What a woman

What a woman

Lawrence Durrell imagines a moment when Alexander the Great may have been momentarily humbled, in reading the stunning bio of the mythical Queen Semiramis. The god-intoxicated young Alexander must have felt suitably chastened when, in the depths of the Scythian...
Life is fragile

Life is fragile

A recent article had a doctor refer to our ‘short, breakable lives’, reminding us of this fragility. Here is Nicolson’s take on Homer: Homer knows that life is fragile, love suffers hurt and death comes; and that the moments on a hillside in the...
Without going soft

Without going soft

I recently read Thucydides on the beach and was struck by how contemporary, or perhaps just timeless, he is.  Here is a thoughtful reflection in one of his reported speeches; you can love beauty of things and of the mind without going soft.  Our love of what is...
Eyes to the light

Eyes to the light

A servant is taken advantage of once too often and swears never again to lower herself, literally or figuratively.  Note the task demanded was ‘on her afternoon off’.  Joyce’s stint as a general maid in a grocer’s household was cut short only...
The dignity we seek

The dignity we seek

It’s years since I noted this quote and it has recently made its way to the front of the nuannaarpoq pipeline. But only reading it again now do I see how much it resonates with the urgencies of rebalancing our relationship with the natural world around us, and...
Prize life and enjoy it

Prize life and enjoy it

Caroline goes through a period of malaise and fear for her future, with illness en route. I believe in my heart we were intended to prize life and enjoy it, so long as we retain it.  Existence never was originally meant to be that useless, blank, pale, slow-trailing...
A safer daylight

A safer daylight

A deeply reassuring place this, with sunlit air and safety.  .. a different air blew there, and as if there was a brighter sun and a safer daylight.  Wishing you a safer daylight wherever you are.   Source: Mary Webb, Precious Bane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p....
The urge to play

The urge to play

This excerpt from an interview with a Russian writer brought up in Siberia, due to the political exile of her parents, demonstrates the child’s deep need to play and the imagination which led her to create her own dolls, despite poverty, exclusion and general...
A sight you never tire of

A sight you never tire of

This is from a collection of interviews with Russian people by the Nobel-prize winning journalist Svetlana Alexievich.  Here, one of them explains why there is one sight she has never tired of, and not only due to its beauty. The one thing I haven’t got sick of...
In praise of dubious eggs

In praise of dubious eggs

A wonderful voice of hope, wryly recognising, however, that potential can be fragile, as eggs can break.  But then again, they can hatch…In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities. May your dubious eggs of...
First taste of freedom

First taste of freedom

Freed from labour camp in September 1953, following the demise of Stalin, the few survivors still standing left the camp and headed for the nearby village, where they were given a simple, spontaneous and sensitive welcome.As I was thinking this a girl between eight...
Now, at last

Now, at last

The Hungarian poet György Faludy had a full dose of adventure in his long life. On the eve of the Second World War he opted to leave his native country rather than get caught up fighting for Hitler.  Spending time in France and Morocco before reaching the US and...
Long way to go

Long way to go

Barry Lopez sums up the challenge of adulthood: how to face and acknowledge the ‘dark threads of life’ while somehow living in an exemplary way (I would add ‘joyously’, though that may be a stretch goal). We watched a film about the Via...
To shout with grass

To shout with grass

Isn’t that exhilarating, the land shouting with grass?  And due to successive years of dousing rain, it feels lush and burstingly, verdantly abundant.   There would be five or six wet and wonderful years when there might be nineteen to twenty-five inches of...
Of mathematical timelessness

Of mathematical timelessness

Yes, I have a lifelong attraction to the ‘timeless’, namely, things which retain our admiration or affection over centuries or millennia, due to an ineffable quality of not becoming dated, even if firmly rooted in a given time.Zbigniew Herbert has...
Every journey starts somewhere

Every journey starts somewhere

James Rebanks had a childhood awakening when accompanying his grandfather on a tractor, making the connection between his family, their farm, and the gulls and the plough.  It’s a fitting start to a heartfelt journey from that ‘ancient farming world’...
Slow mo long term

Slow mo long term

I love the slowness of timber growth and durability.  Years ago my brother introduced me to the notion of tempering timber to make it more long-lasting and since then I’ve been captivated by accounts of growing and using wood in a cycle amply exceeding a (human)...
Finding peace

Finding peace

An interesting piece of aunt-like advice from Martha Gellhorn to Leonard Bernstein.   She emphasises the importance of not only finding a nugget of peace within yourself, and the conditions to nurture it, but the fact that maintaining it is a constant endeavour, if...

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