Tag Archives: Oxford

From my desk ~ Gandhi Jayanti

Today is a day for birthdays ~ my son’s; Anne-Christine’s; and Mahatma Gandhi’s. To celebrate, I am re-posting an article I wrote on this day four years ago. The original post and comments can be found here .  Enjoy.

In my garden there are native and exotic plants, long plants and short plants;

Choisya

Choisya

plants that are standard and non-standard; and some that are self-fertile and some that require cross-pollination. I have plants that are variegated, plants that are colourful

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

and plants that are plain. There are weeds, and refugees from other gardens, and some uninvited guests. Each plant has a unique history, a story to tell, and most contain, in their gene pool, the essence/quintessence of some far off land and ancient culture. There is no homogeneity in my garden, except at that most basic level of planthood; that  fundamental point, whatever it is, that makes them living, breathing plants and not living, breathing animals. Yet, despite the variety and complexity of my garden inhabitants, I find that, if I provide them with water and food and treat them equally with politeness and respect, mixed in with a little song and a few sweet nothings, they thrive. Yes,  even with the most basic of provisions, they thrive.  They don’t fight or squabble, put each other down, rip each other apart for competitive advantage or napalm each other.  They are a miracle of good neighbourliness and co-operative, companionable living, willing and eager to share their environment with birds and bees, wild life,  and humans, too.

The multi-dimensional, multi-cultural and peaceful nature of my garden, reminds me that this time, thirty-five years ago, I was preparing to start the Michaelmas Term at Oxford University. I was a  young seedling transplanted from a small island in the Pacific to one of the most wonderful cities in the world. I was about to flourish, and enjoy one of the best years of my life, within the nurturing environment of the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme.

For one academic year, I , along with several dozen others, from all curves of the world, lived and laughed and learned…. and, yes ,sometimes, drank too much and, sometimes, loved unwisely, and sometimes, cried.  We were a microcosm of the world; we were all faiths, all cultures, all social and political classes, all sizes and shapes and ages, and, as you can see from the photo, all hairstyles 🙂

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin (and I am very difficult to find in this photo)

Our common ground was in our education and our human-ness. We were nourished and cared for by the University, our daily needs provided for, and most of us were generously supported by that most British of  British institutions,   the British Council.  And, for  that, one, much too short, year, we were, despite our differences, the embodiment of good and peaceful co-existence; the way our world could be.

This post is written today in honour of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who was born on October 2nd, 1869.  Today is a national holiday in India. Worldwide, it is the UN International Day of Non-Violence.

http://www.un.org/en/events/nonviolenceday/index.shtml

to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak click here

Blossom in Peace

Blossom in Peace

For a good read on ‘things British Council’ and the mess of war and displacement, try Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Manning

Michaelmas 

is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and also denotes the first term of the academic year.

© silkannthreades

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Gorgeousness, plain and simple or Epiphanies, real and imagined, continued.

In my previous post on  Epiphanies I touched upon the theme of how we feel about the way we are dressed and how we imagine we are dressed, as opposed to the reality of how we are dressed. (So that’s what she was on about, you say 😉 ) Implicit in this theme, ( well,  implicit as I see it ), is the idea of how we feel about our body image.

Over the years of my lengthening life, I have led myself to believe that I am comfortable and happy in my own skin, but it occurred to me, after reading House of Bethan’s recent post on Gorgeousness  (aka this year my body will be gorgeous) that, perhaps, I was fooling myself about my relationship with my body image. After all, I don’t particularly like having my photo taken; I don’t particularly like looking in the mirror at myself; and I don’t like shopping for clothes, at all, and I don’t like wearing make-up or having my hair styled and fancified. I do  LIKE buying jewellery though; no worries there.

So I decided to *test* and *challenge* my body image feelings/confidence…..just a little…..by daring to display, to the  wide world, my style, or what passes for style in my wardrobe. And I discovered that even to do this was incredibly scary.

Glad Rags or Ordinaries

Glad Rags or Ordinaries

Incredibly scary because I come from a puritanical, Protestant tradition  that considered too much interest in physical appearance as  improper for a well brought up young lady. Feeling/being gorgeous , it was subtlely and quietly  implied,  was vainglorious, prideful and inappropriate for ordinary, every day persons… ( but perfectly okay for movie stars, princesses and Mother Mary, but not the plebs ). The ideal was to be modest, tidy, neat and plain, and to those standards I have been faithful most of my life….which probably explains why I have rarely, if ever, been complimented on gorgeousness. 😦  About the closest I have come to such compliments was during the years of  a very sweet and dear friendship with an elderly Italian gentleman; a professor of ophthalmology whom I met at Queen Elizabeth House at Oxford in 1979. Every time we met, no matter if it were the first or the third time in a day, the Professor would open wide his arms, bring one hand to his heart and exclaim with delight ” Cara, cara,  A……, Bella, bella A…..” and, then, take my hand and proclaim to anyone  within hearing distance how wonderful I was….the only person in Oxford whose English he could actually understand 🙂  Then we would sit, side by side, in the Common Room, sometimes discussing English words from his dictionary and, sometimes, just sitting, in the silent contentment of friends who need no words. It was gorgeous.

The Prof and I

The Prof and I

To honour that  long-ago time of  gorgeousness, and to acknowledge Bethan’s current day call to encourage us to live gorgeously in our bodies, ( and not merely comfortably and just so-so), here are some more  of my *being brave * photos of what  I will wear today:

the clothing, ( most of it gifted to me);

the accessories: the necklace;

the rings, the earrings and jewels for the wrists 🙂

Phew….so there you have it. Now I am off to flaunt (not)  my neat, tidy, plain and simple  gorgeousness at the supermarket; *ttfn* otherwise known as ta ta for now 🙂

© silkannthreades

Getting better with gifts

Today I delivered my first home-made Christmas gift; to the staff at the  veterinary practice who take care of Jack (and me) throughout the year, and have done so for all six years of Jack’s little  life.

So what, you may ask? Well, the ‘so what’ is that this is the first time, since the earthquakes, that I have had the energy, and the inclination, to make Christmas gifts for some of the many people in the  community who take good care of us throughout the year.

Although I had ‘ energy and inclination’ the baking process didn’t go as smoothly as I thought it would, because I foolishly chose to make a pre-earthquake Christmas favourite, raspberry and blueberry friands. It’s an  easy recipe, in normal circumstances,  but I didn’t expect that, half way through the mixing of the ingredients, I would burst in to tears, overwhelmed by memories of happier times   associated with these rich buttery delights. Never the less, I persevered and I was very pleased with the results and very pleased, too, that, after 3 years of non-friand-making,  I hadn’t lost my friand skills 🙂

What say you? Take a look….

Raspberry Friands

Raspberry and Blueberry Friands

The recipe I used (slightly modified by the addition of blueberries)

Raspberry Friands

Raspberry Friands

comes from Jo Seagar Cooks, published in 2006 by Random House.

Jo Seagar Cooks

Jo Seagar Cooks

Jo Seagar  is a New Zealand cooking personality who has a cookery school and cafe not far from Christchurch, in  Oxford , Canterbury. She is well known for her ‘easy peasy’ recipes and her  cooking motto, ‘ minimum effort for maximum effect’.  I like her style 🙂 !

And I particularly like these bright, forthright  words of hers from the introduction to her recipe book : ” I want you to put the flowers back on the table, think of the hen that laid your egg, and remember your mother and put on your apron – it’s not demeaning, it’s there to keep your clothes clean.”

I don’t think she is the sort to cry in to her friand batter ( I actually didn’t let tears drop in to the mixture, in case you are worrying about hygiene 😉 ) but one never knows; we all have our moments.

Here are a few more of mine; my better moments.

© silkannthreades

Gandhi Jayanti

In my garden there are native and exotic plants, long plants and short plants;

Choisya

Choisya

plants that are standard and non-standard; and some that are self-fertile and some that require cross-pollination. I have plants that are variegated, plants that are colourful

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

and plants that are plain. There are weeds, and refugees from other gardens, and some uninvited guests. Each plant has a unique history, a story to tell, and most contain, in their gene pool, the essence/quintessence of some far off land and ancient culture. There is no homogeneity in my garden, except at that most basic level of planthood; that  fundamental point, whatever it is, that makes them living, breathing plants and not living, breathing animals. Yet, despite the variety and complexity of my garden inhabitants, I find that, if I provide them with water and food and treat them equally with politeness and respect, mixed in with a little song and a few sweet nothings, they thrive. Yes,  even with the most basic of provisions, they thrive.  They don’t fight or squabble, put each other down, rip each other apart for competitive advantage or napalm each other.  They are a miracle of good neighbourliness and co-operative, companionable living, willing and eager to share their environment with birds and bees, wild life,  and humans, too.

The multi-dimensional, multi-cultural and peaceful nature of my garden, reminds me that this time, thirty-five years ago, I was preparing to start the Michaelmas Term at Oxford University. I was a  young seedling transplanted from a small island in the Pacific to one of the most wonderful cities in the world. I was about to flourish, and enjoy one of the best years of my life, within the nurturing environment of the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme.

For one academic year, I , along with several dozen others, from all curves of the world, lived and laughed and learned…. and, yes ,sometimes, drank too much and, sometimes, loved unwisely, and sometimes, cried.  We were a microcosm of the world; we were all faiths, all cultures, all social and political classes, all sizes and shapes and ages, and, as you can see from the photo, all hairstyles 🙂

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin (and I am very difficult to find in this photo)

Our common ground was in our education and our human-ness. We were nourished and cared for by the University, our daily needs provided for, and most of us were generously supported by that most British of  British institutions,   the British Council.  And, for  that, one, much too short, year, we were, despite our differences, the embodiment of good and peaceful co-existence; the way our world could be.

This post is written today in honour of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who was born on October 2nd, 1869.  Today is a national holiday in India. Worldwide, it is the UN International Day of Non-Violence.

http://www.un.org/en/events/nonviolenceday/index.shtml

to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak click here

Blossom in Peace

Blossom in Peace

For a good read on ‘things British Council’ and the mess of war and displacement, try Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Manning

Michaelmas 

is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and also denotes the first term of the academic year.

© silkannthreades

Garden in my Pocket

Most likely, the saying “A book is like a garden carried in the pocket” is well known to many. But I heard it for the first time this morning and fell in love with it immediately. The Garden in my Pocket at the moment is a magazine rather than a book. I am reading Oxford Today, (Michaelmas Term 2012) – Volume 25 No 1. The front cover features an elegant portrait of the remarkable Aung San Suu Kyi.  The caption reads, “Resilient in the Face of Adversity”. I like that; resilient in the face of adversity. And always with a flower or two in her hair.  That, perhaps, more than anything, during all her years of struggle, impressed her resilience and strength upon me. Imagine, being in the worst of circumstances and still remembering to put a flower in your hair and look serene. ♥

Other little seedlings now planted in my pocket garden thanks to  the magazine:

I discovered Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female barrister, (Somerville 1895) and one of many  famous Indian Oxonians;

And I learned about  Zuleika Dobson

and that the Oxford University Press provided the type for the text of the first Bhutanese passports. Apparently the OUP had a beautiful and elegant handset Tibetan type that was perfect  for the job. The magazine article describes it like “aubretia tumbling over a Cotswald wall”.  A type like tumbling aubretia; glorious description and what a beautiful type to have in a passport.

Small question? Does aubretia (or more correctly ’Aubrieta’) grow in Bhutan?  Possibly?

Another question; have you ever wondered what it might be like to have a real garden in your pocket? Try putting a sprig of rosemary, or lavender, or a rose, or all three in your pocket. For the sake of the washer-person in your life, don’t include any mud, caterpillars, slugs or aphids.