Bertrand Russell’s Ten Commandments

Lisbon Afternoon

I stumbled across this recently. The ten commandments gave me much food for thought. I’ve promised myself that I’ll read more Bertrand Russell. I found this on the Open Culture blog, which is great at popping up with cultural stuff that you may or may not have heard about before. It’s also a great source for finding free films to watch or music to listen to. The photograph has no connection to Russell and no specific link to the commandments, but I don’t own any pictures of Russell and don’t like to use other peoples’ photos here. Taken in Lisbon, Portugal last summer.

Bertrand Russell: “The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows…”

1: Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2: Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3: Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

4: When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavour to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5: Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6: Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7: Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8: Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9: Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

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You Say Tomato

In My Greenhouse

Fried, roasted, sun-dried, sauced, ketchup, soup, salsa, juiced, raw or cooked, hot or cold; I love tomatoes.

The humble tomato is a versatile fruit introduced to us by the Spanish through their colonisation of the Americas. The fruit of the Solanum Lycopersicum plant belongs to the nightshade family and is also a relative of the potato.

The species originated in western South America. Eaten by the Aztecs and possibly cultivated by the indigenous people of Ecuador and Peru. The Spanish discovered the tomato from their contact with the Aztec peoples, and then brought it to Europe, and from there, to other parts of the European colonised world during the 16th century.

Technically a tomato is a fruit, but let’s not bother arguing about it. Most people treat it like a vegetable because the tomato is not as sweet as we expect fruit to be.

Tomatoes are pretty easy to grow. Just purchase a packet of seeds; there are hundreds to choose from. Sow them, water, and leave to germinate on a sunny windowsill. Plant on in the garden, in a grow bag, or in a pot and grow in a sunny position. Follow the easily available instructions, books, or online, to suit your particular cultivar, and by mid-summer, you will be eating your own sweet harvest through until the first frost.

Grow your own to appreciate the true taste of a tomato. The mass-produced supermarket tomato is no match for any homegrown cultivar. If you have too many, make soup or sauce or give them to your friends. Wonderful stuff!

Growing tomatoes is a great introduction to vegetable gardening. You will find something uniquely satisfying about growing your own plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Gardening connects you to the soil – literally and metaphorically. It is good for the soul, and great for managing stress. Gardening is guaranteed to make you feel better about yourself and the world, and with vegetables, you will get the extra benefits of consuming nutritious, organic (don’t even think about using nasty chemicals), wholesome and delicious food. Springtime is surely just around the corner? Almost time to get sowing!

Do you have a favourite fruit or vegetable that you cultivate? Is your garden a lush field of plenty, a balcony with a few pots, or a barren, concrete wasteland?

One last thing. You can follow me by email, by clicking the link above, or subscribe to this blog through your own WordPress account. I post around once a week. Look at it as a slight, wistful diversion from your everyday life. Please feel free to share, engage and comment, otherwise, this will be like screaming in a vacuum.


Tissue Paper Memory


“Here. I’ve got something for you”. A folded piece of faded, greyish-white tissue paper was placed in the palm of my hand. There were other people around, so I thanked him and tucked the fragile wrapper in my jacket pocket. It was a busy day. I was concerned with my own stuff. I can’t say that I took much notice. Arriving home, I emptied my pocket and placed the package in one of the drawers of my father’s old tool chest. And forgot all about it.

A coaster; probably from an aircraft tray-table, maybe the type fitted in an executive jet, or it could have been from the first-class seats of a larger passenger airliner of the era. None of that matters to me now. I guess it was an unwanted spare part, stored in tissue to protect the chrome from scratches.

Opening the drawer, searching for something else, I spotted the package. I take it out, peel open the paper. The mirrored-chrome surface reflects my face, and I see theirs too. Both men are gone now. Father 16 years, brother over a year. And so a piece of shiny metal and a scrap of scribbled-on, faded tissue wrapping paper come together to form a rare thing, linking my father and brother in my hand. Here and now.

He knew he was going when he wrote that note. I knew too. One doesn’t say anything, not to another soul, because it’s a kind of guilty knowledge, a betrayal of hope. You want to believe that everything will be alright. Your inner thoughts, private, secret, breaching trust and faith. Reading the words now, I see that he was signalling his departure. Tying up loose ends, making sure that something with meaning to no one else but us, didn’t get thrown away with all the other detritus. Things that either no one wants or can bear to keep after you’re gone. Debris.






Heart Of Oak

Remembered Oak, Acton, London

It is said that an oak spends 300 years growing, 300 years living and 300 years dying. Ancient Celts associated this longevity to wisdom and so the oak was the most sacred tree.

As a child I lived in Acton for around 10 years. Anglo-Saxon Oak Town. I lived just around the corner from Old Oak Common, down the road from Acton Wells, the name of my first school. There are many references to the mighty oak trees in road names and places in that part of west London. There were and still are oak trees dotted around the place, and we had a large example in our back garden. Surrounded by concrete walls, the tree clearly determined the boundary between our council flat building and the Elizabeth Arden vanity factory next door (Side note: Elvis Costello worked for Elizabeth Arden at the time I lived next door, and penned the song I’m Not Angry at that time which contains the lyric:

“Spent all my time in a vanity factory/Wonderin’ when they’re gonna come and take it all back”.

The connection is now commemorated by a sign outside the former factory gates – now renamed “The Perfume Factory”. There is a small ‘shrine’ to all things Costello in The Castle pub across the road).

I have no idea how old that particular oak tree in North Acton is. My guess is that it could be over 400 years old. I spent a lot of time playing around and under its canopy. It was the place of many fantasy games and adventures. I collected acorns in the autumn, I studied the distinctive shape of the leaves, I watched squirrels running through its branches, I saw clumps of fungus growing in its boughs. It fascinated me and although we moved home when I was about 12 years old, I still feel a connection with the oak tree in general and that tree in particular. If I stumble across an oak tree in a park or wood, I am immediately transported back to my garden in Acton.

I returned to the garden a couple of years ago, and although the surroundings looked very different to my recollection, the tree was standing tall. It was looking neglected, it was healthy, but its setting gave it a forlorn air. Alone and forgotten tucked in the corner of the garden, no children playing beneath its arms. The boundary wall had been moved, now almost touching the tree, meaning that you couldn’t run around the trunk. Trapped in the corner, unloved. It looked out-of-place and I wondered would it have been cut to the ground and forgotten if the local council could have gotten away with it. I wanted to go into the garden to touch the tree, to reconnect with memories, but no one was home and I was reluctant to trespass. I left feeling old and melancholy, reminded that the past is never like it was. I will go back.

As humans we make connections with trees. Perhaps because we realise that in our plastic lives, grand trees represent something not only physically bigger and stronger than us, but a living, breathing organic presence, here long before us and very likely to be here long after we are gone.

One last thing. You can follow me by email, by clicking the link above, or subscribe to this blog through your own WordPress account. I post around once a week. Look at it as a slight, wistful diversion from your everyday life. Please feel free to like, share, engage and comment, otherwise, this will be like screaming in a vacuum.

The Undefeatable Sun

Croydon, England

Winter Solstice. Midwinter. The darkest day. The longest night. December Solstice is on Friday, December 21, 2018 at 22:22 in London. I have always found this time of year quite difficult, as those of us in the Northern Hemisphere reach the end of our year. The weakness of the light. The inability for the falling sun to punch through the misty gloom. In my locale the sunrise is at 08:00 and sunset before 16:00. In the past it has had a negative effect on my mood, my energy level and my spirit.

I now look at Winter Solstice with optimism and hope. After all it, is the end and the beginning. It is a reminder of the importance of the sun, in nature, in life itself. It’s also a reaffirmation of the power of our star, to renew, to be reborn, to bring new life. I have come to love the wan light, the melancholy air, and I now appreciate why our ancestors held the sun in such awe. We should give thanks.

Over the next few days our star will visibly hold itself low on the horizon, Solstice literally means ‘sun stands still’, before it starts to rise in the sky, climbing upwards, higher each day, increasing its power, strengthening its light, energy regaining, gradually warming until it reaches its peak at the end of June. Beautiful sun, undefeatable sun, heralding the turning of the year. To be born again.

One last thing. You can follow me by email, by clicking the link above, or subscribe to this blog through your own WordPress account. I’ll probably be posting around once a week, Look at it as a slight, wistful diversion from your everyday life. Please feel free to share, engage and comment, otherwise, this will be like screaming in a vacuum.

Journey In Satchidananda

Portomarín, Lugo, Spain

I recently received an email link from Spotify (other subscription services are of course available, and no one is paying me to write this!) to a playlist of my ‘top songs of 2018’. Top of my list for 2018 is the song Journey in Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane/Pharoah Sanders. Initially, I was surprised to discover that this was my most played song, but on reflection it all makes sense.

This year, I have immersed myself in spiritual music. I always travel with music. It is a constant companion as I chart my way through life. Guiding and reflecting, leading and shaping my thoughts and feelings, helping me to make sense of everything that happens to me and around me. I don’t study it, I just feel it. I don’t have to know the ins and outs of a genre or an artist, I always follow my ears and my heart. When music wants to take me to another place, I’ll more than likely go along for the ride. I’m going deeper and deeper into it – and it is a good place.

As 2018 draws to a close, I’ve been thinking a lot about how different my life has become over the last year. I’ve undergone a sea change, and my ship is still in the middle of the ocean, I’m looking for dry land, there is no rush, I might not ever reach the shore, I am developing stronger sea legs, and I will go wherever this wind blows. My search is a search within because, if there are answers, I know that they will not be found elsewhere.

I compiled a playlist charting my current adventures. I hope you like it. I hope it opens doors for you, and perhaps leads you along different paths – in music or otherwise. The playlist is on YouTube or Spotify, I’m sure you’ll find this music on other channels if you care to search.

Cosmic Travelling
1    Journey In Satchidananda – Alice Coltrane
2    Space is the Place – Sun Ra
3    Sanson Ki Maala Pe (Live) – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
4    The Creator Has A Master Plan – Pharoah Sanders
5    Om Shanti – Alice Coltrane
6    Like a Ship – Pastor T.L. Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir
7    Utopia and Visions – Don Cherry
8    Astral Traveling – Pharoah Sanders
9    Door To The Cosmos – Sun Ra
10  Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah – Pharoah Sanders
11  As I Walk (feat. Josephine Oniyama) – Matthew Halsall
12  Rain Forest – Dr Haki R. Madhubuti
13  Spirits Up Above – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
14  Searching – Blackalicious
15  Searching – The Africa 70 Version – Yoruba Suite – Roy Ayers

One last thing. You can follow me by email, by clicking the link above, or subscribe to this blog through your own WordPress account. I’ll probably be posting around once a week, Look at it as a slight, wistful diversion from your everyday life. Please feel free to share, engage and comment, otherwise, this will be like screaming in a vacuum.

Camino Vignette: Reflections

Dumbría, Galicia, Spain

I’ve now written a number of these vignettes. I chose the approach of sharing small stories and experiences rather than a travelogue as I wanted to focus on how the journey affected me and made me feel. Although I still have untold stories, I’ve reached the point where I need to move on, to concentrate on new adventures and new horizons as I approach the end of the current year.

The Camino experience has changed me. Perhaps it was the break from routine that allowed my mind to wander and open up. Perhaps it was the magic that rises from the soil of the ancient pathways. I don’t mind and don’t know what it was. All I know is that I feel better for having done it. I am grateful for the opportunity to walk across Spain, and thankful to have experienced the Camino’s mysterious and supernatural forces.

My photographs did not capture the true feeling of the Camino. Nothing can replicate the colour of the first rays of the sun as it bathes everything in gold. Nothing can reproduce the scale, the vastness, the openness. At times I was overwhelmed by the beauty of my surroundings, and for the first time in my life I understood my relationship with nature. As I think back now, I can smell the scent of wild fennel in the air. I hear the birds, the wind in the trees, the sea, but mostly the silence. When I read back at my words I feel that I have only caught the slightest flavour of my journey. In all aspects, in all senses, it was much more, more beautiful, deeper, wider, more liberating and more enriching than my images or words could ever say. Of course it would be!

When I originally thought about the Camino, my mind would jump to the only reference point I had. From childhood, I remembered a hymn we used to sing at my junior school in the early 1970s; “To Be A Pilgrim”. John Bunyan’s tale, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” was a world away from me. I don’t consider myself to be religious, but I have since re-read the hymn, and perhaps understand it a little more. The text below is from Bunyan’s original words, not the re-written text used in hymn books of today. We are all pilgrims. If we are not, then what are we?

To Be A Pilgrim

Who would true valour see
Let him come hither
One here will constant be
Come wind, come weather
There’s no discouragement
Shall make him once relent
His first avowed intent
To be a pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal stories
Do but themselves confound
His strength the more is
No lion can him fright
He’ll with a giant fight
But he will have a right
To be a pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul fiend
Can daunt his spirit
He knows he at the end
Shall life inherit
Then fancies fly away
He’ll fear not what men say
He’ll labour night and day
To be a pilgrim.

John Bunyan. The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come. 32nd ed. London: W. Johnston, 1771, Part II, p. 157.

One last thing. You can follow me by email, by clicking the link above, or subscribe to this blog through your own WordPress account. I’ll probably be posting around once a week, Look at it as a slight, wistful diversion from your everyday life. Please feel free to like, share, engage and comment, otherwise, this will be like screaming in a vacuum.