The surreal and the prosaic

Well what a day.

UK temperatures in the thirties? – Surreal.

Driving to Heathrow? – Prosaic.

Air-conditioning in my car barely able to keep up? – Prosaic.

Standing in arrivals hall and suddenly confronted with the image of a beautiful lady dressed head to foot in orange-sherbet silk being escorted to a grand-piano by a security guard … she sits down and starts playing Chariots of Fire whilst cameras from BBC, and various other Olympic-fuelled media, whir. One tune and then it’s all over – our famous (I assume) vision floats away again on the arm of the black-clad security guy. The airport – having temporarily been suspended in la-la land – returns to the business of people coming and going.

Definitely surreal.



Julia arrives back from France after a fabulous week away. Priceless!


Stuck in traffic jam for an hour in the sweltering heat, my air-conditioning having finally given up the ghost?

Definitely prosaic.



“We are same”

Wonderful video using the Dalai Lama’s words. We’re all equal in our search for happiness and our humanity. Simple. Lovely. Touching.



If anyone’s in London on Tuesday 19 June at 2:00pm you can also go and see him at the Royal Albert Hall. Let me know if you do!



I can see clearly now

Look, can you see it?

… a view from my bed! I can’t tell you happy this makes me. Our neighbour has just had an enormous pine tree chopped down and now I can sit in my bed and see a vast expanse of sky, fields (even the horses in those fields are galloping around as if they’ve heard the great news!) and lovely Nailsworth roof tops.

If ever there was a metaphor for how I’ve been feeling recently, this is it. Expansive, a clearing, new vistas. Luvving it!


When the Universe answers

Of course the Universe always answers. The only impediment to us knowing this, is our listening (or lack of).

There are days though when it feels like: “I ask and it is given”. Today for instance… This morning I was bemoaning the fact that there are no woods within walking distance of our home. Resigned to my normal semi-urban route I set off just now to enjoy a beautiful moment of sunshine. Something told me to turn left and then right – off the beaten track, and, you’ve guessed it, voila! Woods. Hoorah!

Trees ground me. I love their company.

Celebrating our loved ones

Today I spent two wonderful hours doing homework for Julia’s class teacher. As the class are writing their autobiographies at the moment he wanted us to do a write-up of our children, complete with illustrations and anecdotes. Later he’s going to paste these mini-essays into the children’s books as a surprise for them.

“What memories do you have?” he asked us. “What do you most appreciate about your child?” “Complete this sentence…’I’ve never told you this before but…'”

A bird's eye view

This has been a ’roundtoit’ job for a few weeks now but today I put aside the time and dived in. What a gift it was! I highly recommend this exercise as a way of getting very present to your loved one. Suddenly all the other niggles you have about them fall away as you ‘pan out’ to a much wider angle and get the big picture. Wonderful.


I don’t know about you, but the first signs of sunny weather never fails to lift my spirits. We can sit outside! We can shed the jumpers and boots! We can turn off the central heating and eat salads!

Buds are budding, the sun warms the skin, the birds are in full song. Our clocks have gone forward and now we can think more summery thoughts.

Just one of the many highlights of this time of year for me is our next door neighbour’s magnolia tree. The blossom is show-offy and abundant. “Ooh yeah, baby!” it seems to say, “It’s showtime!”

Beyond the doors of the cathedral

My friend Pauline – a biographical counsellor – was telling me yesterday about a philosopher in her sphere who asserts that we don’t allow ourselves to go deep enough into our experiences. When we simply walk in nature and don’t fully take in it’s wonders, for instance, he says it’s like standing at the doors of the cathedral but not going in.

This conversation with Pauline reminded me of my total and utter love of skiing. When I’m on top of a snowy peak, feeling the pure air in my lungs, the sting of the cold on my cheeks, absorbing the breathtaking vistas, I feel as if I’ve come home. The mountains, for me, are definitely the epitome of entering the cathedral.

I know I’m going all multi-media on you – (of course you know I do love technology!) – but I couldn’t resist showing you this video I took whilst schussing through the woods above Zee-Am-See in Austria in 2010. I just love the sound of my skis gliding through the snow and the wind in my ears. As you watch this, ask yourself how you can have your own ‘cathedral experience’. Don’t just go out in nature – let it become you.

The gift of a chuckle

Laughter – so infectious, so freeing, so healing.

  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

(From a great article called Laughter is the Best Medicine at

Did you know that there are laughter clubs you can join? Here’s one in Bristol:

There’s even something called  ‘laughter yoga’:


So here’s a little gift from me and my niece Taissa – a wonderful dose of laughter to help all that healthiness flow through your body right now. Taissa is 18 months old and found Guy playing about with a piece of wood hilarious. I recorded this whilst we were in France last week. I guarantee you will be chuckling seconds from now!


Artist’s Dates

Back in the days of running workshops based on Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist’s Way’, I used to ask people to report back each week as to whether they had completed their ‘Artist’s Dates’. These are fun/nurturing excursions that participants were told to take themselves on. The rule was they had to be alone and the dates had to be planned – in other words, they couldn’t look back at the week and claim something was an Artist’s Date if they hadn’t been concious of it at the time!

Artist’s Dates – I guess because they were so intimate and seemingly ‘selfish’ – were the most resisted part of the course, so, by making my participants write them up each week,  I found they were more inclined to do them! The thing is that, over the years, I found that there was a direct correlation between doing the dates and creative/personal transformation. The dates made each person feel that they were finally listening to their own needs and expressing their individuality in ways they thought they’d lost forever. Powerful stuff.

Today I asked my daughter Julia, (it’s just a co-incidence I assure you!), to start typing these dates up. I have hundreds of them! This way she gets some extra pocket money and I get to keep these gems for posterity.

Here’s what she’s typed up so far. I love how exuberant they all are! As you read them, have a think for yourself – what can you do, for, and by yourself this week that is festive, nurturing and a treat? I dare you to make it a weekly practice!


Went to Woodruff’s Cafe instead of doing chores. Wrote in my morning pages and finally did my brainstorming/mind map. Ate a nice lunch.


 Sorted through my drawer full of old photos. Brought a big smile to my face!



Went to Jive class again (after several weeks!) Love it!

I went to see The Tempest here at Hawkwood. Everything flung into the air and redistributed around the island, and re-assessed…


Watched the seals off Bardsey Island… Had a massage.
Cancelled going to the supermarket and went to Woodruffs. Had a nice lunch followed by tea and cake whilst reading my sailing revision! Flushed with the astonishment of having actually paid £545 to go on an Arvon Foundation Course (“Life writing”), and full of various “top-ups”,

(Failed to take myself on a proper Artist Date!)

Weekend walkabout around the upper part of River Avon – slept in the woods and did lots of swimming – very rejuvenating. Made fairy cakes for our summer party. A rather snobby friend called them “faux naïve” !
Went and sat by the lake, took my morning pages – and wrote and just sat for a whole hour. No-one else there! Went up to London on the train. Had a fast food lunch and then spent two stimulating hours browsing around the National Portrait Gallery. Then went to Leicester Square and a movie with a big box of popcorn.  All by myself. Bliss!
I got into my jeans and painted an old cupboard dark green. It looked very grand but took rather a long time… I went to a stone sculpture exhibition in Oxfordshire – a lovely motorbike journey on a beautiful day.
Short walk up the hill behind the house in the evening to observe the start of the fruiting process in different trees and bushes. First time for a long time! “Last minute Lilly”: went to bed with peppermint tea and chocolate and watched the season finale of Glee. This morning woke at 5am and went outside to hug our big tree.
Day trip to Easton Swimming hole – spent all afternoon lying in the sun and dipping in and out of the water. I took an afternoon off in the week and sat in the sitting room and read.
“Playing with words” – creative writing workshop. Went to Vintage Clothing Fair in Stroud Sub rooms.
I looked through old crafts magazines (again!) and cut out pictures that I liked – music and incense and privacy … lovely Went to 2 ‘Site10’ exhibitions in Stroud – particularly loved The Ice Book and the animated pin-board. Then had coffee and cake outside Mills Café in the sunshine.  Perfect !
Last Friday I dropped everything and went to an extra Pilates class with no money beyond the class’s fee, so I couldn’t do any errands on the way… it felt like a sunny day… Heard an interview with Vanessa Redgrave on radio – as a result booked and saw “Letters to Juliet” on a weekday afternoon… had the car valeted during the film!
Got up early – 5:30! – to potter about in my room, “sorting my stuff” – very productive… Dartmoor walk and pub meal.  Bluebells… views… stones… brief friendly chat in car park…
I lit a candle and jostik and sat on my bed listening to music and cutting out inspiring pictures from craft magazines. Bought a great scrapbook from WH SMITH and started a new ‘Treasure Book’ with clippings of things  that I love from various magazines.
I went to bed in the afternoon and ate chocolates and read Watched a TV programme by myself in a very ‘choiceful ‘ way…!
Walked on the beach at Cromer listening to the waves, taking photos and reliving my childhood by searching for shells and perfectly round rocks. (Forgot to book my Date in the diary so a last-minuter this week!) Did a Tarot Reading  on myself and had all my aspirations confirmed. Cool!
 Not ONE date but a series of Magical Encounters and events!

  1. To a turf-roofed eco-house in a wood…
  2. To a Christian Community talk on communion
  3. Finishing planting my garden in the evening with the birds singing…
  I spent an hour and a couple of ‘mini’ chunks of time later, putting photos into an album – I love doing it, it feels like it’s putting life into story form – but find it hard usually to allow myself time to do it.
I went to the GYM!! Started reading ‘ Ask and it is Given’ which has been on my bookshelf for a rather long time.  

“Oh, I say”, she said, “let’s DO something!”

Got a real happy-high this morning from finding this fantastic old girls’ annual. (I used to collect them). I just love the language!


Chapter II

“Well, the next hour or two was simply frightful. Delia and I shouted for help and shouted again; but we might have saved ourselves the trouble , for there wasn’t any one to hear. There was only old Timm’s house on the shore, and that was half a mile away, and the wind was against us.

“But he’ll find out that the boat is missing, and he’ll come out after us,” I said; “Do they know at school where you and the kids are?” I asked Gwynneth, as she came back from searching around the island…”

“No,” she said

“And we didn’t mention it either,” said Delia. “Oh begorra, there’s nothing for it but to make the best of things till Timms turns up.”

“But I’m frightfully hungry,” said Jean suddenly”….[she] began to cry and to cough too, and Mary looked as though she’d follow suit; while, to tell the truth, Delia and I had fairly lost our heads.

It was Gwnneth who spoke up. “I say, she said, “let’s do something!”

Now, she’d not said, “I told you so,” over the drifting-off of the boat: she’d been jolly decent about that; and quite suddenly, I felt awfully glad we’d got her with us…”

“Gwynneth… you’re a marvel,” I said…

Well, thanks to Gwynneth again, we’d a fine fire pretty soon, though it took lots of patience in the making. The children were quite gay again before long, bringing fuel and sticks to keep it up…”


[They have more adventures, Gwynneth saves the day, then later that night back at school….]

“Gwynneth,” I said that night in the dormitory, “you’re a brick. What we should have done without you, I can’t imagine. I’ll never say a word against your Guide Books again; in fact, I may as well confess I think Guides must be splendid!”


Hope you all have a simply splendid weekend!