Sunday, 31 May 2009

Anyone seen Iris?

Do you like Irises? I do, having being stunned by a display I came across when lost in southern France many years ago, while trying to track down a retired U.K. work colleague. They were a stunning display of blue and yellow, in the garden of house in the middle of nowhere. For me I feel they are an amazingly complex flower while Jill my neighbour here in Spain views them as "untidy" - each to his own I suppose. I have a picture - one of my favourites - of blue and yellow irises in a vase on a table with voile curtains blowing in the background. I always think of an apartment in Paris when I see this. I guess I assumed that all irises came in blue and yellow but how wrong I was.

I was invited to a garden party held to raise funds for a local charity earlier in the year. We took the road for Jalon and then turned immediately off for Pinos and travelled along and up into the mountains. On and on we went, until we were convinced "there could be nothing up here" and my passengers were already voicing doubts about their safety on the journey back down the mountain. Then we arrived. Almost at the top of the mountain we arrived at Iris-Lomer an amazing garden where more than ten-thousand irises from more than a hunderd varieties were in bloom. Walking this garden, right up in the silence of the mountains was an amazing experience and well recommended. If you are ever this way in April or May when the flowers in bloom and the gardens open, consider a detour. You can find the gardens, and order plants, at

Monday, 18 May 2009

1001 Splendid Suns

I was listening to the BBC World Service early the other morning on my way to my Friday psychotherapy clinic in Benijofar. I heard the latter part of a report from Afghanistan about a school where a girl was in class, learning to play a musical instrument, along with a boy, a fellow student. Nothing very surprising about this you might think, but this is where our poor knowledge of cultural difference and history is exposed.

The report took me back to reading an amazing, if sometimes depressing, but ultimately uplifting book "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini. It documented the story of 2 women where, over a generation and under successive regimes, the rights of females to exist as independent people were gradually eroded. The point was reached where under a male dominated society they became the property of their families and husbands, to be beaten and even murdered if they "misbehaved". They were forbidden to be on the street without a man with them, and certainly not allowed, as girls, to receive any education whatsoever. Medical treatment was segregated by sex with women being directed to poorly equipped hospitals, often with little medication and no anaesthetic for operations.

Of course the book is technically a work of fiction, but based very much on Afghan history from the 1970`s until recent times and it documents the unbelievably harsh reality of life for so many. The sound of this young girl playing her instrument on the radio was uplifting on another sunny day here on the Costa Blanca. I thought that maybe the sun is shining again in Afghanistan.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

It must be something in the water?

Lithium is a natural mineral (a metal in fact) which has a variety of uses. It is present in the batteries that power cameras and mobile phones and is often administered, under close and regular medical supervision, principally to people suffering from the profound mood disturbance of bi-polar disorder. Its effectiveness was discovered when Lithium was administered experimentally to a group of psychiatric patients in 1949. Interestingly, its impact when present in water was known (but not understood) in the second century A.D.
Like other metals, lithium is often present in small quantities in water supplies and a recent study from Japan has found a correlation between naturally present lithium levels and suicide rates in various communities across the area studied - the higher the levels the lower the incidence of suicidal attempts. While the levels were still very low, it was suggested that the “protective” effect accrued from accumulation in the body and its impact on the brain. A previous study from the 1980’s produced a similar result. What does this mean - should we maybe consider adding lithium to the water supply, like fluoride? You can read the fiull article at

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Is Anybody Listening?

You may have seen recent articles in the press quoting research which seems to imply that some women are more likely to spend "excessively" in the 10 days before a period starts. The inference was that the boost from so-called retail therapy allows women to deal with the unpleasant, negative feelings created by hormonal change at this point in their cycle. Before going on I would, as a therapist, take issue with the concept of retail therapy as any boost achieved is only temporary, often leaving guilt or remorse later, when the reality of the overspending becomes obvious when the bank or credit card statement arrives. Rather than therapy, it is more like a habit or an addiction that seems to soothe and does not actually relieve the underlying problem, and which over time can become a problem in its own right.
This idea of explaining changes in behaviour by understanding changes in hormonal levels in the body and brain is very interesting and reasonably well understood. In psychotherapy many therapists will in an initial session take details of someone's medical history including maybe the last time that their bloods were checked, knowing well that hormonal deficiency or excess can often influence or even be the cause of unhappiness, depression and sometimes inappropriate behaviour. However, an interesting question to me is, does this understanding mean we should excuse “inappropriate" behaviour?
Read the rest of this article at http://www.onthecouchwithsteve.coml/

Monday, 2 March 2009

In the beginning

Mel my friend has been on at me for a good while to start blogging on some of the things he and I talk about - usually issues about life. Today I have done something about that. I will include my reflections on issues that manage to attract my attention during the hurly-burly of the day. I hope you find them interesting. Let me know!