Tag: Christmas

The tradition of Christmas

It goes back much further than the Christian church.

Jean and I are atheists and have been all our lives. Therefore we tend to take more notice of the Winter solstice (that is today as the day that I am preparing this post) rather than Christmas Day and our sense that it is a product of Jesus Christ being born on the 25th; or so I thought!

But the tradition of a Christmas tree in particular goes much further back, as this article from The Conversation sets out.


The Christmas tree is a tradition older than Christmas

Public Christmas trees, like Rockefeller Center’s famous tree, didn’t start appearing in the U.S. until the 20th century. Nicholas Hunt/WireImage via Getty Images

Troy Bickham, Texas A&M University

Why, every Christmas, do so many people endure the mess of dried pine needles, the risk of a fire hazard and impossibly tangled strings of lights?

Strapping a fir tree to the hood of my car and worrying about the strength of the twine, I sometimes wonder if I should just buy an artificial tree and do away with all the hassle. Then my inner historian scolds me – I have to remind myself that I’m taking part in one of the world’s oldest religious traditions. To give up the tree would be to give up a ritual that predates Christmas itself.

A symbol of life in a time of darkness

Almost all agrarian societies independently venerated the Sun in their pantheon of gods at one time or another – there was the Sol of the Norse, the Aztec Huitzilopochtli, the Greek Helios.

The solstices, when the Sun is at its highest and lowest points in the sky, were major events. The winter solstice, when the sky is its darkest, has been a notable day of celebration in agrarian societies throughout human history. The Persian Shab-e Yalda, Dongzhi in China and the North American Hopi Soyal all independently mark the occasion.

The favored décor for ancient winter solstices? Evergreen plants.

Whether as palm branches gathered in Egypt in the celebration of Ra or wreaths for the Roman feast of Saturnalia, evergreens have long served as symbols of the perseverance of life during the bleakness of winter, and the promise of the Sun’s return.

Christmas slowly emerges

Christmas came much later. The date was not fixed on liturgical calendars until centuries after Jesus’ birth, and the English word Christmas – an abbreviation of “Christ’s Mass” – would not appear until over 1,000 years after the original event.

While Dec. 25 was ostensibly a Christian holiday, many Europeans simply carried over traditions from winter solstice celebrations, which were notoriously raucous affairs. For example, the 12 days of Christmas commemorated in the popular carol actually originated in ancient Germanic Yule celebrations.

The continued use of evergreens, most notably the Christmas tree, is the most visible remnant of those ancient solstice celebrations. Although Ernst Anschütz’s well-known 1824 carol dedicated to the tree is translated into English as “O Christmas Tree,” the title of the original German tune is simply “Tannenbaum,” meaning fir tree. There is no reference to Christmas in the carol, which Anschütz based on a much older Silesian folk love song. In keeping with old solstice celebrations, the song praises the tree’s faithful hardiness during the dark and cold winter.

Bacchanal backlash

Sixteenth-century German Protestants, eager to remove the iconography and relics of the Roman Catholic Church, gave the Christmas tree a huge boost when they used it to replace Nativity scenes. The religious reformer Martin Luther supposedly adopted the practice and added candles.

Engraving of adults and children gathered around a desk with a small Christmas tree adorned with candles.
German Protestants sought to replace ornate Nativity scenes with the simpler tree. Wikimedia Commons

But a century later, the English Puritans frowned upon the disorderly holiday for lacking biblical legitimacy. They banned it in the 1650s, with soldiers patrolling London’s streets looking for anyone daring to celebrate the day. Puritan colonists in Massachusetts did the same, fining “whosoever shall be found observing Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way.”

German immigration to the American colonies ensured that the practice of trees would take root in the New World. Benjamin Franklin estimated that at least one-third of Pennsylvania’s white population was German before the American Revolution.

Yet, the German tradition of the Christmas tree blossomed in the United States largely due to Britain’s German royal lineage.

Taking a cue from the queen

Since 1701, English kings had been forbidden from becoming or marrying Catholics. Germany, which was made up of a patchwork of kingdoms, had eligible Protestant princes and princesses to spare. Many British royals privately maintained the familiar custom of a Christmas tree, but Queen Victoria – who had a German mother as well as a German grandmother on her father’s side – made the practice public and fashionable.

Victoria’s style of rule both reflected and shaped the outwardly stern, family-centered morality that dominated middle-class life during the era. In the 1840s, Christmas became the target of reformers like novelist Charles Dickens, who sought to transform the raucous celebrations of the largely sidelined holiday into a family day in which the people of the rapidly industrialized nation could relax, rejoice and give thanks.

His 1843 novella, “A Christmas Carol,” in which the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge found redemption by embracing Dickens’ prescriptions for the holiday, was a hit with the public. While the evergreen décor is evident in the hand-colored illustrations Dickens specially commissioned for the book, there are no Christmas trees in those pictures.

Drawing of royal family decorating a Christmas tree.
After the London Illustrated News published an image of Queen Victoria’s tree, the public eagerly sought to mimic the tradition. Wikimedia Commons

Victoria added the fir tree to family celebrations five years later. Although Christmas trees had been part of private royal celebrations for decades, an 1848 issue of the London Illustrated News depicted Victoria with her German husband and children decorating one as a family at Windsor Castle.

The cultural impact was almost instantaneous. Christmas trees started appearing in homes throughout England, its colonies and the rest of the English-speaking world. Dickens followed with his short story “A Christmas Tree” two years later.

Adopting the tradition in America

During this period, America’s middle classes generally embraced all things Victorian, from architecture to moral reform societies.

Sarah Hale, the author most famous for her children’s poem “Mary had a Little Lamb,” used her position as editor of the best-selling magazine Godey’s Ladies Book to advance a reformist agenda that included the abolition of slavery and the creation of holidays that promoted pious family values. The adoption of Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863 was perhaps her most lasting achievement.

Drawing of adults and children gathered around a decorated Christmas tree.
An engraving of Queen Victoria’s tree in Godey’s Ladies Book popularized Christmas trees in the U.S. Godey’s Lady’s Book

It is closely followed by the Christmas tree.

While trees sporadically adorned the homes of German immigrants in the U.S., it became a mainstream middle-class practice when, in 1850, Godey’s published an engraving of Victoria and her Christmas tree. A supporter of Dickens and the movement to reinvent Christmas, Hale helped to popularize the family Christmas tree across the pond.

Only in 1870 did the United States recognize Christmas as a federal holiday.

The practice of erecting public Christmas trees emerged in the U.S. in the 20th century. In 1923, the first one appeared on the White House’s South Lawn. During the Great Depression, famous sites such as New York’s Rockefeller Center began erecting increasingly larger trees.

Black and white photo of people gathered around a tall Christmas tree in Washington, D.C.
A Christmas tree was erected on the White House South Lawn for the first time in 1923. Library of Congress

Christmas trees go global

As both American and British cultures extended their influence around the world, Christmas trees started to appear in communal spaces even in countries that are not predominately Christian. Shopping districts in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Tokyo now regularly erect trees.

The modern Christmas tree is a universal symbol that carries meanings both religious and secular. Adorned with lights, they promote hope and offer brightness in literally the darkest time of year for half of the world.

In that sense, the modern Christmas tree has come full circle.

Troy Bickham, Professor of History, Texas A&M University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


So not a doggie post for today but nevertheless one that I hope will be of interest.

The next post will be a Picture Parade this coming Sunday: December 25th!

Picture parade twenty-three.

A bit of a compilation for today.

First, a few more of those ‘senior moment’ cartoons continuing from last Sunday.







Now two pictures taken on Christmas Day of a young deer feeding on cob that we put out daily.





Then animal greetings to you all …

Birthday girl30001


Finally, enjoy this short video sent to me by Dan Gomez.

These boots aren’t made for walking.

A Winter’s Tale.

No, not the Shakespeare version!

Shakespeare wrote The Winter’s Tale in 1623.  The title came to my mind following another tale written slightly more recently; just five days ago to be exact.

It’s a story published by George Monbiot that has a wonderful shape.  When I read it on Christmas Eve it seemed yet another story that Learning from Dogs readers would enjoy.  So, as ever, grateful for Mr. Monbiot’s permission to republish it.  His story is called Unearthed.



December 23, 2013

A winter’s tale of guns, gold and greed.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 24th December 2013.

Perhaps I should have been more careful. Last year I decided that every Christmas I would tell a winter’s tale or two(1). Through a long history of doing stupid things, I’ve accumulated a stock of ripping yarns. But I failed to explain myself. Some people interpreted the tale I told last Christmas as making a political point about Travellers I had no intention of suggesting; a point that is in fact the opposite of what I believe(2). So please read what follows as a story and no more: true to the best of my knowledge and memory but without a polemical purpose.

I was told this tale by a gold prospector in the garimpos of Roraima: the illegal mines exacavated among the river gravels in the forests of northern Brazil. He and his friends swore it was true. Though parts of the story must have been filled in later, in the light of what I had seen I found it easy to believe.

To say that the mines were lawless is not quite correct. They stood outside the laws of the state, but had established their own codes, which were informed by power and honour and greed and lust. Every week, thieves were taken into the forest to be shot. Duels were fought on the airstrips, in which men took ten paces, turned and fired: the miners circulated Wild West comics and acted out scenes that might once have been mythical, but there became horribly real.

To illustrate the point, before we get to the tale itself: one evening João, a remarkable man from the north-east of Brazil, who, after leaving home at 14 then spending ten years crossing and recrossing the Amazon on foot, had found work as a minder for two prostitutes, took me and his charges to a bar at the end of the airstrip village in which I was staying. The bar and the strip of dirt were owned by Zé, a man who spent some of his vast earnings on causing trouble: roaming around with his band of pistoleiros, starting fights and roughing people up. Zé, in whose house I was staying (by his choice, not mine) was said to have killed five men, starting with his business partner: by this means he had acquired control of the airstrip, and the extortionate fees for landing and leaving.

The bar was a flimsy shack in which a ghetto blaster was turned up so high that you could scarcely hear the music. Ragged men swayed and lurched and sprawled across the more sober prostitutes. On every table there was a bottle or two of white rum and a revolver. The men who had stayed in their seats drummed their fingers nervously on the tabletops, halfway between their drinks and their guns. The door was shoved open, and Zé and his thugs walked in.

His was at all times an arresting presence: charming, mercurial and terrifying. A machete scar ran from one cheek, over his nose and across the other cheek. He wore a sawn-off denim jacket and two revolvers on his belt. He opened his arms and announced, in a voice loud enough to carry above the music, that he would buy drinks for everyone. Zé moved through the bar, slapping backs and shaking hands, flashing his gold teeth. João’s eyes darted around, watching people’s hands. Bottles of cachaça were passed down from the bar.

Suddenly João shoved me so hard that I almost fell off my chair. He grabbed my arm, managing at the same time to seize the two prostitutes, and propelled us towards the door. As we hurtled out of the bar it erupted in gunfire. Amazingly, only one man was killed: he was dragged onto the airstrip with a hole the size of an apple in his chest. He was one of an estimated 1,700 people murdered, in a community of 40,000, in just six months.

So here’s the story. Two men established a small stake in the mines, in a remote valley some distance from the nearest airstrip. They cut down the trees and began to excavate. They found the digging and hosing and sifting of the gravel exceedingly hard and, though they had discovered very little, they decided to hire two other men to do it for them. They agreed to split any findings equally with the workers. The two hired men dug for four months without success: with high pressure hoses they scoured great pits into which the trees collapsed; they turned the clear waters of the forest stream they excavated red with clay and tailings; they winnowed the gravel through meshed boxes; they dissolved the residues in mercury and burnt it off; but they produced almost nothing. Then they hit one of the richest deposits ever discovered in Roraima: in one day they extracted four kilos.

If you find a lot of gold in the garimpos you keep quiet – very quiet. A single shout of triumph can amount to suicide. You gather it up, hide it in your bag and explain to anyone who asks on your way out that months of work have brought you nothing but disease and misery. But first it must be divided.

The two men who owned the stake began to comprehend, for the first time, the implications of the deal they had done. “We risked our lives to establish this stake. We spent every cent we had – and plenty we didn’t – travelling here, buying the equipment and the diesel, hacking out a clearing in the forest, hiring these men. And now we have to split the gold equally with people who are no more than manual labourers, who would normally be paid a few dollars a day.” They told the two workers that they wanted a special meal that night, and sent them to the nearest airstrip to buy the ingredients.

As the two workers walked they began to ruminate. “We’ve nearly killed ourselves in that pit. We’ve been up before dawn every day and have worked until dusk. We’ve had malaria, foot rot, screw worm, sunstroke, while those two bastards have done nothing but lie in their hammocks shouting instructions. Now we’re expected to give them an equal share of the gold that we and we alone found.” When they reached the store, they bought cachaça, rice, beans, a packet of seasoning and a box of rat poison. They mixed the poison into the seasoning and set off back to the camp. Before they reached it, they were ambushed by the two owners and shot. The owners then picked up the bags and went back to the camp to celebrate over the first hot dinner they had had in weeks.

Some time later a party of men moving through the forest to look for new stakes walked into the camp. They found two skeletons over which vines were already beginning to creep. And four kilos of gold.

www.monbiot. com


1. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/dec/26/my-inner-anarchist-lost-out-bourgeois

2. http://www.monbiot.com/2013/01/10/as-it-happened/



Be safe this Christmas!

Lovely item from Bob Derham who, as an airline Captain of many years, is clearly qualified to present this.

Health & Safety and Equality Considerations for Christmas Songs

Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via CCTV cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.

Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions – including suspension on full pay – will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Little Donkey

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road

Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled “little” and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable – as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as ‘cash for gold’ etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.

We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC route finder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Face masks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels hooves.

The Rocking Song

Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.

Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.

Away in a Manger No Crib for a bed

Social services???????

Picture parade twenty-one

A very local coming together.

This is a very parochial set of pictures.  In that they are of one event that took place last Tuesday, the 10th.  Jean has been putting out food for the local deer for a few weeks in common with neighbours Dordie and Bill.  The wild deer have slowly accepted Jean’s efforts to feed them.

Anyway, last Tuesday afternoon a single deer took the step of feeding on the cob that was put out, with Jean still present.  I grabbed my camera and took the following pictures.

Looking for food, as per usual.
Looking for food, as per usual.


Patiently waiting for Jean to come out.
Patiently waiting for Jean to come out.


Here comes food!
Here comes food!


Hunger overcoming fear.


I think this person likes me!


A very precious coming together.


The precious bond from one to the other.


The start of a long relationship.

It was just a magical to be behind the camera as it was for Jean to be accepted by this most beautiful of wild animals.  Two or three deer have now become regular visitors in the afternoons when we put out food for them.

The book! Chapter Twenty-One.

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Twenty-One

He was settling very quickly into the local scene.  It was a strange mix of Americans and Mexicans.  Then within the Mexican population there appeared to be as least two groupings, or categories.  Those Mexicans that, in one form or another, had lives or businesses that revolved around the many Americans living there and then another group of Mexicans who were much less visible.  Undoubtedly, this latter group were poorer, many living in an area of San Carlos known as the Ranchitas. An area that he didn’t expect to be shown but had been mentioned by both Lisa and Molly.  It slightly reminded him of those early days in Spain when English tourists started travelling there, before the whole packaged holiday thing exploded.  He could remember his father and mother taking the family for a vacation in Spain. Pretty sure that was back in 1953 because he recalled the streets of London being prepared for the Queen’s Coronation as they drove through London early in the morning on their way to the Channel car ferry. Distant and faint memories of the place where they were staying in Spain being dusty, hot and very uncommercial yet gearing themselves up to sell as many services as they could to these new British tourists.  So, so long ago.  Philip didn’t have a clue as to where they had stayed in Spain, just that at some deep level in his memory that place in Spain seemed to resonate some fifty-three years later with this place in Mexico.

Lisa and Molly arranged that all of them would go on Friday to a local dinner and dance establishment in San Carlos called Banana’s. Apparently, every Friday there was a Mexican Mariachi band that played lively music plus the menu offered a number of good local Mexican dishes.

He didn’t have a clue as to what to wear but not having brought an enormous range of clothes he settled on a loose-fitting, short-sleeved cotton shirt over a pair of cream slacks.

It was a perfect end to his first full week, and he had no doubt whatsoever that Lisa’s invitation to come here for Christmas had been a godsend. No better underlined than by the fact that yesterday had been the 20th of December and it was only this morning, the 21st, as he was showering and wondering what the date was, that he realised that the anniversary of the bombshell in his life a year ago had remained out of his consciousness.  Maggie had been erased.

Rather than go directly to Banana’s, Don drove first over to Molly’s house and waited while she closed her front door and jumped into her own car.  He caught a glimpse of what she was wearing; noticing how her low-cut blouse, a silk scarf across her shoulders, a pair of skin-tight long, pale-blue trousers signalled that this was a lady who was going to enjoy her Friday evening out with them all.

The atmosphere at Banana’s was electric for reasons that he couldn’t put his finger on.  Not that it mattered what the reasons were, what did matter was that there was almost a festival mood all around them.

Molly was obviously a very competent Spanish speaker and ordered the meals and drinks for all in the Mexican waiter’s native tongue.  Philip had rapidly come to the view that Molly was well-known in the town. Hardly surprising when one reflected on how many years she had been living here, as well as being a fluent Spanish speaker.  They were chatting about the number of Americans living in San Carlos and Don explained how he and Lisa, as with so many of the other Americans, went North back up to the States during the Summer as it became so very hot here in San Carlos.  Molly said that for her this was her one and only home plus that she couldn’t, and wouldn’t want to, leave her dogs.

Their meal came to an end.  Molly was clearly itching to be dancing.  Philip, never a great dancer at the best of times, was fearful of even being able to put one foot in front of another, let alone offer an attractive woman a worthy experience on the dance-floor.

The Mariachi group started another tune.  Molly said, “It’s a tango, come on, let’s give it a try.”

He started to protest that he didn’t know how to dance the tango but, nonetheless, was rising from his seat.

She grabbed his hand and led him on to a smallish dance-floor saying just to follow her.  The wooden circular dance-floor, perhaps thirty-five feet in diameter, had a dozen or so other couples getting into the swing of the music.

He put his right arm around Molly’s slim waist, grasped her outstretched hand with his other hand, and gave in to the rhythm.  Molly danced in such a natural way that within a few bars of the music his feet had got the idea, and his head had embraced the beat of the music.  He very quickly got lost in the whole sensation, not even the smallest part of his mind puzzled on how it was that he could walk on to a Mexican dance-floor with a woman with whom he had never danced, a band playing a rhythm that he would have been certain he couldn’t dance to, and feel as though he and Molly had done this their entire lives.

It was not unnoticed by others. As the music came to a close, Philip and Molly were aware, and rather embarrassed, to observe that other couples on the dance-floor had stopped their dancing and moved to the edge of the floor to give them more space for their gyrations.  Molly put her arm through his as they made their way back to the table and said that was perfect; that she loved fun things and hadn’t had such fun for a long time.

Lisa looked up at them as they came to the table and remarked in Philip’s direction that for someone who claimed not to be able to dance the tango, he and Molly had put on quite a show.

Molly had her hand on Philip’s forearm as she declared to Lisa that this man was quite a dancer. Philip was at a complete loss to make sense of anything.  It was almost as though the Philip of a year ago had died and been reborn Philip Mk. II.

After a pause of ten minutes or so, Molly was up for another dance and grabbed his arm.  It was a slower dance and he had not one moment’s hesitation to be on the dance-floor with her.

Again, he became connected totally to her through the music, unaware of anything else going on in the room. All that he was experiencing in his heart was that being with Molly was unlike being with any other woman in his life. All he knew was that in a previous life having such close contact with a gorgeous, single woman would be triggering desires to have his wicked way with her.  No, forget triggering desires, he would be scheming how to get her knickers off before the night was out!

But with Molly it was different.  Yes, of course, she had a lovely figure and   as they danced close to each other he could feel her beautiful breasts pressing through her silk blouse against his chest.  No, the difference was that he had no ambitions, no sense of what was coming next; whether that next was in an hour’s time or in a life time.  He had heard frequently about living in the present; assumed what it was at an intellectual level. However, what he was experiencing now was nothing less than being fully alive in this present moment.  It felt like perfection of being.

They returned to the table to find that Don had left.  Lisa explained that he was tired, that he wasn’t much of a partying man and had gone on home, with the expectation that Molly would run Lisa and Philip back to the house at the end of the evening.  It didn’t seem to phase Lisa; quite the opposite.  Because she said, with an eager and excited tone to her voice, that they should spend the rest of Friday evening at Froggie’s Bar.  Apparently, Don had settled the bill here at Banana’s on the way out.

The evening continued at Froggie’s as it had started at Banana’s. Lots of silliness between the three of them to the extent that their peals of laughter, especially from Lisa and Molly, caused more than one head to turn in their direction.  He couldn’t believe, even as he was experiencing these days in San Carlos, just how wonderful it was making him feel.

Thus it was some twenty minutes later, with Lisa enjoying a dance with one of the many Americans having a Friday night out, when he glanced at Molly and spoke with a slightly raised voice to counter the sound of the music, “I just can’t tell you what a difference coming to San Carlos has made for me.”

Molly, sitting next to him at the table, gave him what he thought was a most puzzling look.  He was trying to read that look, a look that seemed part dreamy, part embarrassed, and part very private, when she lent her head close to his right ear, hand on top of his hand, and murmured to him, “Do you know I would love to be kissed by you.”

He swung his legs around to the right so that he was sitting opposite her, placed his right arm around her warm, slender waist and softly, so very softly, met her lips and kissed her.  The moist tip of her tongue explored his tongue in what was the most sensuous kiss he could remember in a lifetime.

It had him turned totally upside down.  As with their second dance at Banana’s he was feeling a wave of emotion unfamiliar with anything from his past life.

Lisa returned to the table and after another twenty minutes or so, it was agreed by all that it was time to call it a night.  Lisa, in particular, didn’t want her return to be too late knowing that Don would be asleep in bed.

Philip suggested that as Molly and Lisa had clearly had quite a lot to drink, certainly much more than he had, then why not let him drive Molly’s car, drop Molly off at home and bring her car back first thing in the morning.

It was a little before nine in the morning when Philip drew up outside Molly’s house, turned off the ignition and opened the door in the front wall that enclosed a small yard space in front of the house.  He was heard by the dogs well before he reached up for the iron door knocker on the main front door and shortly thereafter he heard Molly’s shout to come on in.

“How’s your head?” he asked her.

“Oh, fine.  Thank goodness I rarely suffer from hangovers.  Don’t know why because I’m happy to have a few drinks when the mood is right.  Can I get you a coffee?  Or would you like a tea? I managed to buy some tea-bags yesterday.  Lipton’s tea, can you believe that.”

He opted for the tea and stood looking out across the bay. He heard the sound of water heating up in a pot followed moments later by Molly calling out to him.

“Philip, I’m so sorry about last night for being a fool.  I got a little carried away in asking you for that kiss.  Please excuse me.”

He wasn’t sure how to reply and sat on his thoughts, so to speak, as the sound of boiling water being poured into two mugs heralded the arrival of the tea.

“Milk but no sugar,” she called out.

“Yes, that’s correct. Well done on remembering.”

They both sat down on the verandah.

“Did you hear me saying how sorry I was to be such a fool?”

“Yes, I heard you.”

There was a silence between them of a couple of minutes or so, before she spoke up.

“I don’t know what to make of your lack of any reaction to what I just said.”

“Molly, it’s like this.  Your kiss was beautiful for me and I thought you felt the same way.  So when you just said sorry for being a fool, it’s left me confused.  I don’t know how to match what I felt as we kissed with the idea that it may have just been a bit of a flirtation on your part coming out of a fun evening.”

Molly said nothing. She just put her mug down on the glass-topped table in front of her, stood up and came around to be behind Philip as he sat on his chair.

She wrapped both arms around his neck and shoulders and across his chest and lent her head down besides his, kissed his left cheek and breathed the words, “Thank you”.

As she stood upwards, he got out of his chair, turned and grasped his arms around her and kissed her full on her lips.  This time there was a hunger in him and he felt stirrings through his body that were both sexually exciting and emotionally confusing.  For he was starting to realise that Molly was something more to him, even if he was unable to define what that more was. Yet, at in the same thought, he knew that in just over two week’s time he would be leaving Mexico and travelling back to England.  That he knew that he was emotionally unprepared for the separation from this woman that was starting to be so attractive to him.

“Sorry, Molly, now my turn to apologise.  I was clearly getting a little carried away.”

Her face was written all over with the same emotional confusion as he had just felt within him.

“Molly, both you are and I mustn’t inadvertently hurt each other.  I sense we are both yearning for love and compassion but …”

He couldn’t find the words to finish his sentence.

“I understand, Philip, I really do.  You’re right,” Molly paused. “But I damn well wish you weren’t.” There was a twinkle in her eye.

“Come on, I’ll run you back to Lisa’s place.”

Philip was aware from previous times that Americans didn’t make as much of Christmas as Europeans do, and especially as the Brits do.  However, Molly, in true British style, decided to put on a Christmas dinner for all four of them.  He wondered what to give Molly for a Christmas gift. Luckily came up with the brain-wave of buying some blank recordable CDs and making up some music CDs.  He had brought his laptop with him from England and there were several hundred music tracks to choose from.  It was only after a long evening’s recording that he realised that the majority of the tracks he had selected had romantic music. Something was pulling his emotional strings!

Later, after his bed-side lamp had been turned off and he was settling down under his covers, he found himself thinking very deeply about Molly. If only she was living in Britain.  If only …. He pulled himself up sharply.  If only what Philip?  Was he thinking that Molly is someone that he would like to have a full relationship with? But only if it was convenient? The voice in his head was very good at asking the questions but not so good at delivering the answers.

Christmas Day was a good day and Molly adored the music CDs. She had worked so hard to decorate her house yet Philip dare not admit that the warmth and the sun and the scintillating views out across the waters of the bay didn’t make it really feel like an English version of Christmas Day. Even the huge Christmas lunch couldn’t offset his feeling of displacement.  It was small beer in the scheme of things.

The 26th, the day after Christmas, was a Wednesday. Two American friends of Molly, Don and Pam, invited Philip and Molly for dinner at Banana’s. They, too, had a second home in San Carlos. Molly came over to Lisa’s house to pick him up in her car

He immediately took to Don and Pam as they sat and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink.  Don was asking him a little about his background when he noticed Pam say something to Molly in private that made her blush and snigger a little.

He paused in his conversation with Don and caught Molly’s eyes.

“Philip, Pam was just saying that the general view around the place is that we are an item.”

Don laughed and said how it only confirmed all that he had heard about British single men and their carrying-ons when on holiday.

“Come on Don,” Philip teased him back. “That’s single British men in the twenties screwing around, literally, on the beaches of the Costa Brava in Spain; the result of bottom-dollar cheap packaged holidays. I’m an ancient fella in contrast, I mean the wrong side of sixty-three and all that.  Practically forgotten how to screw if you’ll forgive the expression. Last time I performed that way London was being lit by gas lamps.”

Pam threw back her head and roared with laughter.  Molly poked a finger in his upper arm and commented that she hadn’t realised that he was that old.

It was another lovely evening.  He couldn’t help noticing how he was being accepted by all those that clearly knew Molly well and it made him feel very good within.

After the meal, both Don and Pam and Philip and Molly enjoyed a number of dances.

He and Molly had returned to their table as Don and Pam remained for the next dance.

She took his hand and looked him in the eyes. “You know, I was thinking about what you said earlier.”

“What was that I was saying?”

“About how you have practically forgotten how to make love. Can’t use that other word.”

There was the briefest of pauses before she continued, the softest of loving tones in her voice, “Do you want to make love to me tonight?”

3,072 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

The book! Chapter Seventeen

Learning from Dogs

Chapter Seventeen

Adjusting back to Devon life upon his return from California could have been so much worse if Philip didn’t have that first meeting with Jonathan to look forward to.

The flight back to London had been uneventful and as soon as he had taken a taxi from Totnes Station across to Diana and John’s place, to pick up his car, he was off to Sandra’s to collect his beloved Pharaoh.

While that night flight home from Los Angeles was always a bit rough on the body, the morning arrival did allow most of a full day back in England.  The thought of waiting another day to see Pharaoh was unbearable.

As he pulled into Sandra’s parking area and opened the car door, the sound of the many dogs staying at Sandra’s kennels greeted his ears. He hadn’t even had time to close his door when Pharaoh came bounding across to him, tail wagging furiously. If ever a dog could put a smile on its face, and Philip had no doubt that dogs could smile, Pharaoh was wearing the biggest dog smile ever.

Philip sat on the ground and received a rapid succession of face licks. As soon as he stood up and opened both the car’s tail-gate and the door to the travel cage, Pharaoh gave one giant leap into the open cage, turned around and was indicating in very clear dog speak, ‘Dad, take me home, now!’.

He told Pharaoh to wait while he went across to settle up with Sandra.

“Did you have a good time in California?”

“Thanks Sandra, yes a great time.  Feel almost ready for what’s facing me these next few months.”

He paused before asking, “Tell me, Sandra, how’s Pharaoh been?”

“He was fine.  Same as he always is.  It’s almost as though he knows that he isn’t here for ever and that you will come back for him.  In fact, it must have been over half-an-hour ago that Pharaoh was telling me, in the way some dogs do, that you were on your way to collect him.”

“Wow! Sounds as though that was around the time I picked up the car from my sister’s place and starting heading your way.”

He continued. “Sandra, the reason I asked about how Pharaoh is with you is that I have been invited to spend next Christmas with good friends at their house in Northern Mexico.”

Sandra’s face showed that she was uncertain where Northern Mexico was.

“It’s a place called San Carlos, about a couple of hundred miles south of the border with Arizona but there’s a good airport quite close by.  What I have been thinking, Sandra, is that being away from Devon over the holiday period might stop me getting all caught up in the memories of last Christmas. But if I was to go, it would be for the thick end of a month and there’s no question of me going if Pharaoh wasn’t going to be happy and settled here with you.”

Sandra’s reply was immediate. “Philip, I’m usually very quiet over the Christmas period with most dog owners wanting their dogs with them at home, for obvious reasons.  So not only would I be able to give Pharaoh extra attention but during the day I could take him for a walk around our local woods and have him in the house as well.” Sandra hesitated before continuing, “Of course, I wouldn’t have him sleep in the house overnight, might start to confuse him as to whether or not this place was becoming his new home.  So, what I’m saying is that it wouldn’t be a problem for me or Pharaoh in the slightest.”

“Thanks Sandra, you are good to him, and to me.  Thank you so much.”

Philip was soon over at Upper Holsome Farm and as he parked up, about to let Pharaoh out and take his travel bags over to the flat, Liz came up to him.

“Thought it was you.  How was it? Did you have a good time?”

“Thanks, Liz.  Yes, it was a great time. Gave me a real break from the stuff of the last few weeks and months.

“So pleased to hear that.  I took the liberty of putting some fresh milk and bread in your refrigerator.  Thought you wouldn’t want the hassle of newly moving in and not having any food in the place.”

“Oh Liz, that was kind of you.  Yes, apart from going to collect his nibs”, Philip lifted the tail-gate of the car and opened Pharaoh’s cage. “I had no other thought than to get back here and rest up after what feels like two days of solid travelling.”

Pharaoh had a quick sniff of Liz’s outstretched hand and went off to check out all the new smells and scents around the place.

“Liz, while it’s in my mind, I’ve been invited to go and spend Christmas with good friends in Northern Mexico.  I’ve checked with Sandra over at the kennels and she is confident that Pharaoh will be happy with her.  Because, I’m thinking of being away about a month.” He immediately added, “Of course, I’m not asking for any rent relief for the month and I’m happy to have you use the flat if you are expecting guests over the Christmas period.”

“Philip, come on now! I’m not putting anyone else in the flat while you are paying me rent and having your things there.  When you have firm dates for your Christmas trip let me know; I’m sure you would have done so in any case.”

“Thanks Liz.”

With that, he took his belongings across to the flat, still familiar to him back from the time when he was living here before he and Maggie moved in to the Harberton barn.  For Pharaoh, however, it was another new place to check out.  He left him sniffing around the flat and went out to lock the car.  When he returned to the flat, less than two minutes later, and went into the bedroom, there was Pharaoh curled up in the bottom half of his open suitcase. As if to say that the next time Philip left Devon he’d better take his dog with him.  What a dog. What a relationship.

Later that evening, as the two of them were resting after both a human dinner and a dog supper, his mind came back to the relationship that he had with Pharaoh.  Of course, it was well known that dogs loved unconditionally.  But the phrase love unconditionally was too trite, too obvious.  What was the deeper meaning behind those words?  He went on to ponder that it must be so much more than that.  The closeness of the companionship, the easy way that Pharaoh signalled his feelings to Philip, the purity of those feelings. What was the word Jonathan had used about feelings?  Transparency. Of course! Yes, the transparency of Pharaoh’s feelings; that was it. He continued reflecting on the incredibly ancient relationship that had existed between dogs and man.  At least thirty-thousand years and, quite probably, as far back to Neanderthal times fifty-thousand years ago.

If only us humans could live so simply and straightforwardly as dogs.  For example, take how dogs live in the present for the vast majority of their lives.  Think what that would mean for humans if we stopped deliberating about the future in the way that most us do. Not so much deliberating about the future, more like worrying about the future. The fear that this must engender because the future is so often an uncertain one.

Philip was sure that if humans could live as fully engaged in the present, making the the best of each moment, as dogs so clearly do, then we would live a much more uncluttered life. Uncluttered in the sense of being unburdened by the many complex fears and feelings that we humans so often seem to have.  Let’s face it most of the time our fears never actually turn into reality.  Millions of people loving millions of dogs in the world, untold numbers of close relationships between people and dogs, and we are all missing the most profound lesson of all to be learnt from these wonderful animals.  That if we stopped obsessing about the future, turned down the noise of the outside world, we would have a chance of some silence and mental space. For it is only from that silence within us that we can become aware of ourselves. How that self-awareness allows us to better cope with the uncertainty around us, and more to the point, offers us greater happiness. Now that would have profound implications for society.

1,453 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover

Sights and sounds.

Just a collection of items that I hope you will enjoy.

So enough of the book this week for you dear readers.

It’s the week-end and time to offer you some odds and ends that have come my way in recent days.

First up is some really glorious singing.

Rebecca Bains

Some years ago, I was working with a colleague and subsequently got to know that his wife was a brilliant singer/songwriter enjoying a good singing career.  Her name is Rebecca Bains and there is a website here although still under construction according to the home page.

So to Rebecca’s singing.

Now for something completely different.

It’s an advertisement for Volvo Trucks.  Sent to me by friend, Neil, from my Devon days. The short video has been seen over 45 million times! If you haven’t seen it, prepared to be wowed!

Now back to Rebecca’s singing.  But with this introduction from me.  Many know that here in Oregon we have nine dogs.  Four of those are dogs that were rescued by Jean from earlier days in Mexico and two from the shelter in Payson, Arizona where we were living before coming to Oregon.  There are many, many  others who adopt rescue dogs or care for homeless dogs in countless ways.


So as we approach Christmas, the Season of Good Will, please do everything you can to help man’s best friend and companion for, literally, thousands upon thousands of years. If you are thinking of adopting a dog, or a cat, please visit your local shelter or the Pet Finder website.

OK, now to a short video with the singing from Rebecca Bains.

Trust me, this will rightly grab your heartstrings.

Well done, Rebecca.

The book! Chapter Eleven.

Ouch, ouch and more ouch!

In yesterday’s chapter I wrote of what, perhaps, was one of the better times in the lives of our hero, Philip, and his wife Maggie.  But as we move to Chapter Eleven the phrase ‘first impressions may be misleading’ does come to mind.


Learning from Dogs

Chapter Eleven

Later that evening, after he and Maggie had eaten their evening meal, a rather poor affair that Philip had to admit, Monday being his turn to prepare dinner, he couldn’t shake off something approaching a cloud over him.  Most likely associated with the forthcoming fiftieth anniversary of his father’s death, he guessed.

It was the same every year.  Whatever he was involved in, however interesting and engaging his life was during the last few months of the year, Philip knew that the period between his birthday in early November and the date of his father’s death on the twentieth of December had some ill-defined greyness about it.  Then as soon as the twenty-first of December dawned, he was back to his usual brightness. Indeed, he was always embarrassed by the fact that his pre-Christmas mood never arrived until the twenty-first of December, frequently a bit on the late side to engage properly in the annual ritual of present-buying.

Still that’s how it had been for every year of his adult life and, privately, he wondered if that was his way of treasuring a father he never really knew.

Thus so it was this year. In the sense that it was about a week before Christmas Day, probably around the eighteenth of December that, again, he had to pull himself up sharply and start thinking as to what he should give Maggie as her main present.

What really caused him to focus on Maggie and Christmas was a very strange, decidedly untypical, interaction between Maggie and Pharaoh.  Up until then, whenever Maggie had gone out somewhere on her own, Pharaoh would always bark as her car turned into the driveway.  On their upper floor, the main living room area, there was a floor-to-ceiling pair of glass-panelled doors overlooking the front of the house, the garden and their short driveway and their five-bar, wooden gate.  The glass doors would have been wooden shutters back in the days when it was a cow barn.  Today, the doors could be opened during hot summer weather; there was a wooden rail across the opening to prevent any falling accidents.

Pharaoh’s usual routine with arriving cars was to bound up to the windows barking furiously when he heard the latch on the gate being handled and when any car drove up the driveway.  If it was Maggie returning home then as soon as he recognised her he would bound down the short, single flight of wooden stairs from the living-room level to the hallway and stand inside the front door, also glassed from head to foot, wagging his tail furiously until he was let out whereupon he would run joyously to her.

However this day, Philip was pretty sure is was the Monday, Pharaoh did his usual barking act as Maggie drove in.  Then there was the sound of Pharaoh coming down the steps to the front door with a growl in his throat. That’s what made Philip look up from his computer screen; he was certain that he had heard Maggie’s car but then the growling suggested otherwise.

Pharaoh’s growl became quite intense, practically a sound from him that Philip had never heard before.

He quickly pushed his office chair back on its wheels and stood up from his desk.  Within moments, he was beside Pharaoh looking out at Maggie walking back down the driveway to close the front gate.

“Pharaoh, quiet!”, Philip said with a sternness to his voice. Pharaoh reduced the constant growl to a sort of angry muttering in the back of his throat.  Philip had no doubt that Pharaoh was not playing around.  To the point where he practically dragged Pharaoh by his collar back into the small office and firmly closed the door on the two of them.

Pharaoh pushed to the office window, also full length, his eyes, ears and full body stance continuing to signal a great unease.  What on earth was happening?  Philip just couldn’t fathom it out.

He left his office room, closing the door with Pharaoh inside, and went out to meet Maggie who was walking towards the house with a semi-full bag of groceries in a cloth shopping bag.

“Hi, is that all there is to bring in?”, Philip asked.

“Yes, only a few items that I needed from Safeways.”

As Maggie came up to the front door, Philip continued, “You know, there’s something weird about Pharaoh just now.” He went on to explain what had just happened, continuing, “It’s almost as though he didn’t know it was you.”

They climbed the stairs up to the open-plan kitchen area that was at one end of the living room, to the right of the stairs, the main living room area to the left.  Philip then went over to the log-burner in the corner of the living room and fiddled with it for a while.  In fact, his mind was still on Pharaoh wondering if his angst had now subsided.  Only one way to find out.

He returned to his office room and opened the door.  Pharaoh was lying on the rug.  He looked up at Philip and, again, very strangely, only raising himself from the floor and following Philip upstairs to the living-room after a great deal of coaxing.

It was all very peculiar.

Wednesday, the 20th, dawned to reveal a bright pleasant morning with soft, cumulus clouds across a broadly blue sky.  A great morning to be over at the woods for a walk.

After breakfast, Philip called out to Maggie, who had been in the bathroom for a while, actually more than a while when he thought about it, that he and Pharaoh were off to James’ woods.  Philip just heard Maggie call out that she had heard him.

It was a wonderful walk.  Pharaoh was in his prime chasing squirrels, a fairly pointless task Philip always thought, then sticking his nose down the many rabbit holes, sniffing such large lungfulls of air that Philip wondered if Pharaoh thought he could suck the poor rabbits out of their burrows.

The date, fifty years to the day that his father had died, seemed to rest much more easily with him than he had feared.  It was all so, so long ago.  It crossed his mind to buy Maggie a bouquet of flowers on the way home.

A couple of hours later, he and Pharaoh bounced into the house, a fresh bouquet of flowers newly purchased at Safeways in Totnes in Philip’s right hand.

“Hi sweetheart, bought you these.  Just thought you looked a little off-colour earlier this morning and that some flowers might cheer you up.”

As he was offering the flowers to Maggie he realised that whatever it was that had been afflicting her earlier that morning was still troubling her.  Frankly, she looked very pale and drawn.

“Maggie, what’s the problem?  You don’t look at all well.”

“Philip, do you mind if I lie down on the bed for a little while, just not feeling that brilliant.”

“No, of course not,” came his reply.  “Look you go and lie down, I’ll put the flowers in water, make us both a nice cup-of-tea and bring them down to the bedroom.”

With that Philip went upstairs to the living room, dug out a glass vase and put the flowers in water, placing the vase with the flowers on one of the work surfaces in the kitchen.

He also noted that the fire was pretty low and needed rejuvenating.  Thus it was nearer thirty minutes before he returned to their bedroom with the hot teas. Maggie’s body was under the bedspread, her head back against a pair of pillows, still giving the appearance of being significantly out of sorts.

He put Maggie’s cup down on the bedside table next to her and cradling his own mug of tea in his hands sat down on the edge of the bed, just adjacent to where Maggie’s knees were under the cover.

Maggie heaved herself up, leaning back against the headboard and reached for her tea.  “Thank you, Philip, that was very kind of you.”

They both sat without saying a word, Philip conscious of the hot tea reminding him of an empty stomach not yet having had lunch.

Maggie took a breath, put her empty cup down on the bedside table, and looked at Philip.

“Philip, I don’t know how to say this.  The reason for me being unwell this morning was that I have just had a miscarriage.”

Philip’s world came to an instant, shuddering halt. Of course, that’s what Pharaoh had picked up, the impending breakup of his home. Because, after the birth of his second child with his first wife in 1972, Philip had opted for a vasectomy.

1,495 words. Copyright © 2013 Paul Handover


Have to wait until Monday to see where it all leads to.

Finding one’s true self.

A personal journey

In some ways, it is surprising that I haven’t written about my own counselling experiences before.  Perhaps it has never felt like the right moment.

But the guest post from Peter Bloch that I had the honour of publishing yesterday so strongly resonated with the ‘Fergus’ inside me that I was compelled to offer my own journey.  So if you are not into bouts of personal introspection, look away and come back tomorrow! 😉

The fickle finger of fate

I was born in Acton, North London, just 6 months before the end of World War II.  Nothing remarkable about that.  Just another one of the millions of soon-to-be post-war babies.  My father was an architect; my mother a teacher.  Indeed, at the age of 93 my mother is still teaching music!

In 1956 when my father was 55 years-old he developed lung cancer.  I and my sister were blissfully unaware of our father’s terminal condition until the evening of December 19th, 1956.  That evening Mum came into my bedroom and said that father was very ill and may not live for very much longer.  To be honest, it didn’t really register and off I went to sleep.  I was 12 and looking forward to Christmas in 5 days time.

My father died in the night hours of December 19th/20th.  I had slept through not even wakening when his body was removed from the house.  On the morning of the 20th he was just gone!

It was felt by the family doctor, who had been attending my father, that it would be too upsetting for me and my younger sister to attend the funeral.  That funeral was a cremation and therefore no grave.

The good and the not so good.

The only obvious effect of the trauma of my father’s death was that I bombed out at school.  I had passed my ’11+’ exams at my primary school and in September, 1956, become a pupil at Preston Manor County Grammar School near Preston Road, Wembley where we were living; Wembley Stadium could be seen from the back windows of the 2nd floor of our house.

I struggled with schooling, the victim of much bullying as I recall, sat 8 ‘O-level’ exams, passed 2, struggled to get another couple of ‘O-levels’ but it was clear that a University place was not going to be for me.

From then on, in stark contrast, I enjoyed a wonderfully varied life, working as a business salesman, freelance journalist and ending up starting my own company in Colchester in 1978 which became surprisingly successful.

But when it came to relationships, that wasn’t so successful.  If I tell you that Jeannie is my 4th wife, you will get the message!

A little more background.

When running my own business back in the 1980s I had a network of overseas distributors.  My US West Coast distributor was Cimarron, a company owned and run by Daniel Gomez out of Los Angeles.  Dan and I became good friends and still are some 35 years later.  I’ll come back to this highly relevant relationship with Dan.

I sold my business in 1986 and went overseas for 5 years, actually living on a boat based in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (The boat was a Tradewind 33 named ‘Songbird of Kent‘.)

In the early 1990s upon returning to England I chose to live in the South Hams area of South Devon, ending up in the small village of Harberton, pop. 300, near Totnes.  Once settled I took up business mentoring.  In previous years, I had gained Chartered Membership of the Institute of Marketing.  In addition, I became a youth mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, a really fabulous organisation that does so much good for young people.

One of my personal mentees was Jon Lavin, the founder of The People Workshop.  (Yes, and Jon is aware that his website is a tad out-of-date!)

Out of sight, but not out of mind.

In time I became married to wife number three.  Seemingly happy living in a tranquil part of rural Devon, keeping busy, not thinking too much about life.

Pharaoh became an important part of my life in 2003.  At the time, I had no idea how important!

Pharaoh, relaxing in a Devon garden.
Pharaoh, relaxing in a Devon garden.

On the evening of December 20th, 2006, 50 years to the day that my father died, my wife announced that she had met another man. The implications of this casually delivered bombshell were obvious and catastrophically painful.

I will spare you the details but, trust me, the next few weeks were tough!

High on my priorities were letting close friends know what was happening.  Dan, in characteristic Daniel fashion, said over the phone, “Hey, Handover, you get your arse over to Southern California pronto! Like now!”  I replied that it was much too difficult to do that now but maybe later on in 2007.

Realising that I might need some psychological support, I spoke with Jon Lavin.  However, Jon made it clear that as we already had a working relationship with me as his mentor, he couldn’t now, in turn, be my psychotherapist.  I pleaded with Jon.  He said he would only work with me on the strict understanding that he would terminate the counselling relationship if our past workings interfered.  Of course, I agreed. [See footnote.]

Finding one’s true self after 50 years!

Jon, quite naturally, started into understanding my past experiences. Right back to that fateful day in 1956 when my father died.  And, guess what!

Unbeknownst to me, the lack of time to adjust to my father’s cancer, his sudden death, being unable to ‘say goodbye‘; all had been emotionally interpreted as acute and profound emotional rejection.  Buried deep within me with both strong positive and negative emotional consequences.  Negatively, making me very vulnerable to emotional rejection; positively, causing me to strive for outward success in so many ways.  Those sessions with Jon brought it all to the surface bringing with it deep and peaceful calm.

Yet, the true implications of finding myself were still to come.

In the Summer of 2007, I took up Dan’s offer to ‘get my arse to Southern California!‘  I had a fabulous time with Dan and his dear wife, Cynthia.  It also included a visit to Dan’s sister, Suzann, and her husband, Don, in their home in Los Osos, California.  Su fussed over me restoring my sense of self-worth as Dan and Cynthia had been doing.

One morning over breakfast Suzann said, “Hey Paul, what are you doing for Christmas?

I replied, “Oh, give me a break, Suzann, it’s the middle of June.  Long time before I have to think about dealing with Christmas!

Su then made the offer that was to change my life irrevocably.  “Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico where we shall be at Christmas.  Why don’t you come and have Christmas with us in Mexico?

And I did.  And it was in San Carlos, Mexico that I met Jean.  Suzann and Jean were great buddies. Jean had been living there since she and her late husband, Ben, had moved there many years ago.  Ben, an American, and Jean had been married for 26 years with Ben, sadly, having died in 2005.

Jean and I spent hundreds of hours chatting and getting to know each other, including the fact that she and I had both been born Londoners within 23 miles of each other.  Jean had been rescuing Mexican feral dogs for years and there were 14 dogs in her house in San Carlos.  So many of those dogs loved me from the start.  It seemed like the most beautiful Christmas I could have wished for.  In such stark contrast to just a year ago.

Mexican sunset! San Carlos, 2nd January, 2008.
Mexican sunset! San Carlos, 2nd January, 2008.

In September, 2008 after selling the house in Devon, I moved out to San Carlos, Mexico.  Just me and Pharaoh who had been such a devoted friend, companion and confidant over the previous months.

In 2010, we moved to Payson in Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix. On November 20th, 2010 Jean and I were married.

The marriage of Jean and Paul wonderfully supported by Diane, maid of honour, and best man, Dan Gomez.
The marriage of Jean and Paul wonderfully supported by Diane, maid of honour, and best man, Dan Gomez.

Releasing the Fergus in me and all of us.

What Peter Bloch wrote yesterday was so true.  A dog can only be a happy, fulfilled dog, if allowed to be the true dog that is in him or her.  Despite the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids like wolves, coyotes, and foxes, it still holds as true for us humans as it did for Fergus.

We can only be happy, to put it in the words of Fergus, “happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way.” if we are given the freedom to be our self.

So if you find that you, like Fergus, suffer from digestive problems, possibly have skin disorders and sometimes behave a little strangely take note – you need to find your healer!



Back in 2008 when Jon Lavin was working with me, I would take Pharaoh and he would lay on the floor behind my seat.  On one occasion Jon was talking about the findings of Dr. David Hawkins and his Scale of Consciousness; from falsehood to truthfulness. (See here and here for more details.)

Anyway that fateful day, Jon mentioned that Dr. Hawkins had measured dogs as being integrous animals.  That notion stayed with me and later I registered the domain name learningfromdogs (dot) com leading to – yes, you guessed it – this blog.  Funny old world.