Grief has many colours

Photo 42811035 / Abstract Colours © Michal Bednarek |

White. The colour of the soundless hospital room.

Black. The colour of pain. The darkness that surrounded me after finding out the person I loved most in the world had left mine.

Red. The colour of a heart ripping in two at the betrayal and unfairness of it all.

Blue. The colour of sadness. The taste of my tears on the pillow.

Green. The colour of loneliness. Endless days spent walking alone to ease the heartache.

Yellow. The colour of hope.


30 Day Challenge

Day #7. Music. To be honest, this could be every single day of the challenge. I love all sorts of music – so eclectic is my taste that I have thoroughly confused the ITunes algorithm. I blogged about this in an earlier post which you can read here.

So, instead of a picture, today’s accompaniment is simply a song…by one of my bands of the moment. The words describe perfectly how I feel when music moves me.

Amber Run


Emotional geography…



Some of us wear our scars on the inside. Hidden. Inscrutable. Buried deep in the substrate of our soul.  Others wear their wounds close to the surface. Scratch lightly, and the pain comes pouring out.  Either way, it’s our emotional geography which sets these internal internal contour lines.

Life doesn’t always come with a map.  When you are at the top of the mountain, you can see forever.  But steep hills shape deep valleys.  In the darkness, you have to feel your way.



J is for…January

I’ve spent most of January on holiday, first in South Africa and then at home in England.   In the shadows of a dog year  – 2010 was grisly for many reasons –  I had to think long and hard about this course of action.  Priorities, problems and people battled for mindshare, and…as I flew to my soul space on the West Coast, it seemed like an indulgent luxury to step off the treadmill and simply let go for a few weeks.

Still.  I celebrated the New Year after 3 days without sleep and partied until dawn.  I was uniquely privileged to lead the naming ceremony for my nephew. As we toasted him with champagne, we floated our origami wishes on an ebbing tide as the sun set. I saw a kinesiologist and felt lighter. I went bird watching in Verloren Vlei  and saw an owl. And an eagle! And the longest ever train in the world!  My sister and I went swimming in the cold Atlantic. Not once, but twice! I sailed on a Hobie cat in Fish Hoek and ate fish under the Milky way.  Wine and song were most definitely involved.  New Year’s resolutions were most definitely not.

Still. I’m so glad I did. Without resolutions, I’ve returned from family with a sense of optimism warmed by unconditional affection – and the South African sun.  Back home, I’ve rekindled longstanding friendships with people who see me as I really am – and continue to love me for it.  I’ve realised that saying goodbye means you can say hello to fresh experiences – and that you can enjoy new people, new places and new music without being hidebound by what happened the year before!

Now that February is tugging me back into reality, I’ve resolved (but not in a New Year kind of way) to emulate my nine month old nephew and view the rest of 2011 with unfettered curiosity. It’s an adventure. Love, light and laughter await.  So too, do challenge and opportunity. Perhaps every year should begin a month later…?

West Coast…

A few years ago, I bought a piece of land on the West Coast of South Africa. I did it on a whim.  Actually, I had a really frightening experience flying over the Pyrenees (our plane hit clear air turbulence and dropped 300 ft in 3 seconds). I wasn’t ready to die with a bunch of strangers, and somehow, having a stake in African soil seemed like the right thing to do in case it ever happened again.

The West Coast has been described as a high-speed connection to your soul. If you know it as I have come to, this is absolutely true. I’m not the first person to fall madly and truly for the light that brings clarity of thought and peace to a restless spirit.  Endless white beaches where you can walk for miles without seeing another person. The  Benguela current that runs deep and icy along the shoreline, giving winter fog and cerulean sea (sea that is still cold enough to take your breath in summer). Semi-desert scrubland that reveals little of the Khoikhoi and San who were the first people to live here, but that nevertheless explodes into bloom when the spring rains kiss the earth in September. It’s a wild and stunningly beautiful place.

And when – as now – the choices I’ve made begin to get to me (living in a cold country amongst strangers), my thoughts draw me back there. Little and often. Constant. Constant. They say that once this part of the world has crept into your heart, it will never leave you…

I’ll be returning there this year.


If you know what Quality Street chocolates are you will know that everyone has a favourite – toffee pennies, green triangles and what is only ever described as ‘the purple one’.  When I was growing up, the greens and purples had rarity value and ownership of the last one in the tin was always hotly disputed. 

Like these chocolates, people come in wrappers too. I think all of us have an exterior coating. This can hint at what we are on the inside, or disguise how we appear to others – sometimes what you see is exactly what you get, but not always. Some people are an acquired taste, some are brittle and difficult to digest, some hide a soft centre. Others need careful unwrapping before their real flavour is revealed. And yes, you do find the odd nut!

But do we need our foil coating?  Unwrapped, we might melt. Personally, I think that’s preferable to being consigned to the bottom of the tin.

Lost luggage…

Semi- useful facts about Finland.  1. Population 4.5 million. This makes Finland the most sparsely populated country in Northern Europe 2. Home of the Nokia and the Northern lights. Phones and fun, but not necessarily in that order 3. Part owner of the world’s worst airline. Yep, the Finnish government has a majority stakeholding in Finnair – 55.8% to be exact.

Semi-useful facts about Finnair.  1. They carry approximately 8.8 million passengers per year.  2. They manage to lose luggage on a regular basis.  This week, they even managed to lose my bags twice!  Annoying, yes.  Life-threatening…? well, probably only for the customer service department at Helsinki airport.

As I stood waiting next to the carousel for a suitcase that was not coming, I got thinking about our attachment to ‘stuff’.  Why do we get upset when our luggage goes astray or our things don’t end up where we are? And as I defrosted the car and began a long, wintry drive home, I wondered about the other baggage we carry so freely. You know, the stuff we think is invisible to others (it’s not by the way), the stuff that nevertheless weighs us down, because it stops us from seizing the opportunity to shine as ourselves.  Why don’t we get upset about that 20kg of emotional baggage that we’d be better off losing if we are to journey lightly through life? Perhaps it’s better to travel without possession.  People matter far more than ski boots and souvenirs.

Things that make you go ha…

It’s dinner time, and I have just finished listening to Laura Solon, a really funny comedienne on R4. After today’s episode,  I am sure my neighbours think I am a lunatic…if they don’t, they probably will after all the maniacal laughter that’s been emanating from my kitchen. Of course, I do realise that my sense of humour is what helps me laugh at what it prevents me from having. You know…a normal life…2.4 kids, pets, a husband and a station wagon. Ha, ha, ha…

Laughter is good for the soul but not everyone finds the same things funny.  Personally, I cannot stand Ben Stiller films (though Zoolander might be a notable exception) and modern Hollywood comedy leaves me cold. Please bin those rubbish films like ‘Knocked up’ and ’40 year old virgin’.  Utter dumbassery (as a good friend of mine would say)! I also must be the only person in England who hated (and I say this unreservedly) – H.A.T.E.D.- ‘Four Weddings and a funeral’ – not funny, just stupid and stereotypical!  Cheese-fest, deluxe.  Give me a Chuck Norris film any day!

As you’ve probably sussed by now, my particular laughing gas is wit. So, what makes me smile:

1. Well-honed political satire, word-play and intelligent slapstick! Dry humour a la Paul Merton or Jack Dee, or really interesting stuff  like Monty Python.Having said that, I’ve never really got Reeves and Mortimer.  And I must draw the line at League of Gentlemen – that just brings disturbing to a whole new level. 

2. Rude-ish limericks! an old English tradition. One of my great loves captured my heart when he told me a very rude – but very erudite – joke – I’ve never forgotten it, and it still makes me chuckle even after 20 years!

3. Silly things.  I know, I know…I’ve been deriding ‘stupidity’ but the Cravendale advert on TV (the one with the lucky packet cows and plastic model footballers) is sheer genius. Milk! Milk!  Watch the ads if you want to understand the punchline. Same goes for Laurel and Hardy.

4. I laugh when really arrogant people fall off their perches in a big way. Simon Cowell, I am still waiting, but my friend Nubian is probably going to slap you with her Louboutin’s one day soon, so you have been warned! And yes, Gordo, I will laugh when you lose the next election and get tried for war crimes along with your pal Tone.

By this point, my dark soul is probably emerging – roused by the laughter, no doubt.  So its time to sign off, but I’m curious.  What makes you chuckle, laugh, roar…answers on a comment pls.

A god (dess) of small things…

Over 200 years ago, Blake, in his Auguries of Innocence, wrote ‘To see a World in a Grain on Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, and Eternity in an hour’. I think what he meant was that the secret of happiness does not reside in grand sweeping moments, but rather is to be found in those small, still moments of intimacy that modern life does its best to stop us from noticing.

I’ve moved down to the coast, and I’m fortunate enough to be in an area where there are both brutal landscapes (industrially attractive shingle beaches, rough-hewn piers) and wild spaces (cement sea, greenery and white cliffs).  I grew up in the Cape which probably has some of the best beaches in the world, but somehow my rough little patch of SE England has beauty all of its own.    It’s an under-rated place – like the shy girl in high school who looked a bit nerdy and then turned out to be a beautiful swan, or the woman whose sense of humour helps her to laugh at what it prevents her from having.  It needs time – and courage – to be appreciated.  It also needs patience – noticing that rare seaside plant or beautiful butterfly when walking on the Leas, seeing the possibility in newly harvested fields with rough, stubbly remnants of crops, and hearing the seagulls and guillemots and ring-necked doves greet the morning… along with the high speed train and the ambulance rushing to the local hospital!

Despite being a non-believer, I know that I believe in the god (or goddess) of small things.  In life, as in business, its the small things that really matter.  A warm smile, a lovely day, a beautiful autumn scene – that man on the tube who gave me his seat, my coffee shop guy in the station who greets me like a long lost friend, even though he does not know me,  the local shopowner who was kind and comforted a distressed nine-year old by calling her mother, the optician who gave me a discount and a free eye test just because he could. Small, but important things.

Having moved from a massive city to what I would term the coastal boondocks, it’s been an adjustment, but its also been a pleasure.  Don’t get me wrong – in my small pocket of London where I used to live, my neighbours were fantastic.  I miss them.   But I also know that the people in my pier-side town have restored my faith in the little things.

Soundtrack to my soul…

Those who know me well will realise that one of my vices has got to be music – I’m having real trouble corralling my ever expanding CD collection and somehow I just can’t bring myself to download.  Having a CD in my hand is akin to reading a book – it just feels better than one of those Kindle thingamies.

I was lucky enough to have a boyfriend who had really eclectic taste – he managed to wean me of Randy Crawford and Duran Duran.   Well, I was young and foolish!  Sorting through my music collection the other day, I realised that songs provide the soundtracks to our lives. There is always a song that reminds you of a person, a place or a time.

At my uncle Ian’s funeral earlier this year, we cried when the verger sang The Fields of Athenry. It reminded us of so many good times and was his favourite song.  A few months prior to that  we were celebrating and laughing at my sister’s wedding –  of course our song was ‘We are Family’ by Sister Sledge.  August was heartbreak month for me so John Mayer’s Battle Studies and Florence and the Machine’s Lungs would be blasting as I did my weekly commute into London and back to the coast.

The Noisettes and the Chemical Brothers make great driving music – but can lead to speeding fines on the M20.  And finally, I associate Christmas with cheesy Andy Williams CD’s – and yes, I do have one of those. It’s coming out on Dec 25th.