August 2013

I couldn’t have packed more into the last couple of weeks if I’d stuffed them in a suitcase and had three people sitting on it.

Among the highlights of an excellent Summer (apart from some of our best-ever guests, great weather, working for folding money to get us through the Winter, entertaining visiting friends and family, finishing the new outdoor kitchen, smallholding, planning, dining and wining) was playing music again on stage.

Here’s a shot from my band’s last gig, at a night market in a village called Audrix.

stax banner

My last proper gigs were back in the 1990s, when I played Brixton Academy a couple of times (although The Mean Fiddler was still a better venue). But I was young, self conscious and painfully aware of any mistakes I made. One advantage of being that much older is that I really don’t care any more. Rehearsing a lot makes a huge difference, as does having a set of good songs and some excellent musicians to play with. This Winter I’ll be working on solos (finally, I’ll have a reason to learn those epic Jon Lord riffs) and backing vocals. If you’re in the area next year, keep an eye on our facebook page for details of concerts.

I’ve got some blog posts to write when I get a moment, and I’ll be doing a video to mark our SIX YEARS in France. I’m also going to be recording some tracks with a friend and writing Part Two of my book about our experience of moving to France to set up écovallée, which is called: “Descent into Hell”. And there are some fairly big building projects to crack on with, wood to gather, maintenance to do. So, plenty of reasons to come back here are see what’s going on.

Ah. We’ll be opening the 2014 diary for écovallée bookings soon. But if you want to come before the end of October, I’m sure we can squeeze you in…

Last week, some of our guests spotted people pulling crayfish (US: crawfish) out of the lake in nearby Lanquais. So they went back, armed with a chicken drumstick and a bucket, and pulled out about 60 in a few minutes. Unfortunately for our guests, they went out for dinner that night, which meant we got to eat them all ourselves!

First, I found this very useful picture story by George Monbiot on how to make a crawfish (UK: crayfish) net and how to cook them, then had a go myself. As these were quite small, I went for ten at a time for about five minutes in quite salty water. Here’s the before, during and after shot:


Shelling took a while and you do end up with lots of waste – but you also have a delicious, ethical, foraged, restaurant-quality feast. Prawns have been almost completely off the menu for a few years for us, which is a shame because we love them. But these taste almost as good and we’ll be eating them again as often as we can. (For this first attempt, I fried the tails lightly in garlic butter, with a dash of lemon juice, and stirred them into pasta.)

Highly recommended – and many thanks to Tim, Janine and the boys for fishing them out for us.

Most people see Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) as somewhere on the scale between Mildly Annoying and Major Pain in the Arse (US: Ass).

But when I see them at the door, or walking down the road, I am happy. I know that, within a few minutes, they will be backing away from me with fear and panic in their eyes. Because I don’t see them as brainwashed, robotic, joyless beings. I hail them as fellow seekers on the road to enlightenment who have been tragically misinformed. For me, talking to a JW is an opportunity to turn them away from the path of ignorance and darkness, and towards an open country of wonderful possibilities. It also gives me the chance to talk about one of my favourite subjects: Reincarnation.

When I first mention reincarnation, the leading JW’s eyes flash as they think they have found someone to talk to. Perhaps even turn. They typically ask if reincarnation is something I “believe” in – and that’s my opening.

You see, I’ve done quite a lot of reading around this subject and it’s not a “belief” – it’s an “understanding”. It something that, at the very least, has made my life infinitely easier to live. I won’t go into detail here, but I am 100% convinced of the reality of reincarnation as a process – and have a reading list to back it up. Some of these books are more exciting than others, but I list them for you here so that you, too, can be equipped to deal with JWs in the future.

JWs are not to be feared. They just don’t possess all the information available.

Journey of Souls, Dr Michael Newton

(About what happens between when we die and when we incarnate again – start with this one)

Destiny of Souls, Dr Michael Newton

(Not as good as the first, from memory, but sequels are never easy)

Children’s Past Lives, Carol Bowman

(Some great stories about kids who remember a previous life – superb)

Return from Heaven, Carol Bowman

(About kids who incarnate back into the same family)

Conversations with God Book 1, Neale Donald Walsch

(Very challenging for Christians, despite the title – very highly recommended)

Conversations with God Book 2, Neale Donald Walsch

(Seriously interesting – I remember this being better than book one)

Conversations with God Book 3, Neale Donald Walsch

(There are more, but the point’s been made by now – sequels again)

Many Lives, Many Masters, Brian Weiss

(Wasn’t crazy about this one, but some people love it)

Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

(Wonderful book on meditation I lent to my friend Beth years ago)

This last book is a book on meditation and includes lots of different – and excellent – exercises to try. It’s included here because, to my knowledge, JWs are afraid of meditation. I dabbled in happy-clappy Christianity when I was growing up and we were told never to meditate. I suspect this is because, when you become still and quiet, you begin to question some of the things you’ve been told that don’t ring true. Christians might label this doubt or temptation and say it comes from the devil. But I don’t believe that for a second.

(Comments on this post might get interesting.)