Saturday, June 30, 2012

My Ducks Were All in a Row!

My mission to the US Embassy in London has been accomplished -- successfully! They will be making their utmost effort to see that I have it in time to travel on the 15th of July! Of course this being me there were some minor tribulations getting through security and being able to enter the sacred American space -- but in the end there was a happy ending! More about that anon. I am waiting for my son to help get me to Euston Station and my train back to Southport.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Horses for Courses of Alice and Paint, Embroidery, Sculpture, Photography with Coffee and Cake!

Well then, it must be time for the Holy Trinity 2012  Art Exhibit! This is my favourite event in the church social calendar. Each year the quality of the work on display amazes me. This year we had work exhibited from one very promising 7 year-old artist to another very successful local artist in his 90's!  By the time the exhibit is mounted there are usually around 300 works displayed.  For the first time we also included photographs.

The weather on Friday was the worst it could possibly be as rain and wind lashed and battered everything the ventured outside. No one in England and Wales escaped the onslaught. I feared being blown away off the steps as I forced myself through the tempest to the waiting  cab -- indeed I had no wish to go at all -- no one in his or her right mind wanted to venture out that day. However, I was committed and off I went...

The first artist has arrived and is  handing over his paintings
Mounting an art exhibit is a complicated business -- even one that lasts for such a short time -- from 10.00 a.m. 6.00 p.m. Saturday from 12.00 Noon until 4.30 p.m. Sunday. Several months before forms are sent out and requests are made for exhibitors. We charge a fee of 2.50 to hang each picture, but if the we do not take any commission if the artist's work should sell. From the first paintings, it is only a few hours before 280 entries have been hung and we are ready for things to begin! 

This is all thanks to the very hard work of many volunteers. I was of absolutely no use at all when a picture I had decided to move slipped out of my hand and tumbled resolutely to the floor. The frame had broken apart but the glass and photograph were not harmed. Fortunately it was repairable and able to be re-hung the next day. As a result, I decided no more hanging for me and skulked back to escorting artists to where they could deposit their work. This meant I didn't have to touch anything!

It an important part of our ethos to encourage all artists young and old! This artist is 7 years old and shows a lot of promise and we were verypleased to have as our youngest exhibitor...

The handmade pieces above were all done by a local girl while recovering from an illness. We were very pleased to learn that two of her pieces sold!
Fortunately the weather on Saturday and Sunday was perfect: the sun shone, but it wasn't so warm that people would be heading for a day at the beach. We had a good number of people through the door and at by the end were very happy with the number of paintings that sold. And, yes, I bought one!

Each year we have a special exhibit of a local artisan and this year was a wonderful display of rocking horses. In addition to the amazing horses were other handmade wooden pieces including teddy bears, 3 dimensional scenes from Alice in Wonderland,  jewellery and clocks. Woodlove and Lovewood make all of their hand-crafted  pieces in solid wood. Did you know that the rocking horse is not a creation of the Victorian era, but that many models have been found in ancient tombs?

According to their literature:
The distinguising features are the heads which are all hand carved and have different expressions. The body and head are constructed of Julutong, the legs of Beech, for strength and the stand of Mahogany. These horses are then hand painted and have full leather tack and real horse hair is used for mane and tail.
Some of the woods  used in the clocks are not available from timber merchants, being now very rare, and have been culled from old buildings and furniture, making them well over one-hundred years old. If you want a clock made from Granny's old kitchen table, we will advise.
The idea is for the artisan to show how he accomplishes his work, and it was very interesting and even amazing to see the many steps in this labour of love, it takes to make each rocking horse.

The manes and tails are made of real horse hair... 
I love these table top horses! 

I meant to go back and buy a couple of these adorable bears... :-(

Hidden to the left is our youngest artist!
(Neither the church nor I are benefiting in any way from writing about Woodlove and Lovewood...)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

All in a Day's Work!

Finally at the end of last summer we did what we'd been saying we'd do for 12 years! The Man tore down the walls in our tiny bedroom and made ready for the decoration and finishing touches -- which he is now making ready for when I get down there (sooner rather than later, I can hope)! So this afternoon I got down to it and gathered the mediocre films and combined them to show you what he got up to last September!

So far this summer he has re-wired the room -- cleared out the loft above the flat part of the ceiling and put in some recessed lights. In addition he has torn off the terrible wallpaper that remained and put up the lining paper. The fitted carpet is ready and waiting for him to take care of as soon as the wallpaper is hung. The biggest part of the project is building a closet along the far wall -- where that ghastly wardrobe is seen standing in the film. We had hoped to have our next door carpenter neighbour build the closet, but 2,700 euros was not the price we had in mind by a long shot! So The Man will do it himself. The wardrobe may have been ghastly -- it is now in pieces -- but it held a lot of stuff: 3 sets of sheets, numerous towels, not to mention clothes and clothes and clothes, plus shoes -- now all is packed away in various storage bags and guests will have to live out of their suitcases because I have purloined what storage space was provided in the other two bedrooms!

Italian Opera, Classic fm
Il Trovatore, Anvil Chorus
Naxos 8.553963
Slovak Philharmonic Chorus
Slovak Radioi Symphony Orchestra
Copyright: 1998 Naxos Records

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Sometimes the Weather Just Doesn't Matter!

Last Friday, June 15th, was my birthday. One of my dearest friends decided that my birthday present would be to take me to the Lake District for a special meal and over-night stay. Our venue was the Fayrer Garden House Hotel in Bowness. And a very beautiful setting it was -- despite the non-stop deluge of rain that persisted all that day and for most of the next...

It was my intention to use this post as a rant on the many years that my birthday has fallen on rainy, cold, miserable British summer days. Yes, indeed, I am taking this very personally. I grew up with a birthday almost guaranteed to be warm and sunny. England has never -- not ever -- cooperated. But at least this year I was surrounded by great beauty and luxurious surroundings. And I didn't have to leave the hotel for dinner as the restaurant was superb and the service friendly, but impeccable.

So I have decided to let the rant go -- The Good Lord willing, there is always next year ...

On Saturday we left to explore the area around Ulverston and to meet up with my friend's husband. They have decided to move from North Yorkshire to the Ulverston area in order to be near the Manjushri Kadama Meditation Centre. The centre is a modern Buddhist establishment dedicated to the attainment of world peace. I was absolutely fascinated by the visit.

The rambling gothic Conishead Priory was rescued from years of neglect and is being painstakinly restored by the residential community. The Buddhist Centre stands in 70 acres of grounds that include mature woodland, paths, a lake, streams and a beach on the shores of Morecambe Bay. The history of the ancient Priory is very interesting:
The present Priory building stands on the site of a twelfth century Augustinian Priory. It was originally founded in 1160 by Gamelde Pennington as a hospital for the ‘poor, decrepit, indigent and lepers’ of the Ulverston area. The hospital was run by the black canons of the Order of St. Augustine. They ate and slept under one roof, living a common life of poverty, celibacy and obedience in accordance with the example of the early Christians. They also conducted a school at Conishead for the children of their tenants and workers. (More history)
In 1997 on the site of the old Priory kitchen garden, the new Manjusri Kadampa Meditation Centre was opened. I was impressed by the underlying simplicity of the structure which seems to be able to describe the complexities of this world without succumbing to them. Every level is representative of something intrinsic to the attainment of spiritual enlightenment. There is a lot of symbolism within and without the Temple -- much more than I could possible remember let alone understand and properly describe. However, I do have a worthwhile example.


The male and female deer with the wheel between them symbolize the final stages of the path to enlightenment. They are above each of the  doors on the four sides of the temple. The male deer symbolizes the experience of great bliss; the female deer the realization of ultimate truth, and the wheel the union of these two realizations.

The adornments on the roof are gold-leafed, which required many weeks of work by Kadampa artisans, and the windows above the doorways are impregnated with gold. Precious substances such as gold are made as an offering to the holy beings. They also symbolize the preciousness of the spiritual path as the only way to achieve liberation from suffering and experience lasting peace and happiness. To a Buddhist, inner realizations such as wisdom and compassion are far more valuable than ordinary wealth.

I found the interior of the Temple to be very peaceful and calming. It surprised me how much it reminded me of the interior of the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool. The people I met were very warm and welcoming. Unlike Christian churches, Buddhists do not have missionaries. They wait to be invited... They do, however, welcome all people who visit them. The Temple is open to everyone.  For more information about opening times you can visit their website.

While I found the experience very interesting and worthwhile, I was not comfortable with certain things -- especially the statuary and the ornate decoration of the different Buddhas. I was, however, intrigued by a very ornate 'mandala' with many objects of a symbolic nature and I loved the symbolism and effect of the large central lantern. One thing is for sure, modern Buddhism is here to stay. Centres all over the world are growing at a phenomenal rate and so therefore are prayers for peace and tranquillity -- that has to be a good thing...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Rocking the Pulpit

I had a most amazing evening last Sunday night! Not that I am into heavy metal or hard rock or even poetry readings. But that was before I was encouraged to attend an event that included just that -- and much much more. In church!

The Vicar has organized a series called Sundays at Six as part of our church's summer programme. Last night it was An Evening with Rachel Mann, Priest, Poet and Rock Musician.

About 40 of us gathered in the area at the front of the nave, where tables and chairs complete with candles had been set up. Wine and non-alcoholic beverages were available with snacks and so we all settled down for the show.

In his introduction, the Vicar described how earlier he had been listening to Rachel rehearse the ballad,  Who knows where the time goes? and it had nearly brought him to tears. We also learned that he had discovered her in Manchester, where she is a priest-in-charge at St. Nicholas Burnage. If you want to read more about her life and work I recommend her website and her blog,

Rachel is an elfin creature with the voice of an angel and a touch of the imp. I am no expert on heavy metal or hard rock, but what I loved about her performance was her intensity and the way the sound filled every corner of the church -- not in a loud threatening way, but in an explosion of commitment and love. For me the most moving and hauntingly beautiful were her acapella versions of two anti-war songs, Tom Waits, The day after tomorrow moved me beyond words -- in fact I could not move I was so close to tears -- and at the end, The Band played Waltzing Matilda, by Eric Bogle.

As enjoyable and moving as her singing was, however, equally enjoyable was her poetry. Rachel was, in fact appointed Poet-in-Residence at Manchester Cathedral for three years. She started with The dreams of Briar Rose, The Sleeping Beauty. In the poem she imagines what her dreams must have been like over 100 years ... Here is the first verse: (As you will read, Rachel has a very interesting sense of humour!)
I blew forty years’ worth getting blitzed on Special Brew,
dancing the merengue ‘til my toes bled,
drinking debutantes under the table
taking sweaty cabinet ministers (a bit of rough) to bed.
For fifteen years, I just wept – that ‘finger prick disaster'
replaying, like a schlock horror movie, in my head,
the spinner woman, that old crone, morphing between
Xena the Warrior Princess,
Queen Victoria, Hitler and Clark Kent;
I brained her with the sewing machine,
caused her GBH with a telescopic mallet,
chinned her Glaswegian style, sliced her in half
with the Kung Fu Buddhist Palm. (More)
There is so much to tell about this extraordinary woman -- from her rebellious teenage years and experimentation with drugs, to her teaching of philosophy at Lancaster University and atheist convictions. How did she find faith and how did her faith lead her to become an inner city Anglican priest? She says that in the midst of her atheism, she began to feel a urgent need to pray and that from this need she began to feel that God was chasing her until she finally acquiesced and gave herself to Him.

In closing I give you a film of Rachel Mann reading her poem about Uncle Joe. A tongue-in-cheek, but thoughtful and imaginative take on Joseph Stalin ...

Thursday, June 07, 2012

France without Me!

The Man is now in France -- safely arrived after a long tortuous drive to The Lot. When I spoke to him on the phone his first words were, " Whenever I come without you, there is a big problem..."

He was up at 5.00 a.m. Sunday morning for the drive from his son's house in Epsom to Dover and the 7.00 a.m. ferry. He arrived at the house at 7.00 p.m. Everything inside seemed perfectly o.k. -- aside from the numerous spider webs. He turned on the electricity and opened the shutters and doors. Very little damp -- didn't smell musty. So far so good. He went into the kitchen to turn on the water ... oops!

It spurted everywhere from the meter -- poured out ...

Gasping for a cup of tea, The Man had to make due with wine! 

I suggested to him that he go next door to the French neighbours and ask for a jug of water -- but he was too tired to deal with French and pleasantries and besides he felt it was not beyond him to deal with the water company himself. (Ho, ho, ho!)

He called them the next morning and tried to explain his problem. He explained he didn't understand what they were asking him -- The last time we had a water problem 'avant' and 'devant' was what they wanted to know as it has to do with whose responsible for the work to be done. Those words are confusing to keep straight and I had to get a neighbour to talk to them. Anyway, when they had not arrived several hours later he took my advice and went next door -- where they have learned how to cope with his inability to speak sensible French. Madame Estival provided him with water and called the water company and an hour later they appeared. Within 10 minutes a new meter was installed and the water was flowing and now all is well.

The man is now busy cleaning the terrace and will then take on the lawn. It is of course over-grown. This year his mate, John, has volunteered to bring his ride on mower down and cut most of it. Good for you, John!! Wednesday was market day in Bretenoux and he went and bought petunias, marigolds and geraniums,  and  now the terrace is planted and potted! Once the outside is in order it will be time for The Man to get to work on our bedroom -- but more about that to come in a future post. 

And before the summer is over, he also has to figure out what to do about this:

This side of the house is bang up against the Estival's property line -- so we never see it. Does anybody know anything about repairing rendering?

And me? For the time being at least, all I have to do is lend a sympathetic ear!