Inspiration, issues & comment

Focus – lessons from a vintage camera

FocusAt one point all my photos were taken with a vintage Pentax from the 1970’s.  It was on loan to me from a family member and when I bought a Nikon film SLR back in 2001, I handed the Pentax back, thinking I wouldn’t miss it now I had my shiny new camera.

How wrong I was.

I not only missed the feel and smell of the camera, the sound of the shutter, the thumb action of the manual wind.  But also the clarity of the photos.  The sharpness.  The colours.

I recently found out the camera was sold for $10 in a garage sale during a house move.  I inwardly cringed when I thought of it going to someone who may not have cherished it as much as I did.  Hopefully that was not the case.

At the time I persisted with my new camera, trying to get to grips with it and produce the quality of photos I was used to.  Somehow I never quite got the hang of it and it was eventually relegated to the back of the cupboard and replaced by a small digital camera (Sony Cybershot) and more recently a digital SLR (Nikon D3200).

It turns out I would have been better paying $10 to keep the Pentax rather than the $1,000 or so I shelled out for the shiny new SLR and zoom lens which I hardly used on account of the space it took up.  But that’s not really the point.  The point is that when I think about using the Pentax, what I really miss most of all is the moment of focus.

Yes, I know, I can use manual focus on a digital SLR too but for some reason it’s just not the same.  Why is that?  I think it may be something to do with the simplicity of the old Pentax.  It was so easy to focus yet if you messed it up it could ruin your shot.  There was something about those few seconds of holding ones breath, looking once more at the shot through the lens, and slowly getting the perfect focus before finally pressing down on the shutter button.

It’s all so easy nowadays, isn’t it?  Just stick the camera on autofocus and away you go.  Looking through the lens but at the same time not really looking.  You can take as many shots as you like until you get a good one.  It’s the same with computers, smartphones and social media where we are reading everything but not really reading anything at all.  How can we?  It’s impossible to take in all the information we are bombarded with.

Our focus has become splattered in a million directions and we, as a result, have become splattered in a million pieces.  Knowing a little about everything, doing a little of everything.  Without any real focus or depth.

Obviously some people have an amazing ability to focus and get things done.  Me?  Not so much.  Which is why I’m going back to basics and reminding myself of the vintage Pentax and the point of focus.  It never let me down when I was taking a photo.  Maybe it could help me now.

Pause.  Reflect.  Focus.  Act.

It’s time to turn off autofocus and see if I can make this my motto for 2015.

Oh, and if you know of a 1970’s Pentax that needs a good home, please give me a shout ♥

Inspiration, issues & comment

Wild thing I think I love you

Once wildLast year, rather than making new year resolutions I would doubtless break, I chose a word to live by.  That word was WILD.  I wanted to see more of my wild self, my wild soul, my true essence.  It was time to break down the barriers, let go of the layers and discover the wilder, freer version of myself that I knew existed somewhere deep inside.

Choosing a word to live by was a powerful process, so much more positive than the age-old tradition of resolutions which are usually forgotten and broken by February anyway, leaving us feeling once again like we have failed in some way.  This last year I would only have to ask “what would my wild self do now” and I would have the answer or direction I was seeking.  I’m sure the whole process was helped by spending most of the year in the wilds of France.  It was a year of letting go and peeling away the layers to see what lay beneath.

So did the wild woman show her face?  Yes, she did!  I felt my wildest truest self when I was walking barefoot, feeling the sun-warmed earth beneath my feet.  When I was chopping wood, swinging the axe and using my strength to provide fuel for the fire.  When I stood looking into the face of a young deer, the split-second before it barked a warning to the herd and sprang off.  When I was standing amongst the trees under an ice-cold shower washing off the sweat and dirt of the day.  When I was writing, taking photos, being creative.

Last year was a year of shedding skins and coming to gentle realisations.  The realisation that less is more.  Less material things, less commitments, less busyness, less interaction.  More nature, more time, more thoughts, more writing, more laughing, more knowing myself.

Was I scared when I set out on this journey of what I might find?  Hell, yes!  But I have realised that being scared is usually the start of something good, great even.  I’ve learned more about myself in these past twelve months than I have in years of distracting myself away from who I truly am.

I have learned that being wild is about letting go of who we think we are and embracing who we truly are.  It’s about trusting ourselves and not caring what anyone else thinks about us or what we are doing.  Refusing to give airtime to the naysayers and harbingers of doom.  They’re not my people.  Why should I care what they say?

It is about the importance of experience over material possessions.

It’s about digging deep and gently visiting the dark places in our minds with compassion and forgiveness.  This was maybe the hardest thing of all this year, but in shedding light on the darkness I have started to see myself differently.  I have stopped judging myself and have started accepting myself.

It’s about learning to see the passing years not as wasted dreams or time that has escaped, but as years of experience and a growing wisdom.  Learning to settle in our skin.

It is about bringing our soul, our personality and our true essence into our work and the way we live our lives. Standing in our power and daring to live the life we want to live, based on our own values and philosophy.

It’s about breaking the rules, breaking free and allowing ourselves to just be ♥

Inspiration, issues & comment

Calm amid the chaos

Calm in the chaosSo here we are on 21st December, the winter solstice and shortest day of 2014.  We’re drinking coffee and eating dark chocolate pretzels and I am sitting here on the sofa (that also doubles as the bed in our tiny studio) trying to find a moment of calm to gather my thoughts.  Running boy is in the kitchen, literally one metre to my right, cleaning and packing up.  The Sunday football is on the radio, the washing machine is whirring with a final wash and our suitcases and boxes lie open and half packed a couple of metres to my left.

We’re on the move again.  Today is our day for packing up and cleaning the tiny 26 square metres of space that has been our home for the past eleven and a half weeks.  Tomorrow we will drive to the bassin d’arcachon and unload and unpack into our next housesit, a cute wooden cottage of 60 square metres on the bay overlooking the oyster farms.  The following day we drive to the airport to fly back to the UK for a week or so of catching up with friends and family before returning on new year’s day to start our housesit proper.

It’s been an interesting time of late and has been a challenge to find calm amid the chaos, but we’re getting there and we’re moving forward in the right direction.

This is what I’ll be doing to re-energise as December and 2014 come to a close:

Some quiet journaling as I work my way through the Winter Joy Retreat

Quiet contemplation and thinking about how I want to feel as we move into 2015

Listening to this song and feeling festive

Watching this with my niece and nephew and singing along

Having a bath using this blend of essential oils

Spending time with family and friends enjoying long winter walks, cosy pubs, good food and laughs.

Wishing everyone a wonderful end to 2014 and a very happy new year – see you in 2015 ♥

Inspiration, issues & comment

Now what?


Our wonderful housesit in 110 acres of rolling French countryside has become a 26 square metre apartment on the ground floor of a busy Bordeaux street.  The earplugs are back in use and the rent per month is just under what we paid in bills for a whole year in our isolated farmhouse.

Certainly a shock to the system as well as the bank account.  We’ve had to leave half our stuff in storage at the farm just to fit into this tiny studio.

Oddly enough though I have slept better in the last week than I have in months despite the buses rumbling past at all hours of the night and early morning.  Maybe the anticipation of something is always more anxiety-fuelled than the actual act of doing.  Or maybe it’s the fact that there is so much to take in that I sleep like a baby once the evening rolls around.

Bordeaux is certainly a beautiful city to explore with its many cafe-filled squares and long river quays – perfect places for a little time out.  There’s so much going on with weekly markets and monthly events that I can’t see us getting bored here.  And that’s not to mention the coast and countryside around the city (think of all those vineyards!)

I haven’t made much headway on my list of things I planned to do in Bordeaux but that’s ok, there’s plenty of time.  I am enjoying the buzz of the city though and I have spotted a yoga studio, one of many (!), that I plan to take a class in next week.

All in all it’s a strange and uncertain time right now.  A change of season, a change of place, a change of scenery.  Most of the time I feel hopeful and happy to be here and then there are moments of blind panic and fear.  But I guess that’s the way the cookie crumbles.  I’m trying hard to just let the fear wash over me when it comes and then get on with the next task.  And I always have my essential oils for a little self-medication.

I will keep you updated with my Bordeaux life and my work here.  And in the meantime if you have any tips or insights about moving to a new city, let me have them in the comments ♥

Inspiration, issues & comment

September inspiration

September, a new month, the letting go of summer and the gentle ease into autumn.  This is one of my favourite times of the year and as I sit here by the open window feeling the slight chill of early morning, listening to the birds singing and the leaves rustling quietly on the trees, I know that I will soon be able to smell woodsmoke in the air, watch the greens of summer slowly fade, and dig out my warmer clothes in anticipation of long autumn walks……

I love the month of September, and this is what’s inspiring me this year:

  1. This view outside my open window ~ the perfect spot to watch the seasons change.View
  2. As this September is going to be a month of packing up I’ve also decided to make it a month of decluttering and downsizing.  I have moved so often in my adult life and it always feels like a headache.  It’s glaringly obvious that if I had less stuff moving would be way easier.  I don’t have a lot of stuff anyway but this month I’m really going for it and pushing for true minimalism with inspiration from Courtney Carver and her great blog be more with less
  3. In the same vein I’m getting great inspiration from two TINY HOUSE blogs: The simply named tiny house blog and Tammy Strobel’s blog Rowdy Kittens which is all about life in a tiny house.  I don’t know how tiny a house I could really live in but certainly if I had less stuff, I would need less space.  Simple!
  4. As well as decluttering my physical possessions I am also attempting to declutter my mind and am finding inspiration through Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now.  Instead of buying the actual book I decided to listen to him with an audiobook.  It’s another great way to free up space and I sometimes find the act of listening more useful when trying to absorb information.Audio
  5. Reading a great book at the moment.  Bought secondhand and gifted to me for my birthday, I am reading Anita Brookner’s Look at Me.  Last year (another birthday gift) I read Hotel du Lac which was equally as captivating.  The author had her first novel published at the age of 53 (great news for all those writers who are beating themselves up for not getting published YET).  You can find an interview with the author here and an article about her writing here.
  6. Last on my list of inspiration are my newly purchased butters ~ olive, mango, avocado and shea butter ~ which will each be finding their way into some luscious body butters and healing balms this month along with my home-grown Calendula and a sprinkling of essential oils.  Watch this space for more information on my handmade skincare products.

What’s inspiring you this September?

Inspiration, issues & comment, Nature, photography & France

Storm clouds and summer smoothies

It’s that kind of unsettled weather at the moment, hot one minute, stormy and raining the next, warm air mixed with a cool breeze.

I had breakfast on the front step today, breathing in the warm scent of summer, enjoying my banana and strawberry smoothie, watching the butterflies and bees around the huge pots of lavender that frame the front door, the stone steps warm beneath me.  It’s going to be so hard to leave here come the end of September. Storm clouds1

I suppose I feel a little like the weather, unsettled and unsure.  Looking forward to something new, new challenges and opportunities, but still it’s going to be hard to drag myself away from these open fields and this nature that has become part of who I am.  Or more likely the other way round.

It’s our last few days here for a little while.  Next week we head to the UK to catch up with family and friends and then on our return we have just a month to get ourselves sorted out and organised for our move to Bordeaux.  Nothing is planned yet, but that’s ok.  I feel strangely calm and serene about the move as if I’m harbouring some kind of deep-seated faith that all will be well.Smoothie1

Maybe “it is written” (have you seen Slumdog Millionaire?), maybe it is meant to be.  Is this how you feel when a decision is the right one?  Who knows?  But I’m certainly going to enjoy it while it lasts, this lack of worry and concern, and I’m going to enjoy the rest of our time here in this very special place.  I have no idea how things will look three months from now so I guess it’s time to just enjoy the ride and see where we end up.

What do you think?  Are things written in the stars?  If we follow our intuition and listen to our gut do we end up on the right path?  Or are we the ones who ultimately decide what our life’s path will be?  I’d love to know your thoughts ♥

Inspiration, issues & comment

20 things you might not know about me

Sitting here next to the open window, a breeze is blowing through the trees, could be a storm later.  I can hear Running Boy outside, playing the guitar, beautiful gentle notes, the wind as percussion…….

Been feeling a lot lately like I’m shedding layers of myself, shedding my skin, just like the snakes and lizards around here, getting to know myself a little more with each layer that peels away, finding out who I really am.20 things

In my quest to get to know myself a little more, I’d like in turn to share a little more about myself with you.  Here’s my very random list of things you might not know about me:

  1. Born and raised in the northwest of England, I’ve lived and worked in seven countries across three continents and have travelled to and visited thirty-three more ~ no wonder I find it hard to settle in one place!
  2. I worry ~ A LOT ~ about EVERYTHING (including worrying too much)
  3. I am far happier in wellington boots or birkenstocks than high heels
  4. I cry often, usually for no particular reason ~ it is ALWAYS solved by a cup of tea and a cuddle
  5. I used to keep my classmates at school amused by pulling stupid faces but I hardly ever said a word
  6. I’m not sure my university education has helped me at all ~ if I had the chance to do it all again I would go for something involving more colour and less words
  7. I have a terrible memory and constantly forget passwords, locking myself out of various accounts ~ for some reason I don’t have the same problem with numbers
  8. I have bitten my fingernails for as long as I can remember and still find it a struggle not to nibble
  9. I get really excited about good drying days and love to see clean washing blowing in the wind
  10. I hate ironing and will go out of my way to avoid it ~ I have probably ironed about three items in the last five years
  11. I am a minimalist at heart and spend most of my life trying to figure out how to get rid of stuff
  12. I have been told more times that I can remember that I have “an overactive imagination” ~ I sometimes wonder whether I should write crime fiction as I can’t help pondering various ingenious plots for killing off unwanted characters
  13. If I have nothing to say I generally say nothing ~ I’ve been called shy (at best) and aloof and standoffish (at worst) ~ I now recognise myself as just plain old introvert
  14. I don’t work to routines ~ EVER ~ I’m far more haphazard than that
  15. But I’m very particular about how my toast is buttered ~ always to the edges, and how my eggs are cooked ~ always runny
  16. Dancing makes me throw my head back and laugh out loud ~ I don’t do it often enough
  17. The older I get the less I care what anyone else thinks
  18. I eat almost everything but will draw the line at raisins ~ squashed flies anyone?
  19. I don’t read or watch the news ~ I’m far happier without it
  20. I oscillate between sleeping like I’m dead (yes, people have checked I’m still breathing) and being a full-on insomniac

So now I’ve spilled the beans all over myself, what about you?  Anything you’d like to share about yourself?  Hit reply and leave me a comment ♥