Ticking the box

by Amanda Harding


I managed to squeeze in the Félix Valloton exhibit at the Grand Palais this morning. It closes in a couple of days so I'm feeling very pleased with myself. I'd set myself the challenge and have now "done the Valloton"; I've ticked that box and can cross it off the list.

How educative, spiritual and emotionally enhancing an experience it was (it was patchy, including some brilliant wood cuts and extraordinary depiction of lonesome powerful nude women, tremendous colours and light but much just disappointing) is possibly not important, at least not for this blog. More pertinent here is the notion of expectation,  (self) image and pressure. What goes on the list and how much do we do these things because we feel we should? What rules are we following? How much are we formatted by our own perceptions of what other think of us, what is "good" for us, what will enhance our image?

La Blanche et La Noire, Félix Valloton, 1913

La Blanche et La Noire, Félix Valloton, 1913

This requirement to earn (brownie) points (or even survive in our society) extends from everyday decisions of what we wear, how we talk, walk, where we go, what we eat, etc. Each decision obeys a series of codes that communicate to others who we are, what we feel, where we come from and where we're going. The Big Brother we fear as an institutional structure supported by CCTV cameras on every street corner is in fact an internalized camera orientating our decisions to reflect society's requirements.  

At times the urge to rebel. To break out of the mould and live on the margins. Hardly sustainable, especially if you (and definitely me) have ambitions to sit whole heartedly in the bosom of our society, best positioned to enable change and influence the very rules that dictate our decisions.

These reflections hit me not as you'd expect, taking in a turn-of-the-century painter who refused to fit in with the artistic schools of the day. Valloton was known by his contemporaries as the "Stranger" or "l'Etranger".

These sentiments have been creeping up. For years I've battled against the tick-box mentality of adding gender to development, tokenistically integrating participatory methodologies, mechanically applying human rights based approaches, pulling indicators down from a menu of options, or filling in the notorious boxes of much loved log frames. I even named a review undertaken for one of UNICEF’s regional offices in 2009, “Moving beyond ticking the box … let’s walk the talk”. Not sure how well that went down! I’ve advocated for getting behind the words, avoiding arguments around semantics and reaching for common understandings, for embracing the tricky questions and internalising the values and principles we tend to impose on others.  

A rule lover I've also rebelled: against dress codes – why can’t I nip down to my local boulangerie for a couple of croissants on a Sunday morning dressed in my jogging pants; against social norms -  I’ve never been tempted to join the fashionable smokers in Paris; against gender stereotypes - I’ve always been ready to sit down and chat about the rain, war and price of camel meat with a group of Somali elders; and against family convention - engaging in heated conversation on the pros and cons of headscarves with my sparkly, bright Kurdish nieces in their Damascus flat. My kids are embarrassed that not only do I talk to strangers but invariably share the “deep and meaningful” on the taxi trip to the airport. They want to hurry me on just when I’m enjoying taking the time to share, to learn and move beyond the cultural short cuts that actually stop us short, that short change us.

Where does this leave me? Still delighting in the exhibition experience, reassured to cross off as “done” today’s blog post from the list, determined to acknowledge the conventions and social rules, to respect them when appropriate but also to know when to cross the line, take a risk and imperatively take the time. 


Catching up on the Change Conversation

by Amanda Harding


Short blog break from my side and I noted the silence from the anglophones overwhelmed by Akil's blogpost last week. 

In the meantime, lots of choice of subjects given the 2014 back to school excitement here in France and beyond:

- scandal with our Presidency who has found no better distraction from his disastrous handling of the French economy than to sneak down the road in the middle of the night and knock on the first door to hand. The President ordinaire has turned out to be more ordinaire than we could have dreamed of.

 

 

hate-speech-is-not-free-speech.jpg

- the President's escapades have also brilliantly displaced Dieudonné from the news though the damage is done with the birth of a new-look racism and anti-semitism and both discourse and gesture comfortably  normalized among a young generation of second generation immigrant families (more to come on this). Do I don't I, do I don't I - give airtime to a man that makes my blood run cold?

- further afield and the big man in Israeli power, politics and terror has left us. Some mistakingly thought this tragic event took place eight years ago, but no, we needed eight years to prepare the invitations for a State funeral taking place today (more to come on the remaining global leaders we thought long gone but actually taking a long nap).

- my personal contemplation continues, trying to unpick this idea of a "change conversation" but also astonished by the plethora of blogs (competing with my own and yes, I flatter myself here), all more technical than the next, reinforcing the race to be more expert than the next, proposing the latest conceptual framework, taking on the complications of complexity theory and innovation systems, results based management and learning systems, drawing up the latest diagrams for the BRICs and now the MINTs (great BBC World Service documentary), hopping between agents and agency, scale and scandal, resilience and reality. 

In an effort to keep this blog short given admissions (off line unfortunately) of limited attention spans, busy schedules and the necessity to read on-line, on-phone (my eyes are much too old to even attempt such a feat) I can admit to increasing clarity on my current direction: we're definitely talking change conversations. Positive, constructive and creative; fun, insightful and visionary. A conversation that rubs out the lines between the professional and the private, the expert and the layman and assembles in a live, rambling, intricate form that moves us collectively from where we are into wider, brighter spaces.


Question d'honneur

by Amanda Harding


Very excited to introduce first guest blog by none other than Akil Marceau:

« Question d’honneur ! » :

En sortant de la salle de Gym ce matin, je rejoins Amanda au Café du coin pour un café au zinc. Après notre brève cérémonie de Salamalec, résumée en l’occurrence à un bec ou bécot, s’il l’on veut. J’entends la personne d’à côté dire à son acolyte, qui sirotait avec lui leur café-calva matinal de rigueur,  « Parole d’honneur je finirai mon chantier avant toi !! ».

L'heure de l'aperitif dans un cafe de la rue de Traktir dans les quartiers chics parisiens (Auteuil), Sem, 1920s

L'heure de l'aperitif dans un cafe de la rue de Traktir dans les quartiers chics parisiens (Auteuil), Sem, 1920s

Le plombier accoudé au zinc affichait une fierté toute particulière, bombant le torse, articulant bien et presque criant le mot « honneur ! ». Mais sentant que son ami prenait un peu mal cet affront, le plombier lui demande de l’excuser et prend un air franchement gamin, embrasse son ami, lui fait une sincère accolade et lui offre son café-calva.

J’ai  trouvé ce geste du plombier plein de noblesse et de finesse envers un ami se sentant blessé.u

A 24 heures d’intervalle :

Acte 1- Une amie m’appelle pour trouver une interprète pour une femme qui a fui sa famille à Paris et qu’elle cache pour une histoire de « crime d’honneur ».

Acte 2- Une info sur la télé kurde parle d’une fille réfugiée kurde syrienne de 16 ans violée par six hommes à Erbil. Le mot « honneur » est cité une bonne dizaine de fois. Tout cela me renvoie à un autre « crime d’honneur » dont j’ai été témoin malgré moi, dans une autre vie, à Alep.

Le passé est toujours à nos trousses.

The Scream, Evard Munch, 1893

The Scream, Evard Munch, 1893

Acte 3- Saher avait deux trois ans de plus que moi et moi, je devais avoir 13 – 14 ans. Le père de Saher, balayeur, mais propre sur lui, toujours bien habillé, devait avoir exercé un autre métier, de rang bien supérieur avant de succomber dans le « déshonneur » et devenir balayeur. Nos rues étaient, néanmoins, bien propres grâce à lui. Il exerçait son métier avec beaucoup d’assiduité et tenait à ce qu’il soit bien vu par sa hiérarchie. C’était une « question d’honneur ».  Il était, pourtant, comme beaucoup de Syriens, un bon millier de fois « déshonoré » dans sa vie. Lui, plus que les autres. Il ramassait, au moins huit heures par jour, les ordures ménagères des sous-citoyens « déshonorés » par une dictature bassiste, maître dans l’art de « déshonneur» de ses propres sous-citoyens et des citoyens des pays voisins si les circonstances l’exigeaient. Ce père-balayeur d’une fille unique tenait à laver son « honneur». Il n’a pas demandé sa fille en duel comme un soldat au moyen âge pour laver son « honneur » après l’affront subi. L’affront subi : c’était que, pour fuir la violence familiale, Saher avait fait une fugue et s’était engagée dans l’armée. Quelques mois après elle était tombée enceinte. Elle a troqué la peste familiale conte le choléra du régime. Le père n’a pas osé s’en prendre au régime, bien évidement. Son « honneur » était sali : Saher violée. Tout le quartier, la Charia exigeaient une sentence. La sentence tombe vite : Saher assassinée par un gros couteau de cuisine.  « L’honneur » de la famille est lavé. Le balayeur est gratifié par le quartier, la Charia et le régime.

J’ai pleuré toute la journée ce jour-là. La soirée aussi.

Dans les pays du Sud, en particulier au Moyen-Orient, où hommes et femmes sont mal-lotis par la nature (sécheresse ou inondations), par les régimes souvent autoritaires et dictatoriaux, par la tradition et les lois religieuses archaïques, la question « d’honneur » a une importance toute particulière. Et c’est la femme qui paie souvent le prix de tous ces malheurs. Toutes ces souffrances. On enferme, on bâillonne, on assassine, on immole la femme sous le prétexte biblique et coranique qu’elle est « sortie d’une côte d’Adam ». Aujourd’hui , en Syrie, livrée à une guerre civile, les soldats du régime violent les femmes dans les zones des insurgés pour les « déshonorer » encore plus. Dans les zones insoumises, au nom d’une certaine conception de la loi islamique rendant légitime « une fornication djihadiste » pour une période limitée, les djihadistes de tous poils venus du monde entier s’offrent des femmes soumises, conquises. Ces zones insoumises encerclées par l’armée deviennent ainsi « des maisons closes » halal, des bordels kasher !

Acte- 4 : Etymologie du mot « honneur » : du mot latin honos, honoris « honneur rendu aux dieux ». Au moyen-âge c’est un titre donné par un suzerain à ses hommes. « Honneurs militaires, honneurs funèbres.. ». Pour déshonorer Dreyfus, un soldat de grade inférieur brise l’épée du capitaine sur ses genoux dans la cour des invalides. De nos jours, on gratifie quelqu’un d’un diplôme d’honneur, d’une médaille d’honneur ou d’une légion d’honneur.

Acte 5- : Question de définition : Je n’ai pas de compte twitter, ni facebook. Je ne tiens pas un blog non plus.

Je ne me sens nullement « déshonoré » pour autant ! La notion d’honneur peut avoir de nouvelles interprétations et tournures, par les temps qui courent.

 

 


Playing Truant

by Amanda Harding


Astonishing visit to the Centre Pompidou today. On lots of levels. First, the novelty of taking in an exhibit on a Wednesday morning mid-winter. I’m playing truant. There’s no one here.

These initial thoughts are quickly displaced by the pleasures, amazement and wonder at such extraordinary creation – more so when taken in side-by-side, jostling the senses for space, and then as I adjust, calmly welcoming me. I'm starting to get a better idea of what juxtaposition really means.

Skunder Boghassian, 2010

Skunder Boghassian, 2010

Multiple Modernities – the Centre Pompidou’s relatively new hanging of its permanent collection up on the 5th floor – takes in a global perspective of 20th century art, giving a special place to women artists.  Lots of Russian and East European, lots of Latino artists, some Asian and an "modern" African room that left me speechless. Surprisingly little from the French – which must be a disappointment to the tourists. They need signposting to the Musée d’Orsay.

In every room artists are quoted on the clean white walls and occasional soundtracks accompany specific pieces. Mesmerizing.

As fascinating as ever is the people watching.

A young guide, of course pretty, blond, fluid and precise. Her public, none younger than 50 years and many a good few years older, are mostly women, grey-haired, ardent. They nod, take notes, remain highly focused. Her male admirers, less numerous but attentive to every gesture of our guide’s elegant hands pointing out the sensual bodies of the Blau Reiter, aglow when she makes a small grimace finding her words to describe this pre-war legacy.

And this is just the first room. We’re warming up!

Sonia Delaunay seen against Wassily Kandinsky. Colours startling. Lines defined. Semi-defined. Sparkling.

I'm surprised by a Man Ray in tapestry form only to be reassured by Chagall and Picasso familiar in their nudes, wedding finery, their fantasies, their dreams and their threats of horror.

Section from triptych Red with Red, Bridget Riley, 2010

Section from triptych Red with Red, Bridget Riley, 2010

A floor down and it’s the contemporary pieces. These leave me baffled, looking at my watch eager to leave and breathe the cranky Parisien morning. Bridget Riley saves the day with a glorious piece bathed in sunlight far from her formal black, white and greys arranged in migraine enhancing perspective. Here she dances in exotic light pulling you in through her laughter and warmth. As Picasso and Matisse stand so brilliantly tall on the floor above, Riley and Rothko lead the way for younger generations who, despite their noise, remain timid, testing their voices, apparently impervious to their collective heritage.

I leave this now ageless wacky building heading for a café thoroughly energized and more committed than ever to enable the meeting of the playful and creative, the aesthetic and sensorially shocking with the genuine transformation of our global communities. 

 

 

 

 


Going Public. Just how personal and intimate?

by Amanda Harding


 i've clearly been drifting. No blog post for days. And now a wake up call the ephemeral nature of this tool - a careless "confirm" and its gone. I've been at this for hours ... What remains in my head is a host of unconnected words, some conviction that the earlier version of today's musings was utterly brilliant, complete conviction that I'm technically challenged and acceptance that this will be a post with no fancy images. Amazing how temporary my capacity really is.

Now the mind is really focused. No more back-to-school post holidays sludge. No more, the month's sabbatical was always going to be an ideal only to be swept away by the first request to finish, comment, add, edit, initiative, contribute … No more easily flattering as the work is so very very important and there I am genuinely affirming my willingness to pick up the bits and pieces left over from 2013.

The subject at hand. How personal should/can I allow myself to be in the public conversation? How intimate without crossing over to the embarrassing and self-indulgent? Do I bear my soul? Do I stay on the side of journalistic seduction but keep a safe distance from the inner-conundrums of self-obsessed change artist?

We've been telling stories for centuries. Across cultures and continents, across religions and regimes, across peoples and personalities. The best stories soften us up, pulling us into the mixing bowl of emotions, relying on our sense of universal morality, love of suspense, surprise at love and finally, out of no-where, hitting us with the big message that resonates beyond the personal and brings us vibrant values, philosophical clarity, ethical extremism, political punches. We take on some, leave others but continue to lap up the stories.

Treading the line between the introspective naval gazing inappropriately laid out in public and the personal experience that sheds light on wider, deeper and innovative thinking is terribly tricky.

Just recently I was extremely privileged to spend a week in South Africa with a  group of astonishing and wonderful people from across the region brought together as experts on political reform moving from exclusion to inclusion (see here for some insight). Through the week we improvised a dance that had us shifting from the intensely private and personal to the technical ins and outs of constitutional reform and international human rights accountability mechanisms. We sang, mimed and painted our faces, we systematically and rigorously mapped our collective knowledge and documented our strategies. We listened so intently to each other creating elements for change that now depend on both the energy of the individual but also the collective.

I will continue to tell my story. I will try to keep my story true, pertinent, a story that moves through and beyond who I am and what I can be.

 

 

 


New Year conversation fillers

by Amanda Harding


Entering into 2014 feeling a rise of expectations. Around me conviction that 2014 will be nothing like 2013 - what ever that means. It will be better, has to be better. Time to break out of the Depression. Again, I'm never sure if this refers to my depressive state or the state of the French economy.

Substitute French for UK economy and you can even start to (make) believe that the tide is turning. House prices are rising, unemployment is down, your neighbor's forked out five hundred quid for each of his children's Christmas presents … As long as we don't look too closely and I don't get going on the messy nature (see last blog) of our global community where inequities grow, injustice is rife and our planet is over-heating (if only, wet, cold and grey here in central middle-of-no where rural France) helped by my daughter missing the recycling bag and chucking the OJ carton into the general rubbish.

Out with the old, in with the new.

This linear thinking just doesn't fly with me though I'm sorely tempted. Proof of temptation includes:

new-years-resolutions.jpg

1. Killer hill run by 10 am on 1 January. Check.

2. Smiles and sweetness enrobed in new-look patience as daughters press the old 2013 buttons. Check. (Will try and be more honest in all future blogs).

3. Clearing the work decks and putting in six hours at the computer yesterday while still promising a January sabbatical (explains poor blog record).

4. Brilliant new email address, major symbol of personal determination and commitment (yet to publicize or even work out how to switch, keep old addresses alive, not create confusion and avoid electronic schizophrenia).

Much, much better than mine are the "new year resolutions" on a US Government website, each with a (government department) link to a self-help guide to quit smoking, recycle you waste, get fit, help others, manage your debt, and many more. The way to go!

More problematic than the good intentions which are nice, reassuring and rarely actioned, is when resolution turns to revolution. When, quite literally, we set ourselves up with manifestos that declare a new world order as from 1 January. We kid ourselves that we can sweep out all that has gone before, and just as any Prime Minister or President, CEO or Headteacher, what has gone is by definition "bad" and what will come is "good".

Yet looking back not only over the past twelve months, but taking the emotional risk to delve into the layers of exchange and sharing, the intricacies of human colour and light, the emotionally loud and thundering mountains that have been climbed and the free-falling that has terrified and exhilarated, only to land surer footed then ever before, the richness of what is lived can only be wondered at. No longer sharp and cynical, nor naive and spookily spiritual, the "looking back" begins to take the significance that our new year conversation fillers so often miss.

freefalling.jpg

I begin 2014 massively thankful to have lived through, loved through and survived 2013. I'm confident that there I have much more flying to do, new acrobatics to learn with just a chance that I could stand at the top of the human pyramid this time around, and certainly the adrenalin fix is here to stay. How soft the landings will be is hard to say, but that certainly shouldn't stop me. I may need to limber up first.

 


Complexity and systems thinking or simply messy boundaries

by Amanda Harding


A down pouring of questions ...

"Will the additional UN Peacekeepers have any impact in South Sudan?"

"Madiba has left us. Does this mark the end of any semblance of unity in the Rainbow Nation?"

"Why can't the Syrian opposition get its act together? Surely the upcoming Geneva talks, even for the cynics, have to be the opportunity for a negotiated settlement?"

And the two most common ones that come my way:

"Which Christmas cards should I buy? UNICEF - good cards, more coverage and they claim under 10% on admin or my local homeless people's shelter which may be a drop in the ocean but at least I see what's happening for myself." 

Dancing-With-Lifewho-am-I1.png

Lastly and even harder to respond to is the typical question so tied up in the social norms and rules we live by today: "so Amanda, what do you do?" How to reply without sounding like the do-gooder - "oh, I just make kids' lives better in the poorest and saddest parts of the world", or worse, the arrogant I've got all the answers know-it-all, "I'm a human rights activist" response. Bound to stop the conversation cold. I've tried, "I'm a change facilitator", but that simply gets blank stares with not even an effort to change the conversation but a quick get-away by the poor soul nice enough to talk to me. Some days I try to explain who I work with (and may also mention "engage with" as work just doesn't cover it) but even that ends up as a tongue twister of  local politicians - well actually local decision makers - that also means communities members - kids too as they have something to say - and the national policy people - not forgetting the international community - donors like USAID but also multinationals - and yes civil society can't forget them … and so it goes on.

To come back to the earlier questions, they too don't get the white/black good/bad answer from me, disappointing friends and family convinced that this even if they can't quite pin me down I'm meant to have some expertise in the world of international affairs. 

good and evil.jpg

I tie myself in knots in the knowledge that those linear stories, so very reassuring, don't reflect the realities we live in. The beginning-middle-ends we are so fond of matched with the highs of a happy-even-after ending, Snow White or Little Red Riding Hood, the toppling of Saddam or election of Obama, just don't translate. They show no resilience. They are blips in a time of make belief that I for one am desperate to believe in but too world-weary to buy into. 

I once heard Johan Rockström, the brains behind Planetary Boundaries, insist that we "tell it as it is". He suggested that we've got a complex story on our hands with no guarantee of a positive outcome, but we can't shy away or take short cuts. (See Johan's TedTalk from 2010 here.)

As for me, I end up um-ing and ah-ing. I suggest multiple scenarios. Introduce multitudes of actors. I try and paint a true story that points to the messy nature of which ever situation I happen to be talking about. In each case the story is ambiguous, the beginning defined  and then redefined again, the ending never sure, constantly evolving. I realize yet again that perception and power are the dynamic that set the scene in what some call systems thinking and I perceive as the shifting boundaries that space and time push around with little interest in our desire to see the perfect couple walk away into the sunset hand-in-hand. 

 

ICPDBeyond2014 International Conference on Human Rights, the Netherlands, July 2013

ICPDBeyond2014 International Conference on Human Rights, the Netherlands, July 2013


Local or Global. Scale of Ambition.

by Amanda Harding


The prospect of January is beginning to haunt me. I've said to too many people that this will be my one treasured, unique moment to take stock, pause, look back, look in, look out and move forward. How this turns out carries no guarantees of satisfaction - to myself or others. What is already amazing me is people's readiness to offer advice and direction. Their clarity that now is the time for me to make the BIG move, to LEAD the pack, to MAKE a difference at scale, has taken me by surprise. My option to raise bees at the bottom of my garden has been instantly waived aside.

Karl-Marx.jpg

This notion of scale, both spatial and temporal, is bugging me. It has plagued not only the likes of me - a grass roots activist who has grown older and wiser turning to the decision makers to instigate change that not only touches many people's lives but also has some chance of making it through from one regime to the next - but the range of philosophers and political theorists over time. Marx threw his glove in, alongside the best of them, taking on the whole gamut of change. Local and global. Social and political. Economic and cultural. Pitting the "workers" against the "ruling class". A full revolution that embraces profound transformation.

So does this make me a born-again-Marxist? Probably not. Yet the language I subscribe to is not so far from late 19th century political theory. Just wrapped up in early 21st century jargon building on the best of our friend Marx and adding layers from the internationalists, the human rights language of a Post-War era playing a major role. 

keep_calm_and_keep_bees_all_colours_sticker-r8d2f351327fe4fd48f713f4dc8e81f3a_v9wf3_8byvr_512.jpg

If I sincerely buy-into and embrace this idea of transformative social change and count myself as one of the movers and shakers - or at the very least a self-awarded winning second role - then am I I not duty bound to move from second role to star performer? Am I able to do the very thing Marx talked about and move from works to action? To see the scale of my ambition? if I don't meet this challenge should I not relegate myself to the local life of lowly bee-keeping?  (More to come on this in the following days.)

A great use of infographics and a reminder of the hot potato that any post 2009 talk of capitalism brings us, take a look at  David Harvey on the Crisis of Capitalism, presented at the RSA in 2010.


Does a blog need a pitch?

by Amanda Harding


Over coffee and dwindling Christmas pudding this morning, Amanda to Akil: "Have you looked at my new blog yet?"

Akil to Amanda: "Blog, what blog? The amanda@amandaharding.org thing"?

perfect-pitch.jpg

"No, that's my new email address. Just part of the new me. Take a look at the blog. Go to amandaharding.org".

And so deftly placed at the right distance, glasses too far from the table, Akil takes his iPhone and starts to scroll down.

"Hmmm. You're not yet there are you? Who's it for? What's your créneau?"

And so I try and explain the thinking behind the blog, the desire for a space to take position, to rant and range but also to assemble and exchange, to share, listen and learn. What is clear is that it is only by writing every day that I'll find the focus I'm looking, the style and tone that comes with that and that the very public nature of this space will force me to move from introspection to an openness of spirit and rigor I'm searching for.

Walking in the ferocious wind and driving rain a couple of hours later our discussion moves to the latest dramatic take on musical chairs in Turkey. Akil, naturally up to date on the latest due to nights of insomnia scanning news from the region, gives me his take.

"Now this would be a great blog piece," he declares after a ten minute tight summary and personal analysis of the situation. Akil, a natural blogger - no. But he certainly would know exactly why and for whom his blog is for! 

I then realize the fun of being able to invite others as guest bloggers on my very own blog. The opportunity to open up this space and proactively concoct conversations is fantastic. This is now getting really exciting. 

Duncan Green, a blogger supremo in the development world, has great advice. Try and write like you talk. I hope I'm still on target.

 


Bright on Boxing Day

by Amanda Harding


Keeping up the challenge of a blog a day. No expectations on content. Determined to find the creative writing, word-loving, thought provoking and funky me coming through the verbage.

living-in-the-moment.jpg

Most noticeable today was the shift in discourse. With Christmas 2013 far behind us - yes, less than 24 hours - and Boxing Day a notion belonging to Victorian England and the likes of Upstairs Downstairs or Downton Abbey, "happy new year", "bonne année", "meilleurs voeux" have abounded. 

This notion of time, i.e. the urge to find ourselves in 2014 before we've even done with 2013, appears unnatural. What happened to the philosophy of living in the moment where we take the time to extend all our senses to the here and now, to where we are right now, who we are with and the privilege of the life we lead. Why the rush to move forward, anticipate, to jump in leaps and short cut the essential? This, once specific to our Northern urban culture is spreading, like a gluey green slime defying the gravity of age old philosophy and tradition where inter-generational contact was the norm and words moved through space at a pace digestible.

Defying the danger of nostalgia and not wanting to be associated with the fashion of slow cooking, the rural idyl or even fall for some anti-modernist thinking, I'm convinced that I, if no one else, must learn to see and hear the hear and now, to taste and smell the realities surrounding me and to touch in the immediate those I treasure so much.