Leaving Eden

PHILIPPA REES. ( more relevant present-click)

When is a head shot not a head shot? The book is the head shot.
When is a head shot not a head shot? The book is the head shot.

This book is about life; all of life; and one life. It has (force majeur) to draw from the author’s single remembered life, which certainly has been varied and every part harvested for this work. I hung back as long as I dared, but as you can see, Time’s winged chariot isn’t far off.

I was born in South Africa in 1941 and, looking back, realise my solitude (only child, single mother) was the root of all enrichment in other directions, necessarily spending  school holidays on safaris with my beloved multilingual grandfather inspecting schools in the remote interior of Botswana, or later on horseback with a Austrian doctor attending mountain clinics in Lesotho. My galleon grandmother had known Cecil Rhodes, and Jan Smuts and was related to Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her family had had a significant role in the life (and death) of George Eliot’s stepsons. All this extravagant narrative washed over my head, and I believed none of it, until recently when the evidence of all of it came to light. I discovered that much too late. However independent minded women… and the virtues and necessity… of independence loomed large from an early age.

In early years I shuttled between rigid boarding schools  trying to be Roedean and the wild freedom on Noel, my horse in Lesotho. Later consolation was to be found in literature, and two inspiring teachers, one English— The Metaphysical and Romantic poets, the other Theology and comparative religion.

At University after indecisively sampling five faculties( such a rich choice of culture, where did one begin?) I fell into Psychology and Zoology under both the seminal palaeontologist Raymond Dart and the ‘father of embryology’ B.I. Balinsky. Then marriage to a marine biologist/photographer involved deserted mangrove islands in Mozambique scouring mud flats for supper (lavish sea food, lobster, crab, and coconuts and cashews for an exiled ( (and bored) five star chef to turn into dinner- salary was a mattress and his helping)  but starved for company. Then the sophistication of the Max Planck Institute with Konrad Lorenz in Bavaria, living in an 11th Century Mill with an unrepentant Nazi landlady (who, by then, should have been extinct but was alive and well and playing Schubert.) Then it was Florida (kept company by an air-conditioner) until the experiences that led to this book sent me into exile. I landed in Southampton with five pounds , two small children and a manuscript…

The academic underpinning of this book was offered in lectures on Saints and Scientists at Bristol University, while building a home and an arts and concert hall for chamber music, raising four daughters, and living in Somerset, which continues.

Almost nothing planned, happened. Everything that wasn’t, did. It was all reclamation, mental or physical, books or bricks required demolition and reconstruction.

I no longer have four daughters but friends, an arthritic dog, and when I can find him, a deaf husband, who thanks God for it and the invention of subtitles.

22 thoughts on “About”

  1. Every time I pick up this book it’s with the expectation of being delighted. I’m never disappointed. The imagery is ravishing and it’s intellectually flattering when you can dispence with the footnotes, which are an education in themselves.


  2. I liked the way you have designed your site. I feel pleasent whenever I see your site. The choices we make show our attitude as well, so I believe you are very genuine from heart and your work implies the same.


    1. Sharada, what a nice thing to hear! I will keep giving you reasons to revisit and call on yours too. Yes I think every choice we make is important. Thank you so much for finding your way here.


  3. Just purchased in both ebook and paperback form – the latter will take a couple of weeks to reach me in Australia! Looking forward to taking the inward journey with you through your writing, it looks fascinating, intellectually stimulating and original. 🙂


  4. Wonderful weaving of your journey, Philippa. If I quoted every line that spoke to me, I would essentially have re-entered the entire thing again here!!! Congratulations, too, on the wonderful site – images, layout. Hard to believe we are using the identical theme!!!


  5. Thank you Sarah! Long ago a certain Sarah gave me the first pointers on how to cope with posts and pages. All attributable to you. Thank you for dropping in, hope you’ll come again. Very serendipitous Wendell Berry Monday.


  6. Well, Wow… Science/religion… my interests also, though at such a pleb level compared to yours…remain an Anglican who only abandoned ambitions in life sciences due to collapse of school maths (!!), studied religious studies at Uni, fits nowhere, and found your site exciting – whether I’ll fathom the book or not,we’ll see… my humble offering Baby,Baby shares the ALLi showcase with yours, anyhow!


  7. Good to find an unexpected visitor Clare. Thanks for both calling and the view hulloo. Interested in any views on the book if they spring to mind. Must seek out Alli now! Thanks for the heads up also…


  8. Just found your blog, Philippa and it’s beautifully set out. I think I now know more of your outer life story on the surface though I feel I’ve followed something of the inner life story while reading AFCR! Life is far more about the inner journey though often brought to fruition by the outer…or is it the other way round? 🙂


    1. Dear Loretta. I thought you had visited often before! The ‘professional evaluations’ would say I wrote too copiously, not enough bullet lists, no hasten to buy badges. SEO non existent, because I fail to pepper ‘keywords’ On another topic I suspect you know more about me than is good for either of us!
      Your reading of AFCR is a heroic act in itself.

      Come again or follow so you will never miss my unscheduled jewel posts, or even better ones I find elsewhere. All the best for your imminent launch!


  9. I envy your ability, Philippa, to take the basic building blocks of our language and masterfully and artfully spin them into sparkling gemstones of immeasurable worth. But more so than envy, I hunger for more of it.
    I’m so delighted to have discovered your work and plan to inhale as much of it as possible. It will do my soul a world of good.


    1. LOvely to find a new friend! I had a long read of your intended speech ( all three episodes), and admire equally your taking on another mammoth task, to rewrite the idiom of persuasion in ways that should/might do better. We are just using zeal in different arenas!

      If you would like a first Canto sign up to the first page and it should be downloadable. If not please let me know! So few come and those who do might not want to point out deficiencies. There are links to short stories on Narrative ( more straight forward) and I’d be happy to post an ebook of Yucatan ( only 11,000 words) if you give me an email address. Mine is on the landing page of this site.
      Thanks so much for Sunday spirit.


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