Remembrance and reconciliation at Amiens Cathedral

The cathedral at Amiens is a soaring Gothic monument that was once a place of pilgrimage.

In the early 13th century, it was thought to house the skull of St John the Baptist. In 1218, a lightning strike of biblical proportions destroyed both church and contents. The construction of a new church began in 1220. Despite fire, faulty engineering, revolution and two world wars, it has survived intact for the past 800 years.

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On the road to becoming an author: avoid the caravans

The transition from writer to author is strewn with rejection emails.

Being proactive, resilient and willing to learn from your mistakes will serve you well on your path towards publication. A healthy dose of optimism doesn’t hurt either. I have just completed my first career plan at an age when some of my friends are considering retirement. Here I am, sweating on my CV, while they are swanning around in their four-wheel drives with golf sticks in the boot and a caravan attached. How I pity them.

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Photo by Benjamin Zanatta on Unsplash

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Humility: recognising your strengths as well as your weaknesses

I’ve never been good at geography.

I only know where a country is if I’m planning to visit it, and I retain the information for about five minutes. My friend Megan got top marks in geography at university. Twice. She can yack on for hours about cloud formations and the movement of sand along a shore. I try not to let my eyes glaze over. I like to gaze skywards as much as the next person – especially if the clouds are pink and fluffy and maybe have cute little sunbeams emanating from them – but I don’t really care if they’re cirrus or cumulonimbus.

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Crushed raspberry moments: Giving yourself permission to shine

The last time I was house sitting in this rural pocket of Normandy, it was three years ago in the height of summer.

The raspberry canes in the vegetable patch yielded masses of delicious berries from July through to September. I would come up from the garden with my mouth and fingers stained deep crimson – ‘crushed raspberry’ – and my bowl full to overflowing with garden produce.

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Time out: Fitting your own oxygen mask before assisting others

I’m sitting in a cafe in Montmartre.

From my table at the window I look out at a Sunday market in the tiny Place Lino Ventura. A full length mirror is placed outside a clothes stall directly in my line of vision. A middle aged woman trying on a leopardskin coat transforms before my eyes. She swings it this way and that, coming alive in front of the looking glass. She isn’t thinking about the shopping, the cooking or the week ahead. She is suddenly radiant in the light Parisian drizzle, imagining  where such a coat might take her.

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Coffee: the weak, the white and the extra hot

My father used to like his hot drinks hot and his cold drinks cold.

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Photo by Dave Michuda on Unsplash

He preferred his soup to be at palate-blistering temperatures well beyond normal human tolerance. But that was the way he liked it and that was the way it was served up to him. No skin off anyone’s nose – the roof of Dad’s mouth was the only potential victim here.

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