Sunday, 28 December 2008

The Sea

Sunday 9.00am

I love the sea. Or rather I love the seaside, the coast. I have lived in various places but always seem to end up near or at the coast. It feels right somehow. I think it is because I like to know where I am in space. When I enter a building or an apartment or room the first thing I usually do is look out of a window, again to pinpoint where I am in the surroundings. And it is the same with the coastline - the sea is over there, the land is over here, and so I am here positioned relative to them. I feel secure knowing where I am, having a touchstone if you like.

But the sea itself is a different matter, I have no wish to be on it. I like to have my feet on the ground. Splashing around at the beach is ok but as you go further out, the shallows of the continental shelf that the the land sits on eventually drop away and the deep ocean begins. And the thought that I could be suspended there in the ocean with an unknown vastness beneath me containing who knows what, - that I find scary. It is an echo from childhood I think of that fear when getting into bed that there may be monsters at the bottom so you cannot slide your feet down. It is funny isn't it how these things remain with us into adulthood, lying hidden just beneath the surface and yet affecting our daily lives in subtle ways.

Life is never dull when you have childhood fears.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Lying down

Thursday 8.19am

Having been so tired lately I have learnt to really appreciate one thing in my life - lying down. Gravity is all around us. It seems we do not know what it is, only that it is there always in the background quietly pulling at our bodies. It takes energy to stand up against gravity, energy that normally I would not notice but at the moment I feel I have hardly enough to stand let alone function through the day. Adrenaline gets me through of course, but I can only produce so much of that and to get to the end of the day and finally just let go is such a blissful feeling.

You have to lie down properly to really appreciate it. Sit down, stretch your legs out, and then roll your back down to the ground stretching it as you do so. Your arms should rest palms up beside you, slightly away from your body. And just let go, relax. Of course my body is never completely relaxed at this point. All those little muscles that have been under strain all day supporting me are not quite sure they can let go. I can feel them jumping as they let go a little to see what happens and then tense up again immediately. But gradually the twitching stops as everything finally lets go and surrenders. To gravity.

Perhaps there should be a society for this - SELD, the society for the enjoyment of lying down. We could have classes and mass public lie downs, the world would change.

But then again all that would take energy, just the thought of it is tiring me out. I think I will go and lie down now . . . .

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Sometimes even Jack Johnson isn't enough

Wednesday 9.00pm

Tiredness is a killer isn't it ? Been doing too much lately and I am very weary. I just want to sit and stare into space but all the parts that make up family life keep nagging at me to get done. And to make matters worse, in an effort to get some space I have been staying up later and later at night and so just end up tireder in the mornings. When it gets like this, eventually something happens that is just too much and everything suddenly collapses.

It was one of those occasions recently. It started well, Nicola and I went out to the farmers market and did some shopping. But of course it took longer than expected and when we got back home there was still lots to do. And then it happened. Nicola discovered that I had forgotten to do something that she had asked me to and would now have to do it herself. That was that final straw, she got angry, I couldn't see why, and pretty soon we were growling at each other from separate rooms.

It is all fine now of course, but it makes you think. And what I think is that we have a very strong relationship. If we had had a lot of nagging annoyances with each other lying just under the surface what would the outcome have been.

I am glad that we don't.

(At least I don't - perhaps I should ask Nicola . . . . . .)

Monday, 8 December 2008

A Dream

Thursday 7.02am

I dreamt that I was walking alongside a wide river with high banks on either side. There was me, my family and my brother John. It was a lovely day, still and sunny and we chatted happily as we walked upstream. unseen by us though the river was rising, these huge tongues of water were rushing upstream behind us. We turned to look but it was too late and the water overwhelmed us and we were suddenly tumbling along within the chaotic foam rushing along the banks. There was no way we could escape, it was too rough, but splashing about desperately we all gradually found ourselves on the very top of the huge mound of water. Although we were still being carried along at a tremendous pace, it was actually quite calm up there and with a few strokes of our arms and legs we could keep on top, almost surfing along, quite safely and enjoyably really. John though kept just lying there not paddling and I could see him sliding off towards the foam again. "John" I kept shouting, "You have to swim a little, or you'll slide off again" And he would but then stop again and I would have to shout once more.

And then I woke up, there was a cat looking at me, purring happily. It was ten past three in the morning.

Sunday, 30 November 2008


Sunday 4.08pm

Since I gave up thinking about the technicalities of music and concentrated on just listening, I have discovered a lot more interesting sounds in the guitar.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Not thinking

Sunday 8.11am

My job can be quite stressfull. My day, from 8am until 5pm is mapped out in 20 minute segments of often intense activity. During these periods I am focused completely on what I am doing as well as the bigger picture surrounding it - how did we get to this place, what I have to do to fix it, what are the consequences of that and how can we prevent this happening again in the future. And because my whole philosophy is based on education and understanding, I have to communicate the important points of this to you as a patient in a way that you can understand. All in twenty minutes. And you thought you were just having a filling.

It is not always so busy of course, but it is perhaps not so surprising that when it is I find I do not think about anything else. At these times my brain just stops and although I may have a thought, as soon as I have a blank piece of paper in front of me (or a blank piece of LCD screen) the thought fades away like a dream and I am left with an echo of my thought that I just cannot quite grasp. Writers block.

It is during these times that I feel pressured and worry because I can feel my time draining away like sand or water, and in a life you only get so much time. But I shouldn't you know, because in the grand scheme of things everything balances out and you cannot have periods of activity without corresponding periods of inactivity.

Balance - that is what is important.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Everything Changes

Sunday 10.00am

There has just been an election here and whilst America is moving forward, New Zealand seems determined to put blinkers on and go backwards . . . .

I am not good with change, but change is inevitable. I think the trick is to be in balance with everything around you.

A fully grown tree is a beautiful thing and will have seen many things in its lifetime. It gets there of course by quietly bending with the wind and then springing back, all the time continuing in its purpose.

Balance and Vision. Two qualities I need to work on.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Oceans and Streams

Sunday 8.49am

Oh I used to dream of oceans and streams
Flowing and growing strong
Where have all

Those days gone

My soul is a river that flows through me. Lately it has been sluggish and some what silted up. i am constantly tired and yet the more sleep I have the tireder I become. My dreams and aspirations are still there but are now specks on the horizon, a long leaden footed walk away. I can get no joy from the people around me, all I see are more problems to be solved, more work to do. I feel taken for granted, overwhelmed by it all.

But of course it is not like that really. Everybody is the same as normal - it is my view of the world that has become distorted. I am not good when my routines get disrupted, especially if I get no time to myself.

And at the moment the house is full of builders . . . . . .

But I am making time right now as I write this, and can already feel the flow deep within me beginning again.

The picture is of the creek at the bottom of our garden, courtesy of Nicola,
the words at the beginning are from "Oceans and Streams" by the Black Keys

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Secrets and Truths

Sunday 9.34am

Seems I stood still too long and got tagged by Jo. I have to reveal six previously unknown things about myself. This is difficult because most of what I am is on the surface anyway and any stray thoughts that pop into my head will fall straight down and out of my mouth. Actually this is probably the place to start with . . . .

No 1 - I cannot keep a secret. If you do not want anybody to know, don't tell me because I'll bring it up again at the most embarrassing moment. Oh, and if we are in a restaurant don't say (women are good at this), don't say " don't look, but you see that man behind you . . . " because I will look and I'll probably stare as well!

No 2 - In college I was top of my group in wire bending. (with pliers that is, not my mind)

No 3 - I do not believe in science, I think it is just another way of looking at the world and has got way above itself being worshiped almost like another religion. Science your time is nearly over and in the future we will view the world in a completely different way.

No 4 - I cannot handle dirty plates being left lying around. If we eat in front of the telly, I have to take my plate back to the kitchen rather than put it on a table or the floor. This is handy for everybody else because I have to clear their plates away as well.

No 5 - I like cats to come into our bedroom but not televisions, (no, not even if there is a programme about cats on - you cannot fool me)

No 6 - I do not drink spirits. I drink gallons of tea and living in Hawkes bay drink a lot of wine ( it is compulsory ) but my most favourite drink of all, at the end of a days work is beer and in particular Deuchars IPA. You cannot get it here but Founders Tall blonde is a good substitute - drink some now.

and No 6a - I have mentioned this to Kathy already but the toilet roll has to have the loose end coming down the back of the roll as you look at it.

Now to tag another couple of people ( it should be six but I cannot be bothered ), Nicola of course even though she is a bit miffed at me being tagged before her, Kerrian of course, although she'll be frantically sewing at the moment for the upcoming Holly Hospice extravaganza thingy and will hate me for it.

I am supposed to post the rules as well but you know what they are . . .

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful

Wednesday 8.50pm

I am a great fan of the handmade, I like things to bear the marks of the maker, to not be completely perfect. Beauty lies in the small imperfections that we all have and it should be seen and heard and felt in the things we produce. These things are what we should surround ourselves with, both beautiful and useful things as William Morris said. And talking of useful, don't we live in incredible times. I always find it amazing that I can talk to somebody on the other side of the world. And I can read people's thoughts from all over the world as well, or I can write down my thoughts and blog them and people anywhere in the world can read what I have written. Or I can even write a book and with a little knowledge of word and PDF files have it professionally printed and a single copy delivered back to my letterbox. And having said back here that I might do just that - I have. Now I have no aspirations to be author, it was all an experiment for myself really, but if you want to have a look you can download it for free or get the book for just the price of the printing and postage.

And my next project? A star chart to encourage and help people to floss. (I am tired of nagging them)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Watching the detectives

Saturday 8.21am

The year 2023, the place downtown Chicago. I am eating noodles at a roadside stall. It is raining, drops are trickling down my neck and I can feel the dampness coming through my coat onto my shoulders. Of course with the permanent cloud cover it is always raining. Not the pure angels tears of generations gone by but a constant drizzle, so acid you can taste it and if you leave your small change out for a couple of hours it will end up all shiny and new. We used to do that as children. But not anymore because the children have all gone offworld with their parents, taking anything shiny and new along with them.

The noodles are good. Hot, spicy, warming. It is a pity I'll not get to finish them. Putting down the dish, I nod thanks to the cook and turn towards the descending police car. The crowds scatter as it settles in a cloud of steam. My instructions are within, brought by my new "partner" the fresh faced new recruit they have forced upon me to smooth the way they said, but really just a spy to report back to them, to make sure I am behaving myself. Just one more job, the boss said this will be the last, and you can retire to raise bonsai or Koi carp or whatever it is you do. His contempt was obvious and we both new the truth. There is never "a last job". No, whenever an author needs to pay the mortgage or repair his car one last mission will dramatically appear and I'll be dragged out of retirement yet again. We all knew it, sitting in that small box of an office when they told me I was needed once again. And for God's sake show some enthusiasm he had said next. Enthusiasm. Right. They were talking to a ex cop and trying to be retired private eye. Dogged determination I could do, resigned acceptance that in the end life was just unfair, I could do that as well but enthusiasm? Not me. But the new recruit had that in spades. I spotted him immediately standing pertly to attention at the back of the room listening intently to everything. Too bad he has to die.

But as he approaches through the returning crowds I know he is only here to remind me of how I used to be, and his death will be the turning point that will convince me that I have to forgo my own wishes and get this job done no matter what. And with him? The bosses sidekick of course, who silently watches everything, pretending not to care but who actually understands me and does care and will help if he can in subtle ways that I will only connect with him at the very end. Ah well, at least I will eventually know that someone is on my side.

I'd better go and meet them . . . .

The picture is from one of my favourite films - Bladerunner

Sunday, 12 October 2008


Stardate 81012-727

System Sol, planet 3, colour Blue/Green, atmosphere 78% Nitrogen 21% oxygen, surface water present.

Preliminary report from planetary photoprobe atmos 563, low altitude fly-through. - Additional notes.

Whilst primarily to provide data for atmospheric colour analysis the photographs have provided some interesting additional observations worth noting seperately.

1. This planet supports intelligent life. Analysis of the photographs have indicated the presence of what appears to be an iron/silica based life form. Several subspecies are present inhabiting land, air and water. Little detail can be seen as yet but initial impressions are of an oxygen breathing creature with a hard exoskeleton and what appear to be limbs that use rotational motion for propulsion. Early observations of behaviour indicate low intelligence but interestingly the creatures have overcome this by forming a symbiotic relationship with a lesser carbon based lifeform. The dominant species appears to form a long term relationship with particular individuals, using them for feeding and grooming and carrying them around within its body cavity to provide this service, much as small child might do with it's favourite toy.

Further investigation is recommended

In my dreams I see a world without cars. At least in the cities. Country life would be more difficult without them but they would be left at the edges of towns, where all movement would be on foot or bicycle or perhaps by public transport. The streets could be dug up and planted with trees, carparks would become parks and those multistory ones would become public sports areas for football, netball and basketball etc. From the skies the green of the countryside would stretch unbroken within and through the cities. We would all be fitter and and having been forced to slow down a little, be much less stressed.

Just a dream? perhaps . . . .

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Back Again

Saturday 3.45pm

It was dark inside but still I entered. I had to, my mission dictated it. "Track her down" a voice deep in my head kept repeating, "If you really want your previous life back, you have to do this". So I walked guardedly through the doors and allowed the atmosphere inside to enfold me. It was crowded. Deep repetitive music throbbed all around and coloured lights were everywhere. The hypnotic images on a row of large screens in the distance caught my eye and drew me onwards, inwards to the very heart of the room. Carefully moving through the crowd I kept glancing at the faces around me. Everyone seemed dull, empty, zombie-like almost, as only an overexposure to recreational drugs or in this case modern technology can cause. It was easy to succumb, I was already disorientated and moved ever inwards. Trying to get me bearings, I stopped briefly in front of one of the screens and of course, it happened. In an instant, as I stopped a woman locked on to me and began to thread her way through the crowd. Muttering under my breath "Keep moving" I did so and she lost interest once more, scanning the crowd around her for easier prey. They were everywhere, I could see that now. Predators, given away by their sweaty desperate expressions, unhealthy pallor, and too tight clothing they moved through the crowd picking us off one by one. This was their honey trap, and I was no match for it.

But as I turned to leave I noticed a gap in the crowd to one side, beyond the silver and chrome. Intrigued, I moved towards this still point amid the cacophony and realised I had found my objective. Ignored by those around her she sat on a table, aloof, quietly separate from all around. Approaching hesitantly I stood and watched her for a minute. Quietly dressed in a simple black number that contrasted sharply with the surrounding garishness, she seemed to be asleep. Unknowingly I had reached out a hand and as I gently caressed her skin she awoke instantly with a flash of light from deep within. I withdrew in awe, this was where real power lay.

Of course, having been seduced by the exotic charms of an Apple MacBook, I didn't buy it at Noel Leeming. I went to somewhere much less scary - Dick Smith.

Now all I have to do is work through the psychological trauma of spending so much money in one go . . . . 

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Computer says no

My computer has died . . . . 

Monday, 29 September 2008


Monday 9.19pm

There were once two tribes who feuded constantly. The cheif of the Waimarama tribe had a champion, their cheif Te Mata O Rongokako, he was unbeatable. The men of the Herataunga tribe just did not know what to do against this man, but an old woman spoke up. Let Te Mata meet our chief's daughter Hinerakau, her beauty will soon turn his mind from war she said. And it worked, he fell in love, and decided to woo Hinerakau instead of fighting. But the people of Heretaunga had not forgotten his past evils against them and persuaded Hinerakau to set him many difficult tasks to prove his love for her. These he all accomplished easily until the last. Te Mata, she said, our tribes live so far apart, you on the coast us here on the plains. If you really love me you should eat through the hills that seperate us and we could meet more often and more easily. Te Mata took a huge bite out of the earth, but choked on a rock and fell down dead. He still lies there today on the skyline, surrounded by the beautifull cloak that Herekau had covered him with before leaping to her death from the cliffs, for she had fallen in love with him in return.

As people we seek an explanation for the world around us. Stories provide this explanation. Science of course, though never described as such, is just another such set of stories.

Do not believe everything you are told.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Dawn Chorus (and cat legs)

Thursday 2.30pm

It is 5.30am on a Spring morning. The sun is rising but hasn't yet made it over the horizon, the sky is grey and the air has a chill to it here in the garden but it is not unpleasant. A new day, my day off so there is no pressure. The rest of the family is asleep apart from the cats who have been fed and are out here with me ears twitching. We are surrounded by sound.

As you may have realised, I am a very visual person. My head is full of pictures. When I talk my hands move to describe what I am saying into the air between us. And if you talk to me I construct a vision of what you are saying and then describe it back to you to check that I have understood. If I want to remember something I'll write it down or draw a picture. I see the patterns, colours and shapes around me, first, before anything else.

But when it comes to relaxation, then music and sound is much more important. When I look at something, my brain is full of questions. How did they do that? Why did they do it like that? How would I have done the same thing? But music cuts past all of that, going straight to my emotional core which seems to be just below my breast bone, in my centre. Poetry too does this for me, evoking feelings rather than thoughts, but music is quicker and more direct. To me, modern living places too much emphasis on thinking, we need to make time for feeling as well. It would make us all more balanced people. Those few minutes spent outside in the morning do it for me.

Jack Johnson says in one of his songs "You don't always have to hold your head higher than your heart."

I like that.

Monday, 22 September 2008


Monday 7.40am

When I was younger, ink came in hard glass bottles with big black shiny plastic tops. It was for fountain pens but you could also draw and paint with it, and this is what I did. And just for fun if you dropped some onto wet paper the ink would spread through it separating out into it's different colours like a bruise. Ink came in different colours of course - blue, black, red, green and brown I think, and also one called "blueblack". This was my favourite. Black was just black, a little plain and a little flat whereas blueblack was blacker than black, such a deep, deep indigo that you could stare into it forever and never see the bottom. Since then if I can I will not use straight black as a colour, although this is much more difficult now with ballpoint pens and inkjet printers. The slightly off colour that can only be got by doing things by hand gives life and vibrancy to what is created, your eye is drawn into the colours and kept interested. Like notebooks in the computer age there will always be a place for the handmade.

Blueblack is also the colour of the sky just before the sun comes over the horizon in the morning.

Saturday, 20 September 2008


Saturday 7.10pm

For years now, on and off, I have kept notebooks. Less formal or demanding than a diary they are a place to put things. What things? Anything and everything in fact - ideas, appointments, shopping lists, sketches, handwriting practice, my thoughts on life and the answers to those quizzes and questionaires you find in self help books.

Like dream catchers they allow me to put things down in writing before I forget, and the very act of writing encourages and helps my ideas become more organised, more real. The ones from the past become little snapshots of what I was doing and how I felt at the time. Like music, reading one will take me back to a particular time and I can feel what I felt like then, what I was doing, even what my hopes and aspirations were. A couple of posts ago I listed what makes me happy and one particular notebook has the same thing written years ago  along with my wishes for the future. Written on the edge of a hillside in the Scottish Borders, long before I met Nicola, I find the entry particularly poignent because reading it I can feel exactly how I felt then and you know most of what I wished for has come true. (the rest I am still working on).

I have three notebooks on the go at the moment, one for work, one to keep track of money and my newest one above, is for everything else. Well four actually - my computer is also a notebook - I am writing this on it now, but the the paper ones will always be there as well.

Notebooks. Everyone should have one.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

It's all in the details

Sunday 8.52pm

I've never quite got jazz. Some of it I enjoy but then, especially with the more modern stuff it goes somewhere and leaves me behind. The musicians obviously hear something I cannot. And so it is with experts in any field. At some point they become so deeply involved in their subject that they move beyond what us mere mortals can see or understand. I see glimpses of this in my own specialities. I can diagnose the cause of your toothache just by talking to you, sometimes even by just looking at you. The difference between me as the dentist, and you as the patient is that I see the whole picture. I see the cause, what led up to it, the immediate and long term treatment options along with the risks and benefits of each, and more importantly what needs to be done to prevent it happening again. And yet still people complain about my consultation fee because in their words I "did not do anything". They just don't see what I see.

Not everybody will get to that level in their chosen field of course, that stage where you do not have to think things through - you just feel the answer, you just know. Nicola has it in computing, she sees things that I just don't, and like jazz probably never will. 

We all see things differently, something
that is easy to forget. For example I took
the picture above, I wrote the words,
chose the typeface and put the two
things together. But what really makes it work for me is the way I have got the flower petals to sit around the "s" in soup, linking the two paragraphs and tying the words and picture together. Just this one detail makes all the difference.

Life is never dull when you can look at it through anothers eyes.

(That typeface is a condensed Gill Sans, by the way - if you click on the top picture you'll see it better).

Friday, 12 September 2008

The tree of happiness

Tuesday 7.20am

Nicola has tagged me with this meme - "The tree of happiness" I have to list six things that make me happy. So, in reverse order here they come.

6. Cats. If you know me at all you'll know that I love everything about cats, even the furballs. I'd quite like to be a cat.

5. The Clangers. Computer animation is all very well, but these are shows that have a soul. And a beautifully innocent one at that.

4. Rain. There is nothing better than sitting by the fire or lying in bed listening to the sound of the rain falling outside. And talking of outside, between working inside, being inside at home and driving between them I don't spend much time there. It is great just to walk outside and get wet for a change.

3. You'll have to look had to find this one, buried as it is under a deep layer of grumpiness but it is my family. Having lived the single life for more than thirty years, family life is actually pretty cool.

2. But this one is very much on the surface, it's Nicola of course, who makes things happen.

1. Birdsong. Especially the dawn and evening chorus. Hearing this brings on such a peacefull happiness that it is almost worth getting up at six o'clock in the morning just to hear it.

Of course as I now have two blogs Nicola has tagged me twice the food inspired set are here.

And . . . . I get to nominate the next person, so it is Swallowtail who always seems happy with the world around her. Better go and tell her now . . . .

And on my other blog it is Jo who gets the short straw.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Changing things

Sunday 7.30am

In a way similar to Pherenike and also in this post, over the last four months or so I have been trying to get more organised, to find time for the things I enjoy and also to get my finances tamed. Because you know it doesn't matter how long you keep your head in the sand, the bills are always their when you look up and also, contrary to popular belief I am all grown up now and should be able to do these things.

I love self help books and this site has helped my keep on track and I feel I am doing quite well. But having been finally forced to think ahead it occurred to me that this planning and changing things to suit ourselves is what defines us as a species. Most animals seem more accepting and work with what is around them but the human race? if we are not happy we change it. But is it for the better? Not for the planet as a whole, that's for sure, although it will survive us. And not for ourselves either. I feel a change in attitude is required, we need to step outside our human centred view of things, to take our heads out of the sand and look at the bigger picture. I feel confident because a lot of people already do of course and in myself I feel the connection to the world is always just under the surface.

There is an election here soon and although I don't know much about politics I would like to vote for a party that stands outside of all the petty posturing and name calling that has been going on lately. A party that does take a wider view of things and is working for a change in our attitude to the world as a whole.

Picture is of the Beehive courtesy of Nicola.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Peter and the email account

Sunday 7.09am

There once was a 47 year old man called Peter, who lived all alone with his wife and three children just beside a few trees in New Zealand. Peter was lonely because although he was kept busy working most of the time to pay for his wife's Trademe purchases, he had no "efriends". Everytime he went onto the internet he was reminded of this with little messages that just caught the corner of his eye. "You don't have any Lulu friends. Find some friends." it said as he uploaded some files. Some people did want to be his friend and kept putting messages through his e-letterbox. " find someone in your area today" they announced and " beautiful sexy girls are waiting to meet you right now" But Peter was a sensible man and had read The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood and didn't believe them. Then one day Peter needed another email address. Google had also told him that he needed some friends but they were more helpful. They had given him some invitations to send out to ask people if they would like to be his friend and have an email account as well. Well thought Peter, I don't have any efriends to invite but I do need another email account so why not invite myself? So he did, and he opened up that new account.

And do you know, that very hour he got this message - "Peter Coulter has accepted your invitation to Google Mail and has chosen the brand new address Be one of the first to email Peter at this new Google Mail address--just hit reply and send Peter a message. has also been automatically added to your contact list so you can stay in touch with Google Mail." A new friend had found him after all and wanted to talk! Peter replied straight away before checking his new account. Well as soon as he did Peter just stared in amazement, there was a message there as well, two new friends in one day! Peter and his new friends had so much in common that they chatted away for hours. He was so happy, because underneath it all Peter is a man of very little brain and is actually quite easily pleased.

The End.

With apologies to Nicola and also "
Little beaver and the echo"

Life is never dull when you have modern technology

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The Landscape

Sunday 7am

I love the landscape that surrounds me. I love the colours and shapes and the patterns that the clouds make across it. I love the sounds of the wind in the trees and the distant bird calls. I love the way that the wind also buffets around me making me part of it all, including me. It is all just so achingly beautiful.

Why do I feel this? I don't know. I am not a country boy, I was brought up on the edge of London so it is not in my blood as it were, but as an adult I have always chosen to live in the countryside. And having flown across southern China I know that I am lucky to live somewhere that actually has some countryside left. Mind you I do enjoy being in a city as well, but even there I find myself searching for the places where the world breaks through - in all those little nooks and crannies that surround us.

Why do I feel this connection? I do not know, it is just something so deep within me so much a part of me that I cannot separate it out to look at it.

Perhaps I was an elf in a previous life.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Leek and Oatmeal soup

Tuesday 7.45pm

A simple restorative soup for when you are all bunged up with flu and feeling miserable.

Like me.

Fry a chopped leek slowly in some butter and olive oil until soft, translucent and faintly golden brown, ten minutes at least. Add in a good handfull of rolled oats, stir about a bit and leave to cook for a few minutes. Pour in a pint and a quarter of chicken stock and simmer gently until the oats are cooked but still have some bite, mine took a bit over half an hour. Season and serve.

I had mine with croutons and a handfull of chopped parsley.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

How to butter toast

Sunday 3.38pm

1. To get the butter on to the knife, hold it at right angles to the butter and scrape across. The butter will rise up in a beautiful curl.

2. To transfer the butter onto your toast, place the knife almost flat against the toast, with the top edge slightly more raised than the cutting edge. Now press gently and slide the knife across. The butter will spread itself onto the toast. If your toast is still warm you can now wait a few seconds for the butter to soften before spreading again. This method works for bread as well of course, even the softest.

If there is one guiding theme in my life it is the constant search for simplicity. In work, in leisure, in deeds, words and actions. The best, the most elegant solution to any problem is usually the simplest.

Watching my eldest son struggling to butter some bread, using the point of the knife (and moaning vociferously about the bread tearing) led me to look at how I did it.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Me and the Ducks

Saturday 2.48pm

It was lunchtime on one of those still, grey days. Just me, the ducks, and the park. There I was sitting eating my cheese sandwich, just idly thinking, feeling a bit down. "Wouldn't it be great" I thought "if I didn't have to go back to work this afternoon, If I could just sit here all afternoon like the ducks." But of course one day I will be able to, because I have thought this way in the past and things inevitably change. I sat thinking of the past for a while, the places I had been, the things I had done since - there has certainly been change, and for the better as well.
And a thought rose up through it all. When I do look back
one day, what would I like to be looking back upon? Myself feeling miserable? or the experiences I had on my way there?

Obvious really.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Caught Between Heaven and Earth

Sunday 9.49am

Six thirty in the morning and I am outside in my pyjamas. The grass is sodden, chilling my feet as they sink in and the air has that wet coldness that goes straight to your bones, bypassing any flesh. It has been raining for a day and a night but has stopped now. All is still apart the dripping of the trees. Looking across, far, far to my right is the distant brightness of dawn. Above me the towering clouds still boil and churn with the last of the rain, whilst below me I can feel the earth, vast, solid, supporting. Caught as I am, pinioned between these two great forces I should not be able to move - and yet I can, sliding down and sideways into my morning exercise. Tai chi.

Finished, I stand again, just a few minutes later and in a different place. And there has been a change. I look to the distant dawn again, expectantly this time for that is where I am headed. No matter how black things look or what is against me, I can use that to move away to where I want to be.

The first step is to see.

Life is never dull when you have a vision.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Everything I learned in life

Saturday 1.54pm

Went to see an fun film this morning with Nicola and our youngest – Kung Fu Panda. It had a message of course as these films do. Be yourself, accept yourself even, and work with what you have to become the best you can be. In the words of children’s cartoons “fulfill your destiny.”
Thirty years ago I finished School. And in that twelve years of schooling was I shown how to be myself ? did they work with whatever talents I had to bring out my best ? No. There were good teachers of course but I don’t think modern schooling allows them to teach. I like to cook but I did not learn that at school. I also enjoy writing but again did not learn that at school either. I used to make things out of cardboard and in that I would use my knowledge of geometry, and that I did learn at school.
All that school does is provide the tools for a modern life, but what you do with them is left up to you. And if their learning style does not work for you then all you are left with is the most basic lesson - how to do what you are told and how to get up in the mornings so that you can hold down a job for the rest of your life, paying taxes to support the very thing that let you down in the first place.
I am lucky that I was able to fit in and learn stuff. But without any guidance, finding and accepting myself has been a long and lonely journey.

There must be a better way.

Perhaps here is a place to start

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Today’s Daisy

Sunday 7.01pm

Today’s Daisy

Today’s daisy looks like an Indian woodcarving on a piece of furniture or a woodblock. But it is actually on the bottom of a mangosteen. Isn’t it great when you can go into a supermarket and find something you have never heard of before (neither had the checkout girl).

Mind you at $23.99 a kilo I could afford . . . . one.

Looks strangely grub like inside and tastes a bit like a lychee, by the way.

I’ll probably buy another one.

Life is never dull when you have a Mangosteen

With apologies to Nicola for stealing her theme :-)

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Pumpkin and Cashew nut Soup

Thursday 7.40pm

There is a chill in the air telling me that although I cannot see it on this bright fresh day, winter is still here. Time for another creamy, comforting soup once again making good use of the warming fragrance of black pepper.

- An onion and a clove of garlic are set to cook slowly in some olive oil.
- About two ounces of roasted cashew nut are put into a small ziplock bag and bashed with a rolling pin to a lumpy flour. I used my youngest for this as it is the school holidays and he was looking bored. (he did the bashing that is, I didn’t use him as the rolling pin)
- Pop the nuts into a small amount of stock and left to soak.
- Meanwhile I have peeled a three or four inch piece of pumpkin and chopped it into chunks.
- Now the last time I made soup I burnt the onions when I added the pumpkin and upped the heat, so this time I scooped out the onions, put the pumpkin in, stirred it around a bit until blackened at the edges.
- The onions go back in along with a pint and a quarter of vegetable stock and the heat turned down to a simmer.
- Twenty minutes later all is cooked.
- Into the liquidiser go the cashews and their stock to whizz them a bit finer then the soup is added and blended together.
- Back into the cleaned saucepan it all goes with a little bit of salt and lots of black pepper to warm through.

This will be my lunch tomorrow at work, a small quiet oasis in what will probably be a hectic day.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Zen and the art of Cookery

Thursday 8pm

I have just been making packed lunches for myself and smallest child. Cheese sandwich for myself, cheese and ritz crackers for youngest. And whilst doing so I was munching upon some biscuits, Squiggles, that I came upon in the larder. And being a tidy soul (or fat pig if you prefer), once I had finished I scraped up all the left over bits of cheese from the counter top and stuffed them into my mouth along with the biscuits.

And the tastes went together beautifully. So beautifully in fact that I got some more and forced Nicola to try them. And she agreed with me, unless that is she was just humouring the mad man to get away, but I don’t think so.

And in that instant I realised what cookery is all about. It is the blending of flavours, textures and colours to make something nice. The rest of it, all those methods and rules are just ways to create new combinations without poisoning us. And cookery books of course are just lists of flavour combinations that people have discovered over the years.

Just for fun I think I will write a cookery book, because if it is all just painting with different tastes then we can all do it, can’t we ?

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


Tuesday 3am

Nothing seems real. I am sitting in a rented house on the other side of the world from home, surrounded by unfamiliar things, living out of a suitcase really. My sleeping patterns are all mixed up - here I am awake at three in the morning, my head bunged up, hayfever I think, but feeling like I am not quite here, not quite anywhere really. A ghost.

This was an unexpected trip, arranged at short notice due to my fathers death. His illness and death came upon us quite quickly really, not unexpectedly as I have said, but the quickness of his going into hospital, his slight recovery and then rapid decline and death all seemed to happen quicker than I could respond to. The funeral of course was arranged and over in a few days and again this made it almost impossible to be here even if we could have afforded the trip. I should have been here of course and would have liked to have been, but did not realise this until afterwards. Moving so far away from home I knew something like this was bound to happen eventually and I think I really said goodbye to him two and a half years ago when we left.

So now we are all gathered to scatter Eric’s ashes and say goodbye, and I feel detached from it all, like arriving during a film, not quite sure who is who or what the plot is.

Sunday, 29 June 2008


Saturday 10.15am

I am in the north of England. In an enclosed garden in a small village called Horncliffe. It is peacefull here, not quiet because I am surrounded by noise but somehow just as it should be. I notice a constant background humming and gradually realise what it is – bees, hundreds of them working away in the flowers that are all around me. And birds too are everywhere, sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes, rustling close by and then more and more distant past the wood pigeons in the woods fading into the distance. But no traffic noise. In Havelock like most places no matter what time of day or night it is there is always the constant rumble of cars, but here off the beaten track it is absent and I feel much more relaxed for that. Just as Edward Thomas described in Adlestrop years ago this background of birdsong is such an English sound. And it is part of me too, part of my englishness that I will carry everywhere deep within me, and no matter where I live.

The rain comes on, a summer shower of sudden heavy, wet raindrops and I go back indoors, carrying the birdsong with me.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Star Anise

Sunday 8.55am

I was feeling lazy. Nicola had asked for Sweet and Sour Pork for tea but I just wanted something I could put in the oven and forget until it was ready. Spare Ribs popped into my head as the answer, served with plain boiled rice and a simple crunchy green salad of lettuce and cucumber perhaps, perfect. I found a recipe in Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries that sounded good but required some of these things in the picture – Star Anise. I have only ever seen these in books and have always imagined them to be so hugely expensive that I have always substituted Fennel seeds instead. But seeing as I had to go out for the pork anyway . . . . .

The local supermarket didn’t have any so it was off to the delicatessen - Boldersons for a look, I could have coffee and watch the posh people at the same time. And there they were, nestling in little cellophane packets amongst all the other spices and only $1.90 a packet ! Pretty as they are, the thing about anise is the smell and flavour so once seated with my coffee (and lemon cake) I had to open the packet to investigate. And the intensity of that smell just blew me away. The purity of it was just incredible, fennel is nice but the seeds have a sort of musty or dusty smell in comparison. I am not sure what the other customers must have thought, but like a cat rolling in catmint, I was instantly hooked and repeatedly had to have another hit. Happiness.

Life is never dull when you have spices

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Carrot, Cardamon and Coconut soup

Sunday 2.22pm

This is just such a, well there is no other word for it, pretty soup. Pale orange in colour, delicately scented, smooth in texture, just pretty really. I have a recipe for a delicious carrot cake by Madhur Jaffrey that has Indian spices in it and cardamom features heavily, so why not a soup I thought and of course if you are going down the soft creamy route then coconut milk would be an ideal companion.

- start with half an onion and a small clove of garlic, and one or two green cardamom pods gently fried till soft.

- Add in two or three carrots chopped and mix around

- Then a pint and a quarter of half strength vegetable stock

- Simmer until the carrots are soft, half an hour or so

- Fish out the cardamom pods if you like, I left them in, and liquidize it all

This of course gives Carrot and Cardamon soup which is very nice but I went that little bit further and added a small amount of coconut milk, no more than 100ml or so (taste it) – you do not want to overpower with coconut. The rest of the tin I put in a couple of pots and popped in the freezer to see if it will freeze for some other time.

With two pods I thought the cardamom flavour was quite strong and would probably try one pod next time, but Nicola said she could not taste it at all. Mind you she is bunged up with flu at the moment.

We had ours with toast cos there is a lot of bread to eat up but better I think would be some sort of thin, slightly crispy flatbread or potato cake, perhaps next time.

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Saturday, 7 June 2008

Chocolate chip scones

Thursday 10.46am

So, Saturday morning, Nicola is off out thrifting with Kerrian and I am happily making scones. Youngest child is in his bedroom playing on the playstation (lego starwars), the sun is shining and all is good.

“Whaaaaat !“ comes a cry from the bedroom, I may have spoken to soon.

“You stupid pile of junk !”

Yep – here it comes. Crash! - the controller has been thrown down, Stamp, Stamp Stamp - a small stormtrooper is marching up the hallway, then luckily for me he takes a left turn into Poland, I mean the sittingroom, slam goes the door and on goes the telly.

Peace reigns again. I continue meditatively rubbing the butter into the flour and wonder what John McEnroe is doing now. The volume from the television suddenly increases, I look up. Smallest child is standing on the other side of the counter looking at me severely. He starts to talk, a long rant about the injustices of the playstation world. But you know, although I am looking at him I’m not actually listening, no I am thinking – time for some distraction, a father/son activity as youngest would say.

“ I’m making scones would you like to make some as well ?”

He stops mid sentence, mouth hanging open as his brain slowly comes to a halt and changes gear to think about what I have said. He looks at me, then the mixing bowl, then back at me.

“ What are scones ?“

“Small cakes made from flour, you like them“


“These are going to be date scones”, then thinking quickly in front of his incredulous look,

“But yours can have chocolate chips in them if you like”

I had forgotten that he is allergic to anything remotely healthy.

Youngest is then sent off to wash his hands whilst I separate the mixture into two bowls. Whilst I mix the milk into mine youngest is set to happily bashing a bag full of chocolate drops with a rolling pin. His mixed, mine are in the oven, and he is now beating his dough into submission. Once the dough finally admits defeat, all the pastry cutters come out and a whole menagerie of chocolate chip scones appear. Mine come out of the oven, the smell is gorgeous, and his go in. Youngest now skips happily off to watch the telly with my promise to call him once his are cooked.

Mission accomplished - the stormtrooper is now ready to put flowers in his hair and move to San Francisco, the sun is shining and all is good.

Life is never dull when you have an eight year old.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

The Bigger Picture

Thursday 3.32pm

I was stacking a load of firewood recently when I discovered this on the side of one. Like a Chinese watercolour landscape of bone white trees in a marsh, it reminded me of the scenery at Tokaanu wharf when we were on holiday there.

Sometimes it is amazing what you see if you just take the time to stop and look.

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