Thursday, 29 May 2008

Rosie Jenks 1943-2005

Lucie and Charlie Skipwith with Rosie Bryans and Ann Duke at The Fort, Roundstone in 1972

Rosie Jenks (Bryans) died in the autumn of 2005, leaving her husband Richard, who sadly followed her in 2007 and her sister Cilla, who died in 2006. Rosie was a very good friend who, when she was single, welcomed us almost daily to her house in Droxford in the late 60s and was always enormous fun.

Her memorial service was held in Sherborne Abbey, Dorset and was made the more special by the superb singing of Laudate Dominum by Elizabeth Denham and a superb eulogy, which I wish I had a copy of.

Sherborne Abbey is one of the most beautiful churches in England. See here for a panorama

Saturday, 24 May 2008


This is a photo of Edward carrying Charlotte, No 1 granddaughter on the beach near Melbourne. Looking forward to seeing him with No 2, Millie as well!

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Chelsea Flower Show 2008

This year's Chelsea Flower Show show was packed with happy-looking and well-dressed people and the sun shone all day. As last year, my favourite garden was by the Japanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara, and this year his garden - called Green Door - won a Gold Medal in the Urban category.

If you want a surfeit of photos of this year's show, click the heading.
Photos of last year's show are here

Green Door

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Wise Advice

This moving letter appeared in a magazine with what is deeply understanding advice from 'Aunt Sally' and I thought to reproduce it here. I am sure that my Aunt Ruth, who was a marriage guidance counsellor in her spare time, would have given similar wise advice.
Aunt Sally's ending reminded me of Jalalludin Al-Rumi's wonderful poetry, a fragment of which I have put here.

'Twenty years ago, my parents went through a bitter divorce when my father had an affair. I was 16 and took my mother's side. My anger and hurt were so bad that I made what I see now as an unreasonable ultimatum, demanding that he choose between me and his mistress. He said that he loved her. I took this as rejection, and have not seen him since. He broke my heart as we were very close.

I am now happily married, with children, and have tried to bury my feelings (through loyalty to my mother) but I have recurrent dreams in which I am shouting and crying shortly before he walks away. My husband cannot understand how any man could do as he did and is not keen for me to make contact. I have tried to rationalise that he must have been weak to leave his children, but I agree with my husband in many ways. I know that he has maried the woman and I know his address, but I'm so scared of being rejected again. Part of me feels that he walked away and that if he wanted to restore our relationship, he would have done so long ago - but he may, like me, be scared of rejection'.

Aunt Sally replies: This is such a sad story. Fear, pride, ego,and self-righteous anger have kept you apart from the father you love for twenty years. And before the rest of you jump all over me with cross letters saying 'It was his fault. He abandoned his family; she has every right to feel the way she does', let me ask a few simple questions. 'Was it worth it?' Has it helped anyone?' Who in this sorry tale has benefited' I know it's hard, when you've been badly hurt, to get past all the 'shoulds' and 'oughts' and I understand why you feel you have a right to be angry, but rights and resentments do nothing to heal the pain we suffer. Nor do assumptions. It would be so good if you could let go of them. They were understandable when you were 16 and stuck, as you say in your longer letter, in 'black and white thinking', but they are not helpful now.

Should your father have contacted you? Yes, of course. Why didn't he. There could be a hundred reasons. The point is, you know none of them. As you have discovered, now that you are seeing things from an adult perspective, your father is human. He may be, as you say, a weak man. Then again, he may be strong enough not to have imposed his love and need on the child to whom he feels (because you told him) he brought terrible misery. Out of kindness to your mother, he may have allowed her his childrens' unquestioning loyalty and felt it was too cruel to pursue a relationship with you. He might respect you enough to allow you to make your own choices about seeing him. Or he might be just as pig-headed and stubborn as you. Like father, like daughter.

You simply don't know, just as you have no idea what your father is thinking and feeling right now. You have no idea if he hopes against hope that you will contact him. You have no idea what your mother said or did to your father, and whether if might have made him feel that it was kinder to let you get on with your life. You have no idea what went on in your parent's marriage. You have your mother's version, but uncompromising bitterness and anger can come from lack of honesty. When we react violently with blame and punishment, it is often because we canot bear to look at our own part in things.

Your father gave an honest answer to an unreasonable question. He said that he loved the woman he loved. That did not (and does not) mean that he does not love you. Love is not finite. There is plenty to go round. It might not seem that way when we are 16, but at that age the universe revolves entirely around us. As for rejection, it seems that you did the rejecting. From a child's perspective, of course he should have stayed. From an adult perspective, you were nearly at an age whe you were going to launch into your own life. Should he have given up years of happiness to keep you happy in the moment? His marriage was over and that's sad, but would have giving up his own relationship have mended it? And would it really have made you happy, five years later, to see your father lonely and alone?

Now, you could hang onto your fear ('he doesn't love me') and your pride ('he should make the first move'), your ego ('he hurt me by doing what he wanted and not what I wanted'), and your self-righteous anger ('how dare he'). Or you coud let go of all those self-destructive emotions, pick up the phone an say: 'Hi Dad, it's me. I miss you'.

I'm going to leave you with the first lines of one of my favourite poems by the 13th century Persian mystic Rumi: 'Somewhere out beyond ideas of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I'll meet you there'.

Sally Brampton in the Sunday Times

Jallaluddin Al-Rumi 

Jalaluddin Al-Rumi

'Somewhere out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there'
(Someone has made a short video to go with this wonderful poem; click the heading to see it)

And poignantly

'Don't break the thread of love, Raheem has said
What's cut won't join; if joined it knots the thread'

A visitor to this journal has added these lovely lines, equally appropriate

'The tides will take my poetry and song,
And carry off the clothes I did not own.
Good and bad, devotion, empty piety --
Moonlight brings and moonlight takes away'.

This reminds me so much of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and the Tale of the Heike while the following poem reminds me of the Astravakra Gita

What can I do? I do not know myself.
I am neither Christian nor Jew, neither Zoroastrian nor Muslim,
I am not from east or west, not from land or sea,
Not from the shafts of nature nor from the spheres of the firmament,
Not of the earth, not of water, not of air, not of fire.
I am not from the highest heaven, not from this world,
not from existence, not from being.
I am not from India, not from China, not from Bulgar, not from Saqsin,
Not from the realm of the two Iraqs, not from the land of Khurasan
I am not from the world, not from beyond,
Not from heaven and not from hell.
I am not from Adam, not from Eve, not from paradise and not from Ridwan.
My place is placeless, my trace is traceless,
No body, no soul, I am from the soul of souls.
I have chased out duality, lived the two worlds as one.
One I seek, one I know, one I see, one I call.
He is the first, he is the last, he is the outer, he is the inner.
Beyond "He" and "He is" I know no other.
I am drunk from the cup of love, the two worlds have escaped me.
I have no concern but carouse and rapture.
If one day in my life I spend a moment without you
from that hour and that time I would repent my life.
If one day I am given a moment in solitude with you
I will trample the two worlds underfoot and dance forever.

Jalaluddin A-Rumi

See also Favourite Writings - Jalaluddin Al-Rumi

Monday, 19 May 2008

Chengdu and the Sichuan Earthquake

Visiting the Chinese Embassy in London to sign the book of condolence
The loss of life and and terrible suffering from the great earthquake in Sichuan is tragic, but the Chinese people are dealing with the disater with great efficiency.

I visited the area once several years ago and this photo is of a tea shop I went to in Chengdu with friends. Below is one of the great Leshan Buddha at the confluence of three rivers - the Min, Qingyi and Dadu Rivers - nearby. I do hope the earthquake has at least spared that. [Update - it did - see here]

Nevertheless, here is an article in the IHT on the destruction of many other temples and historic sites nearby

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A Decent Haircut

If you are a man of mature years and rather tired of having hung-over twenty-something girls try and cut your hair, this is the place for you. I was once a regular, but was inconvenient for the City unless one could factor in lunch at the Mirabelle opposite, which put the price up somewhat. Having been butchered once too often, I ventured back again and was treated to a timeless experience - a full cut-throat razor shave and a classic haircut with lots of 'I think I can manage to get it back into shape' from a sound chap with a steady hand. In response to my query 'should I be putting anything on my hair', the admirable fellow said ' nothing at all, sir', despite the shop being full of expensive ungents for just that purpose.

The front of the shop has a beautiful 19th century facade (it's been going since 1875) and inside there's a counter laden with 'men's toiletries' of great style and no little expense and the smell of eau-de-cologne and bay rum hang in the air. I left feeling refreshed and pleased that it was still possible to find a hairdresser that does not expect to chat about their last holiday and doesn't play the cashier's favourite awful music at high volume while trying to give you a 'footballers' haircut'.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Favourite Music

Like many people, I have always loved Irish instrumental folk music. There is some wonderfully evocative stuff in 'Titanic' but otherwise good stuff is surprisingly hard to find. However, 'Ashokan Farewell', which was written in 1982 by an American to commemorate the flooding of a valley (the Ashoken) in Upstate New York, is a beautiful piece. It has subsequently become famous as the theme music for a series on The Civil War. This recording is not the best; that is one made by the Band of the Royal Marines, but it's not on YouTube (though you can download it from iTunes)