stepping stones of truth

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

Monday, July 31, 2006

My first garden visit in Japan

Just thought I would post some photos taken when I visited my first ever Japanese garden in Japan over at the Dewy Path.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Picnic in paradise

Last weekend was busy (I've said that before) and we had some food left over from the gathering. The summer weather enticed us out, and my youngest daughter and I decided on a walk - with picnic lunch of said leftover finger food. We packed a couple of plastic boxes and took some water, and off we went. But where to go? Sea, river, wood, meadow? We are spoilt for choice - all are within a short drive, and some even within a short walk!

A hilltop with views and a breeze was the request. Right, no problem - and within five minutes drive. We drove over into the next valley and parked the car in a farmyard and walked up a lovely hidden valley. The grass is still green and growing with wild flowers. Its an SSSI : Site of Special Scientific Interest and also an SAC even : Special Area of Conservation. Then you climb up, and up, and up the chalk downland. Pausing many times to admire the view; spot deer; admire the view; spot a buzzard etc etc. Not that I was out of breath or anything of course!

At the top is an ancient ridgeway track to Cerne Abbas, that has the base of an old preaching cross beside it - miles away from any habitation, sheltered by woodland. On the eve of the Millennium ( when most clergy were in their warm churches) the Bishop of Sherborne was to be found up on this hill, at midnight, in the dark, blessing a new cross erected on the base of the old one - courtesy of the local landowning family, one of whose forebears wrote a book "The Ancient Crosses of Dorset". Very apt. How they got him up there, when he must have had plenty of more comfortable offers, is beyond me.

There is also a lovely stone bench beside it, with carvings of ancient wisdom from the Bible on it - and also on the stone slab where your feet rest. It gets quite overgrown in the summer but the views are worth the climb. We spread the rug on the bench and ate our picnic, watching the clouds make patterns on the hills.

We could look back towards our valley, just beyond the first house on the ridge. And recognise the patterns of woods and fields that we look out on every day. Just beyond the hills on the horizon is the sea. Lovely to know its there.

We strolled back down to the car, enjoying the skylarks' song - quite deafening. And hearing very little else. That's a field of linseed by the way, grown for its oil. A very new tractor was coming toward us in the last meadow, and ominously slowed. The driver, a farm worker, obviously thought we were holidaymakers, badly parked in front of HIS barn. He started fairly belligerently (not "Off My Land" style though) but through careful chat, I was able to let him know I had been walking this land and parking there longer than he had been working on the farm! Also, I was able to get the gossip about the latest inhabitants of the Big House (only renting, while their own farm house is renovated to London standards "More money than sense" he reckoned). We parted amicably, me not having realised until later that I refered to his plot of land by the name used thirty years ago!

All in all a great way to eat leftovers!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Taiko and tapas

It had been a busy weekend, starting with the Murder Mystery - which went exceedingly well. My life long friend from Library School was visiting until Sunday afternoon, and she and her mother came to that too. Oh yes, I did it, I was the murderer, well I would have been the murderer, but someone beat me to it, and so I poisoned my husband by mistake with the port (not my real husband you understand!) Its a long and complicated plot!

The long hot days of summer are still with us, so it was with pleasure that four of us got into Andy and Rebecca's car on Sunday afternoon, to go to Bristol. What a lovely trip. Two hours being driven through the lovely English countryside in a car with "climate control". Yesss. We were going to a concert in St Georges. We got there early and decided to have a bite to eat nearby before the concert. We found a lovely place with cool leather armchairs, and feasted on delightful snacks.

A great delight for me was to see a friend that I met in Japan, who was helping out behind the merchandising table, full of CDs and DVDs. He looked absolutely wonderful, the quintessential English gentleman, I would buy a used car from him let alone a CD. He greeted me with a hug and his lovely slightly ironic smile. The concert of taiko and shakuhachi was promoted by the same people/company with whom I travel to Kyoto for my Japanese temple and garden fix, Worldspirit.(thats a link to the concert details, but the website is worth a look) So it was good to see its boss there too and catch up on news from him, and reserve a place on the Kyoto trip in the Autumn, hooray!!!! Now I have to start saving.

The music was quite uplifting, and one shakuhachi solo "the nesting life of cranes" was quite transporting, on a deep level. I found the whole concert (apart from the riproaring rhythm pieces with all the drums and percussion) more pleasurable if appreciated with my eyes shut. I came away happy and with two new CDs (one taiko, one shakuhachi) and a replacement DVD for the video of Japanese gardens "Shishu" from Worldspirit that had stretched with use.

Taiko, shakuhachi, nachos and tapas - what perfect ingredients for an English summer evening!

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Curate's Farewell

My local drama group are putting on a fund raising event for the village church - a Murder Mystery evening. Poeple pay £10 and turn up to the Rectory garden (next to the church) where they assemble for a lovely meal and wine. The event is supposed to be a farewell celebration for the (fictious) curate. Of course, the curate, the churchwardens and their families are all actors - us. And a tale of intrigue, adultery and ultimately MURDER.

The cast rehearsing in the garden with a lovely view of the tower

View back down from the tower

The murder happens after the first course, and after the bellringing. I am a bellringer and also one of the actors. I think I am going to miss my dinner!! It will be a good chance to practice on the bells, as we are ringing for a wedding in the church the next weekend. Lovely.

I think you may guess who gets murdered by the title of the event! But I will tell you this much, the curate meets his end in the churchyard! The actors stay in character the whole evening, and the guests have to guess who did it - by watching the action and questionning the characters. At one point a couple get trapped in the tower and appear at the top. I had my phone with me, and so took a couple of snaps in the lovely evening light.

Looking east from the church tower

Looking west, towards my house, out of sight

You may notice that only one side of the road has houses. The other side was parkland belonging to the "big house" and( conveniently for the Squire) all the estate cottages on THAT side burned down over a hundred years ago. And the pub too, it was never rebuilt. The fire is rumoured to have been started by a spark from workers repairing the lead on this very tower roof.

After the puddings, a detective and a crime writer (also actors) turn up for the denouement and unravel the mystery of who did it, how and why! The script is very clever and I dont think anyone will guess how!

Lets hope it stays fine, as it wont be half so much fun in the village hall if wet. We only have half a dozen or so rehearsals, and my youngest daughter and I are busy learning our lines. It hasnt rained yet on a rehearsal night, but the gnats do bite around dusk. I am Chariman of the group and have had to give the OK to the Treasurer to buy the wine that we drink during the rehearsal - all in the name of accuracy you understand!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Homage to speed

A photo diary of a day out at the Goodwood Festival of Speed at Goodwood House.

An eerily beautiful fantasy car from America dated 1938. Would this be allowed on the road today?

Ferrari mechanics fine tune their lap tops!

Not being an ardent petrol head I didnt know the details of all the cars, but couldn't help admire the lines of the older classic cars in the Cartier section, or enjoy the noise and spectacle of the Formula One cars hurtling up the hill in front of us.

I left capturing the atmosphere of the vehicles roaring past to the experts with long lenses, who were in serried ranks behind the protective straw bales at the side of the track. I sat back in the shade and watched the action on the conveniently placed large screens - joined at one point by my eldest daughter and her fiancé. So I took the opportunity for a "boot photo" !

Can you believe that this F1 Renault's engine can play God Save the Queen? Unlikely, but true - I heard it!
Only one minor crash during the day, and it happened almost in front of where we were eating our picnic - and the lads missed it! They had gone to get in pole position for the fly past of a huge Boeing 747 doing "aerobatics".
And the safety car is the newest Rolls Royce!

You can buy this one at auction, for an estimated £140,00

A classic BMW

Nico Rosberg, who drives for Williams, is pushed back into his "garage"

Glamorous classic Ferrari

What a great design, front and back! - Alfa Romeo

I got a bit blasé towards the end of the day about expensive motors (stands visited included BMW, Mercedes Benz and Rolls Royce) and was happy to sit in the sun on Lord March's immaculate cricket pitch, sipping Pimms. I was pleased to have bought something! A baseball cap at Mercedes - a bargain at 2 for £4 as they wanted to pack up their stand and go home.

But the best part of the day? Having the Red Arrows fly almost directly overhead. Wow! You would be convined they are colliding. At one point they were actually plaiting themselves - you could see it from the red, white and blue smoke. Two of us were waiting to go back to the car park to collect the picnic had to wait as we couldnt go underneath their flight display area! They were so low and close I swear I could count the hairs in the pilot's moustache. It made me proud to be British, and paying the tax to keep them up there. The noise! The power! Better than all the fireworks that Disneyworld ever produced, and better than all the F1 cars! An overwhelming experience, and pure joy!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bowled over

My youngest daughter, aged twenty six, celebrated her return to live in Dorset by becoming the village ladies' skittles champion! A skittles night is held once a year on the eve of the village fete. It takes place in our village hall next to the river, with a barbecue and real ale which flows until the mens, ladies and junior winners are decided. There were several ladies all on the same score until she stepped up to take her turn. And down all the skittles went! And she came home with £5 prize money!

For those living outside the south west of England (and the Midlands apparently) I will quote Wikipedia :- "Skittles is an old European target sport....the game remains a very popular pub sport in England, though it tends to be found in particular regions, not nation-wide. It is perhaps most common in the south west counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire."

We haven't got a pub in the village, so our village hall floor has a few small holes, used to anchor the bits needed. In Dorset you have to have a "back board" because experienced (usually male!) players use it to launch themselves from a squatting position, and fling themselves onto the floor - releasing the ball with both hands, which then have to save them from a dreadful impact onto the floor. I am sure some get splinters in their chins!

You can see the eventual men's winner having just thrown, and the ball about to make impact up the other end - where the stickers-up await to clear the fallen skittles and then replace them all at the end of his turn. The contraption of a descending gutter is to return the three balls back down to the skittler (you get three balls to knock the nine skittles down) . There are straw bales at the back end behind the skittles.

At this point in the night most people were still outside in the still evening air chatting and watching the mist rise along the river valley (and incidentally spotting the Mir space station going overhead) and drinking the locally brewed real ale known as Tom's. Simple pleasures.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

How much do you love your plants?

If you moved, would you dig up ALL your plants? This woman did! Sorry you cant see the colour photos in the online version - it does look lovely.

Update : The Other Val emailed me to say she had found a photo here.
It takes a librarian to have the information skills and tenacity to seek out where others fail! Even in retirement! Bow to your knees and worship a librarian! Thanks Val.