical.

One of the disciplines that he suggested when we were working with him, has now become a way of life for me. The world you live in is not a violent world, he said, so why pollute it by connecting with the fear and violence in other people’s worlds?

Watching fear-based programmes or reading about disasters simply feeds your mind with negativity and unnecessary fear, he said. So I stopped watching the TV news. I had never read the crime pages – why read about people who’ve had dreadful lives making their lives and the lives of others worse, or waste time reading about crooks and crims – I used to say. It felt like voyeurism or schadenfreud. And by avoiding stories that were violent or negative in newspapers or magazines, and having never watched violent thrillers, horror movies or any fear-based plays, films, or TV programmes, my world became very peaceful indeed.

I used to joke that I only watched the weather, there was plenty of action and excitement there – floods and hurricanes, snowstorms and thunder-storms, earthquakes and tornadoes, tsunamis, droughts and forest fires – but without the drug of violence or voyeuristic sex. Now, I don’t even bother to watch the weather, finding it far more interesting to take what comes. If I want to know the weather to plan what to wear for a day away from home, there are plenty of people to ask, from my husband to the shopkeeper in the village. Nearly everyone seems to listen to the news and weather, except me. Some people seem almost addicted to news programmes, as though listening and watching make them feel that they are involved in life and all that’s going on.

But I find that this actually gets in the way of me having my own life and trying to be mindful.  I don’t need to hear about other people’s dramas and traumas, or disasters and scandals to make me feel I’m alive. Sometimes something so horrendous happens that of course I hear about it, and want to send my compassion, but no-one needs my curiosity.

Now though, with all the reading that I do with blogs, another insidious fear has crept up on me. I’ve been aware for the last forty years (who hasn’t) that we don’t treat our planet with the respect and understanding that will keep us and the planet in good health. But in the last year of reading informative and expert evaluations of the various threats to our world – Arctic melting, drilling for oil, fracking, carbon dioxide levels, destruction of forests, GM infiltration, death of bees, polluted oceans, dying species of fish, birds and animals – the list goes on – I’ve become so well informed that I realise I’ve begun to get sucked into anxiety and negativity.

For we rarely hear about the numberless organisations, groups and individuals who in their own way are making a positive difference to their communities, and therefore our world. Sadly, the good news doesn’t sell news or newspapers. And yet there is good news all around us. So now I feel I have to take the Wizard of Oz’s discipline a bit further.  Stop reading all the doom and gloom about climate change, desertification, rhinoceros poachers, Monsanto and the rest, and instead actively seek out the good news.

When I went into my local town yesterday, in each shop I visited I met gentle good people, living gentle good lives. Knowing them as I do, I know they put a hundred per cent into their vocations and work. And then there’s the girl at Tai Chi, who with her husband buys up Christmas trees every year. They take their cars and a trailer each, and go off separately to other towns selling the trees and then give the money to charity.

There’s the fun, wonderful woman working with refugees and indigenous communities, and who started her local branch of the hilarious Red Hat Society; the teachers in the local school who use The Virtues Programme in their schools; the organic farm which teaches sustainability, where people come from all over the world to work there and learn. The local council now takes their advice.

There’s the business man who mentors fatherless boys, and the amazing woman who finds homes for unwanted animals and who secretly rescues battered wives, taking them to hide in her home until they sort out their lives. And Greenpeace have just e-mailed to say that New Zealand will soon become the third market in the world in which all major canned tuna brands have committed to use only tuna that is caught by more sustainable fishing methods.

This is the sort of news I want to know about. This is the sort of information that comforts the soul and inspires hope for the world. And most encouraging of all, is to know children and young people who are growing up fully conscious of all the ills of power and hypocrisy, greed and moral equivocation, and who are evolving their own code of such integrity that the world will be safe in their hands in the future. Our children and grandchildren are up with the play, they are wise and knowing. So no worries then, as they say in this neck of the woods. ‘All is well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’…. as long as I monitor my fear and violence intake !

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Mushrooms were on ‘special’ at the grocer, so I bought a lavish tray of them, and brought them back home to use some for a quick lunch. I used sour dough bread toasted and buttered, and sliced plenty of mushrooms in butter and finely chopped garlic. When they were lightly cooked, I stirred in parsley and enough cream to bubble up and thicken. Poured straight onto the waiting toast, they were filling and delicious. I’ve also used sherry instead of cream in the past, and that’s good too. Shitaake mushrooms are delicious this way too, and any of the big tasty mushrooms are scrumptious – unfortunately they make me ill – so it’s button mushrooms or Shitaake for me.

Food for Thought

This is a postscript to a blog called ‘Voices from the Void’, which I wrote back in February about the ‘Voice ‘ which so many people hear when they are in a dangerous or difficult place. Reading a biography of Queen Victoria last night, I came across this quote from her after the early death of her beloved husband Albert, when she was still a young woman. Writing to her unhappy daughter, the Empress of Germany she said: ”I too wanted once to put an end to my life here, but a Voice told me… no, “Still Endure”.

This made an indelible impression on the Queen, who used “Still Endure” as a motto for the rest of her life.

 

 

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The Young Lead The Way

Growing old isn’t exactly a show stopper, but somehow one doesn’t have a choice.

I’ve just been to see Dustin Hoffman’s film Quartet, about four elderly opera singers living in a retirement home for musicians. People were fiddling and blowing and singing away somewhere all day… and the music was delicious – it was just the sort of luxurious old folks home I wouldn’t mind ending up in – they even had their tea in blue and white Old Chelsea pattern china cups and saucers – which would do me.

The four main oldies in the film, in real life ranged between 78 and 70. Since I’m right in the middle of this age range, I spent a lot of time examining their wrinkles and comparing them with mine, and I have to say that my wrinkles came out on top… they obviously had all spent a lot of time in their youth lying on fashionable beaches like St Tropez … apart from Tom Courtenay who always looks so bleak I can’t imagine him having fun anywhere.

On the other hand, Maggie Smith’s elegant figure cast mine into the shade, so it’s no good gloating about my wrinkles or lack of them. At the end of the film all the extras in the home, who were actually real musicians, were named, and a photo of them when young was shown on screen, side by side with them now, sagging chins, bristling eyebrows, broken veins –  the lot. It was rather moving seeing pictures of these gorgeous young men and women, with thick shining hair and pearly teeth, looking out from their youthful photos filled with life and vigour. Their young selves were almost unrecognisable from their older selves.

On their older selves life had carved furrows in their cheeks, faded their hair, expanded their waistlines and blurred their vision. But it had also softened their faces, smoothed away the thoughtless arrogance of youth, and chiselled kindness, humanity and acceptance into their expressions.

They were all still beautiful. The funny thing is, the older I get the more beautiful everyone seems. I look at young people and think oh, you just don’t know how beautiful you are. I see the golden hairs on their arms, the rim of black lashes round blue eyes, the sweetness in an expression, the sheen on straight hair, things that when I was young I never considered valuable at all.

I look at old photographs of friends and family and think, oh I didn’t realise how beautiful you were. And hindsight of course is a wonderful thing. I look at those pictures before marriage and divorce, childbirth and illness, heartbreak and depression had begun their long slow teaching process in each life, and marvel that the human spirit survives, chastened in some cases maybe, but surprisingly chirpy in most instances.

The children of today are different to those ingenuous ones I see in old photos. For a start they are much more savvy about the things that my age group agonise over. Just as in the early days of radio, adults struggled, and the young took to it with skill and know-how, so today, even toddlers seem to be born knowing how to use things like TV remotes, computers, mobile phones and all the rest. Twenty years ago when my daughter had had a new electric system fitted at her gate, and just as she was saying the two year old won’t be able to open them now, he leaned out of her arms and his little fingers pushed the right combination and the gates opened, fifty yards down the drive.

But more than the technological instincts, many of today’s children seem to be born with inner wisdom. We used to judge intelligence on a crude system of how good children were at maths and language and general knowledge. Educationalists now recognise other forms of intelligence, which include physical intelligence, artistic and musical intelligence, and probably more important than anything else, emotional intelligence, and spiritual intelligence – which includes an empathy for animals and a concern for the planet and the environment.

I’ve heard youngsters saying things like, “no I don’t see much of so and so these days… not much E-Q .” They take it for granted that emotional intelligence is an asset in life as well as in relationships, a concept that my generation had never even thought of.

Many children today are born with these sorts of knowing, which add up to wisdom and compassion. They have an innate integrity, as well as piercing intelligence. Some people have termed this group of children Indigo children, and you can even Google them, and read about them. They don’t necessarily have an easy time in a world which is only just beginning to adjust to new ways of thinking and being, but I meet them all the time, in surprising places, like the teenage hitch-hiker I stopped for, who talked of these things until he got out again.

Many years ago a friend wrote in a card she sent me after staying with us – ‘love is the hope and salvation of the world’. She changed it to ‘children are the hope and salvation of the world’. And children born with these special kinds of intelligence, will be the ones who do change the world – what Jean Houston, visionary and teacher -called  ‘the people of the breakthrough’. Aren’t we lucky that we can be with them at the start of their journey, and fill their backpacks with love and support and understanding?

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

At this time of the year – summer for us – I love salad Nicoise. Everyone has their own theory and recipe about this classic, but I compose it the way a Frenchwoman in Hong Kong taught me over forty-five years ago. She and her husband had a classic French restaurant in Kowloon, and she also taught me yoga, which she’d learned at Sai Baba’s ashram in India.

Anyway, to return to our muttons – as the French might say – all you need for her recipe is a fresh lettuce, a tin of tuna fish, one hard boiled egg per person, cooked potatoes, tomatoes and lightly blanched French beans. The really authentic ingredient which is sometimes hard to find, is pickled walnuts. If I can’t find any, I use juicy black olives.  Slice, chop and mix whatever needs it, put it all gently together in a bowl, and toss with vinaigrette just before serving – one third good vinegar to two thirds virgin olive oil, salt, black pepper, a touch of mustard and a tasting of sugar. Crusty bread and nice wine is good with it, and Madame gave us a chocolate soufflé afterwards…  Souffle recipe another day!

Food for Thought

Folks is as happy as they decide to be.    Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865, is reputed to have said this.

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Gaia Knows Us

There isn’t a notice saying ‘people give way to birds and plants’, but it’s fairly obvious. It’s quite a mission for anyone to come to my door. First they have to dodge the overhanging branches of the red bottle brush tree, rustling with singing tuis and silver-eyes, and monarch butterflies fluttering in and out. They have to make their way past this tree, between banks of blue agapanthus bending over the path, and down the steps, before pushing past self-seeded white valerian springing across the steps, and bending down beneath the overhanging branches of the plum tree, laden at the moment  with tiny red fruit which will ripen into lovely sour little plums by Christmas – perfect for cooking with red wine, bay leaves and cinnamon…

I hope they will avoid stepping on the bricks where some self- seeded love- in- the- mist are pushing their way up in the cracks, and at the bottom of the steps, they have to avoid a self- seeded garden of valerian, orange nasturtiums and that wonderful purple spiky flower which I think some people consider a weed, because it grows so prolifically. I particularly love self seeded plants.

As they reach the door, the curling suckers of the purple wisteria I was forced to cut back before it prised the roof off, are beginning to wave their pale translucent leaves, and the honeysuckle I grew from a cutting taken from a country road is just beginning to sprawl across the trellis.

The other path into the garden is just as tricky for visitors. They have to negotiate two steps down onto a side path. But I erected a trellis arch above it, and now it’s enveloped with Albertine rose and all its prickles, intertwined with ivy and star jasmine. No room to put their hands on the trellis to steady themselves as they come down that path. And having negotiated the steps, they then have to dodge the overhanging branches of the guava tree – its fruit is the nice red tangy sort, which makes lovely guava jelly, but also makes the path hazardous when they drop.

When visitors get here, they never notice the lovely antique wrought iron French door knocker I’ve nailed up by the door, so after using their knuckles to knock tentatively and fruitlessly on the door, they make their way round to the French doors. When they finally get inside, a warm welcome awaits them, and they’ve worked for it!

Last year I wouldn’t even let them go down the main path, and re-routed everyone to the hazardous steps and prickly roses. There was a blackbird nesting in the bottle brush tree. I twined fine chicken wire around the trunk so that the beloved and wicked little black cat wouldn’t get up there. She had sat on the steps under the trellis for weeks, and I hadn’t realised why until winter, when all the leaves had gone from the Albertine, and there was a half finished nest, abandoned by some canny thrushes. The blackbirds made it safely. I used to tiptoe up the path and look up very slowly so as not to frighten them and there would be a head and a tail peeping over the nest, until the day when there were several little heads and open beaks stretching up instead.

This green garden is a tangle of shrubs and plants. When we first came here, there were only big smooth grey river stones sitting on weed-mat, and planted with cactus, a few succulents and spiky yuccas, which I gave away. The grand-children helped me toss the stones into a corner, but most of them were cemented in around every garden bed and along every path. A demented stonemason must have spent a fortune on these big round river stones. So the only thing to do was cover them. Out came the cactus and the rest, and in went ivy –  I just couldn’t get the weed-mat up, so I planted ivy on top.

Big square terracotta pots with my topiaried box plants were spaced along a terrace, and now it’s a green garden with a few beds riotous with self seeded flowers and perennials like hollyhocks, fox gloves, day lilies, ageratum, lavatera and marguerites. In autumn, dahlias and white Japanese anenomes brighten the green backdrop. At the moment bright orange cliveas, nasturtiums and pink and orange impatiens light up the bosky green bower.

A friend with a flowerless sculpture garden  -with just trees and grass and water –  came to see this tiny garden last year. She said: “It talks to me – all those flowers have a meaning for me”. They have meaning for me too, holding memories of childhood, past gardens and friends. The Mexican daisies that I carefully allow to spread, even though they are on the politically incorrect list, came from a friend called Oiroa, Oi for short. They’ve been known to us for nearly forty years as Oi’s daisies, and their roots carried from garden to garden. Then there’s Keith’s Kreepies, the little purple spreading ajuga.

In a big pot by the front door is a rose that has also been carried from garden to garden. I’ve Googled a description of it, and now know it’s a Reine des Violettes which has no prickles. The scent fills the whole garden for the month that its deep pinky- purple tightly layered petalled heads bloom. So many petals – between 50 and 75  – according to the official description, and bred in France in 1860. It was given to me by a friend who’d spent six months at Findhorn, the famous New Age centre in Scotland where they grow astonishing crops in poor sandy soil by communicating with Gaia – the consciousness of the planet- and the devas of the place. Marjorie came back home and put these principles into practise on her farmlet where she grew macadamias to fund her husband’s sub-Antarctic Islands explorations in his yacht, and grew most of her own food. She gave me this cutting from a rose growing by her door.

At her funeral her daughter told us that at a gathering some years before, each person was asked to say what creature they thought they were like. And what creature they would like to be. Gentle un-assuming Marjorie felt she was a worm, beavering away out of sight under the earth doing a vital job, but hidden and un-appreciated. She said she would like to be a bee, doing another vital job, pollinating and making honey, buzzing around in the sunshine, enjoying the beauty. The third aspect of this exercise was how others saw her. And they saw her as a thrush, a beautiful song bird, bringing joy to the garden and to other gardeners and friends.

Her daughter told us that the day Marjorie died, her garden was suddenly full of bees buzzing in all the flowers, and as her girls gathered at the house, the air was alive with the sound of thrushes singing. And when she left the house for the last time, a flight of birds flew over the garden. Gaia knew her faithful daughter, and Gaia  “works in mysterious ways”.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmet

Still pushing the barrow for broccoli, I love the way the Japanese serve it with sesame sauce. Whenever we are out together in a Japanese restaurant, my daughter and I always order it. You can buy bottles of sesame sauce, but it’s not the same. I can’t be bothered to get all the Japanese ingredients just for this, so I adapt the bottled bought stuff, by adding it to a little mayonnaise – the bought stuff – and stirring it altogether.

Or I make a peanut sauce, which is not the same, but just as delicious. You need four tablesp of peanut butter, two tablsp of brown sugar, one tablsp of vinegar (I use cider vinegar) two tablesp of water, and three tablsp of soy sauce. Mix them altogether over a gentle heat until smooth. I use crunchy peanut butter so it has some texture. Pour over steamed broccoli, this makes a delicious vegetarian dish.

Food for Thought

Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look like this. I’ve travelled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.

I agree with him! This is another quip from Will Rogers, famous part Cherokee cowboy, entertainer, wit, film star and newspaper columnist who died when his plane crashed in 1935

 

 

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