stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Seeing things as they really are

Well the good news is that I have new lenses in my specs, and I can now go and see all the films that I was planning to - Memoirs of a Geisha; the new Harry P; Howl’s Moving Castle and Narnia too. .Some of them had even reached the few cinemas in Dorset, but I realised that they would have to wait.

I had decided, after three years, to update my specs - just the lenses, not the "components" as they are called. They can’t be called frames cos there aren’t any! Even so, they had to go away to be refitted. Nothing so simple as jamming new lenses in frames apparently So off they go - wait for it - by POST. What a really good method of delivery for things that are costing nearly as much as my Egyptian holiday! Flippin Royal Mail!

Anyway they were away from Monday afternoon till Friday afternoon - hardly the "couple of days" forecast. So I have the new ones. However, although things look lovely and clear now, all week my poor eyes have been squinting through things as murky as the English Channel. Not only was the prescription in my old glasses about five years old, but the coating on the lenses had deteriorated. However hard I cleaned them, they had what looked like a greasy film over them. Hence driving at night, every headlight had a halo. Everything appeared rather like the dreamy wedding photos, with romantic blur at the edges - only all over.

I drove very carefully this week, partly due to the fact that I couldn’t even see a number plate at twenty yards, let alone read it!

Right now I am having to touch type this as things closer than arms length I am still seeing double. I am trying to resist the temptation to use my short-sighted astigmatic eyes, and hold books up close to my eyes and not use the lenses!

I hope it gets better tomorrow morning after the peepers have been shut all night. Honestly, if I had been alive in the Stone Age, I would not have survived until my twenties. I would fallen over a cliff or been gored to death by a wild animal I never even saw approaching. So, thanks those who invented spectacles ( I always thought it was the Chinese) and the wonders of modern technology. I don’t think I will have the laser surgery though, not at my time of life.

I've been having trouble getting the font size correct in this blog, and in the light of recent events, I am erring on the side of larger is best!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Your starter for ten......

What have St Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai and this tiny chapel in the middle of Dorset got in common?

Remote locations? Yes, I will give you that – just.

A long history? Yes, I suppose so. Though this church at Toller Fratrum was rebuilt later, it dates from 12th century. The name 'fratrum' comes from the Latin for 'brother'. The brothers in question being the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, or Knights Hospitallers founded in 11th Century who owned the area in Medieval times.

Designation to an unusual saint? Yes, not many St Catherine’s churches around (but they are nearly all on hilltops in England, strange eh?) This is one of three in the whole of England dedicated to St Basil, who is honoured as one of the greatest saints in churches in the East. Getting warmer!

The answer is ikons!

Remember in the previous post I said that St Catherine’s had a unique collection? (and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site too). Well, there has been a swelling of interest in ikons in the Church of England, mainly due to the rather unconventional enthusiasm of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. In fact he has written two books on the subject. As of 1st January, Toller Fratrum has an ikon of St Basil, which was suitably hallowed by the Bishop of Sherborne.

I know all this because a friend is the Ikonographer at Exeter Cathedral who “wrote” the ikon of St Basil, and also several for various cathedrals and one for the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

Just thought you may be interested - "not many people know that"....

Saturday, January 21, 2006

More postcards from Sinai

St Catherine's Monastery, founded in the 6th century AD on the site of the burning bush (yes there is still an evergreen bush there!)

High up in the mountains in the middle of a desert (takes an hour to drive from the coast) it was quite chilly. It has an amzing collection of icons, some dating back to the 6th century - it was so remote that the iconoclasm missed it!

However, the remoteness of the monastery is no barrier to communication. By prayer to the Almighty? No!

You may think the venerable monk is holding a rosary in his hand. Wrong! Its a mobile phone!

Back at the coast. Yes, the very bit of the Red Sea that parted for Moses - there is an ancient Roman column on both sides to mark the spot, one in Sinai and one on the other side in Saudi Arabia, but I've only seen the Egyptian one!

My favourite mountains, with the sunset reflected in the sea. *blissful sigh*

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Postcard from Sinai

There were desert trips with Bedouin; snorkeling on coral reefs; treks to ancient monasteries hidden high up in mountains………but this is one of the best views! Bliss!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Four favourite films

In a comment on the previous post, Vishwa asked me to recommend a few good British movies. In fact, I will let the British Film Institute do it for me in its selection of the favourite British films of the last century – the BFI 100

However, I will list a few films I’ve enjoyed that are too recent to be on the list. I think they all show the British at their best, with plentiful insights into our character.

I’m not used to reviewing films, so I’ll add links to a favourite website.

Ladies in Lavender has a wonderful cast, and is set in the 1930s in Cornwall, with stunning acting. The action is slow and fits the time and place. Very evocative

Love Actually is much more modern, and cleverly written. You will need to pay attention much more than in the previous film to follow the interesting twists and turns. It did indeed cause me to ponder on the nature of love.

Calendar Girls is a true story, set in beautiful countryside where a good friend of mine lives (who occasionally comments here) It’s a gentle comedy. I saw it in a cinema full of women who live in a similar rural environment, and it was more moving because of that I think.

Shakespeare In Love is a great tale, and all the more interesting because of the costume and period. Great to see the man behind the plays. I know it was made in 1998 and thus in the last century but it is sooooo British!

OK, its over to you blog readers now. Come on, leave your recommendations for Vishwa. Don’t let him just get my favourites – I don’t watch enough films. Anyway, my favourite films aren’t usually British, or they’re set in Japan or India! I had to cross lots off the list!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Top tip for 2006

Back in the summer, I was asking a good friend for recommendations for films to watch. “Straight story” he said. But I couldn’t find it anywhere in Dorset Libraries or in any of the local DVD hire shops. It was made in 1999. Oh well, some you lose.

But by one of those nice coincidences, in the middle of the afternoon on New Year’s Eve I was flicking through the next week’s TV listings (having treated myself to a Saturday paper).There, in ten minutes time, highlighted as Film Choice, was Straight Story!

What a delight. John wandered by and was captured by it too.

So here is a quote from the main character in the film, to help me when life becomes a challenge and things get out of proportion.

“One of the few benefits of getting older is that you’ve learned the difference between the wheat and the chaff. And to let the small stuff go……..”

Christmas snow

What a bonus! Perfect snow too. It arrived mid-afternoon one day after Christmas in a fine mist of tiny flakes, which got thicker and more intense. For about an hour they drifted down, gentle but steady. This would have been worrying, but it was coming from the west and predicted to get no farther east – so our daughter and her fiancé driving to London were going away from it.

By sunset we had a good inch of it (a lot for a county on the southernmost edge of England). It took only a moment to liberate the sledge from its hibernation in a junk room, and trek up the small hill in our field behind the house. It’s a  lovely Scandanavian wood sledge with metal edges to the runners. We have so little snow down here that it stood as a television stand for many years!

Out in the twilight snow our two sheep looked somewhat bemused to find their peace disturbed by five enthusiastic adults, and they stood together at a safe distance, away in a corner of their field.

The scene looked exactly like a Christmas card, but I was too busy enjoying it to go back to the house to get the camera and struggle to capture the luminous quality of the moment. Just enjoy it and paint it into memory. There was enough reflected light in the sky to sledge by, but everything was painted from the blue palette. Looking down from the top of the run to the person trudging back with the sledge, I could see the light from  windows glowing orange. It was very comforting to see our house  look so welcoming, and know that a fire was burning warm in the wood stove, and the tree lights were twinkling. Back to warm spiced apple juice!

By morning the snow had turned to rain, and the fairytale scene had gone. I was so glad we seized the moment.  Ichi go, ichi e as the Japanese say.