Thursday, 26 November 2015

My Adlestrop Moment

I was travelling in Somerset today and stopped at traffic lights on the edge of Taunton. Through the car window and above the sound of idling vehicles I heard a bird singing. A tiny robin sat in a silver birch caught in song. 

I wound down the window and listened to a voice pure and true. The lights changed and the traffic moved on. 

Edward Thomas wrote this poem so wonderful and poignant; I cannot begin to do justice to the layers of meaning. For me, this was a magical moment where I held my breath and knew kinship with a traveller a hundred years ago who listened to a blackbird while waiting for his train to move on.

This article may help with the context:

Yes, I remember Adlestrop -- 
The name, because one afternoon 
Of heat the express-train drew up there 
Unwontedly. It was late June. 

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 
No one left and no one came 
On the bare platform. What I saw 
Was Adlestrop -- only the name 

And willows, willow-herb, and grass, 
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 
No whit less still and lonely fair 
Than the high cloudlets in the sky. 

And for that minute a blackbird sang 
Close by, and round him, mistier, 
Farther and farther, all the birds 
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.


Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Being in the zone. Fully involved. Joy. Suspended existence. Any of these words/phrases resonate with you?  I'm talking about flow. 

I'm talking about a child rapt listening to a story, a fisherman deciding at which precise moment to cast his net, a cat watchful ready to pounce, a woman absorbed applying make-up...

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts the case in this TED talk and explains his own theory used in self-development, education and learning:

Not only the province of creatives, this state can be the stuff of everyday. Imagine the potential. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Weekend in Amsterdam 

Great to be in Amsterdam for the weekend; so much to see and do. I deliberately saved The Fault in Our Stars - John Green, to read on the trip, starting this YA masterpiece on the short flight from UK to Holland. During the three days of friendly Dutch hospitality, cafes, canals and bicycles I devoured the book. Delayed gratification, the sights and smells of such a vibrant city and the thoughtful poignant  love story between Hazel and Gus were a heady and potent mix eliciting a deep emotional response.
As the reader I chose to add the extra dimension of place to the reading experience.When 'Anne Frank House' was announced as a stop on the Number 13 tram I was literally transported to the scene where the young star-crossed lovers in the John Green novel also faced their random nemesis.
A couple of summers ago I re-read My Family and Other Animals - Gerald Durrell, in Corfu. The riotously funny read initiated a search for the strawberry-pink villa, a delight in the sun-ripened grapes, warm turquoise water and our own 'Spiro' the taxidriver.

Clearly, we don't have to read Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey among the magnificent ruins, but it's quite something when we do.