The purpose of a house

The purpose of a house

To provide shelter?  A roof over your head? Security at night from wolves and thieves? A place to stash your stuff?  Yes, maybe, all those things and more. But also this: a place to dream in peace. I talked to her about Gaston Bachelard and his idea that the purpose...
An Elizabethan rose

An Elizabethan rose

Adam Nicolson describes his grandmother finding an unknown tenacious rose in the ruinous place which she renovated and transformed into today Sissinghurst Gardens.  I like that this rose is indestructible and might, just might, trace its roots to the original...
Admiration patches

Admiration patches

Nobody hatched or planned the idea of Admiration Patches.  Instead, they were unconsciously crowd-created by individuals literally ‘voting with their feet’.  The gardens at Sissinghurst have thousands of visitors and by the end of the open season, their...
Why did I never tell him?

Why did I never tell him?

Over time, the need to avoid such a scenario has grown in me.  Without being morbid, we never know when we will see someone again, and it’s important to have a no-regrets approach to expressing love or friendship, even implicitly. Recently I called an old friend...
Beauty is not based on consensus

Beauty is not based on consensus

A thoughtful comment on the nature of beauty.  I like the idea that it is a denial of the average and is only possible with exceptionalism.  I don’t know if this is true, but it resonates with me. And the innate sense of its own worth, without the need for...
In praise of the scruffy and marginal

In praise of the scruffy and marginal

I love hedgehogs and see them as an ambling, loveable, flea-scratching symbol of hope and freedom, as well as the rights of the scruffy and marginal to be scruffy and marginal.  If they can survive in your garden, your garden is healthy. If the species survives our...
Catch a falling flower

Catch a falling flower

After weeks of dancing around pandemic implications, we were overjoyed to have three members of my family visit us for ten days.  During their stay we spent a sunny day walking around Geneva before visiting old family friends for tea. ‘Old family friends’...
Dancing summer days

Dancing summer days

They are still with us, although we’re far from that beautifully named, white-spumed ‘maned Aegean’.  Eke them out, enjoy each and every one and then bask through the winter months in recollection of them…. memories of this pure sunlight, these...
These days of September

These days of September

A surprising insight by the author of All Quiet on the Western Front.  You will never see this month the same way again, here proposed as a metaphor for a stage of life, the ninth month of a lifespan of twelve.  So many fine aspects of a human existence, including...
Delightful in its anomalies

Delightful in its anomalies

Hoyle was the British Consul in Rhodes during the two years following the war, and became a close friend of Lawrence Durrell.  He is eccentric, ornery, particular, and funny, possibly unintentionally. He also had a heart problem which obliged him to stop and rest...
Aristocrats of the spirit

Aristocrats of the spirit

Are you one?  If not, why not?  An aristocrat of the spirit doesn’t need palatial dwellings or magniloquent titles, just a spirit imbued with creativity and its impulses.   This noble characterisation is Durrell’s way of paying tribute to an Austrian...
A fisherman’s happiness

A fisherman’s happiness

Durrell has some wonderful exchanges with a philosopher-fisherman called Manoli during his two years living in Rhodes after the war.  I liked this idea of cultivating your own happiness like a pot of basil on the window sill. His happiness is his own work, cultivated...
Of perfect summer mornings

Of perfect summer mornings

Being a madrugadista, I love descriptions of the magic hours of daylight before the world is up and about.  It sets me up for the day if I wake by dawn in summer, around five in June but by now, mid-August, already slipping well into six o’clock.  As I see the...
Work and peace

Work and peace

Hölderlin, who wasn’t frequently at peace with himself, describes the value of a day spent working, at ease and in one’s element.  How work can feel when it works.See also Adam Nicolson’s comment on the value and pleasure of working alone.Anyone who...
A dream summer scene

A dream summer scene

One of the charms of Miklos Banffy’s superb Transylvanian Trilogy is the evocative and tapestried description of landscapes by a man who knew and loved them in their detail, and who, when he was writing, knew that many of them were no longer accessible to him....
Calm and contentment

Calm and contentment

Christian Ludwig seems to have been a wise man, able to look on things with calm and contentment.  He lived at a time no less tumultuous, and perhaps in some ways more so, than our own.  A reminder to cleave to the good and keep one’s equanimity.Your calm, the...
A perfect process

A perfect process

My kind of decision-making process, superbly succinct and balanced. Not sure how much I live up to it, but certainly one to aspire to.Reflect coldly!  And then act with fire!  Source: Friedrich Hölderlin, letter to Karl Gok, 21 August 1794, Essays and Letters, trans....
On working alone

On working alone

Adam Nicolson’s description of working alone resonated with me, as I have also nearly always done so, and it is my preferred mode, even though I thoroughly enjoyed the time I worked in close connection with colleagues.  This doesn’t mean I doubt the...
Love is …

Love is …

For me, if not for others, a perfect definition of love, by a 12th century troubadour.  The image, of wall art in Lisbon, struck me as a perfect illustration.For as all true loversKnow, love is perfect kindness. Source: Guiraut de Borneilh (c. 1138-1215), quoted in...
Neglect nothing

Neglect nothing

This sense of completion in an artist’s life struck me, and it made me think about what I may be neglecting now. I take as read the implication that he means ‘nothing important’.  A no-regrets summary of life. It also echoes something my father has...
A record of love

A record of love

Thoreau’s journals have many comments on the nature of journals, of which this one is closest to my own impetus for writing one, albeit patchily: I put off writing for weeks because once I start there is so much to say, even keeping only to one’s...
Luck be lavender tonight

Luck be lavender tonight

Lavender is a resistant plant, surviving a generous spectrum of cold and heat, rain and drought. It’s perhaps therefore an appropriate plant to bring you bomb-dodging luck in a blitz. I liked this anecdote by Steinbeck, firstly the details that people remember...
Rita meets the Bee Gees

Rita meets the Bee Gees

A few years ago I had a professional trauma and a friend sent me this video. It became my resistance song, making me laugh at the nonsense. Having noticed that when leaving an organisation, it was common to lace your parting farewell note with strategic input and...

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