stepping stones of truth

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

Friday, June 30, 2006

An English country garden

I spent this evening in Penny and David's garden, along with the usual Friday night crowd. There was wine and excellent conversation (with sad lapses when the lads talked about the Football World Cup) The food was a barbecue with some of Penny's delicious salads. But the highlight for me was her garden. Its as knowledgeably put together as are her menus, and lovingly tended. On the right of the top phone photo is the crab apple tree that inspired me to obtain one. The shrubs are gorgeous, and imaginatively placed with contrasts of texture and colour. And the smell from the philadelphus Belle Etoile as the dusk fell was divine.

We looked across the river valley, and watched the mist rising. Quite magical. We all expected a white horse to step out of it towards. If you know where to look, you can see my house across the water meadows framed between the trees - just to the left of the white house!

This is the view from the balcony outside their bedroom. I know I haven't the time or the talent to create such a lovely garden, but I am always inspired when I visit. My resolution from this visit is to try to get some of my plants out of their tubs and pots, and be more organised in my planting by next winter.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Sailing on a wet summer Sunday

Yes, its the British summer - so expect rain! But sailors are hardy folk, and I had been invited for another day aboard Harmony.

My wet weather gear was donned, and I helped or hindered get the mainsail covers off; get the jib sorted; watch a "man overboard" prototype tested ( a cunning device of bamboo pole, short length of plastic pipe plus lead etc that will pinpoint a poor soul bobbing about in waves while the boat comes about) and we were on our way.

This is a view back to the Isle of Doom (aka Isle of Portland). It was a grey day, and we had our picnic lunch as we sailed.
The fisherman on board had only rudimentary tackle (that's not a personal comment!) but caught a pollack or is it pollock? Anyway here is a photo before it was returned to the sea with Portland Harbour entrance in the background (all of the images were taken on my phone by the way) Note the clever use of perspective, suggested by the fisherman!

We used the motor as well as the mainsail on the way out, and you can see the speed on the instrument is 4.24 knots as we approached Lulworth Cove. After a short rest, we set sail for home. Now you must forgive me if my terminology is un-nautical, but we went back on a beat with jib and mainsail. The boat felt wonderful under sail, with the water chuckling under the hull and we managed an average speed of 6 knots! And what's more, I had a go on the helm for a few moments. I was surprised how responsive it was. For some reason I kept humming "Klingons on the starboard bow" and other Startrek ditties! Must have been the "helm" connotations.The fisherman plonked his Wimbledon cap on my head, and I tried to look nonchalant! Thanks to all concerned for an excellent day along the wonderful Dorset coast. We got back to the clubhouse TV in time for the men to watch the last few minutes of the World Cup football game. England won! With cup of tea in hand, it was a good end to an excellent day.

AND I didnt have to water the garden! Bonus!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Music to my ears

Recently, I had a journey to London and used my old CD player. Its so old that the wires in the headphones have a dodgy connection, and I ended up for two hours in one position. If I moved a centimetre, I lost all sound in my ears. So I sat still, in the required position, with my head on one side, holding the wire tightly between my fingers, not daring to move a muscle. And if there were any jolts, the CD skipped. And such a kerfuffle to change a CD. It was not a comfortable journey.So I decided to treat myself to something slightly more sophisticated. My new mp3 player is called a Zen Nano Plus. With a name like that, and its sleek blackness, I had to have it! Its the size of a cigarette lighter but with more memory than my first computer! And I can listen to the radio, or download radio programmes I have missed. And all sorts of things I havent discovered yet.

It has an added advantage that I can use it quietly in the darkness of night, as musical ear plugs. My choice of favourite relaxing music is a calming alternative to marital snores.

My only moan is that the earbuds are designed for larger ears than mine. The ones I bought to replace the original ones designed for giants are good quality, but are smaller, squashier and I dont have to peer myopically at them to see the tiny L and R to know which ear to put them in. I know its stereo, but I just assumed they need to be in the correct ears. maybe not, but I am too orderly and tidy minded to disregard it!

I am only just beginning to find how useful my Zen is. I even have some Zen chanting on it! How lovely it is to hear sounds that are apparently happening in the middle of your head!

Saturday, June 17, 2006


On St Catherine's Hill, Winchester

One of my recent labyrinth adventures was recounted here, but I never went into much details about labyrinths in general. The Other Val asked about "the large pebbles" at St Columba's Bay, they are laid out to form a labyrinth. And yes, they are quite large stones actually!

St Columba's Bay, Iona

I came across labyrinths a few years back, and was very intrigued. To quote a very informative website "Labyrinths are a potent symbol in many cultures, and have been for thousands of years. When Theseus killed the Minotaur he defeated the beast at the heart of darkness - and created a myth that is still vibrant and evolving. Roman mosaics often depicted labyrinths as fortified cities, while in medieval Europe they symbolised the one true path to Christian salvation. They have been used as ceremonial pathways, protective sigils, traps for unwelcome spirits and for games and dancing."

They are recently popular as a tool for personal transformation, along with many "new age" things. But what intrigued me was the length of time they had been around, and how they occur in so many cultures, even Shakespeare mentions them and they are found carved in ancient stones.

Breamore labyrinth in Hampshire, near the Elizabethan Manor

Its the English turf labyrinth that I particularly enjoy, but have only visited a few ancient ones so far. A farmer near here built one recently on the top of chalk downland, and they constructed one at the Eden Project. I enjoy drawing them in the sand on beaches or doodling them during boring meetings!

Recently created at the Eden Project under living willow canopy

They were used in medieval churches, most famously in Chartres Cathedral. If a person was too poor to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (and most were!) they would walk the labyrinth instead. Ive been to workshops in English churches run by the lovely Helen Raphael Sands.

Helen and her canvas Chartres labyrinth

I find walking them a meditative and calming experience, but then kids find them great fun. So something for everyone. If you want to read more then I can recommend the Labyrinthos home page, or Sig's website or the Labyrinth Society.

Relaxing in the garden

Its wonderful weather. Its a real treat to step out into the garden first thing in the morning. The air is still and cool, but you know its going to be a scorcher.

Its the weekend and two loads of washing are drying in the sun; the fridge is full and we've been to stock up on organic veg and food. So a guilt-free afternoon is in order - sitting on the patio under an umbrella, reading the papers and sipping Earl Grey - and admiring the first rose, the sweet peas, some petunias planted in the bottom of the old Tortoise stove that kept the school warm (when it was a Victorian school) and an oriental poppy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Bays of Iona

This magical island is only three miles long, but what a wealth of wonderful bays it holds. Most of the coastline is forbidding cliffs, but here is a taste of the rest.

St Ronan's Bay and the village (known as Baile Mor in Gaelic) from the ferry

Martyr's Bay (just south of St Ronan's) You can see the ferry ramp on the left of the picture. A narrow sound separates Mull from Iona, but the geology is totally different.

The Bay Of The Seat on the "North End" of Iona

The White Strand of the Monks

Bay At The Back Of The Ocean

The sweep of The Bay At The Back Of The Ocean, looking towards the north

Port Ban, just to the north of the Bay At The Back Of The Ocean

Looking down to St Columba's Bay
(The Port of Coracle on the left of the hillock and the Port of the False Man on the right)

The labyrinth of large pebbles at St Columba's Bay (beachcombing friend under the cliffs!)

The view from the ferry as we left Mull (the large island between Iona and Scotland)

Sailing on a summer Sunday

Some friends in the village had invited us to spend the day on their 32 foot boat, sailing along the coast to Lulworth Cove for a picnic lunch. Other people did the navigation and putting up of sails etc. A day to sit back and admire the lovely Dorset coast amongst good company - seven of us altogether.

I havent been to Lulworth Cove for a few years, and the last time I was there, there was a coastguard helicopter rescuing someone stuck on the cliffs. And the same thing happened today! But I got a much better view of the whole thing. The person obviously wasnt injured as the helicopter didnt head for the nearest hospital, but set them down locally. I didn't think to get the camera out till after the event, and even now you will have to hunt the helicopter!

We sailed into the cove and anchored among the other visiting yachts, and ate our picnic on board in the sun.

Then a few souls got into the dinghy and rowed ashore for a visit to the pub, two of the ladies went for a swim (freezing!) and I basked in the sun on the boat while being rocked gently by the sea, and did nothing at all.

On our lesiurely way back (due to the wind dropping) someone had brought their fishing rod - but only a few mackerel were caught. But there were enough for us to have a barbecue later, even though it had begun to drizzle.

It's some four hours since we got home, but my body still thinks its at sea and the screen is going gently up and down - despite it being a flat calm sea. Now I am quite tired, despite having done absolutely nothing all day!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Boots, bluebells and puffins

Just a quick post, with a couple of photos to keep you going. Kristen commented on the transition back to everyday life after such tranquillity can be difficult. My quiet time on Iona was certainly needed. It been the busiest and potentially stressful time at work that I can remember!

So just a few photos, without captions, of our lovely day visit to Lunga, a tiny deserted island in the Treshnish Islands. It took an hour to get there by small boat, and the wilflowers were unexpected. There was a huge colony of seabirds (guillemots, razorbills etc) but I was there to see puffins - smallish birds who spend most of their lives at sea, only coming ashore to breed. The chicks first flight is at night, from the cliffs and out to sea, not to return to land till next spring apparently. You can see their size compared to a human in the boot photo.

They nest in rabbit holes, and were still nest making.You can see one below disappearing down a hole with a beakful of nest material. The only noise they ever make is a gutteral, very unmusical call at this time of year. They sounded like floorboards creaking.

The way they fly in to land is very comical - they reminded me of flying squirrels, with a foot at each corner! I think you can see one in a "boot" photo. The puffins here were mostly totally unafraid of humans, and we spent a happy few hours just lounging on the grass, eating a picnic and watching, until the boat returned for us.

It was a magical day.

Monday, June 05, 2006 many did you get this time?

Tabor asked a question, and David rightly answered - with another question! But I was quite careful to bring small ones home this time, well, mostly small anyway:- Iona marble, mermaid's tears which are the tiny green translucent bits of marble(I never did tell the myth behind the name did I?) and a few themed ones with stripes. But they were so heavy that I had to carry them about my person onto the plane home, rather than in the checked-in rucksack. The tiny pink things are cowrie shells.

Today at work seemed a much longer day than the one spent beach-combing at St Columba's Bay at the south end of Iona. Too tired to write any more but it was a wonderful week. More photos of boots, bays, bluebells and puffins later!