The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Thursday, 23 June 2016


Before I got married I lived in the same place, for thirty years, in a town on a hill; a town with ancient roots. It is called Rabat, from the medieval Arabic name for 'suburb' or ‘a fortified place’, but people have lived there since pre-historic times.
It has a variegated history – but you can find that information on any website or even on my other blog (that I have sorely neglected this year). But there’s more to life than history. There are the personal stories; the everyday tears and laughter that no one will ever record or write about. And scattered around this town are little pieces of me: pieces of my history; my story.
Although we lived in the suburbs, I know the old town well. I could walk blind-fold through its winding streets and ancient alleys. But I don't, I walk with my senses all a-buzz, hunting out forgotten doorways; mysterious windows. And here and there, the echoes of yesterday’s laughter reverberate in the silence of my head. I gather them to me, these moments suspended in time, and wear them, like a soft shawl, hugged tightly to my body, to warm my heart on days when life seems bleak: memories of childhood games in shaded alleyways; shadows and whispers of those who have gone but whom we still love; snippets of conversations from balmy summer nights of long ago; teenage giggles in secluded corners – they are there, like a bridge between what was, what is and what will be.
Home, home, home my heart seems to sing as the echo of my footsteps ricochets off of tall buildings in narrow streets. I can still feel their presence, those people who were old when I was just a child. They seem to be here still, benign reminders of the passage of time. There are some whose names I remember - names which sound so strangely archaic now – but others are just faces etched on the canvas on my mind. Maybe that’s what makes a place feel like home, when the ghosts are familiar and the air is thick with memories of half-forgotten yesterdays.
They say that home is where the heart is. But home is more than that. It is a place where the soul lingers long after the body is no more. And, sometimes I wonder, whether after I’m gone, I’ll come back, to join the kindly spirits who wander the streets of that town on the hill.
Querencia: a  place from which one’s strength is drawn, where one feels at home; the place where you are your most authentic self.
Location: Rabat, May 2016

Monday, 6 June 2016

I've picked sea-shells where heroes walked

The drive from Paris to Normandy was supposed to take three hours at the most. But Madame GPS, as my son nicknamed her, decided to take us on the scenic route. So after close to six hours of driving, we finally pulled into the driveway of Le Vaumicel. It was getting late, and grey clouds were gathering overhead, but nothing could keep us way from the D-Day  beaches. It was what we had come here for. Ten minutes later, we were getting out of the car and walking on Omaha beach. The three of us went our separate ways. I took a few paces and then stopped, as a chilling realisation hit me like a stray bullet: behind me, German bunkers were built into the rock;  in front of me, miles and miles of sand and open sea. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

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On that fateful, stormy morning, that is retreating further and further into the realms of memory, thousands of men waded ashore, into the line of fire, staring death fully in the face. I couldn't, for the life of me, imagine the courage it must have taken, the willingness to sacrifice self for the greater good of humanity. I felt awed, humbled, completely at a loss for words, awash with emotions that I could not even name.

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The tide was out and, as I walked slowly on the wet sand, I noticed the sea-shells. I bent down and gently started to gather them. They were fragile, little things - chipped, broken, incomplete. None were completely intact. The storms, the tides and the ever-restless sea had taken their toll. And as I held them between numb fingers and turned them over, those little shells reminded me of those men whose maimed and twisted bodies had lain, like the sea-shells, on the beaches of Normandy over seventy years ago.

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I walked back towards the shore with tears in my eyes and noticed, for the first time, the roses that had been left on the sand, the little wooden crosses to commemorate loved ones, fallen comrades, men who were gone too soon.


I came back with much more than memories from Omaha beach and someday, when perhaps the world will choose to forget the ultimate sacrifice that was made there and on the other beaches of northern France, I will tell my grandchildren that I'd picked sea-shells where heroes had walked; where heroes had died.

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Location:  Omaha Beach (Vierville-sur-Mer & St Laurent-sur-Mer), Normandy, France

March 2016

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