Archive | March, 2015


7 Mar

The fine spray which blows from the tops of ocean waves in the teeth of a gale is called ‘spindrift’. From time immemorial sailors have used this fine frothy foam to identify wind speeds of force 8 on the Beaufort scale. Gale force.


Years ago my daughter Polly and I learned to sail on the Norfolk Broads in an old clinker built gaff rigged yacht. We had become the spindrift of a marital break up. This storm driven freedom had cut us loose temporarily, and it started a tradition we follow to this day. Every year we spend a little bit of time together doing something neither of us has ever done before. We have blown glass, seen an obscure Shakespearian play together and last year we dipped in to the Literary Festival at Hay on Wye.

Polly and I find that when we are both out of our comfort zone and in unfamiliar surroundings we can experience each other’s company with very little baggage – the historical parent and child dynamic recedes. I’m not sure what she gets out of it, but I get the concentrated company of a beautiful, vibrant woman, who very much makes up her own mind and shares her observation generously.

Here seen through the eyes of her husband, Alan Howden (a professional photographer) – you can see how lucky I am. Peleus has captured his Nereid, Thetis – no spindrift here, just the flat calm of a lovely tropical sunset.


It is hard for all of us to drop the cares of the day and to step away from the experiences which have forged our expectations. When we place ourselves in unfamiliar territory with people we love, we gift ourselves the opportunity to discover anew.

It is these experiences which burn the brightest memories, and one of my favourite concerns Ballet.

Years ago I was diagnosed with chronic depression following a suicide attempt and assigned to a psychiatrist for treatment. I was introduced to a Dr. Lingam in a clinic in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Upon being introduced I said;

“Lingam, ah yes Sanskrit for penis – so you will be dicking with my head?”.

This was typical of my flippancy and it was a long while before I was properly diagnosed with manic depression and finally learned to curb my tongue.

It was not an auspicious start to my therapy – the poor bloke found me hard work.

Luisa Park Seville

A little while later my wife Clare and I were on holiday in Seville sitting in Luisa park beside the old tobacco factory.  I was in a dark and gloomy mood – profoundly depressed.  I sat moribund as Clare announced “I bet you have never seen my Special Ballet, have you?”

I was bemused.

“Well just this once I am going to perform my famous Ballet just for you, in this park”

Even this most terminally depressed and mardy git could not help but be intrigued.

Needless to say Clare proceeded to balance, jeté, brise, plie, perform lovely arabesques and bravura bourrees along the flower beds and paths in full view of a bemused Sevillian public, all with a deadpan serious expression. I was entranced.

By the end I was splitting my sides with unrestrained mirth. It was the funniest, loveliest and most beautiful performance I have been privileged to have witnessed. Moreover, it was just for me. Move over Martha Graham.

In that brave, humorous performance in Seville this lovely woman had taken my spirit from a place of darkness and turmoil and danced Spindrift into my soul.