Monday, 2 December 2013

What right have I?...................

So much has happened.
First, the redundancy.
Then Dick's accident.
Lack of time, lack of sleep, lack of food have combined to make me feel really down. I won't bore you with details, but the past few days have been hellish, and at times I can't see which way to turn.
Then, as I often do when my faith and beliefs are low, I turned to The Hermitage for consolation and inspiration.
And here is one of Rima's magical posts - full of beauty and enrichment, and I think 'what right have I to feel so down, when there is so much beauty and goodness in the world?'

I'll let you read her beautiful words here and take comfort in her thoughtful pictures

Thursday, 12 September 2013

And so........................redundancy looms

I was looking forward to picking the time and method by which I chose to give up work, but alas, it has been chosen for me.

After 13 years with this company, I've been made redundant - although I have a few weeks yet, before I actually leave work.

so, what of the future? I must admit that, at the ripe old age of 65, I'm disinclined to look for another job. Indeed, the chances of me landing another decent job at this age is very remote. The increasingly poor state of my wrists precludes me from doing anything too manual, and I really don't think I'd have the patience with other people to do something like part-time shop work.

So, what do I do? I now have the opportunity to try and make something of my little craft business. At the present time, I've been a bit hit and miss with it. I've made stuff when I've had time, sure, but I've not done a lot to promote it, or myself.

Well, now I will have. I will probably split it into 2 separate businesses - one for jewellery, and the other for other hand-crafted items. To me this makes sense, as it will enable me to build more clearly defined brands, instead of it being a mish-mash of ideas all under one 'roof'.

If you've not yet had a look, then please follow the links scattered all over this page to my little Etsy shop. If you have any suggestions or ideas that will help me, please pass them on. I'll be really grateful.

Of course, I'd be even more grateful if you either buy, or commission something!

I will also have more time to pursue my Buddhist studies. Whether this will make me a better person, is open to discussion. I will also not have the finances to travel quite so much as I do at present, so I was really grateful that my last trip to Wales a couple of weeks ago happened in good weather, and was truly memorable. So my other blog, My British Isles, will probably feature more local places from now on.

Actually, this won't be a bad thing, as I've very much neglected the South East so far in the blog, and it has a lot to offer.

Mind, if I'm not working, it will make sense to sell one of the bikes - not purely for financial reasons, but, if I'm not working, I won't actually NEED two bikes. It will make sense at some point to sell the CBF1000 in favour of the Hornet. Although the bigger bike is better in a lot of respects, the Hornet will be cheaper to run, and it is newer, has a lot less miles on it, and has not suffered the indignities of a British Winter so much. And I proved on the Welsh trip, that the little Hornet is more than capable of distance touring - and it's certainly a lot of fun on tight, twisty mountain roads.

So, there you have it. Let's wait and see what 2014 brings

Om Mani Padme Hum

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Book Review - The House On The Strand - Daphne du Maurier

My love of du Maurier's books started when I was about 10 or 11. My mother had borrowed a copy of 'Rebecca' from the local library. I have an irritating habit of picking up any book that's left lying around, and reading it. From the first few pages, I was hooked.
Argueably one of the finest novels of the modern era, Rebecca is full of intrigue, twists and turns. And when I saw a photograph of du Maurier's home, Menabilly, I knew instinctively that it was the house upon which she had based Mandalay, the book in the novel.
From there, I went on to read a book of short stories, which included 'The Birds'. Alfred Hitchcock's film of this tale is without doubt, the greatest tension-building film ever made.
Then it was onto 'Frenchman's Creek' and 'Jamaica Inn', both adventure tales of smugglers and high dering-do in the fashion of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Which brings me to this book. We've just come back from a trip on the bikes to Cornwall, and whilst down there, we called in at Jamaica Inn for a cold drink on a very hot day.
I was browsing in their little shop and came across this title, which I hadn't read. Naturally, I bought it, and it's every bit as good as her others.
Although her books seem a little dated nowadays, the stories are still good, and her sense of intrigue and tension still enthralls.
This one is a little different. Rebecca was written in 1938, and The House on the Strand came later in life, in 1967. It's a strange mixture of modern-day drug abuse and historical novel, and as complex as any of du Maurier's tales. As Dick takes more and more of the mind-altering drug, his confusion between the past and the present becomes more and more apparent, but then his attempts to change history bring terror to the present and throw his own life into the balance.
If you love fast-moving, quirky tales, you'll like this one.

For me, any du Maurier deserves a 5/5

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A last sprig of Broom (plant-a-genet)

All this fuss about whether Richard III should be buried in York or Leicester! Well, anywhere is better than a car park! Of course he should be buried in Leicester. Just because he was of the House of York, does not give the City of York rights over his remains. After all, the Duke of Norfolk lives at Arundel in Sussex, Devonshire lives at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire - and I don't recall Queen Victoria being expatriated to Hanover!
Burying him in Leicester could also bring benefits to the town; something that York has less need of, having more than enough history and tourist attractions of its' own. York's claims to the body are irrelevant.

However, this article is not about Richard III, but his purported illegitimate son, Richard - known locally as Diccon. Living but a couple of miles from Eastwell Manor and the ruins of its church of St. Mary, I'm well familiar with both the legend and the supposed tomb of Diccon.

Eastwell parish records state that Richard Plantagenet was buried there on 22/12/1550. His tale was laid out in a letter written in 1733 by local clergyman, Dr. Thomas Brett.
The incumbent of Eastwell Manor at the time, the Earl of Winchelsea, stumbled across the fact whilst researching information on his own family, and those facts concurred with a tale handed down through his family.
Prior to Eastwell Manor being built, the site was occupied by Wilmington Manor, which was gifted by the Duke of Norfolk, before he died at Bosworth Field, to the Myle family. Wilmington Manor was pulled down to make way for the new house of Eastwell Manor.

When Eastwell Manor was being constructed in the 16th. century, the owner, Sir Thomas Moyle became curious about the chief bricklayer, who, whenever they took a break, would take himself apart from the others and read books in Latin.
After much questioning, Diccon told Sir Thomas that he had been raised by a Latin schoolamster, and that every quarter, a rich man, who always stressed that he was no relative to the boy, would come and pay for his keep and schooling, and see to his general well-being.

When he was about 15, the rich man took him to a 'fine great house' where he was introduced to a great man wearing a Star and Garter. Diccon's description of both men point to them being the Duke of Norfolk (former owner of Wilmington Manor) and King Richard III. The man spoke to him kindly and gave him some money.

Later, he was taken to Bosworth Field in Leicestershire, where he saw Richard again. Richard told Diccon that he was his father, and that on the morrow he would be fighting for his crown, and that if he lost that, he would lose his life also. The King said that if he won, he would acknowledge Diccon as his son, but that if he lost, Diccon was to tell nobody who he was, or of this meeting.

Richard had good reason to fear for Diccon's life. He had several illegitimate children, of whom he had acknowledged two, John and Katherine. After the Battle of Bosworth Field, Henry VII, the victor, at first treated John well, but then susequently imprisoned him for a long time before finally executing him.

After the death of his father, Diccon apprenticed himself to a bricklayer, but never lost his love of reading and learning. Sir Thomas Moyle was deeply moved and offered him a living and residence in the big house, but Diccon merely asked permission to build himself a one-room house in a field, where he lived quietly until his death in 1550.

Had Diccon been 16 at the date of Bosworth (1485), he would have been 81 at the time of his death. Quite an old man for that time, but far from impossible, given his good upbringing and the fact that Moyle probably took care of him for his life's duration.

There are further records of both a Plantagenet Well and Plantagenet Cottage in the Eastwell area, and in the churchyard of St. Mary's stands a tomb ascribed to Richard Plantagenet.

Much has been made of the fact that this tomb probably pre-dates Diccon's death by 50-60 years, and people pooh-pooh the idea that it is indeed his final resting place, saying that it is almost certainly the tomb of Sir Walter Moyle, who died circa 1480. I don't disagree...........

.........but, consider this. Sir Thomas Moyle firmly believed that Diccon was who he said he was. Therefore, when he died, would have felt a compulsion to honour him in some way. Building an overtly ostentatious tomb for an old bricklayer would have been both inappropriate and risky. There was still a great deal of ill-feeling towards the House of York even 60 years on. So how about a commemmorative slab in the side of the local landowner's tomb?

Maybe Diccon is buried alongside the tomb of Sir Walter; it is not entirely inconceivable that his body was placed inside the same tomb.

I certainly feel that there is more than sufficient local knowledge and belief to warrant further investigation and excavation to be performed.

And now they have the proven bones of Richard III, a DNA connection could easily prove the veracity of this intriguing local tale

Monday, 13 May 2013

Understanding depression

Unless you've suffered with it, you're never going to understand it. Neither will you understand the person you know who has it.

Allie has been there, is still there, and this is the best, most honest and helpful guide to depression I've ever come across.

I think she should write a little book, that doctors and psychologists can give out to people who know someone with depression to help them understand just what their friend or relative is going through. I'm sure that there's more than one publishing firm that would take it up and produce such a book.

I wish Allie well for the future, but, until she's completely recovered, I hope she continues to update her blog. It's going to be so helpful to so many people.............

Hyperbole and a Half: Depression Part Two

Monday, 15 April 2013

Mindfulness and Meditation

This years' learning task is the Buddhist way of mindfulness and meditation.
OK, so you've now got an image in your mind of someone sitting on the floor in the Lotus position, with their hands stuck out at an awkward angle gently hummimg 'Omm'

Well, if that's your thing, then go do it, but it's not what mindfulness is about, and not the only way to meditate. Meditation is about freeing your mind and learning to focus on the here and now; and the way to do this is by following the 9 steps to Mindfulness.

Let me explain further........................

Focus on the Present Moment—When your thoughts get lost in thinking about the past or worrying about the future, you bring them back to what you are experiencing right now. You try to remain open to how things unfold in the present, rather than having preconceived ideas about how things will or should turn out.

Being Fully Present—You are spaciously aware of whatever you are experiencing in the present moment as you go through your daily life. What do you feel in your body? What are you seeing, hearing, doing - right now?

Openness to Experience—Rather than dreading and shutting out your own feelings and experiences because you think you can't handle them, you welcome with curiosity any thoughts and feelings that naturally arise, knowing they are merely sensations in the moment and the next moment can be different. You create mental spaciousness to contain these thoughts and feelings. Become aware of your experience as a flow of sensations, thoughts, and feelings and watch how these change and transform naturally over time.

Non-Judgment—You don't categorize your thoughts and feelings as good or bad, try to change them, or feel compelled to act on them. All feelings have a purpose, whether to protect you from danger or open you to love. You watch and accept whatever arises in consciousness with an open mind. You extend this non-judging attitude to other people and things.

Acceptance of Things as They Are—You don't try to force or change reality to fit your vision of what it should be, feel like a victim, or bemoan the unfairness of life. Instead, you try to see reality clearly and let it be as it is, knowing that you can tolerate whatever it is that comes up. You extend this acceptance to others, knowing they are the best judges of what is right for them.

Connection—You feel connected to all living things and nature in being part of a larger whole. You reflect on and feel grateful for the cycle of life and the food, beauty, and protection that nature gives us. You know that all living beings want to feel happy and secure and avoid suffering and you feel connected by similarity of needs and experience.

Non-Attachment—You do not try to hold onto things, people, or experiences, knowing that life is in constant flow. Attachment comes from fear and is the basis of suffering. You learn to surf the wave of life, going with the flow and being confident in your own ability to adapt. When one door closes, another opens.

Peace and Equanimity—You maintain an even-keel, not getting too swept up in life's highs and lows. You know that life is a cycle and you can't see the whole picture at any one moment. When things don't go your way, you stay firmly rooted in your own clear vision and values. You walk with a peaceful heart and adopt a non-harming, non-violent attitude.

Compassion—You deal gently, kindly, and patiently with yourself and others. Rather than judging, or condemning, you open your heart to really listen and try to understand your own and other people's experiences. You allow yourself to feel other people's suffering. You love people not for what they can give you or because you need something from them, but because you connect and empathize with their experiences.

If you've been reading this blog, you will have already seen that one of my favourite pieces of prose is Max Ehrmann's 'Desiderata' - and how well that sits with the whole mindfulness experience!   Even if you have no desire to follow the Buddhist way, it's still worthwhile trying some of the mindfulness ideas. Even eminent psychologists recommend it as a way of calming the mind and the self-state. Dang me, one university is even offering a degree in Mindfulness!   Oops, sorry for such a long post, but I hope you've persevered with reading it, and tried to understand

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Grrr.........this is soooo annoying

There's this picture. It's all over Pinterest. It's Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters.

And it doesn't matter how many times you correct it, and explain where it is, the next American comes along and renames it the White Cliffs Of Dover.
Well, I wouldn't like to walk between the two, would you? It's got to be over 70 miles!
One lady who lives within sight of Beachy Head has also told them, and the person who had pinned the picture (and a beautiful one it is too) duly apologized and corrected it.

Guess what? Yep, the very next person came along and renamed it the White Cliffs of Dover! One person even claims to have been there, and is looking forward to going back! I wish him/her luck with finding it. If they go down Town Wall Street in Dover, out onto the A20, and then turn left onto the A259, I'm sure they will - eventually.................

Ah well, it seems most Americans know our country better than those of us who were born and raised here.

I think I'll post a picture of the White House, and call it the Empire State Building

Monday, 18 February 2013

A Complete History of Music

As a sideline to our A - Z of Music, I came across this short film, giving a complete history of music in a fascinating and totally unique way. Enjoy!

Monday, 28 January 2013

A-Z of Music - M

hmmmm......seem to have gotten way behind with this, but anyhow - here we go with M.

It seems that M stands for marvelous. There are just so many famous composers whose names begin with M - like Mozart, Mendelssohn, Mahler et al. But we had one of the top names last time, so this time I thought I'd go with a biggish name. Modest Mussorgsky. History doesn't record whether he was Modest by name and modest by nature though.
Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky 1839 – 1881 was a Russian composer, one of the group known as "The Five". He was an innovator of Russian music in the romantic period. He strove to achieve a uniquely Russian musical identity, often in deliberate defiance of the established conventions of Western music.
Many of his works were inspired by Russian history, Russian folklore, and other nationalist themes.
You may well know some of his music, even if you don't realise it. Probably his most famous works are 'A Night On A Bald Mountain' and 'Pictures At An Exhibition'

Pictures at an Exhibition is a suite in ten movements composed for piano in 1874. The suite is Mussorgsky's most famous piano composition, and has become a showpiece for virtuoso pianists, but it is best known in its' orchestral arrangement by Maurice Ravel.

Here are 3 movements played by Lazar Berman

Now, on a lighter note......down in deepest darkest Cornwall, is a tiny fishing village called Mousehole. And Mousehole has a wonderful male voice choir. They're so good, they're the only non-Welsh choir to have been invited to perform at the Welsh National Eisteddfod.

Unfortunately, there's not much on YouTube, but anyway - enjoy them performing actually on the Harbour at Mousehole, complete with screaming seagulls

Saturday, 26 January 2013

So.... this is 2013.....

It hasn't started too well. The CBF1000 has developed an electrical fault and won't start, and the little Hornet is feeling very neglected because I haven't ridden it so far this year.

However, what have I got planned so far?

Well, first thing up will be the Annual MayDay extravaganza at Hastings. Now that's a day I really love. If the weather's good, there'll be 20,000+ bikes there - a chance to see what everyone has been working on over the long, cold, Winter months. We always go with two of our best friends, and inevitably end up going for a meal at the Woolpack, in the middle of Romney Marsh.
Don't want to be too late getting home this year though, because the very next day, I leave on the Hornet for Derbyshire for a few days. I've booked myself into a nice pub in a tiny village well out of the way, and hopefully the weather will be nice enough to do some serious exploring of the High Peaks and the moors.

June will see the two of us heading North. We're having a few days in the Lake District - with a diversion for me to Samye Ling for a bit of soul cleansing, and then on to Harrogate for a few days playing in the Dales, and on the North Yorks Moors.

July? We're off for an extra long weekend in Cornwall. We'll be staying in Bodmin, as it's more or less central, and will give us access to the whole of Cornwall.

Both of those trips will be done on the CBF1000, with him on the XRunner.

Then, end of August, I will make my annual pilgrimage to North Wales, staying, as always, with Chris at her pub in Knucklas. Another one for the Hornet. I really can't get enough of the Welsh roads and scenery. Just never tire of being there. And, of course, one of Sue's delicious curries will be partaken of.

Then, September, first the Ace Caff Brighton Bash, and then the Steelers finally come to Wembley! At long last I'll get to see the team I've supported for nearly 30 years, in the flesh. And I've got a new team top to wear, courtesy of Rene and Brooke, my Christmas present from them. This will be followed by another trip to Wembley in October for the 49ers match - that's Brooke's team.

Interspersed with these trips, will be Hornet's Nest events - which I really must try to get to this year. Throw in one or two bead fairs and the such, and you can see I'm going to be really busy this year.

Talking of Ren and Brookie, it doesn't seem possible they've been married almost a year! I envy them the trip they're doing for their anniversary. They're flying out to Vienna, then back packing up through Salzburg, Bratislava and other places, to Berlin and flying home from there.

I say I envy them, but of course, I would if I could do it by bike. There's no way I'd walk that kind of distance!

I wish you well with whatever plans you have for this year. Here's hoping we finally get some decent weather.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Theatre times two....

I've been fortunate in having the chance to go to the theatre in London either side of Christmas, and the two shows could not have been more different.

Late last year, we took ourselves off to the Savoy Theatre to see Soul Sister, the early days of Tina Turner and her disastrous relationship with Ike. I quite like the Savoy. It.s small and intimate, if a little formal. But it does have a wonderful Art Deco interior.

Oh sorry, getting sidetracked - the play. Not really my cup of tea, but the Other Half is a keen Tina Turner fan, and I suspect this is a show that will only appeal to other Tina fans. Her rise to fame and violent relationship with Ike Turner have been well documented, and this show didn't have anything new to say.

That doesn't mean it's a bad show - far from it. The band are really, really good, and Emi Wokoma, who plays the lead, really is excellent. She has Tina's movements and idiosyncrasies down to a T, and the voice almost. If you're a fan of the music, you will really enjoy the performance. However, for me, there wasn't enough of a story to keep me enthralled.

4/5 if you're a Tina fan, 3/5 if you're not.

Now, Saturday night, we went to the New London Theatre to see Warhorse.

What a fantastic experience! It tells the story of a boy and his horse in the context of the Battle of the Somme and World War I, and if you ever want to see an entire audience with tears rolling down their cheeks, then I beg you to go and see this play.
Mind, the tears are often of laughter, as well as sorrow and horror.

The animals are represented by mechanical puppets, and although you can see the puppeteers at all times, within seconds you're oblivious to them. The story and the actions of the puppets are unbelievably good. From the look of indignation on the face of the goose, when the wife slams the door in its' beak, to the appalling tragedies of the battlefield, the show is non-stop, gripping, enthrallment.

If you saw the film, and didn't care much for it, go to see the stage show. It's a whole different stable of horses. I defy you not to be moved by it.

The end of the show received a standing ovation, and never was one more richly deserved.

A stonking 6 out of 5

YES! It was THAT good.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

The Five Golden Rules

1. To protect life and refrain from killing.

2. To respect other's property and refrain from stealing.

3. To speak the truth and refrain from lying.

4. To embrace health and refrain from intoxicants.

5. To respect others and refrain from sexual misconduct.

I aim to be a better person this year.

Om Mani Padme Hum