Monday, 23 December 2013

Arrow To Bullseye

I'm chopping onions for  Christmas lunch Nut Roast. The wind is hurling rain against the patio doors. My husband is sitting at the kitchen table wrapping up presents for nephews and nieces and all the little people in our families. I explain who each one is. He asks for their names and how to spell them. He asks again seconds later. He throws the pen down and crumples.

I can't remember their bloody names....

and the anguish in him flies out across the table to me, slices me right in half...I go to him....hold his head against me. But we both know the truth of this now. For him and for me. If you don't know who your family are what tethers you here? How do you know who you are?

 While it was  a creeping thing - this disease -  I could contain it somehow.....but it arrived this morning, naked, un-disguised - arrow to  bullseye - tearing out the guts of us in the midst of the teddy bear Christmas wrapping paper......

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Too Much Christmas

I can't remember what it feels like to not have just one more thing I have to do before I can go to bed.

And that one thing is actually ten things. Choosing just one takes up as much time as doing it - make a present, cook a present, buy a present, wrap a present? What present?  I love the giving ....and it's all got muddled up in the too muchness of Christmas......

which isn't meant to be this knackering.....but it is if you do it the way I do.....forgetting to be kind.

Signing off now till 2014..... a huge thank you to all of you who read me - you make more difference to me than you may ever imagine.....

A loving Christmas to you all.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Half Full Half Empty

I feel very alone tonight
Wind menacing the windows.

Remembering my husband's face
dour with wretchedness
after I say
Why don't you believe me?
You can't turn right here
it's for Authorised Vehicles Only.
You aren't a taxi
you aren't a delivery lorry.

He wants to park in the Loading Only bay
so I can jump out of the car and run across the road
and collect the tiny Christmas tree
and the holly wreath we bought this morning
in the street market
where you can't park
unless you are an Authorised Vehicle.

But he turns right anyway.
Parks in the Loading Only bay.
While I'm pacing the pavement on the other side of the road
waiting for the stall holder to come back from the loo,
a traffic warden comes up and says
You can't wait here.

It's not that my husband doesn't know the meaning of
Authorised Vehicle.
Because I check that very carefully,
before I crack into brittleness.
He knows what he's doing
and whose authority he's shaking his fist at.

How else can he let out that
festering boil of rage inside him?

Tonight the bottle of wine in the door of the fridge is more than half empty.
He might say it was still half full.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


Today  -  the plumber is late.....I could have meditated/sent healing to Fukushima for four minutes while I wait for him but I shine the kitchen sink instead and re-arrange the things on my to-do list.

Today - I rush through the rain to sit with two lovely women in a quiet steamed-up cafe and receive my own healing in  their generous company - like I did yesterday in another cafe, perfumed with the aroma of baking chocolate cake.

Today - I open email after email from dear people in reply to our Christmas letters - I'm totally overwhelmed by the love and compassion and care in their response.

Today - I open another email from the  director of the company my husband used to work for....they overpaid him  and now we owe them money.....I notice I don't go into my usual panic mode.... just print off the letter and the figures - read it to my husband who says it means we may not need to pay so much tax.....

Today - I turn off the sound on TV and stand in front of my husband to shield him from seeing a man attacking a woman on the screen ( the actors playing Lord Lucan and his wife) because he is sliding off the sofa, his arms wrapped round his body, cringing in horror.

I wish I could protect him from the much worse horrors in his head......but maybe turning and facing my own worst fears would help him more.....

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas Faffing

This Christmas feel like a mountain and I'm still faffing about in the foot hills....scrabbling around in the  undergrowth wondering if I'll ever make it half way...can't decide about the tree.....the one in the garden in a pot has grown too big and straggly.....I don't want to buy a cut one...the artificial ones I looked at are too big.......maybe I'll spray a branch with gold paint, hang baubles on it and call it a tree by any other name....and when will I do this - in the few days left which are already full to the brim?

So my resolution for next year is to start earlier so this last week before Christmas is just for lovely lunches with friends and going to concerts and making mince pies and faffing about with wrapping the presents instead of still wondering what to buy....and thinking it all means something..... 

I must remember to put this resolution into my diary for 2014 ( Note to self  - Buy a 2014 diary.)

Monday, 16 December 2013

Too Much Not Enough

Mopping the floor tonight instead of blogging. One of us left the water filter tap running - all the time the news was on TV, while we watched the Syrian women in refugee camps in Lebanon asking the empty-handed mayor for food - the water poured over the counter, soaking Delia Smith's Christmas recipe book, open at Whiskey Dundee Cake, down the side of the sink, splashing into the glass bowls in  the cupboard below, making a lake on the tiles, seeping under the plinths.

I  dried it all up but I shouldn't have told my husband. He's upset now, full of remorse, blames himself, thinks he's incompetent....when it was just a mistake.

And I think about how much food I ate today at the Riverford Farm Restaurant - a huge mountain of wonderful organic vegetables and salads and a dried fruit compote and a portion of sticky toffee pudding too - so much it hurt.
 And how I wish instead it was all in belly of one of those children in the refugee camp who is throwing snowballs at her brother, who is wearing no shoes. 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Peanut Butter On Pizza

In the middle of the long wooden tables at the Old Mill Bakery Cafe in Lyme Regis are big glazed bowls of  homemade jam and peanut butter, honey and lemon curd meant to slather on your toast or croissant or scone.

It's Sunday, closer to lunch time when we arrive, a few families still lingering over brunch. At the counter we choose a whole tomato and pepper pizza to share -  the cheese still bubbling hot on the top.

 You dip your finger into the bowl of crunchy peanut butter and say,

It's lovely, what is it?

I tell you. And say,

  It's to put on toast and you mustn't put your finger in it - it's un-hygenic.

When the pizza comes you reach for the bowl again -  about to scoop up a dollop of peanut butter.

I stop you.

It's not meant for pizza.

Why not? You are indignant.

My culinary taste buds huff and puff and bristle.

Then I remember my father he mashed golden syrup into butter and called it Thunder and he used to sprinkle sugar on lettuce.

So after the Pizza when I say, Would you like an Eccles Cake? and you say, What is it? and then Yes....and when you cut the flaky pastry parcel stuffed with spiced currants into thick slices and smear it with butter and spoonfuls of runny raspberry jam from the bowls, I
 don't say anything....but I look around and wonder if anyone is staring.

And I think how it's hurting you, how all these layers of excess make you puff when you go up the stairs, make you huff when you bend down to do up your shoe laces.

Then I hear my father in my head laughing his big crumpled laugh and saying,

Leave him alone...there are worse things than putting peanut butter on pizza..... worse things than getting fat.

So I spear my knife into the long warm croissant on my plate...... reach for a bowl of shining strawberry jam....and wonder how much longer we'll be able to eat together in a cafe....... without it hurting so much.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Portugal Days and Nights

Portugal last week with my dear sisters.....

 Every morning breakfast on the terrace - sharon fruit, custard apples, pineapple, walnuts....

The sky was this colour every single day....

Still looking to capture forever the ultimate wave photo ...

 cresting, breaking, star-showering....

A complimentary glass of port after our first lunch of gorgeous grilled fish  - a Golden Bream -  in the cafe on the beach...

Every night from the hotel balcony we saw the sun go down over this little church which has been there forever - unless we had already started watching a DVD.....

Every year this week with my beloved sisters, in the melting soft light of this beautiful part of the Algarve, feels more and more precious.....something to cherish, to sustain me in the dark days.....

Friday, 22 November 2013

A November Afternoon - Remembering


November views of our beautiful Devon countryside in and around Killerton this afternoon where we walked through swathes of fallen beech leaves and along slippery red clay paths.

Better than shopping.

Today is the anniversary of the death of our pussy cat, Flapjack. We walk and talk about him and remember his sweet face and all the joy he brought us for 16 years..... and let the sadness and regret of his last months slip into the tall trees above us.

Last post for a while....I'm going to Portugal with my sisters at the end of next week...leaving my husband in the company and care of my dear, generous brother-in-law.

And feeling the need to re-think this blog......perfect place to do that under warm blue skies where according to a local resident it's the place where God lives!

Thursday, 21 November 2013



Wells, Somerset....

Algarve, Portugal

Rocamadour, SW France

Today I shop all day
Till my feet hurt in my unloved boots
And my shoulders ache from carrying bulging baskets.

A grey skinned Crown Prince Squash and eggs in the farmers' market.
A 2014 diary and coloured pens in WH Smith.
Slipper socks, a Church candle, a brownie tin in TKMAXX.
Baked beans, grapefruit, olive oil in Sainsbury's.
Smoked salmon, dark chocolate and whole almonds in Aldi....
just for example.

Some things are on the list, 3 lists actually,
And some things aren't.

I suddenly discover I need all these things I'd forgotten about till I see them.... I haven't been shopping for so long....
Bright.... sparkly..... soft.... useful..... or  replacements.... or little gifts....... Christmas coming....the next birthday..... spilling off the shelves like a cascade of musical notes playing my favourite songs...

Pulling me in.....till my purse is empty and the boot of my car is full.

As if I didn't have anything to do with it.

And now to find somewhere to put it all....

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Pictures of Love

Pictures of love 

 In the office of our nice young Clinical Psychologist my husband talks about death. It preoccupies him a lot these days. He says he sees pictures in his mind  - imagines me dying, his family dying, his own death, his funeral and what people would say about him. How painful it is. When we were on holiday he was so afraid I would slip off the edge of the cliff  - or he would. He says he wouldn't want to go that quickly. Hugs seem to be a better solution than talking about it.

I don't really think that much about it. It's the living that preoccupies me. How to do it well  - get some kind of balance instead of all this wobbling I do.....see-sawing between love and fear....

Today, while the wind and rain slashed against the windows I sat in the company of some dear friends and in the company of Shirley Maclaine watching 'Out On A Limb' -  the film of her journey into the question of Is there more than this?  And if so what is it? 

And much later  I sat with 20 other people and listened to the moving story of another dear friend and her journey into the Light too.

You can find her at

It was nice to come home tonight out of the coldness and the wetness and sit with a cup of hot cocoa made with creamy coconut milk...... and let all the pictures of love from today settle in my heart.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Comfort Zone

The moon this morning just after sunrise...

Making soup....

with two different squashes ....this one is my favourite... Crown Prince.

I wanted to give up blogging last night....writing too late....nothing to say really... except what feels like  complaining...feeling lost to myself....

Then I saw the moon over the garden this morning and wanted to capture it....and share it.

In the deep of the night we both woke up to a big noise....a bang ....almost like a gunshot...and later another smaller noise.... I thought it was outside.....and then sank back into sleep. 

As soon as I opened my eyes this morning I saw the meaning of the bang. The large beech framed mirror on the wall had slipped off its hook, crashed down behind the chest of drawers, scarring the front of the frame, gouging a long gash in the sea green wallpaper, skewering the wall socket out of its place, cracking the plaster round the edge.

The nails in the picture hook were broken in half. I wondered why now....why did the mirror fall at that moment when it has been up securely for ten years?

Maybe everything has its time to let go.

I loved being alone in the warmth of the kitchen this morning, winter sun streaming in, making two pots of spicy coconut squash soup for the ones I love....back in my comfort zone... snug as a seed in the centre of an orange fleshed squash........ being what I do best....

Monday, 18 November 2013


 View of the moon ( and telephone wire) tonight from our front garden.

Today I tangle myself up in a net of stress about our finances.  I sit next to my husband at his computer and we tick off each transaction or put question marks next to it and I say,

You mustn't do any transfers without talking to me first.

He says he won't.

I feel as if I'm grappling a giant octopus which keeps slipping and curling out of reach.....its one big eye glaring at me as I wrest one tentacle at time from its comfortable rock - gathering it up into a new home.

  I'm its reluctant new home.....which leaves my husband standing at the gate.....without the role he's always had....but still fighting for a few tentacles of his own....

Friday, 15 November 2013

From The Heart

Firm heart of a cauliflower....

I don't put the lights on tonight when I walk into the kitchen which smells of our haddock, garlicky aubergine and tomato supper. I hear a sound at the back door and jump, letting out a scream when I see my husband through the glass, coming in from the garden with a torch. I thought he was upstairs. I know it's him but my body's adrenaline imagines something else.

 He's been in the shed spraying his newly painted ceramic models with a strong smelling polyurethane varnish. He's racing against the clock to get them finished by tomorrow when we are going to take them into the studio to set up his exhibition for next week - thirty five of them. He's not racing actually -  that's what I'd be doing. He's calm and methodical.

When the nice Community Psychiatric Nurse comes this afternoon my husband doesn't recognise him or understand most of what he says.  He brings a form to fill in called ABOUT ME which is to help someone understand his condition and what he needs if he has to go into hospital. He say's it'll make us look very switched on. It feels far away in a distant future and unreal to me. I'd be with him if he had to go to hospital.

The CPN also says that the fact my husband is walking, and engaging with creative pursuits, and inter-acting socially will protect him from depression. Although my husband does say that he often feels very negative when he wakes up  - about himself and about the day.....and sometimes he can get himself out of it by remembering

to have a day of joy by living out of my heart.

And sometimes he can't. Like the rest of us.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Diamond Day

Tonight in our Deeksha Meditation circle we are invited to think of all the things to be grateful for in our lives....

Just thinking back through my diamond day, and remembering each dearly beloved one who has touched and held and nourished me, made me laugh and cry, I feel like a big soft ball of dough enriched with currants and custard and cinnamon, bubbling with yeast, rising to the top of the tin - waiting to be baked...

And discovering that gratitude only needs to last a moment but if you gather up all those moments you could have a lifetime of thanks, a lifetime of love to share....

Rumi says it like this - 

You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck!

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Circles of Love & Winter Dread

This morning I clear melting ice from the car windscreen and drive into the sun along muddy Devon lanes, spattered with fallen beech leaves, oak leaves....bronze and gold towers lining the road...... filtering heather blue sky. I'm taking with me the parcel of my fear - to unwrap it, to uncover its roots in the gentle loving space of a Family Constellation session.

It's there that I encounter the tangle of my mother, her mother and her mother's mother - the diamond necklace of my female tribe....and the men they loved...

By the end I feel lighter and stronger, less grief stricken....released from the pull of their stories....unhooked from mine. I don't know if I'm less fearful now but I like having this access to the network of my ancestors......completing, enriching  the circles of love I already have in place in my life...

My husband  has someone to help him with the allotment today - he comes back with knobbly bags full of mud-caked carrots and beetroots and creamy white Jerusalem artichokes.....lighter bags of spinach and chard and the last of the slug nibbled cabbages. We share the washing and scrubbing and leave the roots to drain in the sink.  I roast some artichokes for supper but not too many because of their windy properties......

With the dark closing in so early now I feel a pressure to get everything done in the daylight.....and of course I don't....rain is hitting the window now..... the air in the room is cooling rapidly.....feel the dread of winter stroking my skin.....

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Still Shining Behind The Clouds

I wake early and start cleaning -  the taps, the kettle, the loo. I chop tomatoes and cucumber, wash the lettuce for lunch. Would be better if I sat and meditated.... or prayed..... to quiet my churning head, but my moving hands seem to know what's best. My husband sleeps on till the sun creeps through the blinds.

My sister arrives with her big warm smile and I feel immediately soothed, stronger. She drives us to the court. At the security check-in they confiscate my husband's Swiss Army pen knife - the blade is too long for safety - but they let us take it back to the car.

Our lovely lawyer sits with us in an interview room and explains what will happen. He says we have a listening, courteous and fair judge on the bench today.  When I ask if I can sit with my husband in the court to explain anything he may not understand, he says no. He says the judge will want to know why and he doesn't want to bring up my husband's medical condition as it isn't relevant to the speeding charge. I trust him completely -  to me this court world is like an ocean of dangerous and harmless fishes but he knows how to navigate between them, how to sweeten them, how to use them. We wait nearly an hour.

The hardest part is when my husband goes through one door and down the steps into the court room and my sister and I go through another door into the public gallery and I look down and see the back of his head behind the glass panel and he looks small and young and alone.

The judge asks him to say his name and address and if he's pleading guilty or not guilty. My husband says it so quietly he has to repeat it. Then lovely lawyer says his piece and shows the photograph from the police camera of my husband in his red car overtaking a white van in the nearside lane of the dual carriageway. He says he can't explain why his client was going that fast -  73mph in a 40mph limit -  but he's very sorry and he has a clean licence and he's early retired...... and some other stuff we can't hear.

Then it's over. The judge says Disqualified from driving for one week, £200 pound fine, £85 court costs and £20 for something else. I can hardly believe it. Smiles break out like a rash of sunshine.

Celebrating with our habitual Carluccios' hot chocolate and lemon tarts is off the cards (now that I'm watching my weight) so we go home and tuck into hot smoked salmon fillets and the salad I prepared this morning when the world felt like a much harsher, scarier place. 

Much later I celebrate again - crack open five fresh walnuts -  and think a lot about how I could avoid all this stress, this wild imagining, which eats into my bones, greys my hair and freezes my love. How can I dilute my fear with trust... how can I  remember to breathe one breath at a time when it feels as if the sun has been killed instead of just waiting, still shining behind the clouds?

Monday, 11 November 2013


Moments ......

Today I sink..... into the depths of a cold candle peters out when my eyes are closed this morning, trying to mind takes flight......and the tears keep running.....

Lovely stretches and hugs in my yoga class......but my eyes are wobbly....

A bowl of hot left-overs from last night's supper - store cupboard rice and leeks and sweetcorn.  We are supposed to take my husband's aunty to hospital but her bed is cancelled. He says, 

I'm going for a drive - it's the last time I'll be able to.

We are going to court tomorrow. We know he'll be banned from driving  - just not how long for. Probably why I'm so watery....

The loo is smelling -  however much I clean it. I email our lovely plumber but he has gone to Lesotho  to lay water pipes.

I keep the heating down low till my fingers are blue, even with a wooly coat on and I can't bear it any more. I turn it up - don't know why I'm trying to save money on the fuel bills but not on food. 

I'm shocked when I stand on the scales and see how much weight I've gained. I drink vegetable bouillion instead of tea and freeze the flapjacks.

Notice how the fear knotting my stomach about tomorrow makes me mean and punishing.

 Tonight I watch the TV news and see the horror, the wasteland, the loss on the islands in the Phillipines after the typhoon...the three brothers , young men deranged with grief whose mother lies dead under the coconut trees, their father says, I'm hopeless, everything is gone.

Then  I feel the smallness of my complaints......and a sudden gratitude for tomorrow -  whatever it brings.


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Whistling Here Now

Getting ready to go away on holiday for a week - washing tee shirts, buying toothpaste, checking out library DVDs, clearing out the wrinkled carrots at the bottom of the fridge, peeling and cooking a mountain of apples....and not actually packing.....wanting to be there without going through the process of getting there.

I suppose that's like wishing my life away....missing the gifts along the journey while my eyes are fixed on the view up ahead......I've never been a very relaxed traveller though. Being here now sounds so easy but I find it the hardest thing. My husband seems to manage it .....something I could learn from him. 

I wonder if whistling helps him to stay present. It's a cheerful thing to do.....except when it's the same tune (an Abba song - Money Money Money - it's a rich man's world) and it's all the time.....not sure how to be here now when I think I'm going mad with it drilling into my head....

But a phrase comes back to me from somewhere - 

Include it.

It's me imagining my life would be better without it that causes me all this angst...

I'll be back in ten days or so - hopefully with sand in my shoes and light in my soul.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How Can I Serve You?


Sharon fruit....custard apple.....pear

 All orange reflection..

A dear friend is treating me to a late birthday lunch in a high arched, light filled restaurant.

The pumpkin soup is  frothy, creamy, salty.

The tiny bread roll is warm, the butter-pat smoothly spreadable.

The tart tatin is a  mound of appley sweetness - although a bit fridge chilly.

 When the the snake-hipped French waiter comes to clear our table I hand him my plate before he has time to pick it up.

Oh no, he says. I don't want you to do any work  - this is my job.

I want to swoon at his feet. It's not the absurdity of considering the lifting a plate as work but his total commitment to the concept of service, of looking after us so considerately, that stuns me. As if he knows that we do plate lifting and its equivalent a million times a day and just for this moment he is saying,

 Allow me, let me do it, let me take care of don't have to do it all, all the time.....

Words he's not saying of course but I've put them in his mouth because I want to hear them...the kindness of them.

 I do want someone to take it all away - the pain of it. But sometimes there is another voice in my head which says,

I can do it - but I don't have to do it on my own.

 There is always help ....if I only remember to ask - and trust.

Sometimes there is a different voice which says,

 It's not always about me and what I need. What if I make it about you instead?

How can I serve you?