Memorable meals

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Coffee and cake in Vienna is always likely to be on the tourist “things to do list” when visiting the city. So it was with me. We went to Cafe Landtmann, all dark wood, silver cutlery, crisp white tablecloths and waiters in white gloves.

The cafe was frequented in the last century by Freud, and has probably had several other famous visitors across the threshold since it was opened in 1873. It had a genteel  hushed atmosphere, and it was comfortable and rather posh in a traditional way.

I have to be honest and say that the cakes weren’t as good or delicious or exceptional as I’d expected or anticipated. Although they looked mouthwatering they were actually a bit disappointing. I guess the coffee must have been ok but again, not memorable; it was beautifully served.  All in all it is the experience, surroundings, decor and location that I remember more than anything else.

Which leads me to ponder on which of our senses we engage with if we say a meal or dining experience is memorable? For me in Cafe Landtmann it wasn’t the food or drink (taste) but the old-fashioned tasteful decor (sight).

A truly memorable meal which involved all five senses for me  was the first bowl of onion soup I ever had in the Paris flea market over 50 years ago, in a rough and ready, warm and steamy cafe full of Parisiens. There were long tables with benches where people sat alongside each other. It was noisy (hearing) and it was unavoidable not to rub shoulders with other diners (touch).

Of course, not all memorable meals are good ones. My other half shudders at the thought of the weekly family meal of liver – the look, taste, smell and texture have stayed with him since childhood. I don’t like marmalade and was once forced into a battle of wills with my mum over some marmalade sandwiches I was given. I never liked the stuff before this incident and now find the taste and smell of marmalade disgusting.

Apologies to marmalade lovers; I do like the colour.

The Magic of Psychosynthesis

We are living in troubled, unsettling times, not just here in the UK where I sit and write, but in many countries around the world. Brexit, now exposed for what it really is, has morphed into an unpleasant can of worms and the effects reverberate not only in the UK, but in other countries in the European Union which are involved in this mess. France is having prolonged demonstrations with the gilet jaunes, and in Catalonia, the people are demonstrating against the lengthy prison sentences given to the leaders of their bid for independence. We are connected in our European angst, but unrest is global. Hong Kong and Chile have political protests, Libya too; the Extinction Rebellion movement and the Friday school strikes for action on the environment have spread around the world. Change is prevalent.

As an astrologer and practitioner in astrological psychology, I can turn to my ephemeris to see what might be going on through an astrological lens, knowing full well that Saturn and Pluto have been in Capricorn for sometime now. Working alongside, they’re gradually grinding down and clearing out the outworn structures of the so-called “establishments” which are taking the hits. Like industrious workmen, they get on with their own jobs, coming together from time to time to combine both energy and effect. From April to June 2019 they rubbed along together for a while in conjunction; they touch base with each other again in December, staying in tandem in the near future until February 2020.

Will book cover

What, you’re probably wondering, does this have to do with Will Parfitt’s new book – The Magic of Psychosynthesis: initiation and self development? The answer is just about everything. The book is a treasure trove for anyone on the path of personal growth and self discovery – what the author calls The Work. Moving from the stage of Aspirant (as we all are) to Adept (what we aspire to) Will offers clear and detailed signposts for how to navigate, travel and develop our inner world, yet remain fully grounded and connected to the changing world and environment we live in.

The book acts like a spiritual satnav, gently guiding the reader through the principles of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis with a wealth of practical exercises to support the journey. Students of Astrological Psychology will already be familiar with the Egg Diagram, and with the analogy of the orchestra, the sub-personalities being different players within the orchestral whole, or Self.

Using reflective meditations based on Assagioli’s four steps in experiencing the will, readers are encouraged to explore their awareness and use of their own will, with techniques to build up muscle and strength here. In astrological psychology, developing the way the Sun – the sense of self – functions in your own chart could be worked on alongside this. I liked Will’s questions here: Who is running your life? Are you directing your life? Are you in control of your life? To what extent is the direction of your life determined by outer events?….

Other compatible approaches are introduced for use alongside the The Work, such as Kabbalah and Tarot. The practical exercises throughout the book can be taken at leisure; there is no pressure to work on them in a linear fashion and I for one will be going back to the section on training the imagination to do the suggested work on automatic drawing. The exercise on selling your soul I found particularly potent, with challenging and thought-provoking questions which hold up a mirror we may prefer to avoid looking in.

Developing the transpersonal qualities of Love and Will underpin much of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis; both are required, and while it is important to engage with the will, without love there is no cohesion, connection or wholeness. The Work, Will asserts, is about travelling the path of self discovery…and the journey has to include love too. Focussing on and developing the heart is therefore equally important, especially in these times of change and uncertainty. Will suggests that the simplest and most profound way to deal with obstacles, difficulties, challenges, opposing viewpoints (very pertinent right now in our Brexit-splintered society) is to remain heart centred. That, using an astrological psychology prism, requires stepping beyond the personal emotional needs of the Moon – our emotional needs and feelings –  in the chart and taking the leap to connect with the pure and highest manifestation of Neptunian energy – of acceptance, inclusivity and non-judgemental love.

The text of Will’s book is richly supported by references to other psychological and esoteric traditions such as Crowley, Gurdjieff, Regardie and Fortune. These do not intrude on the flow of the text with footnotes but are listed in appendices at the end of the book, along with an index of Practices and Spells.

Drawing on forty years of is own personal and spiritual development and his experience as a therapist, Will writes clearly and with warmth, as though he is speaking personally. For every exercise he emphasises the importance of grounding in real life what the reader discovers on their own explorations of the inner world. He emphasises the importance of coming back to earth, of being here now, in everyday reality and to opening the heart to love in all interpersonal relationships. This, he suggests, is especially needed in these challenging times of global change and upheaval and relates to what we as individuals can do, which is to live with a deeper consciousness of our self, and to live every day with love in action.

Yellow fields

I don’t have an image which truly expresses the parched yellowness of the French countryside I travelled through recently.

France, in September when I was there, was dry, dusty and gasping for rain. I travelled through part of eastern France to Burgundy, the Dordogne and then northwards, on the western side on my way back to the UK.

In the eastern, near-empty areas, the fields were yellow, some admittedly because crops had been harvested, their stubble like a blonde buzz cut. This mainly agricultural area is one of lakes and big open fields, the yellowness unbroken apart from a few small woods and very few hedgerows.

France doImage result for north by northwestesn’t do hedgerows nowadays;  parts of it look like large prairies. The roads running through areas like this remind me of the scene from the classic thriller North by North West, where Cary Grant, standing at a bus stop in the US prairies  is attacked by a crop-spraying plane.

It’s a depressing fact that in France, shooters will take pops at birds and wildlife…but then what chance do birds and wildlife have to breed and prosper in an environment almost devoid of naural features like hedgerows?

The journey was made in warm sunshine. A clear blue sky with a few perfect cotton-wool clouds provided a stunning contrast to the yellow countryside. It wasn’t just harvested fields which were yellow; grass had turned to straw in meadows, and where the soil had been ploughed or tilled, the earth was varying shades of burnt umber, sienna and ochre.

France had had a summer of intense heat, which is why these yellow fields were in evidence pretty much everywhere I travelled. It was still very hot in the Dordogne, with July/August temperatures, making it the hottest I’ve experienced in this area in September. Not quite like usual. Not normal.

This is the new “normal” we have to get used to as climate breakdown sets in and time begins to run out to restrain or halt it. We’ll be having extremes of heat and wet, bringing flooding, disruption and danger to life (just as intense heat does).

This is just one of the concerns of Extinction Rebellion, who are bringing the breakdown of the web of life to public attention with peaceful demos and non-violent activities. Like it or not, environmental concerns are real and breakdown is happening now. Just keep an eye on the global weather and you’ll get the picture.

Image courtesy of no6cinema.co.uk

Those unexpected little extras….

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Our Norfolk terrier is 21 months old. He came to live with us when he was 4 months old, past the most intensive of the early puppy stages of house training, but still in need of some guidance into the garden. It didn’t take too long; it was a hot summer so doors were open and the penny soon dropped.

During the puppy stage Bosworth emerged as the delightful, interactive dog he is now. Good with children, very friendly and with an amusing line in vocal greetings and a tendency to “chat” or emit little howls of excitement, he also got into chewing – all puppies do – and having reflected on what he has chewed, ruined, and what’s needed replacing etc. since we had him, here’s the current list:

One hairdryer – left unplugged on the bedroom floor and munched to death, wires hanging out of it. Replaced by new one, now stored in a cupboard.

Three duvet covers – pulled off beds as he searched for daughter’s cat who’d been staying. Being a mender rather than a thrower-away, I got out the sewing machine and patched up the gnawed ripped bits. They’re all usable. Good job our guests aren’t fussy!

Three sheets – ditto. Still searching for same cat. Having pulled off the duvets, he had a go at the sheets. Also mended & back in use.

Garden fence take 1 –  the fence  was elderly and good enough to stop The Great Escape happening while he was still in the first puppy stages….until one day he was missing. A hole had been chewed through the bamboo screening attached to our 3 foot trellis fence. He’d squeezed through, had the freedom of the garden backing on to ours and was going crazy searching for the cat who lives there. Returned by the neighbour, who was rather amused. Agree to share cost of new fence.

We call our local fencer who’s done some previous work and fix a date for installation. In the meantime we block off the chewed hole and any other likely escape routes, supervising trips into the garden.

Garden fence take 2 – new fence installed. It’s 6 feet high. Dog sits looking intently and fixedly at fence. A few days later goes missing and is seen racing round the neighbour’s garden again, still trying to find their cat. Said cat is sitting watching this through the patio doors. We find a hole dug under the new fence. He will come to it from the other side but not come through. I go round and try to get into the garden. Side gate is locked, neighbour is out.

We devise a rescue and retrieval operation. We lift one of the bottom panels of the fence and wedge it open. Husband crawls through and gets dog. We tell neighbour what happened and he fills in the escape route hole with concrete.

Garden fence take 3 – dog starts looking intently at other areas of the fence, frequently disappearing behind the arbour in the corner of the garden, where we find him staring at the fence. We keep an eye on him but he finds a way through the corner gap where two panels of the fence meet. We lift the bottom fence panel again, husband crawls through and gets dog. We block the gap.

Garden fence take 4 – we didn’t block it enough. Dog repeats escape. We repeat retrieval procedure. Gap is successfully barricaded and blocked. The garden should now be like Fort Knox.

Garden side gate – dog begins sitting looking intently at the locked side gate, nose down on the small gap beneath it. It’s suspiciously quiet, so I go to check. Dog in process of digging up plants and soil by the gate and adjacent fence. Very swiftly bricks and concrete slabs are put in place. Dog continues to sit and look at gate and fence, but The Great Escape game is over.

Garden bench – we notice he’s started creating a hole underneath the seat of our stone bench on the lawn and say “Oh what the hell – he’s a terrier – let him have a bit of fun!” We’re hoping he’s now past the stage of springing these unexpected extra outlays on us, but to be honest, we did need a new fence anyway…..

 

Valley of the Saints

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On a grey, chilly, windy day in August I visited the Valley of the Saints in northern Brittany. Like a modern-day line up of Easter Island-like giant statues, some of the many religious saints associated with bringing Christianity to Brittany are depicted in stone, sculpted by modern-day artists who are taking part in this developing project.

About 50 saints are already in place, standing proud on a windy hillside with views of the surrounding countryside and the sea. Each one is different and has it’s own story – there is a guidebook outlining the story of each saint, and there are guides too, to tell their stories.

The teenager in our Anglo-French family group took it upon himself to entertain the younger members of the group, making up stories for them about the statues and acting as an alternative guide – his stories were very funny and creative and while the children half-beleived what he was saying, the adults were chuckling a lot. If there was a saint with a sense of humour somewhere on that hillside, he or she would have been proud of our alternative guide and his amusing tales.

The saint with an axe in her head, pictured above, is touching a lion’s head – you can just see it’s teeth. Our alternative guide’s take on this one was that she reminds us to be kind to animals and the environment, otherwise we will come to a nasty end.

I fully concur with that.