I was talking with a wise woman the other night.  Her wisdom quietly blew my mind, as she's only 18 however she's way ahead of where I was at that age.  Ahead of so many, of any age, I suspect.

Her history of achievement is quietly spectacular too, both outdoors and academically.  She's waiting now ... to see which university is for her, based on her results.  Physics and maths are her thing.  But so are days out with friends, laughter, and Pokemon Go.  She's startlingly well-balanced and confident. 

I hesitate to write this but this combination seems like a rare gift in these days.  Her parents, her family ... they played a huge role, I'm sure but nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to how we show up in the world.

Alex and I sat up talking after everyone else had gone to their beds and, much to my surprise, I was gently taken to task for under-valuing my photography.

Although she never said these words, I came away with the idea I should simply get over any doubts that I had then get on with it.  Get on with pursuing my passion for photography, as opposed to pacing up and down on the edge of the pier, wanting to swim but trying to make everything perfect before I leap in. 

Just sell what I do, and talk of what I believe photography is meant to be.  And ohmygoodness, had I heard the story of my life so far??!

But for me, here on the inside of my life, I know all the other stuff.  There's always the pre-leap phase.  And there have been so many times in my life, so far, where I've felt myself back on that pier that heads out into the lake ... pacing.  Wanting to, needing to, jump but so very nervous.

Can I swim well enough?  Sure, but should I wear a life jacket just in case I get into difficulties in the water?  But wait, why not have a small boat in the water, ready to pull me out?  A small boat ... why not a bigger boat, or a cruise ship.  Why not wait, save up and buy a cruise ship and then simply dive into the ship's pool then? 100% success guaranteed ... once I have enough money to buy that big old cruise ship.  

And on it goes, while I remain there on the pier, ready but not committing.

So, to Alex, I write a huge and heartfelt thank you.  You gifted me your idea of me, in that beautifully direct and intelligent way that you have.  Never lose it, never apologise for it.  You're just kind of perfect as you are.

Wishing every success in the years ahead!!  I'm so looking forward to seeing what you do with your life.

Lewis of Lewis ...

I met this man last week and it turned into this delicious story that I just have to tell ...

I was at The Victoria, in Oxshott, and this guy wandered in with his suitcase.  He'd just come up from the train station and was meeting his friend.

Our conversation began simply enough, and then he mentioned he was a Scot, he had been to New Zealand.  And I mentioned ... half laughing, that 'my people' came from Scotland.  From the Isle of Lewis, 6 generations before me.

And that's when it all got a bit odd.  I learned his nickname was Lewis of Lewis, and he was born there on the island I had mentioned.  We stayed on, after his friend arrived, and it was a lovely evening.  But the 'odd' doesn't end there.

His friend arrived and he introduced her.  I said, I feel like I know you ... like we've had conversations

She felt the same.  We talked over where we might have met in this tiny village but agreed we'd never met while wandering out in the Oxshott woods.  And she didn't work, nor did she volunteer at any of the charity shops in Cobham, and so we gave up with the guessing and decided it was simply our imagination.

Later, I was talking of having lived in Belgium and suddenly ... Liz asked me if I had photographed Simon and Deirdre's wedding in Brugge, and I said, no but I did photograph their son's confirmation celebration.  Their daughter's too ... back in Brussels.

And that's where we'd met.  I had both talked with her and photographed her. I was the photographer and Simon is her godson.  We were so confused by meeting in the bar in that tiny village in England, that Belgium simply hadn't occurred to us.

A couple of days later, I wandered into the pub, with Marcelle... and there they were, just finishing their lunch with a friend.  I wandered over to say hi again.  They said pull up a chair, so we did. 

Marcelle couldn't stay long but I stayed a couple of hours.  It turned out their friend was another child of Lewis.  He had been a school friend of Lewis, and now has more than a passing interest in genealogy and the history of the Isle of Lewis. 

He invited me to write to him with the details I have of my family, and the two brothers who left for New Zealand, all those years ago.   As soon as life settles a little, I'll do it. 

I knew Lewis was leaving 10am Monday and I asked if I might photograph him.  He said it would be fine, although he was a little reluctant about posing.  And so there I was, to the amusement of both him and Liz, at the station on Monday.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed meeting that man from Lewis, and Liz too ... then again, it's probably quite clear :-)

Card Evenings in the Garden ...

I have played card games over the years but, like jokes, I usually forget how they go and never play them again. 

I'm determined it will be different this time ...  It turns out I love playing cards with friends.

Cathy, James and Alex have, patiently, spent these long summer evenings teaching me how to play different card games. Doggy Whist, let's not mention Irish Snap, and then Hearts.  Hearts ... probably because it was the game that seemed to click best with me and, while I trail behind, the deficit isn't too shocking.

It occurs to me as I stop here, look up and around me, that I should go get my camera and photograph the place where I come to read and write on these Surrey mornings.  I'm out in their beautiful English garden - a fish pond chuckling, birds singing and usually Jenny, their King Cavalier, is here next to me. 

But the card games ... I didn't realise how much psychology there is.  Analysis and tactics. Plain dumb luck, and instinct.  Who bluffs best, and let's not forget ... who cheats most outrageously.  But best of all, the laughter. 

Yesterday I posted a 'card game story' over on Facebook:

Much hilarity ... once we all stopped screaming/roaring!!! Playing cards, outside in the garden in Surrey tonight. Cathy warned me not to put my wine glass on the ground ... SLUGS, you see. I thought she was kidding. Worse still, she thought she was kidding.

I picked up my glass about 5 minutes later and SCREAMED which made the others wonder but then they joined in the screaming too - in the most hilarious way.

We were all making the most incredible noise as they realised I had picked up my wine glass, by its narrow stem, and my fingers had closed round a SLUG. A big fat slimy slug!!! I'm still giggling ... I think the ongoing laughter is about James roar which was not unlike that moment, in the movie Home Alone, when the main character came face-to-face with the TarantuIa and roared.

I probably won't sleep tonight, for laughter. We're lucky that the neighbours didn't call the police.

Then last night, our game was threatened by Flying Ants.  Apparently they're set to kick off, again, and you don't want to be involved.  Not all all.

I have packed my suitcase and realised it was way over the limit.  So I left it open on my bedroom floor ... hoping things would magically change.  I repacked yesterday.  It's lighter but I might have to leave the tripod behind.  Mmmm, and so today is the day of suitcase reckoning.  Let's see how it goes.

Days Like These ...

I thought I would work backwards, through these days and the people I've met ... writing of the people who have sweetened these days of transition.

An old school friend of mine had written to say he and his wife would be in London and they wondered if I could meet up for dinner.  And I did but getting home late from London, along the unlit country road, held less appeal.

No problem for them ... Paul and Lisa said they'd come my way.  And it was on. 

I've known him since I was 14 ... back in those days when we'd tie up the house phones, talking with each other for hours. Arguing about/discussing religion and all sorts of other things too.  He was the practical doubting one.  I was the other one.

But he was a best friend.  We never dated but I did get to ride on the back of his motorbike, and Dave's too.  And my very first memorable taste of being a photographer came from those days, when I took my then wickedly ineffectual little camera down to the Brick & Sand quarry and attempted to capture them dirt-bike riding. 

Paul has been a good friend through the years, out there but less present after he moved to Australia.   Although it makes me smile when I realise that not much has changed with us ... we still argue like cat and dog but we no longer mind.  He's a conservative, I'm not ... we get that the other can't help themselves.

These days have been so full, of packing and moving and worrying, that Monday was upon me before I had had time to think much about it.  And so it was that ... after a series of miscommunications that played out as Retrospectively Amusing, I found them and had the loveliest evening hearing their stories, telling them mine ... occasionally veering off into why it was Paul's fault that our plans to meet went so wrong for a while there.

For them, this trip had been about wandering through Europe.  Paul is a paraponter, Lisa a surfer ... although boardless this time.  They surprised me with news that they'd impulsively popped over the border, from their then base in Switzerland, and spent some time in Genoa!! 

We exchanged stories of that city I love.  It made me smile, as Clare ... the Australian friend I caught up with the next day, had also spent time in Genoa, with her family.  They had all seen why I love the city so much. 

And that's how it played out ... by chance. It's been a week that found me exchanging stories with Australians, and Australian-based Kiwis ... with much-loved old friends from school, and from my days lived in Istanbul, about the things they had loved in Genoa.

There are photographs of them both, someplace on my website but it's early morning in England, and I'm out in the garden writing again.  It's beautiful out here but conscious that today is another mad-busy day and I need to go dive into it. 

Jenny, the King Cavalier spaniel, is dozing under my chair and here I am, so full of stories I'm wanting to tell but knowing I need to get going, now that breakfast is done.

I hope life is beautiful in your world xx

Posts From This Beautiful Garden in Surrey.


I'm sitting on a big old wrought iron chair, on the edge of the beautiful English garden that belongs to a woman who has been an incredibly good friend to me. I finished the novel I had been using to get me through these tricky days of transition and so came outside with my laptop and coffee.  Jenny, the King Cavalier spaniel, is keeping me company.

Like me, I suspect she's enjoying the early morning cool. Yesterday Surrey hit 36 celsius and no one was ready. It was the worst day to move house but it was done. Accidentally ... as you do.

The days have tumbled by lately, with an impetus similar to a mountain stream falling down a mountainside, if I try to describe it. Days so full of good people that I'm not sure I can write of everyone. But perhaps if I work backwards, starting yesterday. Perhaps if I write a series, before I leave for Italy next week …

Yesterday and my Australian friend, Clare living in London, arrived to take away and store as many of my books as she could. I have a habit of losing the best of my books when I divorce and move countries. Just twice but I'm a woman who loves the idea of living a lifetime with her collection of books. The Universe clearly has other plans.

Clare also provided transport for a load of my possessions. We took them to Cathy's, where I have some space in her garage for those things I wouldn't mind keeping, if I can work out a way.

Evening fell and I realised I had left the place I've been living these last 7 months.

Last night was spent out here in the garden, with Cathy, James and Alexandra.. A BBQ dinner, and them patiently teaching me how to play cards. I was so quietly deeply happy to be there, on the edge of this truly special family.

It has almost been a year since I left Belgium. Marriage over and without a country, I wanted to stay close to my daughter and Miss 12. Kim suggested I arrive in her world and set about making it happen … as it turns out, I was quite incapable, in some ways. More devastated than I realised, and far more broken than I knew.

It's been a year of deep change but I like who I'm becoming. I'll leave England so much stronger than I've been, in years … in every way.

And stronger because of the friends I've always had, but also because of the new friends I've made. For me, I see how it has been all about people. Friends, and strangers, who have picked me up, dusted me off, and been incredibly kind. Generous. Understanding. And welcoming too.

I woke this morning, in a beautiful bedroom and, for the first time in a long time, I felt peace-filled. Sitting out here this morning, I felt safe enough to cry … and had to smile. I've been so busy moving forward, surviving, that there hasn't been too much time for self-pity.  It would have crippled me some.

Today, the first time I've felt normal in a long time, and I wanted to cry. I had to mock myself a little … ' Di, you need life to be a struggle so you can stay strong?'

I didn't cry. I think I'll just weave that recognition of struggle in with all the rest and keep going forward because forward movement is surely the best thing.

It turns out, I have too much luggage for Italy. I, the queen of 'take only what you can carry up and down stairs' in those train stations, wants to take too much to Genova.

My other 'rule' is based on being able to walk away from possessions.  Clearly I have tried to keep too much this time and so today needs to be about stripping away the excess, again. I'm in the right place. I know people in Oxfam, and there's a refuse tip here. It's time to go back to bare bones. I thought I had but no, not quite.

As mentioned before ... have lost 16kgs in England, or 30 pounds … which sounds so much better :-) None of the clothes I bought with me from Belgium survived that weight loss. I was so fortunate to arrive in a place where quality secondhand clothing cost so very little.  Today, I may have purchased an exquisite, truly exquisite, Laura Ashley skirt for 7 pounds. 


Silk is the new Di ... it's amusing me.  I don't know who would recognise me from those other lives I've lived.  Not Christine and Peter Kirker, from those airforce days when I favoured the long baggy jersey, with jeans, look.  Not my Belgian friends, some who worked so hard on getting me out of that habit of dressing in black ... Marcie:-)  Not my Turkish friends, who mentioned my hippy taste ...

But I'm loving it all.  Dresses, beautiful colours, and silk ... and so very inexpensive despite labels like Monsoon and Zara now appearing there in my ... suitcase.

But suddenly it's tonight.  I stopped writing here earlier, to repack and reorder those boxes stored in the garage.  Then went wandering with Cathy, zapping about the countryside in her daughter's Mini ... dropping stuff off at the dump, leaving other stuff with Oxfam, eating lunch somewhere in Surrey staring with E.

And it's tonight ... there's a massive pavlova sitting here in the kitchen.  My best ever ... perhaps.  There's a glass of wine in front of me.  Fish is frying, salads are ready.  We're feasting outside again. 

I'll leave you with a photograph of Jenny, my lovely breakfast buddy ...

for Cathy.jpg

The Victoria Pub, Oxshott ... a new favourite place out in the world.

Walking into The Victoria Pub feels feels like arriving some place familiar … even for this New Zealander, more than 11,000 miles from home.

Just opened, after massive renovations, The Vic is a pub that manages to be both upmarket and cosy. Elegant but warm and welcoming too.  I can honestly write that it has been worth the wait.  Even better, pub manager, Jonny O'Connor and the White Brasserie group, seem intent on making the place special.

Initially, I had imagined the raw oyster and champagne opening event would price it out of my range but no, they cater to a wide range of clientele. From fine-dining through to a beer at the bar. They also host massively enjoyable quiz evenings on Sundays. Live music sometimes. And then there's a large outdoor garden for summer dining.

The brick and wood interior manages to be both homely and classy. It's a physical space that makes you want to visit often, and then stay a few hours, every time. When I asked Jonny (photograph below) about his noticeably warm and friendly staff he explained, they're chosen for their personality and then further trained to make customers feel truly welcome.

Talking with Jonny, one quickly realises that no detail has been left to chance. Open and friendly, he's a man on a mission. He made me smile when he mentioned his desire to model his passion for his work on Eastenders character, Peggy Mitchell, one-time landlady of that other Vic.

The wine list is impressive, with something for every palate and pocket. The food has been divine - every single time. Nothing is ordinary, not even the olives. The details speak volumes about The Vic's focus on customer satisfaction.

There's space for the casual regulars out at the bar, that area often buzzing with conversation and laughter. They're a friendly mob, here in Oxshott, and The Vic is fast becoming one of the beating hearts located in this tiny village.

I have now competed in two of the Sunday night quizzes, enjoying the fact that the European Football champs were there in the background.  And exploring the wine list has been rewarding.  Even better, I'm usually there in the midst of good people and much laughter.

As I write this, sitting in a quiet corner of the bar on a sunny afternoon, I realise the bar is as cosy as a living room.  There's the rug on the the wooden floor, over near the fire, and the armchairs are arranged in small groups that invite quiet conversations. The bar staff are sharing stories of rescue dogs with a couple who used to live in the village.  I'm enjoying the ebb and flow of the conversation, the genuine interest ...  even the music.

Jonny and the White Brasserie have begun well, building a beautifully strong foundation in these opening weeks. The Victoria, of Oxshott, is already a special space.  One that welcomes you in as you step through the door.

You should visit, see for yourself...

The Victoria, High St, Oxshott, KT22 0JR

Telephone: 01372 841900