Monday, 19 December 2011
Sunday, 9 October 2011
courting flies under trees
the water's skin
the soon-coming snow
it'll all rest in.
To keep with the literary theme I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Alastair Vere Nicoll, author of Riding the Ice Winds, earlier this year. Alastair truly exemplifies where following your dreams - in his case across Antartica with sledges and kites, can lead. His book is both adventure story and a more personal journey as he is driven to cross this vast continent in time to be present at the birth of his first child. Honest and moving, both Mark and I enjoyed the book for different reasons, read it and let us know your responses. Alastair kindly agreed to an interview which I hope you'll enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed conducting.
the really big dream company: At the beginning of ‘Riding the Ice Wind’ you quote George Bernard Shaw
‘Life is not about finding yourself: it is about creating yourself’ Who, as a result of this adventure, is AVN?
Alastair Vere Nicoll: I think and hope that I’m still in construction. One of themes of the book is that once an undertaking is accomplished, life continues and the same challenges are still faced - in different ways - and so you have to continue working at becoming the person that you want to be. In that sense life is a journey – a journey to becoming you (and sometimes in the other direction). The evolution is scary but it’s also exciting as it means there’s always something ahead.
trbdc: One of life’s eternal struggles, and one that you faced frequently throughout your book, seems to be between the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘wants’. What words of wisdom would you offer to anyone who knew what they wanted to do but were constrained by doing what they felt they should do?
AVN: I always struggle to give advice. All I can say is what I experienced and allow people to decide if it resonates as everyone’s circumstances are different. I certainly don’t have it right.
The platitude is that you ‘should’ enact your dreams to make them real but the reality is much more complicated. Certain responsibilities can’t be shirked. We make promises in life and some of the richest decisions we make come from self-sacrifice and patience – particularly around rewarding relationships – and to do what you want without considering the consequences may actually be self-defeating. Having said that, to continually sublimate your deepest desires is a form of martyrdom that is equally unsatisfying. The best thing for me is to confront, articulate and share what I ‘want’ and then strategise to achieve it to try to have the minimum effect on the ‘shoulds’. I’m not afraid of a circuitous route. Long term goals and plans, provided they are being actioned a step at a time - and not held as a mere pipe dream – are ok. It sounds abit trite but I’m a fan of writing down and sharing your 5yr, 10yr and whole of life plans with the key impacted parties.
trbdc: There is a marvellous moment where you describe an ‘instant(s) of magical intensity that make life worthwhile (and) wondered if I’d invoke this memory to inspire me at times in the future when I needed to draw strength from the memory of an uplifting experience’. Have you recalled this moment since? Does it work?
AVN: You asking the question has made me recall it - which I’ve enjoyed.
I’m afraid the response is a little like a sequence of Russian dolls, as the key difficulty is having the mental dexterity and the space and time in your life to remember to remember those moments! I’m not a meditator but I suspect that some of the benefits derived from meditating is to give yourself space to focus and recall these incredible moments that life has to offer which can be too rare among the drudgery.
A legitimate goal is to seek to populate one’s life with as many of those uplifting moments as you can, however the irony is that when you look you don’t find – the moments just arrive unexpectedly, like a flower out of waste.
Trbdc: You talk about getting out of a rut by feeling ‘compelled to dangle every so often by a thin chord above a raging torrent – literally and metaphorically’.
Are you dangling by ‘a thin chord above any raging torrents – literally (or) metaphorically’ at the moment or do you plan to do so in the near future?
AVN: Yes! But not in a way that I had anticipated. I started a business nearly four years ago (and the last few years has been an interesting time for a start up....) building renewable energy plants in emerging markets (– including small run-of-river hydros in the Himalayas, so I guess you could say I’m literally chasing the raging torrent) but it has thrown up, and continues to throw up, some moments when I have to check the chord is properly fastened....
Trbdc: Through the book you explore notions of reality and finding our true selves rather than living in a world where ‘we are being increasingly alienated from our original selves’. Have you any tips for living a more authentic life?
AVN: I’m not there yet – I should be getting tips rather than giving.
I struggle with getting balance as I can get too tied up in new projects which means I’m living in the ‘never-never’, the ‘one-day-maybe’ world too much rather than actually living: another theme of my book. I think projects and plans are utterly essential and unless you really commit to them they don’t happen but John Lennon’s position on life and plans is wholly true and you have to remember to spare some time for just being and that generally means simplifying and deriving enjoyment from the little interactions. I remember recently being impressed by a Barista who served coffee with a huge smile on his face and it was infectious and it made me want to smile more. Doing anything calmly, with friendliness and stopping to engage and observe delivers an authentic life without being defined by physical achievement.
Trbdc: What does the phrase ‘follow your dream’ mean to you?
AVN: A dream needn’t be one thing, it can be just be being who and what you want to be rather than achieving a particular goal. Achieving a goal leaves an emptiness after it. You’re continually pursuing and never in possession. Even the phrase ‘follow your dream’ suggests perpetual unfulfillment, like a hare chasing a stuffed rabbit that it never catches. Perhaps it should be ‘leading your dream’: positively inventing what you want to do (and that’s yours not someone else’s for you), creating yourself in a way that means you can fulfil it and then actively taking it on and making it happen, like a leader not a passive follower. As I’m motivated by challenges, the truest challenge for me is enjoying the journey and all the little moments along the way not just the instant, the ‘orgasm’, of accomplishment.... and of course the dreaming itself can be fun.
Trbdc: What are the elements of your perfect day?
AVN: I could get truly absurd for the really perfect day so I’ll restrict to the perfect normal day; it would be made up of each of the following in no particular order. It all sounds a bit twee but I think right (for me)...;
• Some exercise – it makes me feel alive, healthy and unstressed and allows me to truly indulge the bullet below
• Incredible but simple food – I’m an unashamed glutton and love meal times both for the food for the conviviality and it’s a time I most associate with family
• A moment of nature – for me an incredible, sparse immense panorama is the most uplifting – but it could be as simple as five minutes in a nook in the garden with a coffee just seeing something beautiful
• A moment of love or fellowship – a greeting from a child that’s missed you, a hug, a shared moment
• Indulging the mind – reading a book, watching a good film, reading an interesting article, having an original thought that strikes a chord, accomplishing some difficult work satisfactorily.
If you would like to find out more, visit http://www.ridingtheicewind.com/
Saturday, 17 September 2011
Monday, 22 August 2011
The six new arrivals were bought at Marcigny market this morning and after much deliberation and debate we decided to name them Arizona, Zaphyra, Daisy, Plum, Maddie and Lou (don't ask!).
Yay, poached egg on toast for breakfast tomorrow.
Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Our neighbour's donkey has just had a baby that they've named Bonbon. I went over to visit with my niece and Marks son.
At the end of the day we enjoy having supper al fresco. Eddie cat is never far away waiting for his share of tasty treats.
Sunday, 24 July 2011
Wednesday, 13 July 2011
Monday, 13 June 2011
A nicer bunch of people you couldn't hope to meet. As the evening wore on more and more people wanted to try out their English on us and we were soon making friends left, right and centre. Pit Bull, a 'non standard' Harley rider from the Alsace, regaled us with tales of derring do which often concluded with the phrase 'kiss my wheel'. As the hostess fretted about the lack of salad, Mark turned to me and whispered that everyone seemed to be doing very well thank you, on the great platters of meat that weighed down the trestle tables.
We needed to be up early the next day to check out the chickens at louhans market. Mark has built the best chicken house in the world and now the search for it's lucky inhabitants begins. Confronted by thousands of feathered friends, hundreds of breeders and hoards of crowds, we felt quite overwhelmed. I was distracted by the rabbits and goats and by a stall with a variety of animals, all in miniature. We soon got into the swing of asking about egg production, laying life expectancy, food and preferred conditions and found we agreed on what makes a good looking chicken. we've narrowed our list of potential new family members down to 6 breeds and will make our final selection in August.
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Warm the sugar and water in a large pan until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Add the flower heads and bring to the boil again then remove from the heat. Stir in your remaining ingredients and leave this mixture to steep for 24 hours in a cool place whilst you enjoy yourself doing something that makes you feel glad to be alive.
Strain the liquid into bottles or jars that can be well sealed. The cordial will keep for up to a year if placed in the freezer or 2 months in the fridge.
Sunday, 15 May 2011
It's true of a lot of us that when you live somewhere amazing, you rarely actually go and visit all that the area has to offer. Two of our first time visits I'll share with you now. Not 15 minutes from our front door is the lovely Chateau de Dree. We pitched up on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon and whilst the Mums sat in the rose garden soaking up the rays, Mark, his Dad, Adam and I explored the 17th century house. A picture of Queen victoria adorned the entrance hall so we felt right at home and we marvelled at the collection of chamber pots, bathroom (complete with six baths of varying size) and views from the windows.
Sunday, 27 February 2011
Gardening is an often used metaphor when carrying out projects or realising dreams and I don't want to live a cliched life, yet, when I am outside in this wonderful place, tending my garden and growing my business merge seemlessly into one another.
Photos: Our first daffodils, we know Spring is around the corner when the violettes appear on the lawn, primroses poking through the fallen leaves
Tuesday, 18 January 2011
Blood Quest France
Fear gripped her, though she remained resolute. Premeditated blood letting was not her thing. The seed had been planted, had germinated over thirty six hours and the harvest was fast approaching.
Too late to back out. the door gaped open sucking her in.
'Master your breathing. Conquer your fear'.
Deliverance served up without ritual sacrifice- YOU CANNOT GIVE BLOOD IF YOU HAVE LIVED IN THE UNITED KINGDOM BETWEEN 1980 AND 1986.
Saved by the deathly shadow of mad cow disease.
(The cow pictured does not have, nor has she ever had, BSE).
Two days later though and now we're potentially in demand. I receive an email from someone claiming to be 'a film production designer' looking to shoot his graduation film in France.
The film was to be a wonderful coming of age story about an English kid spending a day with his chic and sexy teacher on a french exchange trip. He finds himself at a heated family lunch with helpings of comedy and tragedy and a need to impress. With his mum constantly phoning to check up, this is not going to be an easy day but he'll certainly learn a few things about life, love and language... To cut a long email short, the production team fancied the look of this place and wondered whether we'd be interested in being part of the operation. Call me suspicious but my initial reaction was 'you're not using my home to shoot soft porn movies!!' The more rational part of me then decided to do a spot of research and discovered that the whole thing was quite legitimate. The next day i received a phone call from the producer and then began my bid to create a thriving film industry here in Montmelard. Friends offered rooms to put up film crew and stars and I waxed lyrical about what this area has to offer. we waited on tenter hooks until yesterday when we were informed that financial constraints had knocked us out of the running. Dissapointed but not discouraged we took solace from the director's words - 'I will save your contact and maybe I'll call when the next film with a bigger budget comes around'. we'll be ready and waiting!!