Monday, July 14, 2014

No better place

There is no better place than this one -- Tjøme -- for jetlag. Minky & I are cozy in our little cabin, wrapped in fluffy duvets, nibbling on raisin cardamom buns. She's watching the OC. I'm reading Tropper. And the door is open. Outside there are seagulls and pale grey skies and dawn is imminent. I can see rowan and cherry trees, some juniper, insistent green against grey granite. And this smell. Of grass and salt and soap and cardamom. I love these little beds. I have slept in them since childhood. We dream here. Always. And eat shrimps and bread and red Norwegian strawberries and float in the cold, blue, embracing sea. All is well.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

This (painfully obvious truth)


We know deep down that life is short, and that death will happen to all of us eventually, and yet we are infinitely surprised when it happens to someone we know.  It's like walking up a flight of stairs with a distracted mind, and misjudging the final step.  You expected there to be one more stair than there is, and so you find yourself off balance for a moment, before your mind shifts back to the present moment and how the world really is.

LIVE your life TODAY!  Don't ignore death, but don't be afraid of it either.  Be afraid of a life you never lived because you were too afraid to take action.  Death is not the greatest loss in life.  The greatest loss is what dies inside you while you're still alive.  Be bold.  Be courageous.  Be scared to death, and then take the next step anyway.

Via livelearnevolve 


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Just One Of Those Things

Have you ever felt like this?

A bit wobbly today. In fact, majorly jittery and wobbly. I couldn't even concentrate properly in yoga -- the one sure way to get me on my feet again. Getting over a love affair gone awry takes time. This is what I'm told. I'm in the driveway sobbing, great rivers pouring down my face, and my ex-husband is on the phone walking me through it, step by step, gently and kindly. "I've just been through this," he said. "It's natural to think that this was a cynical move by the guy, but people really do their best. It's not you." I sob a bit more. Sniff. Look in the mirror at my hideously red, grimacing, wet, goblin-like face, look down and realizing I'm wearing my engagement ring -- a beautiful diamond and sapphire ring that I put on yesterday for a meeting because it matched my dress. It's on my right hand, not my left, but I like the way it looks. It makes me feel weirdly safe. My ex-husband is kind. "We're in this together, you know" he says, and the humanity makes me sob even more, like a truculent, hyper-ventilating two-year old. The sweetness is too hard to bear. I am so very, very grateful for this kind, kind man and not being in a husband/wife relationship with him means that we will always be there for each other, until we are both old and incapacitated and sitting in chairs in the garden, wrapped in blankets, him and me, old, old friends, against the world. It makes me hiccup with emotion. The hiccuping makes me cough and splutter. I am amused at my own miserableness.

But it's hard not to make the other person (the ex boyfriend, the LDR, the charming, adorable, messed up man (I feel a Sarah MacLachlan song coming on)) the villain. It seems to be the only way to get over this stuff. Oh Lord, I am so very naive and unused to this. Dear Lord, for an injection of sophistication and elegance and cold-hearted meanness. I have NO idea what to do in this territory. I fluctuate from being fine and jolly and happy and myself, to wanting to roll up in a ball with Thistle, in bed.  Applying myself to my work, or writing, or walking seem to be the only ways to assuage it.  But I just don't understand (she wailed, plaintively). I just don't understand.

The great thing about crying is that your face becomes so indescribably screwed up and hideous and contorted and beetroot like and awful that if you catch a glance of yourself in the mirror that way you can't help but laugh. No-one looks good crying, except perhaps the actresses who have been botoxed within an inch of their smiles. No-one does. And we cry like children, even as adults. First you feel sorry for yourself. Then your bottom lip starts to wobble, then you sniff a bit as if you're going to somehow, miraculously stem the flow, and then you just give up, and the wails start, loudly, inelegantly, sometimes bubbly, all kind of bodily fluids appear, even ones you didn't know you had. And you become stiff with it, stiff with misery, like a character from Dickens. A caricature. The weeping ladies in Chaucer's Knight's Tale, whose crying wouldn't stop till the horses stopped.

This duk, of whom I make mencioun,

When he was come almost unto the toun,

In al his wele and in his moste pryde,

He was war, as he caste his eye asyde,

Wher that ther kneled in the hye weye

A companye of ladies, tweye and tweye,

Ech after other, clad in clothes blake;

But swich a cry and swich a wo they make,

That in this world nis creature livinge,

That herde swich another weymentinge;

And of this cry they nolde never stenten,

Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.

You have to laugh, right?

And then there's this:

And of course, this:

Enjoy it. Seriously. It's cathartic. And it makes you hungry. For chocolate.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Ottolenghi's "out of this world" roast butternut squash

Okay, I had this at my brilliant cook friend, Michaela's house. Then I made it last night. Chris described it as the "most scrumdiddlyumptious squash" he's ever had and "out of this world." This is worth making, even through the fiddly process of grinding the green cardamom in the pestle and mortar. Other than that, it's a breeze.

(via The Telegraph)

Serves four to six
2 whole limes
Maldon sea salt
4 tbsp olive oil1 medium butternut squash, about 900g (2lb)
2 tbsp cardamom pods
1 tsp ground allspice
100g (3 1/2 oz) Greek yogurt
30g (1oz) tahini paste
1 tbsp lime juice
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
10g (1/2oz) picked coriander leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C/ 425°F/gas mark 7.
Trim off the limes' tops and tails using a small, sharp knife. Stand each lime on a chopping-board and cut down the sides of the fruit, following its natural curves, to remove the skin and white pith. Quarter the limes from top to bottom, and cut each quarter into thin slices, 1-2mm (1/12in) thick. Place them in a small bowl, sprinkle with a little salt, drizzle with 1 tbsp of the olive oil, stir and set aside.
Next, cut the butternut in half lengthways, scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut each half, top to bottom, into 1cm (½in) thick slices. Slice off the peel, if you wish, and lay the slices on a large baking-sheet lined with greaseproof paper.
Place the cardamom pods in a mortar and work with a pestle to get the seeds out of the pods. Discard the pods and work the seeds to a rough powder. Transfer to a small bowl, add the allspice and the remaining 3 tbsp oil, stir well and brush this mixture over the butternut slices. Sprinkle over a little salt and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until tender when tested with the point of a knife. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, tahini, lime juice, 2 tbsp water and a pinch of salt. The sauce should be thick but runny enough to pour; add more water if necessary.
To serve, arrange the cooled butternut slices on a serving platter and drizzle with the yogurt sauce. Spoon over the lime slices and their juices and scatter the chilli slices over the top. Garnish with the coriander and serve.

Secrets from a Publicist: How to take a Selfie

Selfie-taking isn't my usual territory, to be honest, and it definitely isn't for the faint of heart, but what I'm doing here is what I consider a public service. Sisters need to KNOW this stuff... Love, Miss W xo

This post is dedicated to taking a good selfie. And when I say "good selfie" I mean a picture of yourself that tells little, tiny lies about the way you look, that enhances your natural beauty, without the help of "work" being "done."  If you're hovering around the half century point and would rather hide your face or turn away every time you see a camera, I think I can change your mind. Sometimes, vanity is imperative -- we can give those dewy-faced teens a run for their money. This is how.

To start with: I am NOT a beauty. I have wrinkles, a large nose, a dodgy neck, weird frizzy hair, one eye sits half an inch higher than the other. But the beauty of age is that you learn to work with what you have.  I get "Oh wow, you look amazing!" on the selfies I post on Facebook (and look I say this without irony, without shame - I am a SELFIE-FANATIC!) but each of these pictures takes about 25-30 takes to get it right. You have to be discerning.

Here are the rules:

1) ONLY take pictures at magic hour, which is the thirty minutes at the end of the day just before the sun sets.

2) Find the sun and face it. Flat front light. All actresses know this secret. It flattens out skin tone, wrinkles, tiny imperfections. It's as if you've been kissed by the Gods. (*clears throat*)

3) Place your camera in the air ABOVE your face (it's a well-know fact that all women look better shot from above, lying down, and that Julia Roberts has her make-up applied in this way before walking on to set.)

4) Relax your face. Also smile. At our age, anything without a smile looks like a grimace, because of the wrinkles -- a famous photographer once told me to "smile with your eyes." Practise in the mirror to get it right. Sometimes you have to use yoga breathing techniques to relax all those little face muscles. (I kid you not.)

5) Look into the lens as if you are looking into the eyes of a lover, ie someone who adores you unconditionally (let's say SOME lovers, not ALL).

6) The regular iPhone is fine, but I prefer Hipstamatic, particularly Lotus/DC. I think the effect is sharper but more forgiving.

7) Click away. Check. Make sure you don't have the shadow of the phone in your face. Take plenty. And then, be discerning. The flat front light takes away all your lines and gives you a beatific glow. I promise you it takes twenty years off your face (WITHOUT Botox!).

Many years ago, I witnessed my then mother-in-law, the inimitable Michelle, rip up photos of herself she didn't like. Initially I saw it as the ultimate vain act. Now I get it. Why allow images of yourself in the world where you don't look your best. That's why actresses have publicists, after all...

Good luck. Let me know how you fare. :-)

The importance of smiling and not having the shadow of your iPhone in your face.

Voila! Smiling. Relaxed. Wrinkles smoothed out. Ten years younger.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

I remember a wonderful moment

I remember a wonderful moment
As before my eyes you appeared,
Like a vision, fleeting, momentary,
Like a spirit of the purest beauty.

In the torture of hopeless melancholy,
In the bustle of the world's noisy hours,
That voice rang out so tenderly,
I dreamed of that lovely face of yours.

The years flew quickly. The storm's blast
Scattered the dreams of former times,
And I forgot your tender voice,
And the features of your heavenly face.

In remoteness, in gloomy isolation,
My days dragged quietly, nothing was new,
No godlike face, no inspiration,
No tears, no life, no love, no you.

Then to my soul an awakening came,
And there again your face appeared,
Like a vision, fleeting, momentary,
Like a spirit of the purest beauty.

And my heart beat with a rapture new,
And for its sake arose again
A godlike face, an inspiration,
And life, and tears, and love, and you. 

-- Pushkin

Saturday, July 05, 2014

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps his purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering;
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

-- Mary Oliver (italics mine)

Believe Them The First Time: trust your gut

I've learned something lately about trusting your gut. I've always thought that I had rather good intuition when it came to people. That is, I have a well-honed BS monitor and can spot a phoney at 30 paces. But other things are hard to spot. I've had a couple of days to think about this, to let it sink in, and I've come to the conclusion that being blinded by love isn't always the greatest thing.

Let me explain. I have had for the last six months or so a weird little anxiety-provoking feeling. It's a visceral feeling that something is wrong but you just can't quite put your finger on it. I realized that my whole life was put on hold for love and yet, having grown up with a father who was rather distant and being used to difficult, scatter-brained men, I chalked it up to old issues, childhood things.  And of course I fell back into my old habit of trying to make everything feel right and ignoring the bad stuff.

I was so convincing myself that love was the answer, that I ignored the aching, dry-mouthed sensation I felt almost every day. (And to be honest, I'm a pretty practical, problem-solving, get on with it, person, a little sensitive perhaps, but I'm not completely neurotic.) All I knew is that I thought it would get better and the feeling would go away.

But when you live for a really long time with a tiny tinge of feeling that something is not quite right, and then someone reveals to you, plainly, without any room for interpretation, who they are, everything falls into place. Everything makes sense. You have that bolt of lightning moment like God is whacking you upside the head and saying "wake up!" And then, with the greatness of sadness, the picture became full. And, without going into too much detail, the relief flooded through my body.

I don't hold with the theory that all men are bastards. Certainly my ex-husband isn't a bastard. He's a kind, good man who in retrospect did me a favor by leaving. My life is full and good. I feel stronger, happier, more alive than I have ever felt. But I think I've lived such a sheltered life, free from dating, and in one relationship for so long, that I hadn't realized that too good to be true could actually mean that.  I didn't realize that charming, adorable & cold as ice could together describe one person.

I suppose my reason for even writing this is to show that a) I've been a complete moron b) it's important to keep wits about you even when you're blissfully blinded by love & c) trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, it's not right, and nothing will EVER change that.

The biggest lesson I've learned, and if I were to give advice to my 19 year old daughter today about men and love, it would be this:

Thank you, Maya Angelou. Possibly the greatest piece of advice in the world. Had I heeded it nine months ago, I would have avoided a massive amount of pain and heartache. Of course, I'm Monday morning quarterbacking like crazy. All these things now make sense. Every little thing that seemed just a wee bit off but not really that bad, things that I was more than willing to forgive, now form a clear and cohesive pattern. I hope that there are better women than I who can handle such things. I couldn't and I won't.

And the by the way, I don't believe anyone is bad. I believe we all do the best we can. I wish him well. I really do.  I'd also like to punch him in the face.

Happy Saturday, everyone. xoxo

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Free for the Strangest Adventures

Two horses ridden! Three dogs walked! Two peaches eaten for breakfast! (I dared, I did!) And lots of lovely mantras listened to while I work at my desk. Here begins, on July 1, the new way, the new, fresh, I'm-not-giving-any-energy-to-things-that-aren't-deserving path of enlightenment.

It's a strange time. There are fever dreams and restless nights and strange birds that squawk like pterodactyls at 4am. I said to my mother this morning, quite sensibly, I thought, that I'm trying to fill it with lots of physical stuff -- running and walking and riding and yoga -- and also music. It's not like the end of a marriage. Nothing like that. But the sadness is something different. It's the disappointment; the losing of the rather happy, naive idea that everything was okay and that one could relax and stop looking, that somehow you'd found the one, you know? It's silly, I know. There is no "the one," there are many "the ones." But this had a steady ease to it. A sweetness I cannot remember experiencing. We'd shared similar life experiences, similar parents, and oddly, some of the same friends, and apart from my excessive love of flowers (I think he found it a little bourgeois the way I like to stuff my house with flowers like a funeral home. I didn't care.), we thought the same way, had the same childhood heroes, the same obsessive love of dogs which extended to imagining exactly what the dogs were thinking, creating dialog even. That kind of mad stuff that you can't write on a dating profile. A love of hot cross buns surpassed by no-one I've ever met. Walking together and not really having to say anything. Being able to speak American and English fluently. Understanding psychobabble and not despising it. Giggling at ridiculousness, like children. Liking the Wombles. It was easy when we were together. That's all I can say. Comfortable, like we were two old people, in the nicest possible way. I did, too. I thought, this could work. I could be kind to this man for a long time. It would be a pleasure.

And yet. And yet. You can't persuade someone to love you more than they do.

It's like someone cancelled Christmas, once all the presents were bought.

I've cheered myself by buying a bright pink leather pouf. An eccentric choice, to be sure. But the color was jolly.

Fake it till you make it, they say.

I miss hearing that voice that sounded so happy to hear from me. I really miss that. It's a kind voice, a good voice.

But I don't miss the anxiety of never knowing. I don't miss the constant worry.

There is a constant longing, which comes, I suppose, with never really having spent enough time together. This was cut off at its knees before there was a chance to get bored of each other and do banal things that most people take for granted. It will be always shadowed by a 'what if.'

"To the Lighthouse" was a seminal novel for me and I think I am influenced by the way Mrs Ramsay feels about her husband, that she is there to soothe his insecurities, to prop him up when he needs it, and (although I can't find the exact quote) she is a fountain from which he can drink when he needs replenishing, exhausting her. (Sometimes I wonder about turning the whole thing round, and finding a man who can do that for me, and not vice versa.)

"From her hand, ice cold, held deep in the sea, there spurted up a fountain of joy at the change, at the escape, at the adventure (that she should be alive, that she should be there). And the drops falling from this sudden and unthinking fountain of joy fell here and there on the dark, the slumbrous shapes in her mind; shapes of a world not realised but turning in their darkness, catching here and there, a spark of light; Greece, Rome, Constantinople." 
-- Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse

What is a relationship if it isn't a way to enhance one's life in some small, reciprocal way? But it has to meet in the middle, like a bridge being built on both sides of a furious river.
“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of - to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others... and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”  
 -- Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse
And yet, when you're attracted to complicated, difficult, brilliant men, is this even possible?

So many things shape us, and we find another shape that fits our perfectly. Changing shapes is incredibly hard, if not impossible. We can create little bumps on the left or the right, little growths of goodness, but can we sustain them? Can we really change? Can we really shed the mantle of our childhood influences? Enough?

And every time the phone rings my heart starts beating faster. I wish this would go away, really I do.

But here's something cheery: my friend Maddy and her dog Lola who is going to have five babies in about a week's time!

Maddy + Lola + belly