The Gift Of A Mandela Book

DSC00837 - THTT signed

This morning, whilst drinking my early morning cup of tea, something prompted me to look across to the little bookshelf beside my bed.  As I glanced up to the top shelf, a book almost spoke to me to lift it down and open it … this book … “Mandela. My Prisoner, My Friend”.  I obeyed.  I held it, I stretched out my hands and looked at the cover, I drew it close to my chest and hugged it, as if to feel the warmth of southern hemisphere sunshine … and then I opened the covers and peeped inside.

I knew that I was taking a chance by opening the book, potentially exposing myself to pain, at seeing evidence of things about Nelson Mandela’s life which I know were brutal, creating uncomfortable feelings of despair and utter shame, coupled with longings for the country of my birth, and yet I knew that it really was time to face whatever the pages contained … but I was only going to peep.  A little.  It was not my intention to spend too much time on the book today, with a list as long as the proverbial piece of rope of things demanding my attention, but I felt that I was being guided to read some of it and to at least make myself acquainted with a little of what the text contains.  The book had been given to me some time ago, a surprise gift, and it was time I gave it my attention, bravely.

As so often happens, I feel intuitively that I should do things and, instead of questioning the prompts, I usually tiptoe or stumble forth in the direction where I am led. And so I prised open the unread book, and I recalled the immense sense of amazement that I had felt when it had first been given to me, as I read the handwritten inscription inside:

DSC08502 - THTT signed

“To Holly,
Nelson Mandela was / is such an inspiration for me, as are you!
Keep shining your light and doing what you do.
Kirsti   x  “

[gifted to me on 28 April 2016]

Once again, as when I had received the book, which had been a complete surprise, I felt a wave of humility mixed with pleasure, at being thought of so highly and in such a wonderful way.  I cannot imagine anyone on the planet not being touched to be associated with “Madiba” in any sense at all … what a tremendous honour that I should be so blessed to remind someone of him, so much so that they would give me this book with open handed love.  It’s no small thing to have received this, and I remember at the time I could not comprehend why, nor quite take it in.  I still cannot see how I bear any passing similarity to Nelson Mandela, but life has been incredibly challenging to me as well, starting with a turbulent and at times heart breaking childhood, and has taught me so much through those challenges.  I suppose this gives a tiny reason to feel that Mr Mandela and I might have, had we ever met, been kindred spirits.  Each of us, people acquainted with harsh reality and at times extremely unfair judgement, both very much in love with Nature, people and the African soil, giving some vague reason to believe that perhaps we might have had some things in common while he lived.  I would have loved to meet that real, power filled man – as many would have, I know.

And so, I turned another page, to see what I was being led to read.  The few pages that I opened spoke deeply to my consciousness and, whilst I could not face reading into the detail, what I read was enough for today, enough to make it worthwhile to have opened the book – almost a year since it had been given to me, in April 2016.

In the Prologue, these words by the author, Christo Brand, struck my soul:

“Nelson Mandela spent his boyhood in the green and golden hills of South Africa’s Eastern Cape.  There he ran wild with his friends in the village of Qunu.  He has told of the happiest years of his life – shooting birds out of the sky with a catapult, gathering fruit from the trees, catching fish with a bent hook and drinking warm milk straight from the cow.

Just like me, he sometimes looked after flocks of sheep and would go home to his family’s little house after playing till dusk, to eat supper and listen to his mother’s stories around the fireside.

As a young boy, he had no immediate knowledge of apartheid.  In his small, safe world there was no obvious menace.  His childhood was secure in the rural Xhosa community where he belonged.

I also knew nothing of the cruel racial boundaries in our country as I grew up.  My father was a farm foreman in a fertile part of the Western Cape.  All my young life I played with black and mixed-race children who lived on the farm with us in Stanford, many miles from the city.

Looking back, Mandela and I both enjoyed childhoods full of innocence and charm, although many years apart.  We were both brought up in the Christian tradition, our lives ruled by strict but loving parents who taught us right from wrong.  All that mattered was home and family, with rewards for good behaviour and punishment for bad.

He and I, in contrasting worlds, came to know in our different ways the full cruelty of the apartheid laws, and those worlds collided only many years later when we both found ourselves on Robben Island, the bleak maximum security prison where he was serving life and I was his warder.

I was 19 years old when I came face to face with Nelson Mandela.  He was 60.  Until that day I had never heard of him, or his African National Congress, or the deeply held reasons that meant that he and his comrades were prepared to die for their cause.

I found a man who was courteous and humble, yet at the same time the powerful leader of many of the political prisoners serving time on Robben Island.”

and

“He wrote of his ‘long walk to freedom’, and I walked some of that road with him, an incredible journey that defines my life today, as well as his.

In truth, my life began so much later than his.  A white Afrikaans boy born into the very culture that created Mandela the revolutionary, I’d had no idea it was going to lead me to him.”

Unlike Christo Brand, whose childhood and life story are also described in the book, I did not grow up in a Christian household, and my home and background influence were very definitely liberal British / generally English ones, but I too experienced the times of friendship with ‘forbidden’ others, and the wildness of living free during part of my childhood in the African countryside.  In this way, I suppose one could imagine that each of these aspects makes us plaited and pure South Africans of the apartheid era, kindred spirits in all sorts of ways.  There are aspects of imprisonment which Mandela experienced, that I could identify as similar in various parallels with my own life on other continents where, despite appearance to the contrary, I have also experienced the sheer despair and discomfort of being contained, misjudged, overlooked, misunderstood.  It is in the nature of some of us to express ourselves openly and to put our gifts to use with excellence and generosity; when we are constrained, those energies can be directed inwards and threaten to overwhelm us … Nelson Mandela showed that they and the opposition he faced would grow him, instead, and indeed they did.

As I turned to a few more pages, before getting up and on with the day, I came across a page that struck me as special to share, and so I took a quick photograph (a bit blurry, given the time of day!) …

On one page, two human beings whom I have a huge amount of respect for, both having been at the receiving end of unimaginable condescension and criticism, both heroes of their day, despite (and perhaps because of) it all, both educated, civilised, philosophical giants, with warm hearts and the grace of forgiveness in the fibre of their make-up: Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.  Each man a legend, in his own right.  Each man someone I look up to as an example of a fine human being.  Each man with roots in Africa. Each a leader, against all the odds.  Each man a lion-hearted soul.

DSC08504 - THTT signed

At the front of the book, US President Barack Obama’s message in the visitors’ book on Robben Island, dated 30 June 2013, is quoted and reads:

“On behalf of our family, we’re deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield.  The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit.”

These words deserve a moment …

I am one of those people who will often read the final pages of a book, and then go back and absorb the detail, quickly, or pausing to comb through the fine print, savouring each page like a morsel of delicacy.  Thus, confining this one quick comb through my precious gift of “Mandela.  My Prisoner, My Friend” to another ten minutes or so of perusing the content for now, I turned to the last couple of pages, where I read the words of co-author to this story, Barbara Jones:

“It was soon after dawn on Sunday, 15 December 2013 when Christo Brand walked through the ancient fields of Qunu village and past the river where Mandela played as a child, on his way to a sad but fitting ceremony, the last goodbye to the great Nelson Mandela.  Security guards noted his damp and muddy shoes and insisted on brushing them clean for him.  He continued alone right up to the burial place and looked into Mandela’s empty grave.

‘I thought to myself how he would now be able to look over the whole of that green valley he loved so much.  Madiba had come home, just as he always longed to,’ he said.

Christo was greeted warmly by a group of military generals, every one of them an ex-prisoner from Robben Island.  Film producer Anant Singh, whose “Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom”, had recently received huge critical acclaim, persuaded Christo to sit nearby, along with actor Idris Elba, who took the lead part.

Mourners started up their beloved freedom songs dedicated to Mandela, and Christo felt proud.  Close to tears, he listened to Mandela’s grandson Ndaba giving his moving speech.  ‘I closed my eyes and I could hear the man himself, and see him in his youth’, he said.  Granddaughter Nandi was also impressive and talked of Mandela’s warmth towards his family.

Daughter Zindzi saw Christo, gave him a special smile, and thanked him for being there.  The singing stopped and everyone stood.  It was the moment for Mandela’s coffin to be carried solemnly past the mourners.

‘The coffin was close enough for me to touch but I didn’t think that would be right,’ said Christo.  ‘And it was enough to know that our lives had touched for so many years.  I said a silent goodbye to the best, strongest and most honest human being I have ever known.’ “

I don’t think I have spoiled the story by sharing these last few lines in the book … most of the world was watching the procession of Nelson Mandela’s coffin on that day, we all know how the story ended … I, for one, was glued to my television screen, candles lit and with tears pouring down my cheeks.  Scotland, where I write this from, is a long, long way from home.

God bless you, Madiba.  You, Lion of Africa, gave eloquence and elevation and grace to the people and to the country I am now so proud to call my real home.

To the friend who gave me this book so unexpectedly, your generous gift has blessed me with a renewing, an additional and special link to a country I left thirty two years ago this December, two weeks after my twenty third birthday, a country that was in turmoil … leaving a country and a people whom I miss with heart and mind and soul.

Holly x

The book was published by John Blake Publishing Ltd, in 2014.
ISBN 978 1 78219 743 0

DSC08501

DSC00839 - THTT signed

Being A Blogger Is A Process

DSC00728 - THTT signed

It has been two years since I began the journey of technically building a blog, and writing one.  My first ever blogging experience began with the process of creating “The Holly Tree Tales” on WordPress, something that was completely and utterly unfamiliar to me, in every sense.  It was early in January 2015, the first to be precise, when I gathered my two children together at my computer, in order to consult them where possible, and set off cautiously into the jungle that has been my complicated technical process of setting up and managing this website.

For many years I had been told, by all sorts of people, that I ought to write my story, communicate my philosophical thoughts, share about my experiences through childhood, describe my journeys in new places, reveal my trepidatious steps through parenting my children into the great humans that they are, discuss my gardening exploration and tips, reach out by telling others about my life in foreign environments, share my love of Nature that has seeped into my soul on three continents, speak out about my innermost dreams and learnings about leadership, business and ethics, and that I should share with others my poems and recipes, created over decades, a little at a time, and sometimes all at once.  The project of writing on a public stage was a daunting one at the start … there have been many hiccups since, and now I’m back on the writing stage to say again: “I am still daunted by it all.”

When I look, as I infrequently do, at other websites and blogs, I feel mildly intimidated by the seeming ease with which so many appear to have established expansive readership numbers, umpteen likes on their posts, and in many cases income through their ‘blogs’ simply being online.  At the outset, I knew that I did not want to have my website / blog vulnerable or susceptible to the screeching distraction of advertisements, and the random intrusion of brands with which I was potentially distinctly uncomfortable … so I decided to invest money in setting up a ‘premium’ WordPress blog, instead of going with a theme that would be provided free of charge.  I do not regret this choice, but am mindful of the investment that I have made annually since 1 January 2015, an investment which is not insignificant in my present phase of life.  There have certainly been many times when I have wished that The Holly Tree Tales’ presence on the internet would magically manifest a fabulous income, alongside the many other things that I do with my life under current circumstances, mostly non-incoming earning as I write these words.  The internet is not an arena that I have tapped into as a source of wealth, but no doubt those vast stores of potential await, by some means or other yet to be explored!

Being a Blogger is a process; establishing a website (or blog by any other name) and learning to drive the engine of spectacular technical complexity (no matter how simple it may seem to those people several decades springier than I am) has come with immense challenges for me.  There have been days, like yesterday, when I have purposely set aside the time to concentrate (as ‘solely’ as possible) on My Blog, with a clear purpose in mind, when I have achieved absolutely nothing … I lie: yesterday I managed to alter the date on the copyright bit at the bottom of each page.  All by myself, and in record time.  Nothing else happened … no matter how long, how hard, how disconsolately, how cheerily even, I stared at the screen … nothing went in, nothing went out, nothing improved, and all remained clouded in a veil of foggy tomfoolery.  I could not, simply could not, find my way back to what had once been a familiar screen with black background, where I had hoped to re-visit my previously unsuccessful attempt at tidying up the “Categories” of the Blog.

This morning, having wasted several hours getting nowhere fast, I decided to allow myself only ONE HOUR in front of my WordPress screen … one hour to do whatever I could possibly do to make things more streamlined, more logical, more attractive, more like honey to bees … the objective, clearly, is to make an excellent impression, regardless of the audience, wishing to tailor the entire thing so that it is fresh, crisp, chic, intelligent and simple to navigate at will.  I have a goal, I had that goal on the 1st of January 2015 too, and I am still trying to reach it!  Well, this morning my one hour produced little, again … and then suddenly a ‘lightning bolt’ hit!  With two minutes to go before the 9.30am cut-off time allowed for this frippery, my cursor reached the very bottom line on the “Customise” screen … and my eyes fell on the sight of “WP Admin” … I gingerly pressed down on the mouse … et voila!! Shrieking “Praise the Lord!” to my startled hound, causing my suddenly awake teenage son to come bounding down the stairs, I dropped my head into my hands and gave thanks … I had finally found something that looked vaguely familiar … my screen with black background was there …

Or so I thought.

After describing to my son the reason for my shout of adulation, which he very kindly indulged me in by smiling unpatronisingly down at me slumped in my chair, I started to direct my mouse (computer species) towards the destination I’d been trying to head in for hours previously … “Categories” … only to discover that the whole format, despite its familiar black background, has actually changed since we were last acquainted in this deeply meaningful and hot-headed pursuit. Erk.  Breathe.  Head up.  Back straight … let the fingers do the crawling all over again …

Oh my, is Blogging ever a process!  Technological mastery of a beautiful blog is one thing, writing the words is quite another, and then there’s the business of streamlining how you make sure that other people can find the words once you’ve had them crawling all over your site.  I currently have about 75 (yes, that says seventy five) Categories listed, and heaven only knows how many Tags … which desperately need tailoring, tidying, organising, shaping, parenting (yes, that’s a WordPress blog design term, I think) … and I’ve been at this for months – off and on – hence the scarcity of written work, while I try to housekeep the collections of words somehow.  Of course, in the meantime, Life itself has been taking place too … but all that must wait, until I have managed to tailor this jolly blog.

If you have feedback, dear Reader, please feel free to comment below this post and let me know your thoughts on The Holly Tree Tales generally.  I value the presence of every Reader, value the ones who have signed up to follow the blog immensely too, and ask everyone to continue to bear with me, as I continue to hone my live media skills.

With perseverance and onward striving determination,

Holly x

 

Optimism is …

Optimism is …

Singing and dancing whilst living on a plank.

Tips:

1. Look at the plank, not at the swirling waves.

2. Appreciate the plank, stare at the horizon, ride the waves.

In strength,

Holly x  

History and Herstory

“History and Herstory are good for getting perspective, for learning from and through, chartered by the Institute of Life, but not a place to live forever within … merely to be appreciated and launched beautifully beyond.”

~ Holly Maxwell Boydell

❤️

#YourStoryMatters

Peace For Christmas

img_4791-cropped-2

[Previous title: “A Week Before Christmas”]

It is Sunday, one week before Christmas, and I am taking a moment to be calm, to think only about what brings a sense of nurture, to breathe, and to let what is peaceful in life flow into and through me.

I am mindful of one thing above all else …

“All I want for Christmas is Peace.”

Those are the words that I wrote to accompany a photograph that I posted onto my Instagram account this morning.  Those words speak deeply from my soul.  Those words mean much. Those words, frankly, mean everything to me.

In exactly seven days time it will be the day that we, around the world, refer to as Christmas.  Christ-mas.

Where is Christ in the “Christmas” that we know today?

We all know that the suffering and enormous shifts towards what is negative in the world this year have been unbelievable, at times unutterably bizarre.  We all know that materialism is robbing those who (literally) have nothing … no thing … many no food, no home, no dignity, no love, no warmth, no hope …. nothing.  We have all heard (if we have a device that would enable us to read this note) about the untold millions who are going without while we devour.  We know about the craziness on the American continent, which is causing so many to shake their heads in dumbfounded disbelief.  In the midst of that, we know about the excrutiating pain, hunger and fear experienced by those in the current war zones … and there are those even in countries ‘at peace’, who suffer unimaginable harm behind closed doors.  We have all seen the faces of starving people – mothers, children, men – in Africa and in other places, and the beasts with bare ribcages, and we have heard of and seen drought conditions that are ravaging large pockets of our precious Earth.  But do we care?

Do we change our ways, seek to heal the wounded children within ourselves so that we can go out and make a positive difference in a hurting world?

Do we reach a point of saturation with all the knowledge and vision of suffering and despair in huge areas of the world, turn off all the negative news … or do we feed on it and let it rub salt into our wounds?

For those who believe in the Christ, after whom the festive season has been named, this is a time of celebration and of joy, of anticipation for the feasting that will come next weekend and the exchange of gifts displayed under all manner of shapes, styles and colours of Christmas tree … Even those who do not believe in Christ will gather together to do the same … some thanking Santa Claus (Father Christmas would be more precise, if the real spirit of Christmas was still observed), for what indulgences they receive.  And while we do this, while we feast, and fest, and furiously unwrap gifts adorned with papers that have caused the felling of many, many trees … and then throw everything that wrapped those gifts unthinkingly into the rubbish bin … we forget that there are those who have NO thing. NO one. NO love. NO home. No Christmas even …

Many around the world have no knowledge of and have never heard of the man called “Christ”.  The One who came to earth, was born in a stable, performed miracles as a ‘human’ man, taught profound wisdom simply, died, rose again … continues to influence those who believe …

I have digressed from what started out as my contemplations on peace … I have digressed because my heart overflows … I have digressed because, like so many in our Western culture, my  year has also held surges of challenge … nothing like those without anything for Christmas, but my pain and suffering has been of relative nature too.  2016 has been a year that has marked personal and family milestones, and it has held significant further growth and challenges that have rubbed up against me alongside those.  Some of the challenges I have faced have done their best to defeat me, to rob me of my joy … but  I have held on … and I have held on … to the hand and to the love of Christ … no matter what.  I want to celebrate his birth, his light, his unfailing love, his richness, his loyalty, his hope, his courage, his example of perseverance against all odds, his promises, his delivery of the goods … and that I do deep down in my soul. I find Christ when I switch off the noise and listen … listen for the peace that is hidden deep down, within.  This peace is available to each of us.

Our world is crying out for peace.

Our peace will come when we readjust our focus and become intentional about seeking it.

Our children will witness peace first hand when we learn to model it.

Christmas … “for unto us a child is born” … is supposed to convey a message of Love, of Hope, of Peace.

That is all I ask for Christmas …
“All I want for Christmas is Peace.”

Peace is a five letter word that makes all the difference to each of us, when we find it, and peace is the place where hope resides.

May your Christmas be a meaningful one.

May your heart know the love of God … which is boundless.  God’s heart is pure peace.  In God there is no fear … only the many faces of true Love.

Merry Christmas.

Joy, hope, love, and Peace to the world.

Peace.

It is what will feed those who have not … it is where Love resides.

Peace.

It is all I ask for Christmas.

Just Peace.  In every guise.

Om Shanti.
Shalom.
Peace.

It is nearly Christmas, after all.

~ Holly ~

 

 

 

Note: the featured photograph is taken from a Christmas card, purchased from the RHS – horticultural charity – part of an illustration designed by Alison McGarrigle (courtesy Portfolio Select Ltd).
 

Test it all against the truth of Love

img_4469-thtt-signed

While we whinge about aspects of our First World lives, so opulent in so many ways, babies are starving, people are aching for unconditional love, mothers are desperately trying to rise above the humiliation of poverty, business people are seeing the futility of the fast buck when they receive medical shocks … people are sleeping rough on the streets, children are crying and afraid, parents are carrying their children away from war torn conflict, the earth is heaving and groaning in agony as we treat it like a useless machine … Every man has a duty to wake up and examine himself. Every woman has a duty to forgive her peers and show them unconditional love … Every one of us has a duty to work on returning to what really matters and that is not One Upmanship … What really matters is how much we love. Love is an entire subject of its own. Love does not rob, covet, nor harm in any way. Love loves. That’s what brought us each into the world. That’s where we came from. That’s where we might return … To Love. How we live now determines how we’ll be then. Love applies to everything. Test it all against the truth of Love.

~ Holly ~

When People Talk About Others

img_2121

When people talk about others, remember that they are just as capable of talking about you. Be careful.

When you notice that people have slipped into the shadows, know that they have not collected their facts. Be careful.

When groups fall off the ledge of your life, know that they have been spreading rumour and gossip. Be mindful.

When people turn their back on you or walk away, instead of towards you with love, let them go. Carefully. Remember: they were never meant to be there for ever anyway, and their thoughts are none of your business.

Go mindfully through life.
Don’t gossip.
Gossip and slander hurts.
And it bites back
Always.
That’s just how the Universe works.

Appreciate those who love you, regardless, unconditionally.
They are the treasure.
Focus on them.
Practise love anyway.
It always wins.
That’s just how the Universe works.

~ Holly ~

 

A Quick Catch-Up

DSC00266 - THTT signed

Dear Readers,

Just a little note to say that the Blog has not been forgotten, despite the large gap between now and my last post! Lest anyone think that The Holly Tree Tales blogposts have ceased, I thought best to post a quick note to reassure you to the contrary.

It has been a very busy few months, a big time in the lives of my children and I, with all manner of travel up and down the UK, attending milestone events and doing one’s best to keep abreast (or ahead) of the days’ priorities, as well as the expected emotional highs and lows that go with the territory … endings and new beginnings, all happening in these months.  With the Summer come visitors from afar and abroad, and much demanding attention in the garden as well, with everything growing at once, so the Blog has had to settle into the background for a little while.  If you are waiting for a response to messages, please be assured that I shall be writing as soon as I can, and you have not been forgotten either!

In the midst of all the ‘busyness’, I recently decided to dip my toe into the world of Instagram so, if you are on Instagram too, do feel free to connect and follow my picture posts there.  The link is https://www.instagram.com/hollymaxwellboydell/?hl=en

Shall be back, just as soon as I am able.  In the meantime, thank you for continuing to visit and enjoy the writings on The Holly Tree Tales … your presence and your feedback are always greatly valued!

Kindest wishes,

Holly x

Being Optimistic – A Quote

Ifafa Beach - rescanned - 1960s - THTT signed

 

“Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

~  Nelson Mandela

 

from his book “Long Walk to Freedom: Autobiography of Nelson Mandela”

 

 

~ : ~

 

Keep hope alive,

 

Holly x