Archive for March, 2017


The first thing which caught Hilary’s attention was a movement on the other side of the fence. But what was it? A cat? No, it was a bird…..this bird…

It’s often movement which catches our attention, or at least it’s change. Something changes. You’ve had that experience where you only notice a noise when it suddenly stops haven’t you?

One of sign of Spring here is that a barn owl starts to nest in a box embedded in the front of our house. Each evening this week, once it’s dark, I notice him flying past. Well, I say I notice him. I’m not looking out of the window but all of a sudden I say “That was the owl flying past” because I caught something out of the corner of my eye. The moment I turn to look, and I mean the absolute split second that I turn to look, I see nothing. He’s past already. So how did I see him? It wasn’t just a blur of movement. I recognise it’s him. Not a blackbird, or a pigeon, or a bat. It’s the owl. Then one evening this week I looked out when I thought I’d seen him fly past and there he was in the tree, sitting looking back in through the window at me. And in that moment, he was gone. Flown away.

Somehow I see him before I become aware of seeing him. It reminds me of lying in bed one sunday morning and waking to the sound of church bells. I counted “Seven, eight, nine” and then they stopped. I looked at the clock and it was nine o’clock. But I was only aware of counting “seven, eight, nine”, not “one, two, three…..” you know what I mean. So, when did I first perceive the church bells? Right from the first one surely. But I was asleep and I had no conscious awareness of hearing them at all.

Those experiences fascinate me. They are tiny glimpses into how much goes on at the subconscious level in our minds. How awareness comes just a little later….

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Last November I was invited to address the Faculty of Homeopathy at their Congress in Belfast. I prepared a talk entitled “Images of Health. Pictures and stories” based around some of my own photographs and covering the key principles of health which guided me through my career as a doctor.

Here’s the video of that talk. I hope you enjoy it, find it interesting, or even inspiring. (by the way, if Google pops up any ads along the bottom of the video, just click the “x” box to make them go away 😉 )

I wrote a book to accompany this talk. It’s called “Escape to Reality” and I’ve published it (so far) only as a Kindle e-book. You can find it on Amazon.



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Do you ever look outside and see a grey sky and rain and think, shame, “it’s not a nice day”? I do.

But the other day when I caught myself saying that I thought, hang on, when the rain falls on the flowers it makes them extra specially beautiful, I think I’ll go out and take some photos.

Here are some of my favourite ones.

I think the rain magnifies their beauty, not making them similar in any way, but highlighting how unique each and every one is.

I also love the image of the single rain drop. It’s like a jewel. I’m never finished finding water extraordinarily wonderful. And, in a certain sense, water is never finished finding us extraordinarily wonderful either, is it?

Here’s to the sparkling beauty of uniqueness.

Here’s to the magic of water.

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When I commuted to work in Glasgow I’d often squeeze my way through the hundreds of people spilling off the trains onto the platforms and make my way to one of the coffee outlets, joining a pretty fast moving queue to buy a coffee in a disposable cup with a plastic lid and sip it as I continued down the stairs to catch my second train. By the time I reached my workplace I’d be ready to drop the empty container into one of the bins on the platform, or, sometimes, I’d finish it as I walked up the path to hospital door and discard it in a bin at reception.

That’s one way to have a coffee. Here’s another.

In France, you choose a seat at one of the tables in front of the cafe. You can sit at one of the sunny ones, or go for a bit of shade. Settle yourself down and look around. You’ll likely have time to take in the blue sky, the architecture of the old buildings around you and start to notice the passers-by. Or you might get out the book you’re reading, the morning paper you just bought, or the notebook or diary you write in.

There’s an interval between sitting down at one of the tables and someone coming to take your order. I don’t know what determines the length of that interval but at first it felt a lot longer than I was used to. Is it longer than the time taken to get to the front of the queue in Queen Street Station? I don’t know, but when I first experienced this different coffee experience I’d start to feel impatient or irritated. I could even convince myself I was being ignored. But you know what? Those feelings have melted away. I don’t feel that any more. I’ve adjusted, or adapted. Now I sit and enjoy the moments until someone takes my order.

“Un café” – in France, “a coffee” is an expresso. You can make other choices, but the default is an expresso.

There’s another interval until the coffee arrives, easily filled by chatting to your partner, your friends, or your colleagues, by reading your book or newspaper, or jotting down your ideas or lists in your notebook.

Look at this little coffee. Look at the little porcelain cup. I love the feel of it between my fingers. I love the weight of it in my hand. Look at this little saucer, with its dimple in the middle comfortably waiting to receive the cup so that they sit perfectly together. Look at the blue writing, “Caffe Diemme”. Caffe Diemme is the name of a coffee company. The French love to play with words. You can’t see that without hearing “Carpe diem” (“seize the day”) in you head, can you?

The taste is intense and express. A couple of sips and it’s gone. Look around. There’s a young woman reading a novel. There’s a couple talking intimately, delighting in each other’s company. There’s the business man with his laptop. There’s an old man taking in the ebb and flow of people.

You leave your coins on the table or on the little plastic tray  with the bill folded onto it, which the waiter left with the coffee.

You get up, gather your belongings, and continue off into your day.

All this can take only a few minutes…..or several. You choose. Nobody is going to hurry you.

I’m not a great fan of seizing or grabbing, but I do believe life is better when you consciously savour it.

Savour the day.

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Oh, I wish I could share the scent of these astonishing flowers with you. How the sense of smell conjures up such vivid memories and experiences. Hyacinths are the only flowers which provoke my mind to recall poetry. I’m not saying I don’t think of lines from poems in other circumstances. It’s just that hyacinths, specifically, start a passage of poetry in my mind every single time….in much the same way as a few notes of music will transport me back to a particular time and place.

Here’s what I hear in my head when I smell the hyacinths –

‘You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;

“They called me the hyacinth girl.’

_ Yet when we came back, late, from the hyacinth garden,

Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not

Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither

Living not dead, and I knew nothing,

Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Do you know that poem?

I’ve never seen her, the hyacinth girl, her arms full and her hair wet, but I swear I have. Yet I couldn’t describe her to you. I’ve never seen her physically…and that’s what’s most interesting about this for me. I have a deep knowledge of seeing her, but I’ve never seen her. I have the feeling of the experience of seeing her, but I’ve never seen her.

But I have seen the hyacinths….and every time, they still my soul and I’m “looking into the heart of light, the silence.”

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Here are two photos I’ve taken recently. Both have wonderful reflections in water but each of them has an utterly distinct and particular character which is, I think, captured in the wholeness of each shot, rather in their detailed elements.

The first one is taken in South Africa, and the second one in Scotland.

How different is Africa from Europe?

What different colours, different tones, different atmospheres. It’s not just that the seasons in the two hemispheres are opposite with South Africa slipping from summer into autumn, whilst Scotland awakens from winter into Spring.

I find both of these images beautiful and delightful. I couldn’t rank them and say one is “better” than the other.

Rather, I’m just deeply grateful to be able to experience such diversity in this astonishing planet which we inhabit together.

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Yesterday whilst out in the Trossachs just north of Stirling in Scotland, the clouds opened up to reveal some patches of blue sky and allow the sun to reveal itself. Loch Venachar was as still as I’ve ever seen it. The reflections were simply stunning. I took a number of photos. Here’s one I’m particularly pleased with.

What you’re looking at here is the edge of the loch at the bottom of the image. The rocks are at the water’s edge. The branches stretch out from a few leafless trees which grow amongst the rocks and the rest of the image is the still water reflecting the sky.

I love how this image catches my attention straight away. My first thought is just how beautiful it looks. Then as I start to look more closely I feel a bit disorientated. What’s that rock doing up in the sky? Is it just hanging there, or is it impossibly supported by the tree’s spindly branches? Then the image resolves itself as I become more aware of the reflection.

I think it’s like this in life sometimes. We engage at an intuitive, emotional, even aesthetic level, taking in the whole as it is, then we start to focus on elements, or parts, and become a bit thrown off course, until we put what we are focusing on back into the contexts where they exist. Then the whole experience of standing at the edge of the water comes together again, but now intensified by our way of engaging with it.

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The range and intensity of colours in these recent photos takes my breath away. Here are rocks, shells and petals, representing the kingdoms of the minerals, the animals and the plants. These three kingdoms are part of a whole. In my mind’s eye I see an image of the blue planet, the Earth seen from the surface of the Moon

and I recall the story of Edgar Mitchell’s journey back to Earth after walking on the Moon. He saw the alignment of the Moon, the Earth and the Sun appearing each time his spacecraft turned on its axis and had a profound experience of seeing the particular and the whole in the same moment. He looked at the beautiful planet he called home and wondered about human beings waging wars and killing each other over invisible lines they called borders and over beliefs in invisible gods and this new perspective gave him a deep desire to see humans live together peaceably.

When I look again at the beauty in these photos I’m motivated ever more strongly to contribute to such a change. We share this little planet, not just we humans, but we, the members of all the kingdoms of Nature.

We desperately need to find more creative, more just, more sustainable ways of living together.

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Look at the skeleton of this beautiful fish. The intricate and delicate structure of the bones is a stunning demonstration of the nature of networks. We can see the whole skeleton is made up from two simple elements, nodes and connectors. Whether we zoom in to study just one group, or out to look at the larger regions we see a variety of different patterns based on these two simple elements.

If you start at any point on this skeleton you’ll be able to trace a path to any other point without ending up down some disconnected cul de sac. In other words every single point is connected to every other one….either in simple one or two step connections, or through an almost infinite variety of pathways across the whole structure.

This is one of the most fundamental patterns at the heart of reality – networks of nodes and connectors.

You can see the same design in all forms of life, especially in multicellular organisms, all kinds of plants, animals and human beings.

Networks of nodes and connectors are the essential fabric of the universe.

Two of the best books I know about this phenomenon are Linked by Barabasi, and Connected by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. I recommend them both. They show how this apparently simple structure builds up into the most complex of phenomena, from individual organisms, to social groups and whole ecosystems.

Once you see things this way you can’t help but see connections everywhere. It’s the science which demonstrates the limitations of reductionism and abolishes the notion of atomisation.

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