Sunday, 10 August 2014

It's time...

So, it’s finally time.    

After all the shilly-shallying, will we-won't we, we are finally going to put this crazy, gorgeous, mad house on the market
How do I feel?  Conflicted.  I thought this would be my forever home, I really did.  If you’ve followed my blog for some time, you’ll know how I fell head over heels in love with the place, with everything about it.  I could see past the layers of vinyl wallpaper, past the nutty layout (inherited from when it was a sporting hotel).  Its problems didn’t faze me – I knew I could put it right.  Okay, so it’s not quite finished – there are bits that still need some TLC, but the bones of this house are good.  Oh, let’s be honest – it’s drop-dead gorgeous.  That vast sitting room with the immense fireplace and the vaulted ceiling that could  be a chapel or, if you’re feeling fanciful, a Viking great hall (on a small scale); those arts and craft windows with the dragon latches; that secluded garden; those suntrap bedrooms. 
Why are we moving?  Because it’s time.  Because things change and, no matter how much one might like to keep everything in aspic, it’s akin to asking the tide to stay put and please wait just there.  No lapping, if you don’t mind. 

After twenty years of country living, it’s time to head for the city again.  London?  No.  Much as I love my old manor, I couldn’t move back even if I wanted to.  My old house (a three-bedroom terrace in North-East London) would now cost close to a million.  Crazy, huh?

‘Of all the people I know, I never thought you’d settle in the country,’ said an old friend I met recently.  ‘London was your happy hunting ground, your patch.  I never thought you’d stick it in the sticks.’ 

Yes, I loved London.  But I have loved the countryside too.  Over the last twenty years, I have watched so many city dwellers arrive starry-eyed, only to become disillusioned, and race back to the smoke.  Mainly they find the countryside boring in comparison to the city.  There simply isn’t the diversity of shops, entertainment and people that cities have.  

Here in Dulverton, we’re lucky – we have four pubs, some great restaurants and cafes, tons of individual independent shops, plenty of clubs and activities and plenty of deliciously odd people (as well as some very nice normal ones, of course).  Even so, people want more - it often seems as though what they really want is the city with a few cows, sheep and thatched roofs.  But the countryside (even relatively 'civilised' outposts like Dulverton) is a very different beast from the city and it takes a certain mindset to get on here. 
I've been lucky.  I have made great friends here – a far greater variety than I ever did in the city.  Back in London my friends were all pretty much arty media types – journalists and musicians, artists and fashion designers, with a garnish of lawyers.  Here in the country, my pals are teachers, carers, farmers and builders; fitness instructors, beauticians, owners of small businesses.  The age range is far wider and, whereas in London my friends shared much the same political views, in the countryside one simply can’t afford to let politics get in the way of friendship.  I’ll miss them and this community that open-heartedly welcomed us.
I will miss being able to walk straight out into stunning countryside, up through the woods, down through the fields, along by the river, out onto the moor.  I will miss popping into the shops for a pint of milk and coming back an hour later because I’ve bumped into so many people and been kept chatting.  I will miss my outdoor exercise classes – in drizzle, fog and frost, even in snow and cloudburst – Exmoor folk are hardy.   And I will miss this gorgeous old house which is right in the centre of this glorious Exmoor town (is it a large village or a small town – I can never decide) and yet remains completely secluded.  As James recently pointed out, if there were a Zombie Apocalypse, we would  be ideally situated to hunker down and stay safe.  Now there’s a good selling point!
My son, however, is not remotely conflicted.  The countryside was his playground as a child – yes, we followed all the clichés – wild swimming and picnics by the river; lazy days on the glorious North Devon beaches;  building fire-pits and willow huts; larking around with dogs and ponies; hunting for antlers (and finding them); hiking and cycling, canoeing and camping. 
But now he’s fifteen, he wants something a bit edgier, something more urban, something more ‘youthful’.  His friends, who used to love coming over to build huts and tree-houses, now want to hang out at the shops or go bowling, paintballing and to the cinema.  Soon it will be bars and clubs.  So, it’s time to go.  Time to let him stretch his wings and time for me to snap out of my country fugue.   Besides, journalism is changing.  I am changing. I need a new challenge. 

So.  If you know anyone who is keen to try the Good Life on Exmoor, let me know.  I’ve tugged together a blog to show a little more of the house so take a look and spread the word.  Just make sure you're the 'right type' huh?  :-) 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Magic don't work if you don't believe in it

A dear old friend said something yesterday that gave me pause.  ‘Magic don’t work if you don’t believe in it.’  And I thought about it, and felt about it, and I think and feel she’s right.
If you shut your eyes and close your ears and lock away your hopes and dreams behind a mile-high wall, then, sure as eggs is eggs, ain’t nothing magical going to happen, is it?   Just as you won’t win the Lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, you’ve got to meet magic halfway.  You’ve got to give Fate a chance. 

Maybe there is no real magic, maybe there are no elves and dragons, maybe there are no fairies at the end of the garden or gold at the end of the rainbow, maybe there are no fairytale princes or genies in bottles granting wishes or happy ever afters but, hey, so what if there aren't?  Let’s live as if there were, because…well, maybe because life is simply nicer than way.  And who knows?
Delusion?  Maybe.  Bonkers New Age claptrap?  Quite possibly.  But hey, who gives a fuck?  J 

If you baulk at that, then maybe change the words.  Spell it differently.  Instead of ‘magic’ say ‘good things’, say ‘chance’, say ‘serendipity’, say whatever the hell you like but just open up, allow a glimmer of hope in for hope's sake.
Sometimes you have to believe in order to let the magic happen, to give it a toehold, to let it breathe.  I’ve told you already that there was a firepit at the Pause, on the top of the sun/moon/starlit hill, within the magic circle – and we sat around it at night and talked, and meditated, and watched the stars and all sorts.  And it was lovely.  But…

‘I almost brought my guitar,’ said Sarah.
And we all sighed.  Music…that was what was missing.  Because there is nothing more magical than the combination of fire and music. 
Remember this magical fire song?

Lynn said that her chap Dave was a musician, and she said, ‘Shall I get him to come and play for us?’
We looked at her in amazement.  They live in Whitstable, on the East coast, and we were in Cornwall, right down in the far West, at the other end of the country. 
‘But he’s 300 miles away,’ someone said.
‘So?’ She smiled and turned to her phone. 
She whistled and he came.  Just like that.  He just got in his van and drove, not quite all night but for a heck of a long time, just to come down for an evening to play for us around the fire.  Just?  The power of Love, huh?  And it was so so magical, lounging around the fire, sipping wine, nibbling on those healthy truffles of Amy’s, and passing round Dave’s list of songs and shouting out numbers, like a Chinese menu.
And, funny thing…there had been a lot of tears during our five days at The Pause, but I hadn’t cried once.  Much as I will sob in private, I never let my defences down in public.  But when he started playing, I couldn’t help myself.  Tears welled up and I started gulping a bit.  And it was, really, deeply embarrassing because it was that old bloody standard, The Sound of Silence, the bane of my school assemblies.  How many times had I strummed it out on stage?  So clichéd.  But it just whacked me in the solar plexus and then whammied me in the heart.  And, yeah, I cried.  And was that magic?  Yup. 

Anyhow, you can book Dave for your own firepit, should you wish.  I hear he’s also pretty good at clubs and parties and anything really. Cos he's one absolutely lovely guy.  No bullshit. Just magic.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Dancing in the Shitstorm of Life

So.  Yes.  We went to the beach.  To Bude.  It’s about half an hour from lovely Waterloo Farm, the Cornish base for The Pause (check it out if you fancy a farm holiday – they have several renting cottages). 
It wasn’t the best day, weather-wise but never mind.  We spread out the blankets and looked at the sea and decided that, no, it really wasn’t warm enough after all for a dip, however bracing.  Danielle suggested we might want to go and look for a stone that spoke to us, a heart stone, that we might want to meditate with it, or paint it, or maybe not; that we might want to do something entirely different.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was feeling.  There was that sense of disappointment I always get at the seaside – that’s it never quite how I imagine it will be.  That old sense of waiting for the perfect beach day that never comes.  Old childhood stuff, maybe.  Who knows?
Anyhow, after a while I wandered off and sat down away from the group.  Needing some space.  Feeling a bit off-kilter.  I wondered if I might find my ‘special stone’, not by wandering along the beach and seeing what caught my eye but by picking out a spot and digging around, under the surface.  To find hidden strengths maybe?  So I picked out stones and found myself placing them in a circle around me.  A protective circle?  A magic circle?  That would be nice, but it was actually a small circle, a constraining circle, a hardly-able-to-breath circle.  And what did I find?  Small stuff.  Boring stones. Nothing special. Nothing juicy. 
I took a deep breath and kicked the circle.  It wanted to open into a tunnel…no, not a tunnel…a funnel.  A retort, an alchemical vessel.  Had I been fermenting again, like smelly old sauerkraut?  And then it became a passageway, a birth channel.  Leading to?  The sea?  The wider world?
So I got up and walked out, looked around and…hellfire, out there was an exciting world, full of big pebbles, different pebbles, really exciting  pebbles!  WILD PEBBLES!   And not just pebbles, but rocks, and sea and sky and how have I got myself trapped in such a tiny tiny place?  With so few resources?  Without passion. Without my tribe.  How have I settled for something so godamn small and mean and mundane?
What do I want, I asked myself.  And the sea and sky winked.  I want to dance on the whirlwind.  I want to breathe deep.  I want to be true and wild and free and…
And I found my pebble…the perfect pebble.  One that fitted softly into the palm of my hand.  And on it?  A wild dervish-dancer spinning in the storm.

Except that…when I showed it to my mini-tribe, they laughed. 
‘Hey, look! It’s your crow shit!’ 
And, sod me, they were right.  It did look like a giant splodge of bird crap.  And then I looked up and over at my circle-cum-alchemical vessel and, would you believe it…

‘No!’ I wailed.
‘What?’ they said. 
‘That dog, that big retriever…it just shat in my circle!’ I said.
‘No way!’ they said.
‘Way!’ I said, and we all burst out laughing. 

So I thought again.  Hmm.  Life has been a bit shit lately and I am more than a bit of a shitty person (and that’s fine; it is what it is, no point denying it). 

Maybe it’s about time I started owning my own crap.  Maybe it’s time to break out and start dancing in the shitstorm once again.  J

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Dead Crow

Anyhow.  You have to laugh.  I’d given up on synchronicity – just called it coincidence.  I’d given up on magic – just called it mind games.  And then, while I was in Cornwall at The Pause, I was woken up by the loudest bird I’ve ever heard.  It wasn’t just cawing, it was cawing right outside my bedroom window at stadium rock gig level.  It was the Ian Gillan of crows, the Ozzy Osbourne of avians. 

So I went down to breakfast and took my bowl of Bircher muesli to the table out on the patio and…shit.  Literally.  Bird shit on the table.  Not just a little plop but a great stinking puddle.  So I went in to get a cloth and, when I came out, there was more – all over my chair, all over the wall behind it, all over the ground around it.  A veritable splatterfest of shit.  No wonder that bloody bird was shrieking – it clearly had a shit-storm of diarrhoea going on.  A right belly-ache. 

Anyhow, nobody else seemed much interested, or even much aware of it at all – it was obviously my shit, and nobody else’s.  I forgot about it until that afternoon when we sat down and each picked out a card from the Medicine Cards Pack.  And, lo and behold, what did I pick out?  Crow.  Bloody crow.  Shitty old crow.  Well of caws I did. 

But actually, Crow is really really interesting.  Listen to this:
“There is a medicine story that tells of Crow’s fascination with her own shadow.  She kept looking at it, scratching it, pecking at it, until her shadow woke up and became alive.  Then Crow’s shadow ate her.  Crow is Dead Crow now.”

Yeah. That’s about right.

Crow can shape-shift and that chimed too.  I sometimes feel as if I am too many people, too many things, too many personas all fighting against one another.  Maybe I just need to shape-shift a tad.  Maybe I also need to throw up some illusions. 

And then it said, “Human law is not the same as Sacred Law.”  Oh yes.  I have no truck with human law, I really don’t.  And, curious, that law thing – see yesterday’s post. 

“Crow sees that the physical world and even the spiritual world, as humanity interprets them, are an illusion. There are billions of worlds.”  Right on, Crow. 

And so it went and so it did.  It said I have to be willing to ‘walk my talk’ (ouch), that I have to ‘speak my truth’ (ouch ouch), that I have to ‘know my life’s mission (*frown*), that I have to ‘balance past, present and future in the now’ (do I look like that much of a magician??). 

Later that day I found myself drawn to pick up a pen and a paper pad for the first time in years and, of caws, I scribbled out a crow.  And it grew and shifted and gave birth to all sorts of shapes and creatures and faces and forms.  Creative Crow.

And then, when we went to the beach…ah, but that’s another story.

I wonder...which totem would you pick from the Medicine Pack?  

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Ho-oponopono - love and forgiveness to heal the world?

Anyhow, where was I before I became sidetracked by core wounding?  And, before that, before I became sidetracked wondering about Andrew Wallas’s first wife?   Oh yes, Ho’oponopono.  This was the thing I was thinking about at The Pause. 

This was the thing I read about in A&A’s book that struck me.  It was pretty much an aside, an anecdote told in passing, but it made me wonder.  I’d not heard of it before.  So I looked it up and, okay, so it’s a Hawaiian spiritual healing thing.  By the way, don’t you have to love the word ‘thing’?  It pleases me every time I type it.  Though I wish I had a thorn on my keyboard so I could spell (yes, in every way) it the Old English way.  Why? Because the rune ‘thorn’ looks like a thorn and...when I went looking for a picture of it to show you, I found this (hideous picture, but hey, once you've read the whole post you'll see why this made me smile).

Anyhow.  Ho’oponopono.  Apparently (and do correct me if I have this wrong – I’m not Hawaiian) it comes from a verb that means to put to rights, to put in order, to shape, to correct, to revise, to amend, to tidy up. It’s about putting things straight, not by pushing at  external reality but by looking within ourselves.  So, if you want to improve your life, you have to heal your life.  And there’s only one place to look and that’s inside your own self.  Yup, that makes solipsistic sense to me. 

Illness, the theory goes, is caused by breaking sacred laws and can’t be cured until the transgressor atones for the transgressions.  Illness is created by the stress of anger, guilt, recrimination and lack of forgiveness.  Not just our own illness, but the wider illnesses of society.  So we are responsible for…everything – for the terrorists, for the rapists, for the banks and the economy, for pollution and war and…everything.  Ouch.  But…that kinda chimes too.  It puts me in mind of Arnie Mindell’s ‘world work’.  It also puts me in mind of my old dear anti-guru Marek who said that you can’t heal the world; you can only heal yourself (but that that healing might, in itself, heal the world). 
Anyhow.  Andrew Wallas quoted the story of a Hawaiian psychologist called Dr Ihaleakala Hew Len who said he didn’t need to have consultations with the criminally insane patients in hospital; he just wanted to see their charts.  He studied the charts, so the story goes, and then looked within himself to see how he created each person’s illness.  And, as he improved  himself, the patients improved.  

Everything in your life is your responsibility.  The entire world is your creation.  Being conscious is about taking 100% responsibility, responsibility for everyone’s actions, not just one’s own.

Hmm, that’s a tough one, huh?  Taking responsibility for the haters, for the hitters, for the abusers?  Well, why not?  You know what I’ve found?  It’s actually a lot more comfortable to take responsibility than to harbour anger, resentment, sorrow, blame.  Who wants to be a victim?  Who wants to be eaten up with hate and misery? 

In a world that feels like it’s spinning further and further into chaos, in a world where it’s so easy to feel hopeless, powerless, pointless, well maybe this is something small that we can all do.  Maybe it’s true – maybe by clearing our own errors, we really could clear everyone.  Maybe by healing ourselves, we could heal the world too.  Who knows?  Nobody.  None of us know anything, anything for sure.  So why not try? 

How do you do it? It comes down to four simple phrases.

-          I love you.
-          I’m sorry.
-          Please forgive me.
-          Thank you.

You know what?  It's stupidly simple but I like this.  It works for pretty well everyone with whom I’ve had any kind of conflict, any kind of history.  So I’ve been trying it.  Meditating on a person and just repeating it, pondering it, then throwing out that love and that hope for forgiveness.   And trying not to get caught up in the mind games, in the ‘yeah buts’ and the ‘but you’s’ and so on and so forth.  Because mostly it’s all fiddle-faddle and, even when it’s not, what’s the point in clinging onto it?  Life’s short.  And, as I’ve said so many’s the time before (but need to keep remembering) Love really is the bottom line. That is all I 'know' for sure and certain.

So…I love you.  I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.  Thank you.  J

Core wounding, shame and connection

Core wounding. Those deep entrenched, often hidden, beliefs that let us scupper ourselves time and time again. 
I first came across all this when I did a course of Rebirthing, absolutely ages ago.  I’d always felt that my ‘core issue’ was abandonment – and that it had kicked in when my father died (when I was ten).  I blamed my inability to form relationships on it – it was a handy tag. I'm not so sure about that any more.  
Rebirthing, however, looks for stuff that happened during or around your birth, or even before it.  I remember asking my mother if there was anything else I should know and she told me, very honestly, very bravely, a shedload of stuff that isn’t mine to share here.  But it sideswiped me.  Left me horrified and humbled.  And it made me realise that my core issue is probably quite different.  That, at heart, it was – and maybe still is - Shame. 

What does Shame say?  Shame says ‘You’re a mistake, you’re disgusting, you’re bad, you’re revolting.’  What does Shame do?  Shame makes one overly nice and giving, overly scared of hurting people, scared shitless of being exposed as a fraud.  Shame makes one a desperate over-achiever, a perfectionist, ever-anxious, ever-fearful.  Shame makes one a coward.

Actually we didn’t really look at core wounding at The Pause.  But something Danielle said struck a core-chord.  ‘Being more connected is a helpful way to be in the world.’  And that sense of connection was something that came up strongly for me at The Pause.  Being totally alone is bloody lonely – but it’s also safe.  If you don’t share yourself with others, if you keep hidden in your little hermit shell, if you push everyone away, if you tell everyone to fuck off (whether overtly or covertly), then you don’t need to confront yourself out there, do you? You can hold tight to your safe little world.  
Yet, though sharing is scary, it can also be a relief.  I was surprised to meet with such acceptance within our little group, amazed that they looked at me and didn’t see the monster within. 
Ach, psycho-babble, jibber-jabber , mindless mind games and so on and so forth, huh?  But still, I feel there’s something in it.  Because we’re little psychic sponges, we really are – and, even if nothing is said, nothing overt, we pick up atmospheres, we read the wind.  And, no matter how much you like to think you’re an island, this stuff does have an effect on how your life pans out, in particular how you relate to other people.  What messages did you pick up as a baby, I wonder?  What are your core beliefs?

Might it be abandonment (nobody cares about me, I don’t matter, I can’t trust); inferiority (I’m not good enough, I’m stupid, I’m boring); rejection (I’m a burden, nobody wants to spend time with me, I’m unwanted); damage (something’s wrong with me, I’m a failure), or maybe arrogance (I’m too much; I’m right, you’re wrong)?  Something else entirely?

What messages were drilled into you from an early age?   It’s curious but there are some people who, from what they say, had idyllic beginnings – parents who wanted them wholeheartedly, who loved them deeply from the get-go, who were the epitome of Love and Caring and Devotion.  And yet…

Anyhow, just musing out loud again.  What do you reckon? 

Monday, 30 June 2014

THE best chocolate truffles ever - and, guess what, they're good for you!

Well, I wasn’t going to write about food today but then I popped on Facebook and saw that Amy Levin had posted up the recipe for the absolutely beyond awesome truffles that she made on The Deep Pause and so I thought, right…let’s talk about food.

Now, you know me…I went from punishing myself with food (eating myself nearly to death) to punishing myself without food (nearly passing out doing 80mph on the outside lane of the M5 cos I’d been fasting for over a week – no, not that intermittent nonsense; full-off eating nada fasting) to just not really bothering about food at all. 

Nourishment.  That’s what I’d forgotten.  I’d been eating to live.  Cooking as a chore, eating as a bore.  And, yes, I was feeling dried up, desiccated, like coconut that’s been left in the jar and forgotten at the back of the cupboard for years; dried up like old raisins and sultanas turned chewy and mank. 

Amy’s food at The Deep Pause was juicy…it had a touch of decadence, of abundance, of generosity, of power.  Now, don’t get the wrong idea – it was also mega-healthy, the kind of food that makes your cells sing; the kind of food that is just so full of life and passion that it makes you want to do mad things like Crossfit (well, for about four seconds).  No gluten; no sugar; no meat – just total deliciousness. 

When I arrived the table was a cornucopia, piled with fruit, home-made biscuits and energy bars, two types of roasted almonds – one spicy and punchy; the other lazy and sweet (but with a tangy kick).  Oh. My. God.  Could I ever eat enough of those bastard almonds?  And bonbons, bloody bonbons.  And truffles.  But healthy bloody truffles and bonbons for bonbons’ sake!  They tasted like the thickest darkest pure chocolate but were made of …  
‘Go on,’ said Amy, ‘Guess!’  
We tried…thought of everything but… 
‘Nah, you won’t get it,’ she said in triumph.  ‘Black beans!’  Who’da thought?  And she poured out glasses of something that looked like a witch’s potion – dark berry-red and dangerous.  Hibiscus, rose and schizandra infusion, mixed with sparkling spring water and sweetened with a few nectarish drops of vanilla-flavoured stevia.  We sipped, then we slurped and kept passing the jug. 
‘It’s a heart opener,’ she said.  Did it work?  Yeah, it did. 

Amy is a kitchen superhero – part ninja, part alchemist.  Every tenth word is ‘fuck’ but the way she says it makes it sound just plain sweet.  And she sings as she cooks – James Taylor mainly, in the kind of voice that pierces through all bullshit and takes you to the heart/art of sound.  And I’ve always been a bit sniffy about James Taylor but, you know what, I’m mellowing.

Anyhow, enough already.  I ate.  I ate more and more as each day went by.  It was food made with love and mindfulness and every mouthful tasted like bliss.  And, no, I didn’t put on weight, not an ounce.  I just put on a dose of juiciness and came home determined to be a bit more nourishing to myself – on all levels.

If you live in or around London, check out her raw chocolate workshops and wotnot.

If you don’t, check out her website and blog which is jam-packed with recipes and insights and general Amy-ness. 

What?  You want the recipe?  Of course you do.  I'll share this one (thanks, Amy!) but you'll have to go over to the website to catch the rest.

Top Secret Chocolate Truffles


1 tin of black beans
50g xylitol or coconut sugar
1 dropper full sweetleaf stevia
1/2 cup or 50g coconut oil, melted or same amount of cacao butter, melted
50g-70g cacao or cocoa powder
1 tsp tamari
2 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp extract


  • Open the black beans and pour the contents into a small pan and warm them through
  • Sieve the liquid from the beans and transfer the food processor or high speed blender
  • Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth and creamy. If you have a low quality food processor, then you will have a slightly inconsistent texture, but it’ll still be epic
  • Taste the mix and see if you want to add more cacao powder (or cocoa powder) or sweetener… everyone is different so you may want them darker or sweeter than me
  • Transfer to a bowl and pop in the fridge to set, about 30 minutes or so
  • Once set, roll into balls in the palm of your hand (if the mix is rather firm, it’ll loosen when you begin to roll them)and then into a small bowl of cacao or cocoa powder to coat
  • Pop back in the fridge to set and that’s all!
Note:  Xylitol sounds like a chemical shitstorm but, truly, it isn't.  It's a natural sweetener that is actually a fine anti-fungal too (so ideal if you're trying to cut out sugar because of candida problems).  Stevia is also okay, providing you get the sweetleaf variety (think health food shops, rather than supermarkets).