Archive for November, 2014


When I lived in Stirling there was a robin which was very fond of the bush right in front of the space where I parked my car. I looked forward to seeing him, and the familiarity was really satisfying.

Well I moved to France a week ago, and over the last few days was pleased to see a robin frequenting my new garden. This morning I stood very still with camera in hand and, finally, he came and sat on the fence post to pose while I adjusted the zoom and the focus till I got this photo.

Isn’t it beautiful?

Now I don’t imagine the very same robin has followed me, but I’m sure glad his cousin has turned up!

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My my days have a new rhythm.

For most of the last 20 years my days have been topped and tailed by Scotrail as I travelled to and from work in Glasgow from my home in Stirling.

Now I have moved into a typical Charentaise house in France, and you’ll see from this photo that one of the main features of the house are the wooden shutters on every window.

So now my day begins with a trip round the house to open all the shutters and welcome in the light. And as the sun sets each evening my day is marked by the “closing of the shutters”.

There is something immensely satisfying about this new rhythm, marking each day with the opening and the closing of the shutters.

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For many years I’ve photographed the sunsets I could see from my window looking across to Ben Ledi. Well, I’ve moved now, and I’m living in a South-facing Charentaise house near Cognac. Tonight I saw the sun setting over the vineyards – a view which is brand new to me.

Then I thought, actually, every single sunset is a brand new sunset. So don’t miss it! You’ll never have seen it before, so approach it with your new, this present moment, mind, and see for yourself – a brand new sunset.

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In the second part of the A to Z of Becoming, S stands for Slow.


Slowing down allows you to notice more, experience more, savour more, enjoy more.

Our lives often seem to fly past at top speed, but that’s partly because we are on automatic pilot, or so keen to be somewhere else (in time or place) that our hearts and minds have already zipped ahead and the present passes us by almost unnoticed.

I’ve just moved to the Charente region of France, and here they have a snail as a kind of mascot. In fact, one of the nearby villages, Segonzac, is a part of the “Cittaslow” movement – a slow town.

Yesterday, I stopped in at a delightful little cafe in Cognac. They might serve expressos, but the whole experience is delightfully slow. Is that an oxymoron? A slow expresso? Anyway, I recommend it. Sit down, take your time, and slowly enjoy the whole experience!

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where the house was

We shape this Earth we live on.

We make our unique marks, leave our personal traces, create the world anew every single day.

We co-create the world. Together, and with every other creature, element and force on this planet.

Through DNA, twisting with other strands, passing on characteristics, tendencies, possibilities……

Through the stories we tell, the thoughts we have, the songs we sing, the images we make……

Your time on this Earth is a singular time, a unique and special time, and you are the active player, dancer, maker.

See what a world has been created by our forebears.

See what a world we leave for the children yet to be born.

See what a world we make, you and I, today……

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There is something magical about flying through clouds. They look so solid, but they’re not. It’s impossible to be sure about their edges….where does a cloud begin? Where does it end? Despite their absence of a solid nature they make pretty impressive shadows on the Earth below. And they are in a state of constant becoming, perpetual change.

I saw these particular ones above the Garonne as the plane was landing in Bordeaux carrying me to the next big chapter of Life.

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Cold snap on the way in Scotland….maybe I’m like the geese I see flying South these last few days, because I too am heading South, swapping the views of the mountains for views of vineyards….

heading south

So, before I go, here are a couple of photos I took in years gone by from my Scottish windows –



Rays of light

Ben Ledi

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In my twelve monthly themes, November is the month for reflection.

As the year moves towards its end it can be helpful to take a month to focus on reflection before the hectic busy-ness of the holiday season in December begins.

It’s not necessarily a month for making decisions, plans or setting priorities. There will be time for all that soon. But it is good to just reflect, to think back over the year, month by month, or event by event, and just note it. I think it’s helpful to write about this in a notebook, and some people take a few minutes at the start or end of each day in November to write some reflections on the year.

Once you move into December, and onwards into the brand new year in January, this collection of reflections can be a valuable resource.


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In the second part of the A to Z of Becoming, R stands for Relish.

Relish is an interesting verb. To relish something you need to be absorbed in it, to be captured by it, to be very present and aware so that you are fully experiencing it.

You might relish a simple food, like this bread or fruit……

plum and bread


Or you might relish a complete experience…..(this next photo shows table set for lunch at Jordans Wine Farm in South Africa. The style of the restaurant, the view through the window, the delicious food and wine, and the great company of dear friends…..all go towards making this an experience to relish




Whatever you relish this week, one thing I guarantee will enhance the experience, is to slow down. Take your time……..


my new motto

This is my new motto (I saw it on a wall in a village in France) – translated into English it says “Gently in the morning, not too fast in the evening”.

So, find something to relish this week – sink into the experience, absorb yourself in it, savour it, enjoy it….RELISH it!

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Tiffany time Ginza

Money, money, money……time to change?

Oxfam recently reported that the 85 richest people in the world own as much wealth as the poorest HALF of the population of the world.

Oxfam said that this elite group had seen their wealth collectively increase by $668m (£414m) a day in the 12 months to March 2014. It found that it would take the world’s richest man – Mexico’s Carlos Slim – 220 years to spend his $80bn fortune at a rate of $1m a day

The rate of inequality is increasing rapidly. Thomas Picketty, the French economist whose book “Capital” has taken the world of economics by storm, has shown that this trend is set to continue because the returns on capital are so much greater than the rate of growth in the economy.

Is this accumulation of wealth into the hands of so few healthy? Is it just? Is it fair? Is it acceptable?

The extent to which inequality causes harm was laid out very clearly a few years back in “The Spirit Level” by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (no relation to Picketty!). Their work showed strong correlations between the degree of equality in a country and the extent of a wide range of social and health problems.

What can we do about it?

The Oxfam report makes a number of suggestions

With an endorsement from Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, the report said a 1.5% billionaire wealth tax would raise $74bn a year – enough to put every child in school and provide health care in the world’s poorest countries.

A billionaire tax? Is there the political will in the world to deliver that? What else does Oxfam suggest?

a clampdown on tax dodging; investment in universal, free health and education; a global deal to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030; shifting the tax burden from income and consumption to capital and wealth; ensuring adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee; equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal; and the introduction of minimum wages and moves towards a living wage for all workers.

Herman Daly, who worked for the World Bank from 1988 – 1994 suggests two very interesting measures to tackle this growing problem.

we need a serious monetary diet for the obese financial sector, specifically movement away from fractional reserve banking and towards a system of 100% reserve requirements. This would end the private banks’ alchemical privilege to create money out of nothing and lend it at interest. Every pound and dollar loaned would then be a pound or dollar that someone previously saved, restoring the classical balance between abstinence and investment.

Now, there’s a fascinating idea! That money should represent something REAL in the world! With all these elaborate “financial instruments” money and measures of economic “health” of countries is becoming increasingly detached from real activities, real use of resources and real people. Maybe such a proposal could begin to shift the balance back from capital to labour? He also suggests

a small tax on all financial trades would reduce speculative and computerised short term trading, as well as raising significant revenue

That latter idea is what others call “the Robin Hood tax“.

So, there’s an interesting selection of ideas – a billionaire tax, a move towards 100% reserve requirements and a financial transaction tax. Which political party is trumpeting these ideas? Which political party is prepared to put tackling inequality these ways at the heart of its manifesto for upcoming elections?

Anyone? Anyone?

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