D-Day: a personal 75th anniversary commemoration

I grew up with the photograph on the left in a frame on top of our piano. My mum told me it was my cousin Bertie, who was killed by a sniper along the Rhine, a month before WW2 ended. That’s pretty much all I knew for many years and I didn’t think much about it until I was contacted several years ago by a cousin, Bertie’s sister, who was asking for family stories as she was putting together a family tree.

I’d not seen her for years so I called her to pass on a few details for her project. We talked about the family, which for me was a treat because I’m an only child and very much the baby of the entire family; everyone was and is a lot older than me. I remembered Bertie’s photo and asked about him, and discovered the very dramatic true story of the experiences of this young man who I never knew. He was 23 when he was killed, and he is buried in Hanover War Cemetery.

Bertie was a member of “A” Company of the 8th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment ACC and he was parachuted into France as part of the D-Day operations on 6th June 1944. The weather was bad and the paras, dropping from the gliders which carried them, were blown off course from their target. Bertie, in a group of 40 paras, was found by 17 year old Gaston le Baron who was helping the resistance, and had gone into the marshes near the River Dives to search for the paras who he hoped would help liberate France. Continue reading

Morris dancing on May Day

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These smiling women are part of a Morris dancing team who took part in the traditional May Day parade in our small Cheshire town. They danced through the streets, accompanied by music played on a small accordion and a tin whistle, with a drum beating time. The ladies wear wooden clogs and hold wooden shuttles, which would have been used in the cotton mills in the north west. These are decorated with bells and ribbons.

Bells also feature in the costume worn by men Morris dancers but worn on their clogs. This group, also at the parade, have music to dance to and they carry small twisted ropes which they wave as part of the dance. The steps are heavy and noisy; stamping rhymically on the ground in time to the music, the dancers change places and make different formations and patterns as they weave around each other.

This group wear staw hats decorated with ribbons and flowers, and have been coming to our May Day parade for over 30 years. I couldn’t help noticing how some of the are now getting on a bit. There’s not been a big influx of new blood over the years, but it’s good that these grey-haired gentlemen are still able to enjoy this very English traditional form of dance and share it in the streets on a sunny day.

Morris dancing is thought to have been around since the mid 15th century. It’s traditional folk dancing associated with Maytime, the Maypole and the May queen. I’ve always understood that the stamping style of dance is meant to awaken the earth from its winter slumber and the small twised ropes held and waved by the dancers are symbolic of seeds being scattered on the ground. May Day has its origins in pagan festivals, the awakening of the earth and the Celtic festival of Beltane.

Before and After

We have a free glossy magazine  – In Cheshire – delivered to our door once a month, and although it’s usually full of things which are not of great interest to me, I always browse through just to see what’s afoot in our neck of the Cheshire woods.

There are short items on charity and fund-raising events, along with lots of photos of those attending. A vet writes a column which, as a dog owner, is interesting to scan through. A regular 2 page fashion article is always worth a quick read (just to keep my finger on the style pulse, you understand). An actor from the TV soap Hollyoaks, who lives in our town, writes each month about date nights with his TV presenter wife at the local eateries. (Confession: I’ve never watched Hollyoaks or seen her on Good Morning Britain).

There are ads for houses, private schools, solicitors specialising in divorce, gardening services, teeth whitening and personal trainers, but by far my favourite is the regular 2 page ad, in full colour, of the spa clinic which offers special skin tightening procedures.

A whole page, in colour, shows before and after pictures of eye contours, chins and jawlines, torsos, tummies, knees and upper arms. It brings out the child in me. I used to like those “Spot the Difference” pictures in comics, and I happily inspect the gallery of photographed body parts, trying to see how each “before” shot has progressed in the “after” image. Heaven knows how much the procedures cost – they won’t be cheap!

The photographs above are of myself and my daughter in the famous Café Landtmann in Vienna, frequented by Freud and Mahler over a century ago. The first (specially posed of course) is before we had coffee and cake; the second is after we’d had coffee and cake.

Mark Twain said, “Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been”. That coffee and cake treatment was very good value.

A day trip to Mexico

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On our recent road trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas, we took the legal crossing point across the Rio Grande into Mexico to visit the village of Boquillas. The day was overcast, cold and windy. We needed plenty of layers to keep warm and the constant, buffeting wind blew dust into our eyes. But it was worth the discomfort as we had a memorable and enjoyable day.

Not knowing what to expect was part of the experience. I’d not anticipated the scruffy dusty road which we followed to the village, athough there was the option to ride there on horseback. The male inhabitants of Boquillas hang around as each ferry arrives offering to be guides.  I was saddened when we got off the boat to be greeted by a needy but cringing small dog, looking for a little TLC  .

The ferry is a rowing boat; the crossing is quick as the Rio Grande is quite narrow at this point.  The walk into Boquillas is less than a mile.

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 More horses were tethered at the entrance to the village, and a less needy and probably more loved dog sat watching us as we walked by.

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Boquillas is small so it didn’t take too long to explore along the main street and some of the side streets, all of them dusty unmade roads.

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We found one of the two churches – there is a Catholic and Baptist church in the community. We heard music as we approached the village but didn’t know what it was or where it was coming from. There were trumpets and a furious banging of drums. It sounded awful. Turning down a side street we came across the school, where the children were lined up in the playground for band practise. This was being led by a soldier in uniform, and he was blasting away on the trumpet, the children joining in with trumpets and drums. I later learned that this was only their second lesson, which explained why it sounded, well…raw. The smiles from the children as I took this long shot are a delight; they were enjoying it!

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I stopped to look at the local crafts and wares on display outside some of the houses, and spoke to Ruffina, who was selling bags, wall hangings and pottery along with ocotillo, cacti, scorpions and roadrunner wire and bead ornaments. She was a friendly, cheerful lady, as were the staff in the restaurant where we had lunch.

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Granddaughter wanted to ride back to the ferry on a horse, which was led by a young woman named Veronica. She was happy to talk and told me that the village was a happy community where many people come from the same family and where everyone supports each other. She’d been to college, had worked away in a larger town, but returned to stay in Boquillas, simply because it’s friendly and it’s home. They have no AC in the village so suffer in the summer heat and stay indoors. It’s windy most days, some being worse than others, and although they have TV there is no internet. She laughed and said they just do without and if they really need to use it they travel to the nearest town. I got the impression they don’t bother to do so very much and suspect life is much simpler. What is important is their community.

I bought some bead and wire ornaments and a wall hanging, embroidered with a roadrunner and the words “No Wall” on it. Ruffina fetched it specially to show me when she realised I liked birds. The slogan it carries is bang on for current topical and historical significance. We never saw any signs of Trump’s wall on our trip; the mountains in this area form a natural barrier.

Then it was back into the US via the very small and efficient entry point, bringing with me the local crafts along with some good memories of a new and very enjoyable experience.

The Citroen 2CV meet up

 

P1070064Our son has a 1978 Citroen 2CV named Fiona. She’s bright green. That’s her above.

Staying with the family in Houston, he mentioned that there was a meet up for the local group of 2CV owners one Saturday morning, did I want to go? I decided I could probably manage to hold my own amongst a group of potentially geeky enthusiasts (son is not geeky!) and off we set, roof rolled back, at one point flooring it, doing 80 kilometres an hour along the freeway to meet for breakfast at a diner. Other drivers tended to hoot or wave in appreciation along the way. It was fun.

They were  a friendly group, not especially geeky until the conversation turned to techy stuff beyond my comprehension, but I found myself amongst a cosmopolitan group of Francophiles. Over an American-style breakfast we we talked about Citroen cars, food, wine, cheese, Provencale lavender and French regions we’d visited.

I gather there are probably 17 2CVs in Texas, some rusting in outhouses, some in parts, some in roadworthy condition. Of the 3 that turned up, the one my son had described as “red and rust” needs the most attetnion, but the owner has been concentrating on the parts under the bodywork; attention to the rust and paintwork is yet to take place.

I was happy to be the unofficial photographer for their meet up and took a lot of candid shots and close ups for them. Here are a few of them.

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The Living Birth Chart

LBC in colourI write this with my astrological psychology hat on. My second book, The Living Birth Chart has been updated and reissued with all diagrams and illustrations in full colour, and I’m rather pleased with it.

Based on the material I taught and used in the workshops I’ve facilitated, The Living Birth Chart has an emphasis on working practically with astrological psychology and putting it to use in your own life.

You don’t need to be an astrologer to use the book, but an interest and basic understanding of the subject will help, as will a read of my co-authored introductory book, The Cosmic Egg Timer.

So how might The Living Birth Chart be helpful? Suppose you’re someone who wants to get a better understanding of how the interactions between you and your parents have shaped you, held you back, encouraged you…..well, there’s a whole chapter on this in the book, along with practical exercises to try out.

Maybe you’re someone who finds it difficult to get in touch with or express your feelings. This, working as an astrological counsellor, I found was quite a common problem and sticking point with many people, students and clients alike. Issues around feelings are associated with the Moon, which symbolises our feeling self.

Practical suggestions about working with feelings are featured in The Living Birthchart. Here is a sample. You might like to make some brief notes for yourself as you respond to the questions:

  1. How big a part do feelings play in my everyday life?
  2. Am I making enough contacts with people?
  3. Am I able to state my enotional needs or feelings?
  4. Am I able to ask for what I want or need?

A ‘free Huber chart’ facility is available on www.astro.com (from front page go to ‘extended chart selection’, and don’t forget to select ‘Koch houses’). This provides free Huber-style natal, house and nodal charts plus chart data and age progression dates, which can be viewed on screen or printed off.

I can’t guarantee the quality of the chart, but it should look like this, in full colour, as charts used as examples in this reissue of The Living Birth Chart are.

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Solstice sunset

Solstice sunset

I took this photo from the Great Orme, Llandudno, North Wales, as the sun was setting. It was close to the date of the Winter Solstice. The view is towards the island Anglesey, which is connected to the mainland of Wales by the Menai Bridge.

It was cold when I took the shot – typical of a dark and wintry day in the northern hemisphere when astrologically and astronomically the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn. With busy lives and disturbing events happening around us in a world full of change, it’s good to remember and reconnect with natural events which occur at this time of year.

Connecting with the position of the Sun in relation to ourselves on Earth is something we can do relatively easily at this time of year. On 21st December the Sun is at its furthest point from the northern hemisphere, making this the shortest day and longest night of the year. Meanwhile, down in the southern hemisphere the Sun is riding high in the sky as the exact opposite happens.

The winter solstice is a festival of light and in the northern hemisphere it coincides with Christmas. This Christian festival takes place at the same time of year as the pagan celebration of the solstice which celebrates the gradual and at first impercetible return of the light of the Sun after the long days of darkness. It’s the turning point of the year and marks the return of the light and the rebirth of the Sun (the Son in Christianity…?), together with the promise of the warmth and energy the Sun brings to make crops – essential to life – grow once again after the earth has lain dormant.

This is the time of year when people of all faiths, and none, have festivals of light, or of special significance in their own faith, when we can express our connection with the earth, our life upon it in relation to others we meet, families, and our place in the solar system.

Here in Brexit blighted UK, we’re going through some very dark days as we have no idea what is going happen, and unfortunately neither do our politicians (or maybe they’re just not telling us…?) But it’s a dark and difficult time as we enter yet another government/PM-created limbo waiting to discover what will happen on 29th March 2019.

So here are some suggestions of what you and I could do at this time of year to bring light into our lives, and the lives of others around us:

  • light a candle – simple and easy – remember the sayng that it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness
  • call a friend – reconnect with someone you’ve not been in touch with for a while
  • perform a random act of kindness – just do it!
  • take a risk and smile at strangers as you walk down the street – this one is very rewarding
  • say hello to someone you don’t know – you could follow up the smile with this one
  • glow with joy and a warmth of spirit…and it will come back to you in spades

And may the warmth of friendship be wrapped around you at this time of year.