Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Just the way you are

Yesterday I popped into London, the center of the universe, inhabited by the Gods of all things historic, materialistic, fast and furious. I had plans to meet old friends- two who I hadn't seen or spoken to in 16 years and another who I had last clasped eyes on 21 years ago (and who I have known since we were both four years old). Wow! None of us had seen the time fly or our feelings change for one another. We reconnected as if the elapsed time had been so fleeting we hadn't realised we were older and very much greyer, the children were all grown up and the usual dramas of life had never even happened. None of was particularly interested in material accomplishments to brag about but all of us fused with the heart of the person sitting opposite after a long, tender embrace. I had the best time of my life to love, feel loved and thought of so fondly by old friends who had not disappeared forever into a pea soup fog of time. There can be nothing more wonderful in life. In fact there isn't.

My friend from primary school remarked that when she looked back at her life she could see how fortunate she had been. We all were. We just didn't know it at the time.

Photo copyright SvD.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Sexual harassment and the sheer hypocrisy of it all

I've written before about being sexually harassed. I can recall several separate incidents where men behaved inappropriately towards me. Rampant inappropriate behaviour was all the rage in my salad days where the flush of youth, a heady combination of throbbing hormones and plump lips sends men sniffing around hoping to strike lucky. I was able to extricate myself from unwanted embraces and tongues down my throat and on each occasion the men reluctantly albeit gracefully backed off. One of my bosses made it plain that if I didn't sleep with him I would not get promoted. I resigned and went off to explore life and eventually found a new job. When I look back on all these experiences all I can think of is poor them. Men who consider women fair game and use sex as a way to barter a promotion or a starring role in a film are pretty low in the food chain but forgive me, the women who accept that they need to remove their knickers in order to get ahead are no better.

The media has suddenly gone stark raving mad since Harvey Weinstein was accused of being a monster. The media thrives on a feeding frenzy and poor old Harvey however grotesque he may be, must surely be suicidal having seen his stellar career in tatters. Don't be fooled, Hollywood has always been a cesspit of vipers and debauchery. And if you think that the stars of days gone by did not indulge in the occasional leg over in order to advance their careers, you'd be wrong. I know quite a few people in the movie business and the combination of huge money, fame, notoriety and an easy life are worth paying a high price for and the way to survive is to convince oneself that it is only sex. Not love, not making love, just sex. And let's face it, sex is pretty forgettable unless there's a mental connection. The expression 'sleeping one's way to the top' didn't originate last month when Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a rogue. Sex as a means to an end has been going on since time immemorial. The history of civilisation if filled to overflowing with adultery, for example- Cleopatra was Caesar's mistress in a strategic move to obtain power, she then aligned herself to Mark Anthony but was LOVE involved? Prince Charles married his mistress who interestingly has never had a day job. Power, money and motivation are irresistible aphrodisiacs. A very crude joke goes like this: for every 0 in a man's bank account, add an extra inch to his d...k. Harvey Weinstein made a lot of great films and advanced a lot of careers. Oh, the irony as they turn against him!

So SPARE ME the complete and utter hypocrisy of everyone running for the hills screaming molestation, inappropriate behaviour and sexual bloody harassment. Rape is wrong but a man placing his hand on your ass is hardly going to be a seminal moment in your life. Really? Is an unwanted kiss going to send one into a spiral of despair and ruin one's life? Is a man saying that he'd like to shag you so truly terrible that it is worse than a kid having their legs blown off by a landmine or the fact that one quarter of all children in the UK live in poverty? Did that actress who claims harassment when it was consensual sex, which just happened to catapult her into the Hollywood stratosphere, is she just remorseful, bitter or jumping on the bandwagon in order to be seen?

I blame the left who are a rabid bunch of holier-than-thou hypocrites, plotting over their soy lattes who needs to be destroyed so they can advance their agendas. Where are we heading in this? Now we learn Westminster is full of gropers all speaking in double-entendres. Welcome to politics where every politician lies once they open their mouth. They can't help themselves. Didn't Boris have a carry on but his wife stayed with him? Now I'm told Theresa May must do more to top all this lusting- is she to go around slapping errant parliamentarians with a ruler and shouting 'Naughty!!!!'?

The latest claim (and they're never going to stop) this morning involves Kevin Spacey accused of molesting someone.  Mr Spacey promptly (and strategically) claimed not to recall the incident. He took the opportunity to announce the bleeding obvious about his sexuality which has been known in inner circles forever. Hence my point exactly: everyone has always known that the casting couch is a probable gynaecological examination and those who were hungry enough accepted the rules of the game and were prepared to sell their souls. The current feeding frenzy is pretty despicable considering what a mess the world finds itself in. Personally I'm more concerned about ISIS or that nutter in North Korea than being groped by a bloke. But then again there is far more in life that interests me and every incident of sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour I have ever encountered in my life didn't define me and was utterly forgettable (because I have better things to think about).

The current climate of far right political correctness is a dangerous trend towards complete intolerance; what therefore is the difference, you tell me, between tolerance and intolerance? Just someone telling you what to think. It's worth remembering that much about life is an illusion. Like the photo below.

Photo copyright S. van Dalen

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Banish The Blues By Living In The Present

I used to be unhappy until I understood how to live in the present moment. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about being spontaneous to the point of not thinking about the effects of my actions, I'm describing a more philosophical approach to living in the now.

What is the now? Perhaps I should begin by explaining that our perception of reality is in fact the culmination of the past and an anticipation of the future. For example, we have opinions or behave in a certain manner based on our upbringing or past experiences. We regard the future as a phase in our lives when we hope to able to enjoy retirement because we would have saved enough to do so, etc... In the middle between past and future lies the present which is very much affected by both. If we consider that everything we do or say will have some bearing on our future, we would view the present as the only time in our lives which matters. So for example, if we were faced with an opportunity to be happy, we should take it because a) that opportunity may not come again and b) it will shape our future.

I recently went on a journey which was intended to reminisce and rediscover the past. I could not have been more surprised to discover how much the past is a foreign country. Everywhere I searched for the cosy warmth of nostalgia, I discovered that nothing had remained the same. The only constant was how I felt about a past lover. It was a profound time for me.  Not to reminisce but to discover the present moment, a feeling of overwhelming happiness that can't be bought or sought.

I've written in the past about one's disposition and the fact that despite travelling the world or metamorphosing several times over in our lives into different professions etc..., what never changes is who we are. I learned on my journey that I was the same person I had always been and after years of bad luck and sadness, I had lost none of the gentle softness which I had been forced to suffocate with an overdose of courage. I was moved to learn that in spite of everything which had occurred I was still the same.

What a relief to finally be able to empty my heart, overflowing for years with tears of sadness! What joy to be able to flee from the ghouls of dysfunction! Discovering the present moment as all there is, has been the beacon of light which brought me back from being lost in a desolate sea. I know that I am not alone and many will identify with the sense of living half a life, not necessarily full of regret but devoid of fulfilment and real happiness. Yes, there is fulfilment in accomplishing the mundane but we all think at some stage in our lives and as we look back, how things could have been so different. I would bet that those who never question anything in their lives are ruthless egoists who have no desire to understand the human psyche.

The human condition, in my view, is a riddle of what could have been, what should have been and what is. How once we thought we would learn to soar but instead ended up flapping about in a deep blue sea and resigned ourselves to mediocrity and disappointment. Perhaps for this reason the aestheticians revered beauty which I would argue, is the symbolic antithesis of failure. In our appreciation of beauty we escape pain, which in turn banishes sadness or fear, albeit temporarily. So too is unhappiness a type of failure because we think we will never find our way to be happy. Ironically, in our search for happiness we forget how to be happy and worse yet, how to be happy RIGHT NOW.

One could of course argue that as age accelerates, it is better to grab hold of the present because that could be all there is. Yes and no. Today is today and tomorrow will still be tomorrow. Understanding human complexity and accepting that in all our actions the self is in charge hence Steve Jobs' famous line about not living someone else's life. The self however does not have to be about ego. To love selflessly for example, is the purest, most rewarding and most virtuous type of love.

Living in the present demands more reflection and self-control (oh, the irony) than one would assume. It's not about grabbing what you can or wildly plunging into the unknown. The present is the balancing act while standing on the precipice. As the strong wind approaches to blow us off, we are able to fend it off by seeing the truth of who we are. And in that moment, we experience a blissful euphoria, otherwise known as happiness.

Photo copyright SvD.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Some love affairs never end

Je t'aime

Photo copyright SvD.

Endless possibilities

I feel sorry for those who live in cities, cooped up in apartments without a view or a vista that propels the soul into a realm far beyond the ordinary. This evening sky symbolises all that it happening in my life: change, transience, new beginnings, hope. I would often open a book randomly and more often than not, would fall upon a page where exactly what was happening in my life was mirrored on the page. Nature is the book of life and here it is in all its glory. Guess what's happening to me.

Evening walk with the hounds. Photo copyright SvD.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Bordeaux, je t'aime

The one constant in my life is my love of France. I am lucky to live very near to France and can hop over quite easily. And so once again I ventured off solo with one suitcase and one piece of hand luggage in case my suitcase got lost. I normally drive but this time decided to fly.

I had spent many happy years as a student at university in Bordeaux. This time I was going to tour vineyards and take a couple of wine courses. And I should add, meet old friends who I was at university with thirty + years ago.

Suffice it to say that my trip was the best holiday of my life and one which I could probably write a book about. We're older but we're the same and how we feel will never change- that was the lesson we learned seeing each other after thirty years.

I walked the entire length and breadth of the center of Bordeaux- 65 kilometres in five days. Have comfortable shoes and the world is truly one's oyster. As a single woman, walking holidays in safe places are the most important part of my holiday and I can say that I never felt threatened in Bordeaux. I walked everywhere by myself and gladly have lived to tell the tale. Bordeaux is breathtakingly beautiful, easy to navigate on foot and very close to the best vineyards in the world.

On one of my wine courses in St Emilion I met a French Canadian who told me he was retracing the steps of his youth before he died. That is the conundrum of what it is to be human, my dear friend.

 Learning to distinguish between Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

Some of the 750,000 bottles in the underground cellars of CHATEAU DE LA RIVIERE.

Moi with a few bottles for lunch. CHATEAU DE PORTETS.


Some of the 22 kms of underground cellars at CHATEAU DE LA RIVIERE.

All photos copyright SvD.