Tag Archives: village life

A summer storm

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It arrived unannounced at roughly eleven- thirty in the morning. Before then it had been a quiet silvery morning, still silver sea, and pale grey sky. The wind built up, the clouds lowered, and rain flew in the wind. By evening it was a fully fledged storm and too good to miss, and I decided this was the day I tackled the hundred and fifty- seven steps up and down to the harbour, a trial of strength I’d avoided for too long since I twisted my ankle.

They led down through a ravine of tangled woods, and at the bottom as I stepped onto the wet sand there was a Buddha-like figure, a girl in a  faded pink jerkin sitting in the lotus position, meditating on the rocks. With this blessing at my back I carried on round the edge of the water, past a few old fishing cottages, now expensive sea-side dwellings.

Being a holiday, most of them had their families snugly tucked inside against the weather. Where they had their lights on in the grey day, I peered inside, approving when I saw walls of book- shelves, and enjoying a family gathered round a table eating their supper. A teenager was sitting on the branch of a pohutakawa leaning over the water, and when I waved, he waved back, his long arm a great wide semi-circle of  greeting.

The path wound round the edge of the harbour, sometimes deep in trees and woodland, and sometimes looking straight over the water with fishing boats at anchor swinging around in the wind and the waves. Promising myself to complete the circuit the next day I retraced my footsteps, and returned to the foot of the staircase leading up to the road.

A young man was now kneeling in front of the meditating girl, and as I approached she gazed at him with a look of such tender love that I flicked my eyes away and hurried up the steps so as not to disturb them.  Not that I could, even in bright red jacket and black trousers I was un-observed.

The hundred and fifty seven steps were not as bad as I feared, and I strode back along the road bent into the gale. Back to my end of the peninsula, where the shelter of the harbour no longer protected us, the great pohutakawa trees ringing the cemetery and leading out onto a little rocky peninsula bucked and swayed in the tempest. It wasn’t even high tide, but huge green waves were surging onto the rocks and white spray flying through the air.

As I looked down onto the rocks, and leant against a tree trunk to avoid being blown off myself, watching the hungry waves hurling themselves against the rocks, and the boiling white water swirling around them, it truly felt like ‘the cruel sea’.

The sound of the water and the trees was deafening, and mesmerising. There was nothing else outside this circle of wind and waves and sound and solitude. Impossible not to be totally present to the wild beauty and magnificence.

Finally the wind became so furious that I felt I had to make a dash between lulls. But there were no lulls, so I made a dash anyway, and  wandered back through the cemetery – which is still full of the stuff of life – one grave –stone facing out to sea inscribed:  “ He loved life and his fellowmen”,  another, saying: ”Sleep on grumpy” and another, telling passersby that this man had left Scotland for this new world, in 1865. His gravestone was at one end of a miniature cricket bowling pitch, with three stumps set in concrete the other end.

Reluctant to leave the aliveness of the storm I stood on the edge of the cliff, and wondered where had all the birds gone – no gulls or pigeons, tuis or doves. Somewhere dozens and dozens of birds were silently riding out the storm in places that no human could see.

We don’t have to worry about ‘those in peril on the sea’ these days. Fishing boats stay at anchor when they get the weather forecast and the big ships can ride out the storms. This storm, unlike so many others around the world, caused no harm or hardship. So savouring the elements is a guilt-free pleasure, and those like me, far from city pavements, are so privileged that we can. But maybe more importantly, this pleasure has a spiritual dimension,  since it’s also an acknowledgement of our beautiful and irreplaceable planet.

 

Food for threadbare gourmets

I’ve had so many people dropping in for various reasons, that rather than make a cake I’ve been making a succession of scones- fresh out of the oven, melting in the mouth, served with unsalted butter, strawberry jam and cream, they always disappear quicker than the proverbial hot cakes. They’re so simple to make, and I never add sugar, currants, cheese, or chopped anything. They are perfect just as they are.

Put six spoonfuls of self raising flour in a bowl with an ounce to an ounce and a half of softened butter. Rub it in, break an egg into a well in the centre and add half a cup of milk. Just mix it altogether with a knife, adding more milk if needed. It should all come together into a soft dough. I simply press it down on the pastry board, at least an inch thick, and cut it into squares. Half an hour in the fridge, covered is good for them. Bake on a floured or greased tray in a medium to hot oven for ten minutes or until raised and slightly brown. The trick is to serve them at once !

 

Food for thought

Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.

George Eliot  1819 – 1880  Great English novelist

(New Zealand readers might be interested to hear me being interviewed on Kim Hill’s programme on Saturday morning, choosing favourite records and talking in between)

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday)

 

 

 

 

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Filed under birds, environment, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized, village life

Ancient Rituals and a Modern Valkyrie

100_0117As I write I can hear soft rain falling, punctuated by the larger sounds of drips from overloaded leaves, and the swishing of the sea on the rocks below. The pink-breasted doves are cooing contentedly, bringing a sense of peace– all eleven of them,  who now enjoy two free meals a day. It feels as though the village is in rest and recovery.

 A few days ago a man died just beyond our village boundaries. He was the Maori chief and landowner for this area, and had great mana. He was a noble, handsome man respected by everyone, and had a striking, beautiful Pakeha (European) wife, whose dignity and courage matched his. Their marriage was a triumph; she accepted and lived by the local Maori customs, as well as keeping her own integrity, and creating a life of art and culture, warmth, and hospitality. She introduced visitors to the long, empty, pale gold beaches on their land, edged by the rolling blue Pacific; and she kept a herd of nearly a hundred horses, for tourists and locals to ride. She worked hard the way only those whose lives are committed to the wellbeing of horses will know.

 The chief was buried at the Maori marae, which lies across the harbour from where we live. The marae is the spiritual centre of Maori life, and the tangihanga – the funeral – is the most important ceremonial that takes place there, taking precedence over every other activity. The body lies on the marae for at least two days before the day of the funeral, and is rarely left alone. Friends, family and members of the tribe come from near and far, dressed in black, and the women often wearing green leaves in mourning wreathes around their heads. They look wonderful. They will talk and sing to the person lying there, recalling both good and bad things about them, laughing, joking – all expressions of grief are encouraged and accepted.

 The person who has passéd is commanded to return to the ancestral homelands, Hawaiki,  by way of ‘the spirit’s journey’ –  te rerenga wairua . Close kin do not speak. On the last night, the ‘night of ending’, the pō whakamutunga, the mourners hold a vigil and the coffin is closed. Then either at night or dawn on the third day, the funeral service is conducted, and when the burial rites are complete, a hakati – feast – is served. Everyone who attends brings their share, or gifts called koha.

 And when it’s over, the home of the dead one is ritually cleansed with songs, chants and prayers called a karakia and desanctified with food and drink, in a ceremony called takahi whare – ‘trampling the house’. That night, the pō whakangahau  – ‘night of entertainment’ – is a night of relaxation and rest. And after these powerful and therapeutic rituals  the widow or widower is not left alone for several nights following.

 So when our chiefly neighbour died, mourners travelled from all over the country, including the famous and powerful, to participate in the tangi. The ceremonies on the last day took from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon. At the same time, another villager died. He too was a distinguished man, a Pakeha, but he had no children and no family. He wanted no ceremony or funeral. ‘So we can’t say goodbye,’ sorrowed an old, old friend…

 While this has been going on, I’ve joined for the first time, the annual village winter ritual of having the flu, and as the second week dragged on found myself irritated that I couldn’t even have flu to myself, but had to start nursing my husband as well. Late last night after a second bad fall, I couldn’t move him, so called out the Volunteer Fire Brigade, the local version of guardian angels. It took three of them to get him off the floor, and I then began a chase after the ambulance to hospital an hour’s drive away. Leaving him to be diagnosed and pumped full of drugs, I drove home to bed at three thirty in the morning.

As I made the most of this drama to the statuesque and very beautiful young woman who comes to clean, I asked how her week had gone. Not as exciting as yours, she disclaimed modestly, before regaling me with the story of her horses. She has two. This particular night she had joined friends at a farewell fancy dress party, and worn, she told me, a glittering sequinned body stocking for the first time in her life, accessorised with a net skirt covered in sequins. As the party raged, she received a text saying her horses were loose, and had last been seen galloping in the sea at a nearby village.

After several nerve-racking hours, with reports of them all over the place, she finally ran them to earth in another bay. Abandoning her car, she rode bare – back on one, leading the other by a halter, body stocking glowing in the moonlight, sequins glinting, and net skirt billowing in the wind. ‘I was just glad no police ever clapped eyes on me,’ she said, ‘they’d have thought I was high on something!’

I wish I’d seen her, a magnificent, glowing Valkyrie beneath the shifting clouds and silver moon. As we laughed there was a knock on the door, and there was one of the firemen from last night come to see how I was, one of many others , family, friends, neighbours who’d rung or enquired how we all were.

Life and death, laughter and rain… the village is breathing, the rhythm of the sea encircles us, the in-breath and the out-breath of the universe continues, the heart-beat of life and death still pulses. The ancient rituals ease the transitions, the soft rain cleanses and refreshes; we are in rest and recovery, and the unknown road still stretches mistily ahead for us all. ‘We may not be taken up and transported to our journey’s end, but must travel thither on foot, traversing the whole distance…’ And in this small world we live in, we know we are in good company.

 Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Wanting something light and easy, I found an old recipe for ten minute cheese soufflés. Separate the eggs and yolks of two eggs, and mix the yolks with salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne and a little mustard. Mix in two dessertsps of grated cheddar cheese, and then fold in gently the whipped egg whites. Fill two thirds of well greased individual soufflé or ovenproof dishes, and bake in a hot oven for six to eight minutes until well risen and golden brown. Serve at once. This amount makes three to four small soufflés. I’m thinking they’d be a nice easy first course for dinner with friends.

Food for Thought

I loved this foodie thought from writer Lawrence Durrell ( 1912 -1990): ‘The whole Mediterranean.. all of it seems to rise in the sour pungent smell of these black olives between the teeth. A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.’             Just reading these words makes me feel the heat, smell the scent of thyme and rosemary, and long to savour some strong red local wine beside a lapis lazuli sea….

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Storms of Delight

100_0377I awoke to the roaring of a savage sea hurling itself onto the rocks below. The window is always open so that I can hear the sea.

Looking out, it was a grey wolf sea, with a steel-grey haze obliterating the islands that hover on the horizon. White capped rollers raced in across cruel grey and glacier- green water, and when the waves hit the rocks spilled over in sheets of white foam blowing high in the air. Low tide is almost more spectacular than high tide, because the water hits the rocks instead of flowing over most of them.

 Later, I put on a hood and jacket and walked out into the storm. The wind was thrashing the trees and making much the same sound as the roaring sea. First I walked to the garden of some friends overlooking the little harbour. It’s usually like a shining green jewel set deep in high rock and forested walls. It was calm, the only sign of the storm being the muddy-looking water.

 These friends own the goats and are away overseas for some weeks, so I pocketed the lemons lying under the tree. It was only a little tree, but had been so nurtured and well fed, that where one lemon would normally hang, between five and ten weighted down each fragile branch. The scent of the blossom still growing swirled round the tree before flying in the wind.

 As I walked down their long drive, between two rows of palm trees, three little speckled red hens came running out of a nearby garden, and solemnly picked their way behind me in single file. I felt like turning round to stroke them, but they weren’t keen on this. The way they followed me reminded me of Konrad Lorenz’s imprinted geese, and I hoped these little hens weren’t busy imprinting themselves on me. They gave up in the end, and returned home to where their supper was awaiting them in the hands of a pretty girl in a cream poncho.

 Strolling back in the flying rain I walked down the cul de sac to say hello to the three goats, and give them a little leafy, twiggy treat. Robert, the grumpy old billy- goat, would keep dropping his mouthful in order to snatch the little darlings’ twigs from their mouths. So I had to do a dodgy dance to try to fend him off while the babies managed an uninterrupted munch for a few minutes.

 As I turned round to come home, I heard a piteous whine. It was Zeb, the black and white pointer who lives opposite the goats, and sometimes escapes to come and see me. She had her head to the fence, hoping I’d come and say hello to her too. Of course I did, and while I was doing so, Kate, her owner, came out and asked if I’d like some new-laid eggs. Would I? So when Zeb and I had finished our tete- a- tete, I returned home the delighted carrier of six fresh eggs.

 I laid them carefully with the glowing yellow lemons on the garden seat at the top of the steps, and continued my wander in the storm. We live on a tiny peninsula sticking out into the sea, our house facing one way, and on the other side of the little neck of land, the old village graveyard faces out to sea in the other direction. Beneath spreading trees, it holds the graves of the earliest settlers in this place, and the latest inhabitants.

 I walked on the wet grass between the graves, heading for the end of the cemetery where it ends in a deep crevasse where the sea throws itself against this neck of land. Here I look down on a flat rock fifty feet below. The seas crash over it in rough weather, or lap against the sides on calm days, revealing tempting still green depths and white rock below the waterline, where I’d love to swim if I could get down there. Today it was almost invisible beneath thick sheets of green water swirling over it and spumes of foam flying through the air.

As I stood looking down here, as I so often do, I realised that every time I come here, I think of Pincher Martin, and William Golding’s description of hell. Pincher Martin scrabbling desperately to escape the raging seas, and clinging onto the slippery rock and slipping back down again into the tormenting cauldron of murderous waves… over and over again … not a pleasant remembrance, and one I try to banish, but it always comes back … just as I never see the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, in the flesh or in pictures, without thinking of Golding’s ‘The Spire’ and his painful story of spiritual disintegration. Thank goodness I’ve avoided reading ‘The Lord of the Flies’, as I know I would be tormented by that too.

Today, the wind crashing through the old pohutakawa trees – which were probably growing here when my hero, Captain James Cook sailed past in 1769 – was bringing down lots of small twigs and gnarly broken branches. When they’re dry they’re wonderful to start the fire with, and the peasant in me can’t resist gathering bundles. This was a successful foray and I returned home with a big armful of wet branches and twigs to dry out in the garage. Pohutakawa trees grow to the size of a good oak tree, and have dark green, hard, crunchy leaves all the year round. They’re sometimes called the New Zealand Christmas tree because at Christmas they’re smothered in flaming red blossom, and here, where the whole coast is ringed with them, they are a unique sight.

 And so back home to a blazing log fire, with the haunting and tender sounds of Handel’s opera Julius Caesar still ringing through my head. I went to see it for the second time in three days yesterday, five hours of it, and would see it again – and again, if it was available. Today I Googled Caesar and Cleopatra, since I only knew of Anthony and Cleopatra. And yes, Handel hadn’t messed around with history, Caesar and Cleopatra had had a love affair, she had borne his only son, and she stayed with him in Rome until his assassination.

 So well before her alliance with Mark Anthony, she had loved Caesar, and he her.Knowing this made the exquisite songs of their love affair in opera seem even more poignant.Cleopatra inveigled her way into Caesar’s presence rolled up in a carpet, and in the opera sang a song of enchantment for him. I read somewhere that Cleopatra’s glorious song to Caesar:  “v’adoro pupille” (I adore you, eyes,) is the most seductive love song ever written. I can believe it. In Natalie Dessay’s version she didn’t seduce, she poured out her heart. It was beautiful.

 And this life seems so beautiful too, with all its gifts and grace notes, allusive thoughts and memories, the stormy seas and wild winds, the hens and the goats, the centuries of music and aeons of love, the lemons, the eggs and the firewood!

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

 The pantry was bare. So I made a treat I haven’t made for years – cheese aigrettes. All I needed were things like eggs, flour, and grated Parmesan which I always have in the deep freeze. So into a saucepan went two oz butter and half a pint of water. When boiling I added 4 oz flour and stirred hard until the whole mixture was coming away from the sides of the saucepan, leaving it clean.

 Off the heat I mixed in 3oz Parmesan and two egg yolks, beating them in separately. Add salt and pepper, and then fold in the stiffly whisked egg whites.That’s the easy part. When the mixture is cold, drop small rough pieces, about a teasp size or bigger, into hot fat. Don’t fry too quickly or the outside will brown before it’s cooked inside. But if the fat is too cold, the aigrettes will become greasy. It takes about four minutes for  each batch to cook.

Fish them out with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper to drain, and serve with grated parmesan sprinkled over, and a dash of cayenne pepper. With salad, they’re crunchy, filling and delicious.

 Food for Thought

 Life, for all its agonies of despair and loss and guilt, is exciting and beautiful, amusing and artful and endearing, full of liking, and of love, at times a poem and a high adventure, at times noble and at times very gay; and whatever (if anything) is to come after it, we shall not have this life again.

From Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay English novelist 1881 – 1958

 

 

 

 

 

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Food, fear and films

 

100_0087Village life takes ingenuity in a tight spot, and stamina – plenty of it!  These are the times that test men’s souls! Well, we haven’t actually had any chicken stealing like Mr Woodhouse in ‘Emma’, but life has been pretty hairy in our neck of the woods in the last few days.

Where do I start? We are a quiet law-abiding community, we look out for our neighbours, share our garden goodies, swap cuttings and seeds, and admire each other’s grandchildren. Our greatest excitement is the weekly testing of the fire alarm by the volunteer firemen.  But the other night the peace of the four hundred law-abiding souls was rudely shattered. A dog began barking as dusk fell, and continued without end for the rest of the night. I woke every hour of the night, and heard all the other dogs joining the chorus. I overslept and arose bleary – eyed, and then had to rush to attend a veteran’s memorial service in the graveyard.

I came away somewhat disgruntled that the officiating clergywoman should in-appropriately refer to the Somme as a romantic name. The Battle of the Somme was the day that the British Army lost 20 per cent of its men – 60,000 killed or wounded on one day in France, my step- grandfather being one of the badly wounded. No! Not romantic. Naturally I aired my disgruntlement back at home, and felt all the better for it! So I was quite gruntled when the phone went later that afternoon and a friend rang to see how my husband was; and since his wife was overseas, I invited him for supper that night – three hours later in fact..

Putting down the phone, my mind raced through the possibilities. We were going to have cauliflower cheese, but could I give this to a man accustomed to gourmet cooking from his talented wife? I thought of various alternatives, but I was always missing one vital ingredient. Cauliflower cheese it would have to be! We were already having Brussels sprouts and carrots with it, and toasted almonds sprinkled over the cauliflower, so I added some chopped and baked golden kumara – crisp and crunchy on the outside – soft and sweet inside. Washed down with pinot gris.

With some pumpkin soup from lunch, thinned with a little cream and jazzed up with a sprinkling of coriander, served in little gold rimmed coffee cups before we sat down, it seemed a reasonable meal, topped off with  hot chocolate sauce poured over locally made coffee ice-cream. No-one wanted coffee after that, but smoky lapsang souchong tea went down well.

Later that night, I heard the dog again. I thought: I cannot face another night worrying about it. So I jumped in the car and scouted round the neighbourhood in the dark. In the next street, I found a frantic pit- bull terrier on the loose – pacing back and forth and barking ferociously and fearfully outside a darkened house. We have no hedges or fences, just grass flowing out onto the pavement. So there he was, and I was available to him…

I went next door, where I could see a light on, knowing the people there, and hoping the resourceful man of the house had a solution. But they were visitors, who’d borrowed the house, and were dreading another night of torment. So it was up to me! The husband told me the dog had been alone for two days, was dangerous and and had frightened two children, so I revved off back home to deprive my husband of six pork sausages sitting in the fridge for him to enjoy the next day.

Back at the house, Daphne, a friend living across the road from the deserted house, was talking to the other neighbours. When I got out of the car, she hurried across, sounding so relieved to see me that she made me feel as if I was the US Cavalry. She warned me to be careful. The poor dog had now retreated to the back of the house, so while I strewed sausages around the front lawn, she went to get some water to fill his empty bowl.

Home, and a glorious peace settled back across the cottages and gardens, the only sounds the restless sea surging onto the rocks and an owl calling. So I rang the lovely Daphne, and she told me the renters had come back not long after. I tried not to regret the sausages, and hoped the dog had managed to eat them all before his somewhat callous-seeming owners returned. (There are dark rumours that they are on drugs and are up to no good!) But a good night’s sleep was apparently had by us all, both the (slightly) wicked and the (mostly) virtuous .

After all this mayhem I took myself off the cinema in the next village in the morning, as I feared the film might go off before I’d seen it -‘Performance’ – about a quartet, set in a snowy and romantic-looking  New York. When one member of the quartet has a crisis, all the others go to pieces, with all their repressed emotions and frustrations about their lives welling up. The famous quartet is in danger of dis-integrating, until they finally put their art before their distress, and play the glorious Beethoven Violin Quartet No 14 Opus 131, music which reverberates through the whole film.

A simple story, and I was glad I hadn’t read the dreary reviews of it before I saw it, as they were all uniformly patronising. So, ignorant of the fact that apparently the film had so many fatal flaws, I loved every minute, and came out walking on air, feeling joyful that art had triumphed over all!

This was thirty six hours in the life of our village for me – mundane and busy – no mystery or profound or significant events… just the daily round and common task. A spiritual teacher once said to me that our spiritual destiny is to be in the right place at the right time. So I have to accept that however mundane, this is my destiny these days – right place – right time… food for friends, fearful dogs, and flawed, enjoyable films.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Kumara is the New Zealand equivalent of sweet potatoes, and I love the golden ones best. I cut them to the size of a walnut, this time – normally I’d have them bigger. They were then parboiled, and when the water had been drained off, the kumara was slammed around the saucepan and flour sprinkled over them. So with a rough surface covered in flour, hot oil spooned over them and quickly baked in a hot oven, they were crisp and tasty – the crunchiness was just the texture we needed with the soft cauliflower and brussels sprouts.

Food for Thought

I don’t know where this comes from:

Weak people revenge, strong people forgive, intelligent people ignore.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under animals/pets, battle of somme, british soldiers, cookery/recipes, great days, humour, life/style, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized, village life, world war one

Nothing Is Trivial

It’s ten thirty in the morning, and already I feel as though I’ve lived through several days. I awoke to my usual pattern, get up and put the kettle on to take a tray of tea back to bed. While the kettle’s boiling, I pull back the curtains and check the stats and read any messages. Then back to bed with the tea tray, followed by meditation, and getting myself going.

Before breakfast I looked at the e-mails, and answered a query to the printer about the cover of a new book. Packed up some other books to send to a library supplier, and calculated that I had to get some more muesli for the old chap’s breakfast, and some undercoat to start the process of painting the new table and chairs – every-one is appalled by this vandalism – but I always have white rooms, and there’s no way I’m going to live with an expanse of heavy dark wood.

It got so late that I decided to skip breakfast, and go straight into the next door big village to get all the posting parcels and shopping done first thing, and then leave the day free for checking proofs, getting on with the washing, reading and commenting on blogs, and planning some stories for a magazine deadline.

At the big village, I bought my groceries, and checked up on Prasad, the Indian genius who’s transformed the tatty old shop into a spick and span grocery. He’s leaving, and all my friends have charged me with the office of finding out where he’s going … he’s given some of us nick names, and mine is ‘Girl”. Off to the hardware store for the paint, and a discussion about cockerels, as one of the genus was stretching its lungs somewhere nearby. We discussed the cockerel in town which has taken up residence with the vet, and sits on his veranda nestled up to his cats when it’s not strutting around the court rooms next door.

On to the lovely coffee place, where I enjoyed a good flat white with chocolate sprinkled on it, and a piece of iced lemon yogurt cake with cream, and raspberry coulis (oh dear). I sat in the window by the river, and watched the village cat peering into the ornamental runnels of water stocked with goldfish which edge the market square. My amusement turned to horror as the little black rascal leaned over and fished out a struggling orange body. I FELT the crunch of the sharp teeth piercing through the scales of the wriggling, doomed goldfish, then the cat ran off with it between her jaws.

When the girl delivered my coffee I mentioned to her the cat’s shameless bite and run, and she told me her mother had eight cats and a goldfish pond. “She put one in the water, and they gave up hunting the fish then,” she laughed. She then began to list the dogs they owned, starting with a pit bull. “Oh, the darling thing”, I exclaimed, to which she replied, “Oh, I expected quite a different response from you – everyone shudders when I say pit bull”. We discussed the sad fate of pit bulls owned by people who brutalise them, and the goodness which is the birthright of all creatures until man degrades them.

Feeling refreshed, I sailed off to the village bookshop presided over by a green eyed black haired goddess. “I’ve come to make a complaint,” I smiled.  She beamed back: “Go head – make my day”!  “You’re not feeding the cat,” I accused her. “She’s just murdered a goldfish.”

The goddess laughed, “I’ve just given her breakfast,” she replied. The cat technically lives in the pub across the road, but has taken up with everyone else in the market place. Sometimes when I’m in the cinema I see her prowling across the back of the seats, and one day at the opera, the chap next door to me put his sweater under his seat. I had to warn him to leave it there for the rest of the film, because the cat was nestled on it.

The green eyed goddess said she’d been at the cinema the night before, and the cat had found her and jumped up on her lap, and spent the whole film stretched out across her legs purring. “It was just like being at home with my cat on my lap”, she laughed. Before getting back in the car, I dropped in on the florist to order a big bunch of gypsophila when it comes into season, and she had also watched the violence in the market square. “What with the cat and the grey heron, there’s going to be no goldfish left”, she exclaimed feelingly. “I saw it happen. She didn’t even eat it. She just dropped it – it’s dead”, she assured me seeing the horror on my face. I drove home rather later than I’d planned, but feeling that the waters of life had been flowing strongly.

The great philosopher Martin Buber wrote that everything in our lives has a hidden significance. “ The people we live with or meet with, the animals that help us with our farm-work, the soil we till, the materials we shape, the tools we use, they all contain a mysterious spiritual substance which depends on us for helping it towards its pure form, its perfection. If we neglect this spiritual substance sent across our path, if we think only in terms of momentary purposes, without developing a genuine relationship to the beings and things in whose life we ought to take part, as they in ours, then we shall ourselves be debarred from true fulfilled existence….the highest culture of the soul remains basically arid and barren unless, day by day, waters of life pour forth into the soul from those little encounters to which we give our due…”

Yes, it felt like that as I drove home, and now I feel too, that the waters of life flow not just through our individual lives but through our internet connections as well, and through all the little encounters we have with other souls and other lives around the world. And they certainly feel like genuine relationships in our little blogging village. This Must make a difference to the planet.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Though it’s supposed to be spring, it’s still cold, so I rustled up a quick soup for lunch. Broccoli soup is one of my favourite soups, and I love it hot and I love it cold. Chop an onion and a generous sized head of broccoli into small pieces, and sauté the harder green stems to start with. As they soften, add the rest of the green head, keeping some sprigs aside. Chop in a potato and then add enough chicken stock, about three to four cupfuls. If I haven’t any stock, the good old bouillon cube has to do.

Simmer till everything is soft. Put some milk in the blender, and then add the broccoli mixture, until it’s all liquidised. At this stage add the bright green broccoli  sprigs and liquidise them- they give some bright greenness to the soup. Re-heat long enough to cook the added broccoli fragments. Add grated nutmeg to taste, and salt and black pepper. Serve immediately, or let it cool and put in the fridge to chill. When the soup is iced, you may need to add stronger flavourings – more nutmeg, salt and pepper… needless to say I often add a dollop of cream to either version. This amount serves two people heartily, or four daintily.

Food for Thought

To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-wracking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence.                                                                                                                              Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated  without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.                                                                                                                                                                      E.F. Schumacher discussing Buddhist economics in ‘Small is Beautiful’.

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