Anita Moorjani -Being Myself –

It was somewhere in November 2014 I got an email from Hay House that Anita Moorjani would be coming to London for a one day workshop in 2015. I think I must have been the first one to book it, because I jumped up, grabbed my credit card and immediately bought a ticket online. I was so excited. A chance to spend a day in Anita’s presence was such a wonderful prospect. I had looked on her website many times before and she always seemed to give talks and workshops in the USA specifically Maui with Wayne Dyer. And then this one day I found out she already had been to the UK once but that was before I had even read her book and heard of her. So now I secured my place and every so often I would chuckle and think: soon I will be going to Anita’s workshop.. So much joy in anticipation alone!

Last Saturday the day finally came. I travelled up to London and got a hotel at walking distance. I had seen on the website of the venue which was The Light House Euston, that the workshop started at 10 but the doors of the auditorium would open at 9. I decided to go early, because contrary to what I normally do – sit anywhere but in the front – today I was intent on getting a seat closest to the stage as possible. Upon arrival it turned out that the doors had opened at 8.30. There were already quite some people there. The two front rows were reserved for guests. In the third row a few people were sitting on the sides and one woman in the middle. I headed straight towards her and sat next to her right in front of the centre of the stage. I was very pleased with this spot.

Anita MoorjaniThe young woman next to me and I started chatting. It once again turned out to be a small world. She was currently living in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, the place where my friend keeps his Dutch barge and where I have spent many a pleasant weekend. A little later in the conversation it turned out she was French and I have lived in France many years, so we had a lot in common and we chatted on in French. Time flew and Anita was announced. And before we knew it Anita Moorjani was there on the stage. Right in front of me. I felt thrilled to the core.

Anita Moorjani "Dying to be me"Now maybe you wonder who on earth Anita Moorjani is. Maybe you have never heard her name before. This is entirely possible because although she is gaining more fame daily, she is a relatively ‘new’ author/speaker. Anita has written a book which is called Dying to be Me.

I cannot even recall how I got to know about the book. I think I heard someone speak about Anita in an interview. It may have been Rick Archer. After which I ordered her book online and devoured it. After which I looked up and watched any interview and article online with Anita I could find. She was interviewed by Rick Archer from Buddha at the Gaspump (www.batgap.com) and ever since I first saw her I wanted to meet her. At the time she lived in Hong Kong which was not around the corner for me, so to speak, which was the only reason I had not gone to meet her yet. Anyway, there she was right in front of us.

I will give an account of the day, but please bear in mind that taking notes is a personal affair and that other attendees may have taken different notes because as Anita started off saying: “There is no coincidence in the world and if you could simply allow this day to unfold, you will learn and recall exactly that which you need to hear and learn for you today.”

I like this word ‘allowing’ she uses. She also uses it in her book. To allow life to happen instead of grasping or trying to control it. Allowing gives a feeling of surrender and welcoming. Very relaxing to me.

Anita started off by telling the audience about her Near Death Experience (NDE) which she had when she was dying of cancer and slid into a coma which lasted 34 (I think, could have been longer) hours. The doctors had given up on her and the family was alerted. Her brother had to travel up from India and everyone was afraid Anita might die before his arrival. The doctors were sadly convinced that Anita would die within the next hours since her organs were shutting down.

I obviously had read Anita’s book and also heard her tell her story many times in the interviews I had watched on her website etc. It struck me that Anita did not seem weary at all to tell her story all over again. She stood relaxed, open, smiling and she seemed totally at ease. Besides all that there was a humbleness in her attitude which I found quite moving.

The reason why I was so keen on seeing Anita life is that I always like to get a proper ‘feel’ of the person. Seeing them life is a good way to ‘feel’ if they are genuine, honest and walking their talk. It’s something you cannot totally grasp from a book. Some people are real good writers but in real life aren’t ‘genuine’. Therefore I go and attend seminars and workshops to see if my gut-feeling about a person can be trusted. I was dead right about Anita (forgive the pun). She radiated something intangible. I guess it must be the love she speaks about. It simply oozes out of her.

Anita said that we are taught to speak in order to express ourselves and communicate. She is convinced however, that talking is not really all that necessary. What people often do is using words to hide from others what we really feel or mean. Often words are also used to hurt others, so what we need is empathy because according to Anita when a person hurts another person this is caused by the hurter’s pain. We can only inflict pain on others if we are hurting inside. This is not an excuse but means that we need to develop empathy and understanding for everyone involved.

Anita, who grew up in Hong Kong as a child from Indian parents, had had quite a difficult upbringing because at home the religion was Hindu and the language Hindi. At school the language was British English but the area where she lived was Chinese. So Anita grew up in this multi cultural environment and felt she did not really fit in anywhere. She was always trying to please everyone and she now sees that she was raised in fear and lived fearfully. Her best friend got cancer and Anita was so fearful of getting that decease herself so she researched the internet and was frantic about healthy nutrition and lifestyle, yet she also developed a cancer. Lymphoma. For 4 years she had to undergo all the treatments and the cancer became worse. Then one day her best friend died of the decease which was even more upsetting for Anita. She got worse and worse herself and could not walk by herself anymore so was in a wheelchair. She also could not eat so was fed by a tube.

During her NDE Anita experienced a spectacular feeling of unconditional love. Something she had never ever felt before on earth. She felt loved completely for who she was. She did not have to do anything to deserve that love. She was loved just because she was Anita, no conditions. During the NDE her father and friend both whom had passed away already came towards her. They radiated love and understanding and Anita felt totally accepted and loved and could for the first time communicate with her father with whom during his life she had had a difficult relationship with. They also gave her all kinds of information and Anita became omniscient. She knew everything, the future, the past, the now. The reason why she had cancer and she also knew she had to go back to the earth because her life was not over. She needed to accomplish her purpose in life and she needed to go back to her husband of whom she speaks very lovingly and who she feels is her soulmate. She did not particularly wish to go back because the feeling of unconditional love was amazing, yet she knew she had to go back.

So Anita awoke and the entire medical staff was in a flurry, because not only did she awake, she also wanted food. After a few days the cancer cells started diminishing and soon there was not one single cancer cell left in her body. The specialist consultant at the hospital was all confused and said there was a problem: they could not find the cancer. Anita was convinced she did not need the cancer anymore. She had learned her lesson.

She now says that the biggest insight she got from her NDE was that all she needed to do to live her life was:

BE MYSELF, LOVE MYSELF AND LIVE MY LIFE AUTHENTICALLY.

No more people pleasing or doing things from fear. From then on Anita knew she had to put herself before others instead of last. She says we are born as perfect little babies, we already know everything, unfortunately all this knowing is being conditioned out of us in the following 20 years of our upbringing. Anita says she never learned to love herself. She only learned to please others and value other peoples opinions about her more than her own. “So then I realised I had never learned to be myself.” And so now all that had to change, which was not easy because no one is really keen on change. People like the way things are in their little comfort zones.

Anita says: “Now I know that I will stand by myself no matter what. Even if everyone around me, family, friends and loved ones are telling me that I should not do something, or would be disappointed or even angry, I would still stand by myself and follow my own wishes, because only I know what is good for me in my life. All too often we let others pass before us, but this isn’t right and means that we use 2 different standards of measuring to the detriment of ourselves.”

“Now I know that the cancer saved my life. I had been killing myself long before I ever contracted it. It forced me to start living my life for myself.”

“There are two major forces from which we live our lives. Either Love or Fear. All my life I had been fearful. I was frightened for all kinds: I had the fear of being disliked, the fear of speaking my own truth, fear to disappoint others, fear of failure, of death, of life, the state of the planet, and I was obsessive about food and living a healthy lifestyle. Today I know that food cannot harm me, not loving myself is the real source of harm. Nowadays I do not obsess about my weight or my food. When I feel like eating chocolate, I enjoy it and do not feel any guilty about having some. I love myself enough to eat chocolate every once in a while.”

“Loving yourself does not mean that you are unaware of certain character traits that you might want to adjust or develop. Loving yourself means that you love yourself right now, just the way you are, because you are you. It is accepting who you are. Right now. If you want to lose weight you need to start loving yourself now, with the overweight. Because you are not simply a body. You are so much more. We are magnificent beings and we are so loved.”

Anita has Dr David Hamilton come on the stage. He is a very nice Scottsman, who endears the entire audience, which incidentally is mainly made up out of women, when he gets emotional when talking about his dog Oscar who only recently died. David has written a book called I love me. He is a jovial funny man of great wisdom who shares with us his story of never feeling good enough. Even though he holds a phd in Chemistry among other things. So David felt it was time for him to dive into this feeling and sort it out once and for all. He has 4 premises which he describes fully in his book. It goes from I am not enough, to: I have had enough, to: I am enough, to, eventually,: I AM.

David had the audience stand up for an exercise and everybody is laughing. The atmosphere that reigns in the venue is uplifted and optimistic. Even though we are aware that there must be quite a few persons in the audience who are ill with serious deceases with family members, and maybe bereaved people and probably some doctors. After David’s exercise it is time for lunch and everyone applauds enthusiastically. The first part of the workshop has been wonderful.

During the lunch break I quickly go to the book table to get Davids book. I also pick up Anita’s guided healing meditation cd and a copy of Dying to be Me in English (my copy was in Dutch). Then I join the cue because I would like David to sign the book. I am offering it to my sister. Both her and me have direct experience of the ‘I am not enough’ feeling.

foto van my met David Hamilton hier

In the cue the person in front of me is a very kind Englishman who happens to live in France. Since I lived in France we have a connection, besides he is an author and I like to write. So we hit it off well, the woman in front of us turns round and says: are you guys living in France? So am I! Anita was right, there are no coincidences and what on earth is this message of the French connection which is so clearly displayed for me. James invites me to lunch and we go to a very nice little Indian place with a fresh buffet of many dishes all veggie and eat as much as you like for seven quid. Not bad. James kindly presents me with a children’s book he has written and we are talking of doing a project together.

After lunch Anita comes back. She has us dance to get the stuffiness out of our system. Anita likes the song Dancing Queen by Abba which a lady quickly conjures up on her phone and soon the audience is swaying to and fro.

Thus refreshed we sit down and Anita hits us with the following penetrating question:

“Do you unconditionally love your parents? Your spouse? Your children? Of course you do, so why do you not love yourself unconditionally?”

“Many of us tend to believe that loving unconditionally means allowing them to treat us as they please. Thing is: if you treat yourself as a doormat, as I have done a large part of my life, others will treat you as such too!” “So loving yourself unconditionally sometimes means we have to walk away from relationships. Whether with friends, spouses etc. It means being able to say: I love you unconditionally and I understand that you are this person with this behaviour. I love myself unconditionally too and I need to walk away from us.”

“Myth: I must win the approval of others.                 Truth: Winning my OWN approval (following my heart) is even better.” Be who you are. Don’t dance for the critics.

Then we get to the subject of illness. Anita asks us: what if symptoms were actually a message from your physical body that it is busy healing itself. The body is always trying to find a balance. Always building homeostasis. Taking drugs would mean we were healing symptoms, not the cause of the dis-ease. Anita suggests a new approach. We are going to do the exercise all together. It is a guided meditation-visualisation-relaxation during which we go with our attention to those parts of our bodies in need of loving attention. Any aches, pains, areas of discomfort we turn our attention to and ask that particular body part what they want to communicate to us. Anita says: Illness is often my body’s way of communicating with me.

She also feels very strongly about the word remission which she would like to eradicate from the language. She says let us replace the word remission with Remember My Mission. She emphasises that we should not obsess about our illnesses. Not do as she did: spend hours on the internet researching disease and cures and reading forums and blogs, because just as you think you found a good tip on a page, on the next you will find the contrary and in no time you will feel frustrated, defeated and fearful. Instead she suggests we live as if we are still healthy as much as we can. We do take our medication but just routinely like brushing your teeth. We should avoid making the illness the focal point of our lives and certainly not identify with it. Don’t become your disease.

The best cure of all according to Anita, is laughter. Laughing every day will stimulate healing and you will feel so much better with joy and playfulness in your lives. We are way to serious and should embrace laughter as much as we can. “Make laugher your prayer.”

Anita now comes to the subject of being authentic. She brings up the subject of money with a question: ‘how many of you think money and spirituality don’t go together?’ A great many people in the audience raise their hands. ‘Thought so..” says Anita and everybody laughs. There are so many laughs today which is wonderful. The atmosphere in the venue is vibrant, the energy scintillating. Anita continues by saying: ‘Money is neutral. It can be used for good or for bad things. Money does never object. It just is. We are all spiritual beings living in a body on this planet. Whether we are aware of it or not. Owning a lot of money is fine. When you love yourself and you discover your purpose in life, money will automatically follow. There is only one reason not to have enough money in your life, only one reason. Namely when you tell yourself: I am not worth it. But when you start loving yourself and becoming the being of light that you truly are, money will follow automatically. You are a magnificent being of light and you are here in this world to shine to your full potential. And do realise that time is not linear even though to us humans it may seem that way. So this means that in order to get from A to B you do not need to follow step 1, step 2, step 3 etc. It is not like that. You can jump steps and go from 2 straight to 10. If you are living your life authentically you will attract what you need and what your are and your purpose in life will unfold for you.

Should you feel really uncomfortable with loving yourself, you can begin by getting up in the morning and asking yourself the following: ‘If I loved myself unconditionally, what would I do today?’

You owe it to yourself and to everybody around you to be who you are and spread your joy around you. Joy is contagious and will uplift the world.

After another break it is time for some questions and answers. Now is my chance, even before Anita gives the green light for people to ask questions I raise my arm. Since she is straight in front of me she obviously notices immediately. She says: ‘You are the first one to raise your hand and therefore we will start with your question.’ Yes yes yes!!

My question to Anita is: ‘We all heard you explain about self love and how we should put ourselves first even if our nearest and dearest are deeply disappointed in us. However I feel this is a very hard thing to do. Could you please elaborate on this since I feel this is the most difficult thing being very emphatic and aware of my families ‘needs’?

Anita thanks me for the question and gives the example of her mother who is now getting on age wise and who wants Anita to come by more often however Anita travels extensively and is away from home a lot. She says: ‘Even when I am away from home, I have this bond with my mother that no distance can sever. But still I also know that she is getting older and needs me more. So whenever I can and whenever I am home I will go and visit her more often. However what I would say to you is that you seem to feel that your children need to be free to follow their path in life but for yourself you feel this is restricted. This means you are using two standards and are losing out. I suggest you ask your dear ones to understand what your path in life is and ask them to be happy for you to follow that path because it makes you happy, Just as you are happy for them to follow their path in life regardless of your wishes. You need to learn to put yourself first.

The next day, while thinking about what Anita said I get a further insight: I realise that I have lived my live apologetically, And that I have been looking for approval. Approval has been granted but only if my wishes did not impede on the wishes of the others. Meaning that their behaviour was selfish. Which is fine. The thing is that I also need to learn to be selfish and not give in to what others want all the time. I realised that my purpose is trying to show itself to me, but that I created obstacles for it to happen because I had not been authentic and had not followed my inner impulses. I knew I never meant to hurt anyone. I knew what I needed and had stifled the urges. They did not know that and maybe have other ideas about my intentions. But my intentions are mine only and I know best. I feel this zest for life which is rather like an inner volcano which wants to erupt and live life to the full. I will stop living life apologetically for it was never meant to be lived that way.

After the q and a session, Anita thanks us all for the standing ovation we give her. She is now going to sit and sign books for us. An enormous queue forms and I am in no hurry so I am last in line. I cannot really say how many people attended the workshop but I think at least several hundred people are queueing for the book signing. When finally it is my turn I can tell Anita is tired. It has been a full day for her, but still she is smiling and friendly. I have a chat with her husband who was present all day. He tells me how they have been living out of suitcases travelling from one hotel to the next these past 6 months. And that they even had given up their rental home in Hong Kong because they spent so little time there. I turn to look at Anita who after giving all these book signings, now takes time out to give people the opportunity to have their photos taken with Anita. I quickly jump in the queue which luckily for her is only about ten people.

Thank you Anita Moorjani for a wonderful wonderful workshop. Having spent this day in your presence has given me such a lift. I think the unconditional love that you have experienced during your NDE is clinging on to you and you radiate it around you for all who meet you to contaminate with. Thank you for coming back out of that realm and sharing unconditional love with us all!

Looking forward to the next time Anita comes to Europe!!

www.anitamoorjani.com

Corfu – the Durrell’s trail

first part written on the 20th September 2010

This post is about Gerald Durrell, protagonist of the Durrells, and about the synchronistic events which led me to Corfu. Life can be miraculous at times. Makes one feel certain there is more to it than meets the eye. Take today for instance, sitting on the lush garden settee under the enormous umbrella at Isabella Country House in Gouvia, Corfu. Just a few feet away the blue swimming pool shimmering in the sunlight is begging to come enjoy her. The garden, well kept, with a perfect, green lawn, bordered by huge bougainvillea and oleander, still flowering although maybe a bit more sparsely than at the beginning of the summer. Tall grown palm trees and other exotic ones of which I don’t know the name, softly moving in the silky wind. While autumn was setting in in the UK where we flew in from only three day ago, the summer seems to linger on lazily on this paradise island where the sun warms our milky white bodies which need intense protection with high factor sunscreen to avoid the massive sunburns. The sun is lovely. Such a delight.

 

I am reading the enchanting, very well-written and thoroughly detailed authorised biography of Gerald Durrell, authored by Douglas Botting who takes you on a fabulous journey through Durrells life. Page after page you feel the admiration of the biographer for his subject, and page after page you get more and more immersed in the passion and enthusiasm of a person who, although described as an eccentricity due to his quaint upbringing, you sense to have been a credit to humanity and a truly lovable person.

I am deeply pleased the biography counts over 600 pages and contains some photographs showing Gerald during his adventurous life. I believe I paid less than 2 pounds for it on Ebay, the cost of shipment exceeding the price of the book. What amazes me is that someone would want to part with it in the first place. But even more so, that Gerald Durrell might fade into oblivion. However, maybe I am not the adequate person to be the judge of this, since I cannot know how popular his books still are in the UK. Being born on the continent in Holland, I simply don’t know his popularity in Great Britain. I do know that in Holland the film ‘My family and other animals’ starring Imelda Staunton, impersonating Gerald’s beloved mother, to whom, we readers, are greatly indebted for raising this special child without dis-forming him. Obviously, Durrell will always be remembered as the founder of the wildlife foundation in Jersey, which will be familiar to any living zoologist and naturalist. (Note added in 2017: the 2016 tv series ‘the Durrels’ proves that no one has forgotten Gerald Durrels books, and very rightly so in my opinion.)

 

On discussing where to go on a weeks vacation after the summer season, two requirements had to be met. Firstly: we needed the sun, and secondly: it should not be too far a flight away. Last year we had visited Luxor. I had been absolutely thrilled by the wonderful weather and exotic surroundings. Floating at the edge of the infinity pool, watching the cruise ships go by on the Nile, while silver herons, funny Egyptian ground peckers (I suppose them to be related to the woodpecker or the jay, they had this long curvy beak which they used to peck the earth) and, ‘honest to Gods’, real pelicans flying by without any awareness of the exotic impression they made on this not so well travelled tourist from the Netherlands.

It would by no means have been a punishment to return to that lovely place, however the world was so full of unknown places, so after some thorough consideration we decided Greece was to be our next destination.

The problem with Greece was just the countless number of islands to pick from, and since decision making isn’t one of my qualities, I wondered where to go. Luckily a colleague of mine happened to offer the solution to this decadent problem. Upon her arrival at a reunion in my practise, she was much admired for her colourful blouse adorned with a lovely coloured necklace made of painted wooden buttons. I complimented her on her attire, asking her if she had made them herself. Which would have been highly probable since we are all art therapists. ‘Actually I got it from Corfu, where we just were on a weeks holiday last week.’ She told me.’ So I jotted down the name of the place she had been staying at: Isabella Country House, Gouvia. A few weeks later I mentioned this to my partner and next thing I knew he booked us up for a week at that same apartment hotel. Already something must have been stirring in my subconsciousness, I got out my old yellow paged penguin copy of ‘My family and other animals’ and leafed through it. And yes, I remembered correctly, Gerry had spent his magical youth on Corfu which was now exactly where we were going. I hope, you, who are reading this, can relate to the feeling of bubbling excitement and inner anticipation which you sometimes get when joy overwhelms you. Like a three year old. I simply could not stop smiling. There was no way to hide my happiness at the foresight of visiting Corfu, where the author of my all time favourite book had lived and developed his passion for animals.

 
Old Penguin copy 1964 versus modern version

And so there we landed at Kerkyra airport. It was 22.00 pm and the sky was pitch black. During the drive in the taxi from the airport to Isabella’s, we managed to catch some outlines of dark mountains against the even darker sky. We got a glimpse of lights surrounding a half moon shaped bay, but that was it. The taxi dropped us inside a gate and drove off. There were two villas. Which was the one to turn to? My friend baldly went up the steps of one of the villas and returned with a gentleman by the name of Mr Socrates. I forget his last name. A friendly rather slim Greek gent with smiling soft dark eyes and a strangely careful demeanour, almost as if he was moving constantly in a room filled with priceless crystal and Lalique glass ornaments or so, which his every move was intent on preserving with all his might. His English was adequate although limited to my ears. Being Dutch, the Greek accent needed adjusting to. It was a sweet accent cuting up his English, but to me somewhat puzzling. For instance, when he kept referring to the bath as the tube making me wonder what tubes could be and confusing me into thinking there was an underground on the island. All was cleared up to me in due course, when after Mr. Socrates’s carefully trodden departure, as if going through a mine field, my partner informed me there was no bath in our apartment and did I mind? As it dawned upon me that Mr Socrates had been referring to a tub not a tube.., I pondered the question for a moment concluding we would see about all that in the morning. I proceeded to put the kettle on. Since the act of tea drinking to me is as normal to me as endless smoking is to a chain smoker, one of my traits which does not distinguish me from the Brits and which rather inclines me to think I must have been British in a former life.

How to describe the feeling after awaking in the morning and opening the door to the little patio of our studio? Let me attempt it, but mind you the real thing was way better. The patio was overlooking the lawn and the lovely green garden. Considering the heat on this island, I was astonished to see everything so green. Out of nowhere a very slim, although skinny is probably the better word, cat appeared. Her ear was strangely askew which gave her a bit of a shabby look. She was friendly and started meowing to me, clearly she had just had kittens since her teats were swollen. She was craving food incessantly. Incidentally, the weak hearted guests staying in other apartments all bought her food, as I understood from the number of saucers on the patios.

I walked over to the pool where luxurious wooden sunbeds were neatly arranged to compliment rather than to disturb the picture of quiet luxury of the premises. Standing at the pool I looked at the villa in which our apartment was situated. I smiled: the villa was  strawberry pink. Just like the villa’s the Durrells stayed at when they got to Corfu (after they stayed at the Hotel upon arrival). A little more to the front, closer to the pool, there was the other villa. Reader, I promise this is no fib and I kid thee not: this villa was daffodil yellow. My heart made a little leap. It was such a thrill. I felt this was going to be a lovely week. For those familiar with the book, they need no further explanation. For those new to it, please take a look at the contents:

So there I was, sitting on the huge garden settee, absorbed in the autobiography, while continuously aware of my luck and filled with gratitude for the marvellous temperature and surroundings. We were transferred from the Strawberry Pink Villa to the Daffodil Yellow one, since my decadent luxury loving ego wanted a tube, I mean bath. This was the only thing missing in the tiny apartment really, which otherwise was very sweet. What with the pale yellow furniture and the Greek blue tiles it looks a picture to be sure. However we wanted that bath, and were just waiting for the Greek housekeeper Angela to tell us when the cleaning would be done. A discrete young man apparently from the Philippines was charged with this task which he carried out meticulously and almost like a fly on the wall, since one did hardly hear him, we just saw him move about silently, starting early mornings when he took care of the pool and garden furniture. Angela, both housekeeper and manager made sure the guests were completely satisfied. She was in her late thirties with black hair and a pleasant smile. In a sudden impulse I asked Angela could I ask her a question and in her Greek accent she immediately welcomed me to it.

‘Of courrrse you can, please’
‘I wonder if you can tell me if there is a tourist office in Kerkyra town?’ Angela listened intently to me, but the frown on her forehead caused me to think she did not seem to know what a tourist office actually was.
‘Do you know what I mean? A place for tourists to collect information and maybe a map and ideas about the sights to be seen on this island?’ I explained.
‘Ah, I see yes, but no we don’t have that, I think. Maybe tourrrists shops will have maps, yes in Corfu town, and maybe in Gouvia. Why you need?’ It was obvious that being a tourist probably was not so much on Angela’s list of daily activities. I now said I was looking to see if there was any information about Gerald Durrell. Frowning again Angela did not understand the name clearly I suspected. I held up the book and showed her the cover, pointing out the name of the author to her. Rather expecting her to look even more puzzled I was happy to see that she wasn’t.
‘Ah yes, I maybe heard about him before. Wait. I will go ask Mr Socrates and let you know.’
Now that was very sweet of Angela, I was pleased but did not expect much of it. I had not been able to trace anything of great help on the internet before leaving. Which surprised me, as it was such a shame.
This expectation was very doubtful of me and not showing any confidence in my fellow human being. On Angela’s coming back I was both humbled and wonderfully delighted.
‘Mr Socrated knows very well about Misterrr Durrrrell’ She hesitated about the name.
‘Mr Durrell’ I pronounced showing her the name on the cover of the book again.
‘Yes Misterrrr Durrrrrel, Mr Socrates has asked Doctor Giourkos who is the person who arrrrrranged forr the making of the statue of the Misterrr Durrelll in Corfu.’
My eyes must have started to shine instantly because Angela smiled broadly at my great enthusiasm.
‘A statue? Of Gerald Durrell? Where is that? In Corfu?’
‘Yes, the statue is in the park in Corfu.’ Angela explained to us in detail how to get there. Thanking Angela profusely I looked at my friend who smiled. He knew the lazing by the pool was over. We were heading to Corfu town. A hire car had been delivered to us an hour or so earlier and so we got ready and headed for adventure.

Rest of this post written 27th March 2012

There we were. This is the park. The sign on the gate says it all. Not only is there a statue of Gerald to be found, but also one of his elder brother Lawrence Durrell, also a well-known author. Gerry actually became an author by chance, Larry had always been an author by choice. As from the age of two Gerry had a fascination for nature. When one day the family moved to Corfu, Gerry could feed this fascination because of the lush flora and fauna at Corfu. He was destined to become a zoologist and a biologist. Durrell dedicated his life to the preservation of wildlife. He went on expeditions to collect species on the verge of extinction in order to prevent exactly that. Because he needed money to fund his expeditions, he started writing. Little could he know his books were to become best sellers making him a famous author. Gerald Durrell founded the Jersey Zoological Park in 1959. It still exists today. His first book was My family and other animals which is truly a bewitching book, not only to the Sunday Times, but definitely to me. I will share with you a few excerpts of the preface:

 

It already gives a very good hint of the modesty and wit of this exceptional Englishman. The book is a joy to read. Now let’s go back to the statues I promised:

Plaque would be more accurate probably than calling it a statue, however it’s a true tribute and a well deserved one in my opinion. Since both Gerald and Lawrence Durrell wrote about their lives in Corfu, which actually affected the island economically in a very positive way.

Lawrence Durrell has written quite a few books. His first was the Pied Piper of Lovers, another, Prospero’s Cell, is set in Corfu. He won a the Duff Cooper Prize for Bitter Lemons and it was later speculated he would win the Nobel prize for literature, but this was not to be. Larry was born in Jalandhar India 27th january 1912 and died in Sommières Languedoc, 7th nov. 1990 aged 78). Gerald was born in Jamshedpur, India on the 7th of january 1925, he died the 30th jan. 1995 aged 70.

I was thrilled to have found these statues and was to live even more joy soon. On returning to Isabella’s the excellent Angela had collected for us the telephone number of a Doctor by the name of Giourkous, who would be able to tell us more about the Durrells. By now I felt like a hound on a trail. I was determined to find out where the Durrells had lived on the island. So we called the doctor. It was his pleasure to receive us and give us more information. So off we went again to Corfu city.

Above you can see me standing in the doorway of the doctors surgery. A poster was hanging in the waiting room. This told us we were in the right place. Lee Durrell was Geralds wife. Another interesting frame in the waiting room:

It’s an article in the Guardian stating that Corfu plays a belated tribute to the Durrells. We were asked in by the doctor.

He was true to his word and gave us a treasure of information. Not only could he tell us a bit about the whereabouts of the Strawberry-Pink, Daffodill-Yellow, and Snow-White villas, he also told us there actually was a Durrell ‘School of Corfu which had been founded and could be found in Corfu city. The wonderful doctor showed us a map and indicated the whereabouts of the school. Furthermore he was happy to show us some locations himself if we would like and would come back another day. Unfortunately we had no time to do so, and anyway the doctor already had been more than helpful. We set off to the Durrell School..

Below in italics  you will find a part of the introduction of the schools webpage:

The Durrell School of Corfu offers a variety of activities, ranging from a series week-long seminars to excursions that explore the rich cultural history of the Mediterranean basin. Past and future field classes include Butrint (Albania), Old Perithia (Corfu), Lia (mainland Greece) and Kalami (Corfu) as well as walking tours of historic Corfu Town and its colonial architecture.

The Durrell School now also hosts visiting courses and workshops, providing unparalleled organizational support and background to the history and culture of the area, as well as an introduction to the work of Lawrence and Gerald Durrell and other writers connected with the region. If you are interested in bringing a writing workshop or a visual arts workshop to the Durrell School, please click here.

Moderators and Distinguished Visiting Writers for 2008 and 2009 included David Bellamy, Hugh Bennison, Joseph Boone, Jan Morris, and Mark Morris.

By the way. I’m sorry about the quality of some of the pics. I did not know I was going to write a blog at the time and so please forgive me. However if you want to know more about the school please visit their website:  www.durrell-school-corfu.org

We were expected since the good doctor had called the school to announce our arrival. We were ushered in by a very friendly British lady who told us she was working as a secretary (I think) at the school. We went up some steep wooden stairs. I was thrilled to find this school existed. I felt Gerald and Lawrence deserved it. Some pictures of the library:

Anthony Hirst was introduced to us and he explained us about the intention of the school and he obligingly allowed me to take some pictures of the library with books by both  Durrells in various translations.

We did not want to take up too much of Mr Hirsts valuable time, we had already come rather unexpectedly. We thanked them very much and were given some books. Upon leaving I was determined to write about this experience in a blog. It took me a while, but here we are..

We managed to find the hotel the Durrell family first stayed at upon their arrival in Corfu:

The family arrived at Corfu in 1935. It consisted of Mother (Geralds father had died), Lawrence, Leslie, Margo and Gerald. When they arrived on the island, they met a formidable Greek named Spiro. When you read the book I hope you will enjoy Spiro’s accent just as much as I did. He somehow managed to add an s to nearly every word. When the family just arrives at the island, they need to find a taxi. Since they only speak English and the Greek people do not, they are in a bit of a predicament, then suddenly:

‘At that moment everyone was startled into silence by a voice that rumbled out above the uproar, a deep, rich, vibrant voice, the sort of voice you would expect a volcano to have. ‘Hoy!’ roared the voice, ‘whys donts yous have someones who can talks your own language?’ Turning, we saw an ancient Dodge parked by the kerb, and behind the wheel sat a short, barrel-bodied individual, with ham-like hands and a great, leathery, scowling face surmounted by a jauntily-tilted peaked cap. He opened the door of the car, surged out on to the pavement, and waddled across to us. Then he stopped, scowling even more ferociously, and surveyed the group of silent cabdrivers. ‘Thems been worrying yous?’ he asked Mother. ‘No, no,’ said Mother untruthfully; it was just that we had difficulty in understanding them.’ ‘Yous wants someones who can talks your own language, ‘ repeated the new arrival; ‘thems bastards… if yous will excuse the words… would swindles their own mothers. Excuses me a minute and I’ll fix thems…”

Just a tiny example of the delicious read…

Presently we were off on a hunt for the three villa’s. Unfortunately they have not been preserved as museums. We managed to find the location but the strawberry-pink villa has vanished alas. In my opinion a terrible mistake. But then again the header of the article in the Guardian says it correctly: Corfu pays BELATED tribute to Durrells. Such a shame, this means some things have been lost forever.

The only picture I can produce of the daffodil-yellow villa is one from Gerald biography, here we see the family posing in front it.

 

Picture taken by Leslie (Geralds other brother) in the winter of 1936. From left to right: Margo, Gerry’s sister;  Nancy, Larry’s girlfriend;  Larry;  Gerald and Mother.

 

 

 

In this picture we see the young Gerald with an owl. In one of the woollen pullovers which at some point his mother allowed him to stop wearing, since Corfu was way to hot.

The picture below is the Snow-White villa, last of the Durrells’ three houses. It was built at Criseda as the weekend retreat of the British Governor of the Ionian Islands in 1824.

We did manage to find the house in which Lawrence Durrell lived when he married. It still exists, oh joy of joys, and actually is a taverna annex hotel.

 

It is called the White House. There is a sign:

And so we turned the corner and walked down to have tea and take some more pics. The White House is located in a lovely spot overlooking one of Corfu’s sweet beautiful bays and where one starts to wonder what the heck one does living in cold Holland…

There are some books for sale. Gerry’s biography and of course My family and other animals. And needless to say books by Lawrence who lived in the White House.

The taverna rents out boats. I was enthusiastic about that. I thought Corfu would be great to see from the water. It would give us a feel of the life on an island, since all islanders have boats. Gerald had a boat : the Bootle-Bumtrinket, made for him by his brother Leslie. I thought it was a great idea to hire a boat. I needed to convince my dear friend since he was a tiny bit concerned about not being able to steer a boat. I must say I did not have any experience with a motor boat myself, since in my youth I used to only do canoeing. However I managed to persuade him and after getting used to the driving of the boat he was pleased I did push him into it.

 

See how well he managed? I felt elated. I was trying to think how it must have been in the days of the Durrells. Hardly any foreigner on the island of course. No tourists, hardly anything to disturb the peace. Boating from lagoon to lagoon and diving into the wonderful blue water warmed by the ever present sun. It was heavenly.

 

Turning a corner and feeling a little peckish we just steered the boat to this little jetty and got off to sit ourselves on the terrace of one of the many tavernas. It felt great to be able to enjoy such a wonderful time. Totally unexpected and savoured to the core.

 

 

 

 

  

These pictures I joined to show you what a true animal lover Gerald was. Unfortunately I never met him. It’s a weird thing to say but even though I never did meet him, I feel such warm feelings for him. A person who writes such books and who loves animals so deeply I can so relate to. I hope I was able to convey my love for Gerald Durrell on this page. Unfortunately I have not yet been to Jersey. But as soon as I have, you will be able to read all about it on this blog…

 

Kafka

Wandering through Prague we bumped on the poster of Kafka as displayed in the header of this blog. Actually a very alluring poster for the art lover. We decided to visit the Kafka museum. Even though not a connoisseur of his books the memory of reading the Metamorphosis at the age of 17 was still vivid. The uneasy feeling I got while reading this story, even though at the time I probably had no clue about the deeper meaning of it, never left me. Whenever reminded of Kafka this uneasy feeling came back. Therefore a) he must be a fantastic author, b) I must have been quite vulnerable to the atmosphere of the story and c) it was imperative I visit the Kafka museum. 

I must say I also was a little apprehensive. This feeling of unease was nothing but a foreboding of the gloomiest museum I ever visited.Upon arrival we were surprised by the work of ‘art’ in front of the museum: a little pond with two men in it, peeing..

The entrance of the museum. So far so good. A huge K indicating this was it. We entered. Once again it was very quiet. No tourists around yet. When we were at the Mucha museum we purchased the tickets for the Kafka museum. This way we would not have to stand in line and we got a 50% reduction. There was no line. We were the only ones there. The girl at the desk gave us directions and urged us to keep our coats on since it was very cold upstairs..

It was very cold indeed, and very dark. The windows had been blackened to create a dark atmosphere. Everything was black. The cold spread out from physical cold to emotional cold after reading Kafka’s life’s story which is being told in pictures. The more one reads, the more uneasy one gets.

Kafka according to Wikipedia:

Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov,regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century. The term “Kafkaesque” has become part of the English language.

Kafka was born to middle class German-speaking Jewish parents in Prague, Bohemia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The house in which he was born, on the Old Town Square next to Prague’s Church of St Nicholas, now contains a permanent exhibition devoted to the author.

Most of Kafka’s writing, including the large body of his unfinished work, was published posthumously.

Kafka was born into a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish family in Prague (now the Czech Republic). His father, Hermann Kafka (1852–1931), was described as a “huge, selfish, overbearing businessman”and by Kafka himself as “a true Kafka in strength, health, appetite, loudness of voice, eloquence, self-satisfaction, worldly dominance, endurance, presence of mind, [and] knowledge of human nature”.Hermann was the fourth child of Jacob Kafka, a shochet or ritual slaughterer, and came to Prague from Osek, a Czech-speaking Jewish village near Písek in southern Bohemia. After working as a traveling sales representative, he established himself as an independent retailer of men’s and women’s fancy goods and accessories, employing up to 15 people and using a jackdaw (kavka in Czech) as his business logo. Kafka’s mother, Julie (1856–1934), was the daughter of Jakob Löwy, a prosperous brewer in Poděbrady, and was better educated than her husband.

Franz was the eldest of six children.He had two younger brothers: Georg and Heinrich, who died at the ages of fifteen months and seven months, respectively, before Franz was seven; and three younger sisters, Gabriele (“Elli”) (1889–1944), Valerie (“Valli”) (1890–1944) and Ottilie (“Ottla”) (1892–1943). On business days, both parents were absent from the home. His mother helped to manage her husband’s business and worked in it as many as 12 hours a day. The children were largely reared by a series of governesses and servants. Kafka’s relationship with his father was severely troubled as explained in the Letter to His Father in which he complained of being profoundly affected by his father’s authoritarian and demanding character.

During World War II, the Nazi Germans deported Kafka’s sisters with their families to the Łódź Ghetto and they died there or in extermination camps. Ottla was sent to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt and then on 7 October 1943 to the death camp at Auschwitz.

Some sources have claimed that Kafka possessed a schizoid personality disorder– rather a rare type/trait according to some authors. His work, they claim, not only in The Metamorphosis, but in various other writings, appear to show medium to low-level schizoid characteristics which explain much of his surprising work. However, a study of Kafka’s family and early life by psychoanalyst Alice Miller in her book Thou Shalt Not Be Aware offers a different angle on the sources of Kafka’s psychological anguish and his expression of his painful early life in his writings.

There are speculations regarding Kafka’s sexuality and a possible eating disorder. In a 1988 paper published by the Psychiatric Clinic of the University of Munich “evidence for the hypothesis that the poet Franz Kafka had suffered from an atypical anorexia nervosa is presented.” 

After visiting this museum the term Kafkaesque makes much more sense to me ..

My portrait in pencil of the tormented author…

 

About this blog

Why this blog? Several reasons really.
Exhibitionism, desire to write, desire for sharing, creating memories, tips for travelers, pleasure of creating. One hopes you’ll enjoy..

What’s it about? This blog is born from the desire to share ones enthousiam for discoveries one made during trips and travels. Whether a museum, a parc, a church, a wonderful bookshop an authors birthplace or the loveliest tearoom. There is no wish to be exhaustive. One realises all finds will only appeal to those who have similar likes.

In the book below about Inuit and Eskimos instead of using the first person singular, people speak from the third person: “one is cooking some soup. One does not want to be a burden unto the young..”  This neutral way of speaking sounds unselfish and less self-centered than me, myself and I. The title of the book is reminiscent of the importance of a smile and of sharing in a friendly, joyful and helping manner.

One really likes it.

Jörn Riel

A story which gives one a beautiful face