let’s call her Sue

I’ve always written some sort of New Year message for my blog, usually a retrospective of the year with a nod to the new one. This time though, I want to share something a bit different with you.

I want to tell you a story of a woman – let’s call her Sue. She lives in a nice enough home with her reasonably handsome husband and healthily opinionated children. She has had a fulfilling career, enjoys her sociable metropolitan life and – for the most part – looks and feels pretty damn good.

But Sue’s biggest issue is that she grew up with the promise that this world we live in was her oyster. Her parents and teachers applauded her, opened doors for her and generally made her feel that almost anything she wanted to achieve was possible. And this really is THE issue. Always looking for that next mountain to climb or that sea to sail, she ignored any of those complexities inside her head. Questions of existence, getting to know her true self and understanding the power of thought, feeling and how they connect to our experiences were all left unanswered.

And because today – more than ever – the digital landscape is placing so much emphasis on promoting the notion of each of us individuals as brands, this spells trouble. It’s so obvious (plus extremely concerning) that social media has fundamentally changed the way we are all growing, especially for those who have economic resources. This focus on individualism – making it, selling it, being the best, having the best – quite frankly, life has become one big performance. And the irony in all this is that I keep hearing just how empty it is making others feel.

On the surface, Sue feels just fine. Deep down, she and most of us digital natives have a danger of feeling empty.

So while I wish you all, my readers, Happy New Year, I just wanted to say – enjoy your time online but do make sure it isn’t consuming you. In contrast, by consuming something altogether different, you might just find that pearl.

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but… why?

On Monday a number of us lost a friend. On Tuesday a few hundred of us buried him. And every day since I have been thinking of him, his premature exit and the beautiful humans he has left behind.

And I’m writing this down because none of it makes any sense.

Our friend was funny and kind and passionate and silly. Just the sort of extra we need on our stage. But citing the words: cruel, hideous, desperate, wrong won’t bring him back… to enjoy his company just one last time.

And I’m writing this down because none of it makes any sense.

His beautiful wife is also our dear friend. Drawing on her inner-most-strength, she will build herself up again. And we will all be here to carry and support her. She will live on for him and parent for him and do the very best she possibly can, without him.

But I do ask why. Why didn’t I see our friend more often? Why did he have to go? Why are any of us here and then quite­ suddenly not here any more?

And I’m writing this down because none of it makes any sense.

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the story of the eggs

I was shooting a food demonstration this morning and these egg shells reminded me of a short story I had once read (and loved).



The story was about a girl who was moaning away to her father that her life was harder than she had expected it would be. Her father, a chef, took her into his kitchen, filled three pots with water and placed each of them on the fire.

Once the water in the pots was boiling, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second and ground coffee beans in the third. He then let them boil, without saying a word to his daughter.

His daughter just sat and watched.

After 20 minutes her father removed the pots from the fire. The cooked potatoes were put in one bowl, the eggs in another and he ladled the coffee into a cup.

Turning to his daughter he asked, ‘What do you see?’

‘Potatoes, eggs and coffee,’ she answered, somewhat confused.

‘Look closer,’ he responded ‘and touch those potatoes. They are soft. Now take one of the eggs and try and break it.’

Finally her father asked her to sip the strong, rich coffee.

‘What does this mean, Father?’ she asked.

He explained that the potatoes, eggs and coffee beans had faced adversity in the boiling water and yet each one had reacted differently.

And that’s exactly what I remembered when I saw those egg shells this morning. We all know that life is full of adversity. Things happen to us and to those we love. What’s crucial is how we choose to react to it and in fact what we make of it. The egg shells – in one state – fragile and – in another – ready to adjust and re-form as something a little more impressive.

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a picture epidemic; but why?

I’ve always been people obsessed. Creeping down the stairs as a child in PJs trying to eavesdrop on fascinating dinner parties, loitering during His phone conversations with just about anybody and please don’t get me started my  spy-in-a-cafe habit… it’s a proper pastime.

Curious – yes – damn right nosey – probably – but I suppose with this people fascination, it’s no surprise that I’m a behind-the-lens sort of voyeur. My only rule is that the picture and the story it tells must be honest and  so any non-genuine posing or false-memory making is absolutely left on the cutting floor.

my Olympus Pen F with 12mm lens

my Olympus Pen F with 12mm lens

Basically, I hold up my hands to these traits (and more)  but do limit my flicking (twice daily / not hourly) through Instagram and – while doing so –  started to wonder where so many of us derive this intense joy of snapping, editing and posting. So (being nosey, obvs.) I asked my insta-feed for their thoughts – go and have a look….

Questioning my own snapping/posting habit, I’ve found that it’s my very real fear of time passing – unaccounted for and all too quickly – which feels most prevalent.   Moments are fleeting and a photograph (either online or in print) stops and preserves that moment… every single time. And, without sounding overly ‘mindful’ here, the image we take is often a reminder of what we need to be thankful of.  That sunny day.  Those dirty boots.  This hilarious child. It makes us stop and stare and feel.

It’s worth acknowledging too that the mundane is every bit as picture-worthy as the special occasion and by looking through the viewfinder , you are looking in a totally different way. Often running out of the door at speed, I grab my keys, my bag worn crossways and my treasured Olympus Pen F in hand. Simply because, while out and about, I don’t know what (or how much) I might want to look at differently.

Finally, images quite literally TRANSPORT me – and you – to a different time and place. To a mood and a moment. And I find we need that transportation more than we realise.

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