I knew what I was signing up for, or so I thought. The retreat was an opportunity to focus on what my body was telling me and how well I integrated that into my daily life and work, hence the title “Self as Instrument”. I am well aware I live too much in my head and don’t pay enough attention to my body. There was little detail about what and how we would explore over the three days, but I knew the lead facilitator and I trusted her to create a safe space for me to challenge myself.… Read the rest
Returning to the Spanish mainland for the first time in over 20 years brought back a tide of old associations. The last time I was in Madrid I was working with John Nicholson, now an SNP MP, then a Newsnight reporter, on a story about devolution Spanish style. But on my first visit, many years before, I’d been in the Plaza Mayor waiting to hear the venerable Communist leader Santiago Carrillo when the rally was suddenly cancelled.… Read the rest
The ramp into the Musee de Quai Branly was a river of words, light and colour projected onto the smooth white surface, words in languages and scripts from all over the world, a bold declaration of the museum’s global intentions. At the top of the ramp, a huge wooden statue with his hand raised as if in greeting. It had taken me the ten years since the museum’s foundation to visit it, and I felt welcome.… Read the rest
When you get to a certain age you begin to think about the legacy you will leave in this world. I’ve been reading David Brook’s The Road to Character, which is a thoughtful step away from the skills we need to “get on” to what we need to truly take our place in the world. So here’s the story of a remarkable and modest woman Jane Wilmot OBE and her work for disabled people (she’s deaf herself) in Hammersmith and the UK.… Read the rest
The August bank holiday brought me full circle, back to Monmouthshire, where I’d spent a happy fortnight in April, house sitting for friends. They were celebrating two years of hard work rebuilding the old farm into what M described as a hub, where people could come together. A bold ambition for a place down the very far end of a very long track, but as I looked around me at the smiling faces of her friends and neighbours, yes, I had to agree with her.… Read the rest
Last month I wrote about how hard I found it to disconnect from email and social media despite being in a wonderfully remote and beautiful spot in North West Scotland. I could not unhook myself from my habit of checking email, Facebook and Twitter several times a day.
Since I wrote that piece, the world appears to have gone crazy – the Brexit vote; its bizarre neo-Gothic aftermath with resignations, back-stabbing and revenge; Labour’s self immolation; and alas, the litany of horrors in Baghdad, Nice, Kabul, Munich and other cities.… Read the rest
Something is pulling me to remote places this year. First the quiet Monmouthshire farm, but in June to the tiny community of Oldshoremore in North West Sutherland. It’s about as far north as you can get on mainland Britain, beyond the signs that say The North.
To get there you pass the mountains of Quinag, Suilven and Stac Pollaidh, remnants of a huge mountain range. They look formidable to me, if not to my climber husband, and even the idea that they are just “leftovers” reminds me sharply of my own insignificance compared to the timelessness of this landscape.… Read the rest
I’ve been struggling with Shakespeare’s take on diversity. Watching Richard III (Benedict Cumberbatch playing the role with brio) in the BBC’s Hollow Crown series, then The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe, and I’d had enough. Yes, diversity is a 21st century concept and perhaps it makes no sense to apply it to a 16th century playwright. But 400 years after the Bard died, aren’t some of his plays finally past their sell by date?… Read the rest
Luck had it that a friend in Monmouthshire needed a house sitter and dog walker at exactly the time we had planned to go there for a break. The small rented cottage was readily abandoned in favour of the large Welsh longhouse at the end of a long winding lane. I‘ve watched spring unfold from our perch above the valley, it’s taken a while.
The chilly April weather has held off spring almost all the way into May, with hailstorms this last week beating down the tulips in the garden and knocking the blossom from the cherry trees.… Read the rest
Spring has seemed such a long time coming this year. A few warm early days brought out the daffodils in February, but March was cold and blustery and I felt myself shrinking back into hibernation. Low energy, low motivation. The trees stayed bare and so did my imagination. But the new warmth of the sun and the busy birds’ song remind me of my favourite metaphor of spring from Neruda’s Veinte Poemas de Amor: “I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees”.… Read the rest