Cultural Crossroads: Interview with Clover Stroud

2019-03-04T15:29:19+00:0011/02/2019|

Cultural Crossroads

During his lifetime Idries Shah promoted contacts and connections between different traditions around the world, believing this to be an important element in the advancement of human culture.

In this spirit, The Idries Shah Foundation has created ‘Cultural Crossroads’, a website forum where people from many walks of life are invited to talk about their own experiences crossing cultural boundaries, and the lessons that they have learned as a result.

You can find the full series here: https://idriesshahfoundation.org/cultural-crossroads/

Clover StroudAbout Clover Stroud

Clover Stroud is a writer and journalist writing for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, and Conde Nast Traveller, among others. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and five children.

Q1 How do we square the wild side of our nature with the requirements of modern living?

I think this can be quite difficult. Life can feel terribly restrained and monitored if we are not careful. I don’t like this feeling and although I do not think I am rebellious, I do like to creatively express things that might otherwise remain unsaid because of convention. In a sense I like saying the unsayable, but most often this happens in my writing. As a mother, there is so much I am not supposed to say, which is why I am addressing this head on in my new book. It’s almost subversive. So sometimes I see writing as a wild act –  and I can do that anywhere, as indeed anyone can. During writing and the act of creation, you can access something deep and terrible and amazing and beautiful and horrifying within yourself. And you can do that absolutely anywhere – alone in private or sitting in the most public place. I like writing about my most inner self and the things that frighten and excite me when I am in a coffee shop. THere’s something pretty wild about writing about passion or despair or how to just damn well keep on walking through every day, while people are having banal conversations around you about what they are having for supper that night. That’s pretty wild. I also like driving my car with the music turned up extremely loud and all the windows down as it makes me feel quite alive even when I am just driving to the supermarket. Wild doesn’t have to mean excessive living, or extreme travel. Wild can be an emotional state you can take yourself too wherever you are –  something internal but that’s also absolutely present as you carry on through the day. I have five children and motherhood is incredible but also often utterly banal: I survive it by that internal, emotional trip which is with me even when I’m standing at the school gate waiting for my children to come outside.

Q2 What’s the sanest, wildest thing you have done- if that makes sense?

I think sex is pretty wild and it’s also totally sane. I love sex and the way it makes you feel as high as if you are taking very strong drugs. It’s pretty cosmic that you can get that ecstasy  in the middle of the afternoon and it’s totally legal and doesn’t have any negative side effects.  Also childbirth. That is utterly, utterly wild, and also completely grounded in the sane. But then sex and childbirth are in a sense very similar : the longing,  the loss of control, the fluids, the ecstasy. They are quite similar in some ways, but  people don’t like women to say that.

Q3 Pursuing wildness was a coping strategy for you, is there anything you would pass on to someone in a similar situation now?

I think taking risks is integral to developing and stretching yourself as a human being. It makes you feel alive. I took risks within my emotional life, but I also travelled in a way that was a little risky –  for example, riding through the Caucasus mountains and into Chechnya, and also travelling alone by bus across America and all over Texas. But taking a risk can be about doing anything that puts you outside the place you find most comfortable, and that’s an exciting and sometimes brave thing to do.  I recently stopped drinking and have found that to be a truly extraordinary process in which life reveals itself to me in new and glittering ways. At times it’s felt risky –  in a sense it’s easy to lose your emotions and dilute them through alcohol, but removing that cloak from my life –  removing the blurry fuzz of slight oblivious –  has been quite scary, and absolutely eye opening in terms of a new clarity it has given me. So my advice to anyone facing the thing they find scary is to push onwards. Don’t take the easy route. Be brave. Life is short and perilous. Don’t waste it living in a tepid or half hearted way. Be true. And also remember that while life is very hard, and very difficult and very tough, as human beings we have infinite resources of tenacity and bravery inside us. We are stronger than we think.

Q4 You have written a lot about camping- where and when is your favourite spot for this?

I live in Oxfordshire near the Ridgeway, close to Uffington. I love being up there on the hill. the Ridgeway is an ancient road, sometimes called Europe’s oldest road. IT’s an intensely human route, dotted with long barrows, chalk horses, standing stones. When walking there I always get a strong sense that this is a place many, many other humans have been before me. It’s as if the landscape holds the emotion –  it doesn’t feel remote and taken over by nature, but instead is clearly a place where men and women walked, talked, danced, prayed, despaired, fell in and out of love, traded, and so on. I love camping up there. It’s eerie, but in a good way.