The Cycles of Life

If we look with the ‘right’ eyes, we see cycles in all aspects of life. There are the more obvious daily and annual cycles and the cycle of the seasons, but also there are the cycles of the biorhythms within our bodies. Observing these can give us real insights into the overall cycle of life.

As the season of summer begins to enter our lives again, we see the flowers in full blossom and the beauty of the sunshine sparkling on the ocean. We are reminded of the blessing it is to be living so close to the sea. If we are able to take the time to sit by the ocean, we can feel the gentle ebb and flow of the waves as they fulfil their own little cycle of existence, bringing a sense of repetition which, interestingly, has a calming influence. Perhaps even taking us into a state where we are so mesmerised by the movement of the waves that we lose ourselves in a place where time no longer seems to exist. As we return to everyday activities a small part stays for a while in that calmer state and perhaps we are more aware of the vibrant colours and smells surrounding us as we continue on our way.

As the summer heat kicks in and the bank holidays come, we find many people entering our world as they come from the Big City for a day by the sea or from further afield for a change in their routine. We see pure delight on small children’s faces as they experience the sea for the first time or perhaps return with fond memories of previous times spent frolicking by the shore. Soon it is time for a new cycle to unfold as people head for home at the end of the day, at the end of a holiday or as the season begins to change…

Ishwara www.anahata.org.uk

Trying to Look on the Bright Side

Portfolio“Here we are again, happy as can be. . . ”, as my dear old Dad used to sing, when we were setting off on our summer holidays. Well, you could be excused for thinking that happy days are here again, if you read the right papers, or listen to the right radio stations: the ‘Footsie’ is up by something approaching a thousand points since my last column, mortgage approvals up by 19% in February and 16% in March and the Nationwide’s house price index actually rose in March! Years of experience have taught me to not to get too carried away, when things are starting to go well. In fact, I am less optimistic about the short-term future of the UK stock market, than I was when writing my piece for the February/March issue, when I said “when things are looking bleak, it is usually a good time to invest”. Not that I am pessimistic about markets, I still feel that many stocks and bonds are undervalued, but just not as cheap as they were. Many other economic factors are still negative, and there is a lot of bad news that needs to work its way through the system. Unemployment will go up, and house repossessions with it, and they will not be the only ‘bitter pills’ that will have to be swallowed. But ever the long-term optimist, I continue to believe that – barring earth shattering events, this year will be a positive one for stock markets.

The much predicted rally in bond markets doesn’t seem to have manifested itself yet, but more industry luminaries seem to be ‘putting their money where their mouths are’ and investing in quality bonds and bond funds. With some funds offering running yields of 10 – 15% the potential for some capital appreciation (with income reinvested) seems to far outweigh the potential risks. While I am on the subject of risk, yesterday, I met up with the manager of one of my favourite ‘protected growth’ funds. He was updating me on the roll-out of a higher risk, multi-asset fund (also designed and run by him) but I had to congratulate him on the success of his low-risk fund. It was designed to provide 100% capital protection; yet the units in the fund are up by over 6% since the launch in December 2008, a very creditable performance indeed.

Now just a brief few words on the recent Budget. The major impact is on the taxation, and pension tax-relief of those who earn in excess of £100,000 a year. A lucky few, most will think, who have probably already assessed the impact of the new rules. In the absence of any more notable events in the meantime, I shall give a summary of the most important budget proposals in the next issue. Until then, make the best of these ‘interesting times’.

David Foot

Sublime Sherry

Philip Reddaway, The Whistler’s wine columnist…

How do you picture the typical sherry drinker? Is it your mum-in-law sipping a small glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream at Christmas – a bottle bought five years ago that hangs around at the back of the cupboard, oxidising nicely, awaiting its annual outing? It’s true that no ‘fine wine’ suffered such a calamitous fall in fashionability as sherry through the very same decades that the UK public were discovering wine drinking. Is it on the way back? Not really, global sales have slumped over 20% since the early 90s and in 2008 UK sales continued their long-term decline with a 3% downturn. With over 40% of sherry drinkers over 65 the producer Gonzalez recently commented “we need to recruit six new consumers for every Sherry drinker that dies”. A bit of a stretch for even the most resourceful marketeer!

All the more surprising then, that in Decanter magazine’s recent feature on “What’s your desert island wine”, two of the twelve world wine experts quizzed opted to take an Amontillado sherry.

The truth is the cognoscenti of the wine world have never turned their backs on sherry. The reason: if you invest just a pound or two above the most basic supermarket generics it’s usually delicious; it’s a drink that covers a broad gamut of styles for every drinking occasion from aperitif, via food accompaniment, to sublime pudding wine; and, most importantly in these straightened times, it’s the best value fine wine in the world, no question. Compared to the £100 + La Tâche Burgundy and the vintage Krug selected by some of those Decanter article wine experts, sherry is outrageously cheap – you would be hard pressed to spend £20 on a bottle and the great sherry brands are available at £7-£10. What’s more, if you’re concerned about the alcoholic strength, well consider this: in these global warmed times a fino sherry has no more alcohol (15%) than most of the Cotes du Rhone I drink here every evening.

My personal favourite style is bone dry Manzanilla from the town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, light and fresh, with just a touch more flavour than a fino, very tangy, clean and crisp with just a hint of saltiness. I’m also very partial to a very different style of sherry, dark as molasses and unctuously sweet – Pedro Ximenez – made from the grape of the same name – goes brilliantly with home-made vanilla ice cream. My top buys would include: The Wine Society’s Maribel amontillado at just £7.50, or buy a selection from Waitrose, surely Britain’s top sherry retailer. I’d go for their La Gitana Manzanilla at only £5.69, if you buy a case, or the classic fino Tio Pepe at £9.01 for case buyers, or best of all – my desert island sherry – the top bodega Hidalgo’s Pasada Pastrana single vineyard manzanilla, superb complexity for just £10.21 per bottle. Enjoy! And if you’re ever our way, in Provence, please do bring me a bottle, it’s impossible to buy here, the French don’t get it at all.

If you are interested in one of our Provence based wine holidays please visit www.rhonewineholidays.com, or if you just want a fabulous place to stay as you drive through France we now do bed and breakfast – see www.bighouseinprovence.com.