The Power of Conversation

I have had some interesting exchanges in various mediums following my posting on The Power of Listening a few days ago. One of them was an email conversation with someone for whom I have enormous love and respect, and I have shared some of this discussion below. I am left, as so often in my life, with a heart full of gratitude for each person that provides me with fresh perspectives, and the opportunity to explore, expand and better express my own thinking. Thank you to each one of you.

DH:You put it well, Laurel. If only all people who worked in development began their work listening and learning from the people they aim to “help”, development might be a lot more productive. I’m constantly appalled by the belief that this relationship is one way: from me the provider to you the beneficiary. And your observations are definitely the correction needed.   Continue reading

Glühwein recipe for a winter’s evening

Glühwein is one of our favourite drinks for a sociable, chilly evening, and tastes especially good when sitting outside around a fire, as we did tonight. With the winter solstice fast approaching, and the evenings long and cold, we’ve taken to making our Glühwein in an enamel kettle, so it can sit keeping happily warm next to the fire.


After some experimentation, we have typed up our current favourite version of this traditional recipe. Continue reading

Epiphanies (Chris Zithulele Mann) – Yourfavourite poem

Laurel's Reflections:

Ah, they published the poem I sent through… It’s been one of my favorites since I first read it, nearly two decades ago.

Originally posted on




If suffering, its persistence

is a mystery

then so is joy.


Walking at dawn I found its music

drenching me utterly,


and couldn’t convey

more than a trace of it,


a man with headphones, stepping out a subway


leaping with a laugh in the air.



Whoever grew wise without sorrow?


Whoever loved

unless they trusted enough to bleed?


And who understood

till they’d shivered in fright at their ignorance?


Like dew

smoking off the bumpers of parked cars


such epiphanies

from time to momentary time



then evaporate.

Chris Zithulele Mann




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The Power of Listening

I have been meandering my way through “The City of Joy”, a remarkable book written by Dominique Lapierre and first published in Great Britain in 1986. Some of you may be more familiar with the 1992 film adaptation starring Patrick Swayze, which whilst having a powerful influence on me as a teenager, doesn’t begin to capture the complexity and subtlety of the book.


Within its pages, in beautifully flowing and descriptive text, we are introduced to some of the characters the author met and interviewed during three years of extensive research in India.

Tonight, as I read the passages I have quoted below, I was struck by how many profoundly simple lessons need to be constantly gone over, decade after decade, as we continue to struggle to uplift those living on poverty – or, rather, as we should be conceptualising the issue, to enable those living in poverty to uplift themselves. This simple shift in phrasing highlights two of the main recurring errors of much aid and development work:

  1. To think that we (the saviours) are indispensible in ‘rescuing’ the victims of poverty. This view tends to lead to solutions that require the continuing presence of such saviours.
  1. We – as development practitioners – think that our education, research, experience and knowledge make us the experts, and that we can use these alone to develop the best solutions for others.

Continue reading

Appreciating the Heart

“Very few people understand the heart. In truth, your heart is one of the masterpieces of creation. It is a phenomenal instrument. It has the potential to create vibrations and harmonies that are far beyond the beauty of pianos, strings, or flutes. You can hear an instrument, but you feel your heart. And if you think that you feel an instrument, it’s only because it touched your heart.”

– Michael Singer

Musical Memories

When I saw there was a Baroque 2000 ensemble performance at a local Monastery on the 31st May, I knew instantly that it would be a wonderful way to spend some time communing with memories of my mother on this fourth anniversary of her death.

31 May 2015 Collage

I have such a powerful recollections of sitting with her, holding hands, both with tears sliding down our cheeks as we enjoyed the evocative Bach Cello Suites in a little church in Cornwall not too many years ago. Continue reading

My Mother’s Hands (audio)

On the eve of the fourth anniversary of my mother’s death, I have recorded a reading of a poem I wrote and posted on the 11th August, 2011. I was deeply moved once again reading all the comments on the original post, and I wish to thank to everyone who has shared or supported me on the journey of learning to engage with life without my mother. You can listen to my reading here.

Her hands, strong and articulate,
Drawing air-pictures
Whilst describing new perspectives.

Digging earth to bring its bounty forth,
Or climbing rock –
She touched the world, and so it touched her back.

Her hands that bathed my newborn flesh;
They wiped my tears,
And across distance wrote to soothe my fears.

Those hands turned cold, then turned to flame, then dust.
Yet in my heart, her hands will always be:
Memories wrapped forever around me.

Laurel and Tess Strawberries

Mom feeding me strawberries in the Burger Street house kitchen