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Questions arising from the Quinta

Recent lively family discussions over dinner abroad seem to lead to the following (unanswerable) questions. I am sharing them on here because there’s nowhere else obvious to put them. I may be doing Facebook and Twitter a disservice, but I don’t think they’re quite up to the job.

#1 If you put the same child to bed every night, as the one that wakes up in the morning, and the same one returns from school at the end of every day, that you sent out earlier… when is it exactly that they grow and change as they most indubitably do?

There was no especial answer. If I had my time again, I’d photograph mine every morning and evening for their first eighteen years That would give me 365 x 2 = 730 x 18 = 13,140 (+ 8 extra snaps for leap years) and a final total of 13,148 photos per child. Perhaps it’s not too late for someone, somewhere to start. It would really help us pinpoint the external changes at least.

The next question pertained to the saltiness of the oceans. Why? And how? And why water?

I am just easing myself back in to the blog, so I’ll leave that ‘answer’ for another time… Suffice to say, it involved the discussion of pastry and boiled eggs, as well as custard.

Here’s a photo of the local salt water down the hill and round the corner from where the extended family stayed. The locals have found a good use for it – in the production of dried salted cod. The Portugese riffle through great flattened stacks of these apparently identical fish in the supermarket with the same dedication one might muster for selecting expensive wallpaper from an outsized sample book in Colefax & Fowler. Their hands must absolutely ming by the time they get to the cashier. I am pretty glad we don’t have all that business down the Co-op as the smell makes me heave. Still, the Portugese might just have the edge over the Only Way is Essex vis a vis the sunset over the water at least…


‘I’ve been thinking about my life…’


That’s what the children’s grandmother said when I asked what she did for her birthday yesterday – her 70th birthday.

Imagine taking a day to think about your life when you are seventy years old; would you fit it all in, or would you be done by lunchtime?

How would it make you feel? Would you judge yourself, or simply hold your past self in a kind and loving aspect? Would you still be seeking, or would you have found? What would you listen to? How does seventy feel? I wonder how many of us will find out.

Still life of a basket on a chair, Edna Clarke Hall 1900,

Trying to form a question in my mind

Not any question, but A Good Question. Most questions have already been asked by someone, somewhere, so I don’t imagine it will be a new question I come up with. But perhaps it will an old question framed in a new context. I don’t know, because I haven’t come up with it yet. When something floats around like this, just out of reach, in the ether, everything feels odd. I don’t sleep well. Snapshot memories come back vividly – they too are transformed by a new context: thinking about the same old thing but in a different way is a surprisingly challenging process. Thinking without words. This sounds impossible, but it can be done. After all, what else do we do before we can speak, as babies? Not think? Or after we have lost the power of speech through illness, age or accident. Not think? Of course we think, just differently. And because the majority of the world are thinking in language-based forms, those of us forced into a visual thought pattern are pushed to the margins of both the world’s and the world of our usual selves.

Perhaps you do it yourself, when you dream. Waking dreams are where good thoughts arise. I am hoping that the question will emerge from one of those in-between states, when it is ready.