How to extend your lifespan

How to extend your lifespan

A Russian woman who lived in Abkhazia describes a local custom we might all like to adopt.  As a means to extend your lifespan, I can’t think of anything more delightful. According to Abkhazian custom, the time you spend with guests around the table...
Relationships matter

Relationships matter

Saint-Exupery highlights the essentials of life revealed at the moment of death.  A reminder to be conscious of the mesh of relationships binding us to life, while we live.  And I would expand the notion to include our relationships to places and other species. When...
Enduring friendship

Enduring friendship

The cool and collected Narziss finally tells his lifelong friend Goldmund how much he means to him.  Goldmund wanders the world for years, the wilder of the two, and perhaps in some senses the less wise, eventually returning to his childhood home, and friend-mentor...
Firm friends

Firm friends

The blithe and luminous boy Goldmund arrives at the school which will be his home until he reaches adulthood, and feels reassured by two new friends.  Of course, his real friendship comes later, but I liked that the trusting child sees a tree as a potential friend, as...
A day in the woods

A day in the woods

A moment when the two main characters of Bronte’s less well known novel get to know each other.  Shirley, newly arrived, proposes a day in the woods to Caroline, who knows the land and the calendar of its changes in minute detail, a mental map she is happy to...
As long as you’re alive

As long as you’re alive

One day I decided not to rely solely on Charlton Heston’s interpretation of El Cid but to go to the original (with the aid of a parallel translation).  The epic Song of the Cid dates from around the second half of the 12th century and in places has a touching...
Exchange of gifts

Exchange of gifts

What a lovely moment, the exchange of small, loving gifts, with Golding and his friend receiving a bunch of fresh picked garden flowers. We enjoy such exchanges with one of our neighbours in the form of food gifts – when either of us bakes, something gets taken...
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’...
Far the greater number

Far the greater number

If you can die concluding that by far the greater number of people in the world are very good, you have had a good life or perhaps you have just lived it well.  Here, Steinbeck concludes his slim, rich account of a month spent in the Soviet Union at the height of the...
Of cake and roses

Of cake and roses

I recently celebrated a birthday. We drove into Geneva for a walk around the old town, stopping for hot chocolates and cakes here and there. Before we left, a friend and neighbour rang the bell to drop off a lace-crocheted initial she had made for me, the letter B...
An all-embracing toast

An all-embracing toast

Hard to imagine a toast which encompasses more. This is John Steinbeck’s description of the open-hearted hospitality he enjoyed, together with his friend the photographer Robert Capa, when they were invited to dine with ordinary people on their month-long trip...
Unspoken kindness

Unspoken kindness

David Esterly describes an act of kindness in which the unspoken is heard in the spoken. His wife lost a close relative. A few days later a lifelong friend and neighbour pitched up with a box of garden-grown vegetables. He didn’t mention the loss, only what was...
A hamper of friendship

A hamper of friendship

Something magical about hampers and other gifts of food and drink. I could live without the arack, but love the cheese, pomegranates, and raisin and fig selection, a perfect picnic snack. See also Pliny the Younger on a gift of dates.’A little later he sent us...
Gifts from strangers

Gifts from strangers

I am curious and charmed by the rituals and choices of gift-giving, particularly when done with kindness and generosity rather than from obligation. Here Rory Stewart lists the humble but thoughtful gifts given to him on his walk across Afghanistan, for his family in...
Lightening hours

Lightening hours

Isn’t this a signal of perfect companionship, whether as friends, family or lovers? That hours pass like lightening? ‘We started off in the direction of the village. The hours among the rocks had passed as time passes between lovers, like...
To rejoice the heart

To rejoice the heart

A pretty good list of joy-triggers: clear laughter, kind words and tasty dishes. What else? Tell me three more, or one, or two. And what a comment on Zorba, that his return meant the return of all the things that rejoice the heart. There can hardly be a greater...
On walking and talking

On walking and talking

Clive James’ cadenced translation of Dante includes this lovely image of walking and talking, talking and walking, with neither slowing the other. He masterfully conveys a walking rhythm in his rendition. It also reminded me of long evening walks with friends...
Nuannaarpoq on the bus

Nuannaarpoq on the bus

One day I was on a crowded bus in Geneva. A boy of about 12 got on and finding there were no free seats, he sat on the step of the back row, and took a mini-chess board out of his bag with pieces apparently set mid-game, magnetically or otherwise held in place. He...
The blue bow

The blue bow

One evening I had supper in an Italian restaurant in Beijing. A family came in, Spanish: a pretty wife, a smiley husband and a girl of about eight. She sat with her back to me which allowed me to see the beautiful big blue bow in her hair. Then she looked around at me...
Keen and buoyant

Keen and buoyant

A short, fine description of a complex, quirky, interested and interesting character.  How many people do you know whom you could describe thus? Wishing you plenty of time with keen, buoyant natures, with varying passions for flowers, metaphysics, or whatever else...
Go towards the good

Go towards the good

What a fine, ringing send-off.  Think about it next time you wave goodbye to a friend – why not send them towards the good and wish them ‘the Good Hour’.   We hoisted our bundles and set off downhill. “Go towards the Good,” one of...
Meeting a nuannaarpoquina

Meeting a nuannaarpoquina

Many small children are nuannaarpoq-on-legs.  I was walking home through the village when I saw a man pushing a pram and next to him his daughter, a tiny tot of about two, pushing a small dog-faced wooden cart or trolley in front of her.  When she saw me coming, she...

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