Showing posts from 2015


Eurostar had a special offer, £62 return to Paris, how could I resist. I bought shares in the Tunnel in the 80s for the principal, my dream made real. The first time I went through in 1994 I was so moved I cried.
Paris is my second home, I have been going there virtually every year since I was 7, I lived there for a year in 1969, my aunt lived there from the early 50s to her death in 2009. Je suis Parisienne.

On Wednesday 11 November we drove past the Arc de Triomphe after the Remembrance Day ceremony. The Tricolor was suspended in the arch, almost the full length, the biggest flag I have ever seen. Vive la France. We visited the Musee Orsay with its wonderful Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings. Then we had tea with a friend who lives on a houseboat on the Seine at the foot of the Place de la Concorde, chic. Dinner at the Cafe Flore with Frederic Mitterrand who will help me with one of my book projects.

On Thursday 12 November I met a friend at the Grand Palais for the Pi…


I am fortunate that I live in a free democratic industrialised rich Western society. My cultural inheritance is firmly rooted in the Greek and Roman civilisations. My cultural references move on through the Italian Renaissance, French Classicism, The Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the great industrial developments of the 19th century through to the scientific discoveries of the 20th century and Modernism in the arts. I am centred in this European culture and continue to enjoy its immense richness. Add to this 20th century American  literature, art and pop culture and I have everything I need.
But what about spirituality? I am not a religious person although I have been brought up with Judeo Christian values. What is it about Eastern philosophies and religions that attracts so many people? Is it down to the belief in karma, re-incarnation, enlightenment and nirvana? The promise of paradise in this life as opposed to heaven in the next? What is the appeal of Confucius' or th…


On my retreat in Devon I came across this well-known poem and felt an urge to translate it. I am the cricket and came too late to ant-like ways.

The cricket from singing all summer long
Found herself skint when the winter winds blew.
Not the smallest morsel of fly or worm did she have.
She went crying of her hunger to her neighbour the ant,
Begging for a few grains for survival until the new season came.
"I'll pay you", she said "before August, on my word,
Both interest and capital."
The ant was not a lender, the least of her faults.
"What were you doing during the long hot days?"  said she to the borrower.
"Night and day I sang for everyone, if you please."
"You sang? I am pleased. Well now you can dance!"


An exercise on my Devon retreat was to make marks on paper. Words are my medium. I don't draw or paint, I write and I read. Words are my communication, they speak to me on the page of the book and I speak in my writing. I love the act of writing, the travel of pen on paper. For art I look at what others have done, the great masterpieces of expression and impression.
Last month I saw the Pyramids in Cairo, miracles of mathematical and architectural precision, but what really spoke to me were the hieroglyphs on the surrounding wall, communication in writing across the millenia, marks carved on a wall that have survived time, weather and erosion, as old as the Pyramids but fresh to my eyes.


On my Devon retreat I was asked to find something outside in nature that spoke to me, to observe and see what it meant to me. I found a half-dead spiky old oak tree with bare branches and parasitic ivy growing on it. It was also half-alive, deep-rooted, tall, with fresh leaves, so there was some hope for the future despite the traumas and burdens that this tree had borne. I liked its spikiness.


Inspired by Dan Topolski's memorial, I have translated Paul Verlaine's poem, which I would like read in French at my funeral.
Il Pleure dans mon Coeur
Il pleure dans mon coeur
Comme il pleut sur la ville.
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénêtre mon coeur ?

O bruit doux de la pluie
Par terre et sur les toits !
Pour un coeur qui s’ennuie,
O le chant de la pluie !

Il pleure sans raison
Dans ce coeur qui s’écoeure.
Quoi ! nulle trahison ?
Ce deuil est sans raison.

C’est bien la pire peine
De ne savoir pourquoi,
Sans amour et sans haine,
Mon coeur a tant de peine.

Raining in my heart Raining in the town What is this ennui That so fills my heart?
Soft sound of the rain On the earth and the roofs For a heart that is weary Oh, the song of the rain
There’s no reason for rain In this heart that grows sick What, no betrayal? This grief has no reason
It is the worst sorrow To never know why Without love nor hate My heart suffers so.


We flew over the Western Sahara which is about the size of the UK. Empty empty empty. Nothing, not a thing. No trees, no oases, no buildings, no life. Endless bleak sand, sometimes a cluster of rocks.  Heat haze over the dunes as we go further south making it weirdly invisible. Spooky. I have never seen anything like it.

At dusk the light from the setting sun shines across the vast ocean, spectacular cumulus clouds towering over pools of pink, a prism over the horizon producing a blob of rainbow for a few seconds. While others sleep I am glued to the window of the plane. At 38 000 feet I feel small and insignificant with the world stretched out beneath me.

It is dark as we finally reach land. We circle round the lights of Rio and I see it from the sky, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, palely illuminated on his mountain peak, welcoming us.

The next morning I am on Ipanema beach. I am living the dream. Is this the most beautiful beach in the world? Two miles of clean sand. The iconic…


G AND L Could their relationship survive the horrors they went through? Thirty years later after endless psychiatric clinics, two turbulent marriages and a divorce they are sane, sober and still in love. Their love was tested beyond all limits, they were bruised and scarred from the madness, the alcohol and the emotional battles, but against all the odds and with much determination they came through to the other side.
This is an extraordinary story of fall and redemption, trauma and recovery and the lasting power of true love.
I am a bi-lingual couples therapist, writer and French translator who worked with G and L for over 7 years during a very challenging time in their long marriage. G and L are a loving couple who through alcoholism and mental illness have been to hell and back more than once in their 30 year relationship. Their message is that anything and everything is possible if despite all you trust and love each other. At first I was apprehensive about working with them because th…


Imagine a woman with no right to education, imagine a woman who risks rape on a daily basis, imagine a woman with no access to gynaecological health care, imagine a woman exploited in the fields and factories. Now imagine a Western privileged woman who gets stressed out by all the choices she has. Shame on us


As a sex therapist with 30 years experience and the author of three books about sex I am all in favour of the female orgasm which remains complex and mysterious. The new fad from America, Orgasmic Meditation appalls me. It is exploitative, voyeuristic and pornographic. Who is in control? A man of course (I wonder what his level of sexual thrill is during this process). !5 minutes of clitoral stimulation  will do wonders, but please not in public with a group of female strangers watching and paying for it. Save it for your lover or remember the song by Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox “Sisters are doing it for themselves”.


Van Morrison once characterized Bob Dylan (b. May 24, 1941) as the greatest living poet. And since poetry, per Muriel Rukeyser’s beautiful definition, is an art that relies on the “moving relation between individual consciousness and the world,” to glimpse Dylan’s poetic prowess is to grasp at once his singular consciousness and our broader experience of the world. That’s precisely what shines through in Paul Zollo’s 1991 interview with Dylan, found inSongwriters On Songwriting (public library) — that excellent and extensive treasure trove that gave us Pete Seeger on originality and also features conversations with such celebrated musicians as Suzanne VegaLeonard Cohen,k.d. langDavid ByrneCarole King, and Neil Young, whose insights on songwriting extend to the broader realm of creative work in a multitude of disciplines. Zollo captures Dylan’s singular creative footprint: Pete Seeger said, “All songwriters are links in a chain,” yet there are few artists in this evolutionary ar…


My Own Life Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer By OLIVER SACKSFEB. 19, 2015 Photo A MONTH ago, I felt that I was in good health, even robust health. At 81, I still swim a mile a day. But my luck has run out — a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver. Nine years ago it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. Although the radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye, only in very rare cases do such tumors metastasize. I am among the unlucky 2 percent. I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying. The cancer occupies a third of my liver, and though its advance may be slowed, this particular sort of cancer cannot be halted. It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can. In this I am encoura…


Valentine  Carol Ann Duffy
Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.


“Knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face…” Literary history is as strewn with colorful attempts to define love — including someparticularlymemorable ones — as modern psychology is with attempts to dissect its inner workings. But perhaps the most powerful and profoundly human definition I’ve ever encountered comes from Czech-born British playwright Tom Stoppard’s 1982 play The Real Thing (public library) — a masterwork of insight on the heart’s trials and triumphs in human relationships. In the second act, when the protagonist’s cynical teenage daughter probes what falling in love is like, he offers a disarmingly raw, earnest, life-earned answer: It’s to do with knowing and being known. I remember how it stopped seeming odd that in biblical Greek, knowing was used for making love. Whosit knew so-and-so. Carnal knowledge. It’s what lovers trust each other with. Knowledge of…


Waiting to get onto a roundabout today I nearly ran over a cyclist who had crept up silently and invisibly across 2 lanes to my left. And she swore at me. One day I am going to injure or kill one and it will be my fault obviously because cyclists are so entitled.  Surely it would make sense and cut the number of accidents if cyclists had to do a course which included the Highway Code, wear obligatory fluorescent strip and helmets, have clear and visible lights both front and back and horns to warn other road users when they are turning or changing lanes. Most of these regulations already apply to motorcyclists. Cycling is no longer just a leisure activity, cyclists need to be properly integrated into the traffic system, both urban and rural, for their own and others’ safety. Don't give  me libertarian complaints about personal freedom. No rights without responsibility.


You’ve seen the commercials and the trailers. The lights go down again. You settle down expectantly in your comfortable seat. All is quiet now. You are about to share an emotional and intimate experience in the dark with a roomful of strangers. You are at the movies and it’s powerful.
Film is a hotline to the emotions. Through the camera’s eye you can share the broadest range of actions and feelings. Films will thrill you, scare you and move you. The hardest of tough men who never cry will cry at a sad movie. Film touches us in a wondrous way and it’s instant. We cry, we laugh, we sigh, we gasp. A film can release our hidden emotions, bringing to the surface feelings of hope and joy, desire and longing, suspense and tension, concern and awareness, anxiety and fear, release and relief – in a word: catharsis.
The film-maker’s task is to tell a story. But more than that, a good film can bring not just the catharsis of tears and laughter, but a sense of meaning and magic, of transformation and…


And under the oppression of the silent fog
The tolling bell
Measures time not our time, rung by the unhurried
Ground swell, a time
Older than the time of chronometers, older
Than time counted by anxious worried women
Lying awake, calculating the future,
Trying to unweave, unwind, unravel
And piece together the past and the future,
Between midnight and dawn, when the past is all deception,
The future futureless, before the morning watch
When time stops and time is never ending;
And the ground swell, that is and was from the beginning,
The bell.


In the middle of last winter coming home from the Skyros xmas on the Isle of Wight I suggested to my colleague Malcolm that we should start a death group for the over 65s who are facing their latter years as certain death looms ever closer.

We have met once a month 4 times now and it is powerful. I have found out that I don't really fear my own death, I fear the death of others, the terrible loss of people who have been part of my life in one way or another. Last month I counted 7, including 2 in their 30s.

 I fear the loss of my faculties, the dreaded dementia that has kept my replacement mother barely alive past her hundredth birthday. Not for me the drawn-out morphine-induced semi-conscious haze of terminal cancer or the half-paralysed wheelchair horror of a stroke. I am going to Switzerland if they don't allow assisted death here.

 I have written my DNR advance directive and filed a copy with my GP. I have planned my funeral, Did you know that the most modest of funerals …


AFTER A WHILE YOU LEARNAfter a while you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul,

And you learn that love doesn't mean learning
And company doesn’t mean security.

And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts
And presents aren’t promises,

And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes open
With the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child,

And you learn to build all your roads on today 
Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

After a while you learn…
That even sunshine burns if you get too much.

So you plant your garden and decorate your own soul,
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.

And you learn that you really can endure…

That you really are strong

And you really do have worth…

And you learn and learn…

With every good-bye you learn.