stepping stones of truth

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

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An ordinary weekend

An ordinary Friday to start the weekend? Nope. It was "Wear it PINK" day in aid of the Breast Cancer campaign charity. Even the staid blokes in the bank were wearing pink ties, and in offices up and down the country people donated £2 to charity to wear pink. Sadly most people in our office were on holiday, as it was half term for the schools. Still , those of us left put on a brave show (including Darren, who wore the pink feather boa for all of five minutes, and offered to take the photo so he wouldnt have to be in it!)

Thats me with pink hair at the front, in the Betty Barclay designer trousers and Thai silk shirt purchased from charity shops. I do not normally wear PINK. Those on the other end had compromised with just a pink top, and passed on the fancy dress.

I also persuaded the Friday night crowd in the village to do the same, and bless them, they all did. Even turned up with pink wigs too - and that was the men! We had pink food too - salmon and pasta bake, followed by blackberry and apple with pink icecream. A great evening.

On Saturday night there was a Halloween Evening on our village green, run by the Village News - our village magazine. There was a marquee, but the weather is still unseasonably mild and the rain held off. There were fairly lights and a barbecue, carved pumpkins, and loads of excited kids in fancy dress running about in the dark. (Thank goodness we dont get the problem in our village of trick and treating youngsters that they do in some towns. Not being an English custom, we havent got the traditions and behaviours that go with it, and it becomes an excuse for intimidating old folk into giving money with threats of violence)

Also there were two large bonfires - I wondered if someone organising it was a confused pagan and got Samhain and Beltane muddled up? But I refrained from comment, and also from herding my oxen between them to be cleansed.

The next day was an ordinary Sunday. I got up, and went bell ringing. Only to be greeted with an empty church, apart from Janet (the lady vicar) who said comfortingly "You're an hour early my love"

I had forgotten British Summertime (Daylight Saving) had ended, and hadn't put the clocks back! Heigh ho, at least I had breakfast and put the first load of washing out on the line before returning.

Later on, The Husband and I went to a food fair as part of Dorset Food Week. It was in the grounds of Parnham House (usually closed to the public) but I dont find the gardens attractive - they are very formal with lines of sculpted yew trees, and I find the garden boring, dark and intimidating - so we just went to the small marquee and looked at the stalls selling local produce - jams and chutney, cheese, meat, bread, wines, seafood, veggies and chocolate. We realised how lucky we are to be able to buy these on a regular basis at the local farm shops or the regular Farmers' Markets. These markets a fairly new but very popular happening, and do a lot to reduce food miles. Also most of the produce is organic or nearly so. But the marquee was very crowded.

So we came away with wild boar steaks for tonight's meal. These came from a farm just up the road in Yeovil, but I am not sure if they were reared or shot in the wild. Many of these animals have escaped and now live wild in West Dorset. I once saw a sow with a string of black and orange striped piglets in tow, crossing the road in woodland at the edge of our village. And if you meat (oops, spelling haha) meet one in the road, you give way. Not to be messed with.

We decided to have lunch at Broadwindsor Craft Centre two miles away, as the marquee was so crowded - all of the county set in Dorset had descended it seemed. The craft centre has not only shops selling hand made crafts, but a lovely place called Earth Design that sells minerals, crystals, jewellery and a good range of "New Age" books. I wandered happily around and left The Husband surprisingly reading through "365 Dalai Lama - daily advice from the heart" which we bought.

The journey back home is along one of my favourite roads in Dorset. It meanders up and down hills, often under beech trees, with lovely views of gentle green valleys and stately chalk hills. The sun had come out, and only the first trees are turning russet. The green leaves are hanging gamely on in the warmth and wet.

There is a lovely sunset right now, with stripey pink clouds stretching across a pale blue sky - but its only five o'clock! That means I will be coming home from work tomorrow in the dark.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The lost village

There is a lovely village, hidden away in a green valley near the sea, called Tyneham. It lies deep in the Purbeck hills (or the Isle of Purbeck thought it isnt an island at all) surrounded by the lovely Dorset coastline - now called the Jurassic Coast and protected.

One day in 1943 the inhabitants were given orders by the government to pack up their belongings and leave. It was the middle of World War II and the army needed the houses as target practice for the nearly tank ranges.

They left a note on the church door :-
'Please treat the church and houses with care; we have given up our homes where many of us lived for generations to help win the war to keep men free. We shall return one day and thank you for treating the village kindly.'

They never returned.

These days you can walk the lovely cliff paths and visit the deserted village on weekends in the summer. They have restored the school, and living in an old school myself, I find it very poignant to look at the desks - it seems just as if the children had just gone home for the afternoon.

The church hosts an exhibition of old photos and artefacts from happier days, but has a stained glass window of Mary in front of a weeping willow. Very apt.

The one advantage of the military presence is that the wildlife has been protected and flourishes (unless it is dodging an incoming missile) Prince Harry is at present stationed with the army on a Junior Leaders course, learning to command tanks on the nearby range. Soon to be joined by Prince William.

The village is protected from the sea by a small range of hills, but a smugglers path leads to an isolated shingle bay - where I took the obigatory boot photo.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Time passes

Autumn always focuses my mind on the passing of time. I really enjoy reading poetic and lyrical words about the ephemeral wonders of the season, and observing the changes in the hedgerows and woods. How easy it is at this time of year to watch each moment passing with each leaf that falls. It can all be very Zen.

The Japanese particularly appreciate the ephemeral nature of the changing seasons, and are renowned for staring in wonder at an autumn leaf, and getting drunk under ethereal cherry blossoms. I shall enjoy visiting temples and gardens in Kyoto this November, when the maples are in full colour (it was tantalisingly late the last time I went)

One of the three marks of all conditioned phenomena, according to Buddhism, is that of change. Everything is subject to change – the cycle of birth, decay and death – from the shallowest breath to the largest galaxy. Acceptance of this seems to enable the Japanese to appreciate seasonal things; special foods are celebrated for their short time, whereas in the UK we expect strawberries all year round.

The other lunch time, my stroll took me past the local undertakers. There, propped up against the wall obviously ready to go out with the next job, was a small headstone. “Winifred Smith. Home at last.” How sad for poor Winifred. I hoped she hadn’t spent her whole life wishing she were Home i.e. presumably dead or in heaven (Unless of course she was an ex-pat and her mortal remains were returning to Dorset)

How much more efficient and productive of happiness it is to appreciate each moment, and not wish it away – or just suffer being Not Home. It is an effort of will, but we can take each circumstance and look for the best in it. My optimism tries to discover some beauty – just one seed of hope and nurture it and help it bloom. Another step in the circling cycle.