Thursday, 28 July 2016

Evening Meditation

Truleigh Hill, South Downs

One evening a week I attend a local meditation group.  It's said that the goal of meditation is "to focus and quiet your mind, eventually reaching a higher level of awareness and inner calm".  I can certainly vouch for that and agree that it can have many positive effects on both mind and body.

Not everyone finds it easy to meditate, as it takes a little practice to start with, to just shut out that "inner chatter" and actually keep still. But sometimes just enjoying absorbing ourselves in a single activity and "being" in the present moment can have similar effects, such as listening to music, baking a cake, being in a garden, climbing a rock, crocheting a granny square or taking a swim.

For Mr Cocopopia, its going out for a summer evening bike ride.  Here are some of the photos he came back with from his ride last week ...

Summer Evening on the South Downs

Summer Evening on the South Downs

Shoreham by Sea from Truleigh Hill

Moonrise over Brighton from Truleigh Hill

Saturday, 23 July 2016

In Praise of Walled Gardens

In honour of National Pollinator Awareness Week, I'm sharing some photos from my recent visit to the walled garden at Coughton Court in Alcester, which is near to Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire.

In past times, walled gardens were a feature of bigger houses, to produce food for the residents.  Enveloped by high brick walls, they were warm and sheltered places which held the heat and temperatures would have been a few degrees higher than outside, allowing for a greater range of plants to be grown (fruit, vegetables and cutting flowers) and for a longer season too.  Some gardens even had walls that were heated with internal hot water pipes. 

Walled gardens are lovely places in which to just wander around, or to sit and just enjoy the calm, nurturing effect they seem to have, as the walls wrap around and seem to protect the garden and all it contains from the troubles of the outside world.


Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Carry On And Go Camping

If I don't have at least one camping trip a year, I really miss it.  Even going just for a long week-end or a few days is better than not going at all.

I like the idea of getting back to basics, appreciating nature and living simply.  It doesn't even matter if it rains, if there's a gale in the night (well perhaps not too strong a gale!) or if it's freezing cold - its all part of the challenge and it helps you distinguish one trip from another.

We're planning our next camping trip very soon, to a simple campsite in the Peak District.

I am very excited by my new camping gadget which I found on a recent shopping trip to Tesco who had a special deal of 30% off their camping gear.  

My new camping gadget

Lightweight and compact and only 16cm tall, it has energy saving LED's.  It has a dimmer function so can be really low light or at full on, with its 12 LED's shining out at 360 degrees, it can also be really bright.  Not just for camping though, but very handy at home in case of power cuts.  So not bad for £3.30 and it even has a handy compass on the top too!

NB - please be aware of casting strange shadows when using a torch or lamp in a tent (remember the tent scene from Austin Powers?)

Saturday, 9 July 2016

A Beautiful English Country Church

Even if you're not particularly religious, churches can be fascinating places to visit.  They have a history so have stories to tell.  They are also galleries of wonderful craftmanship.

The beautiful church of St Nicholas Moreton in Dorset is small but beautifully formed.  

Apparently T E Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) wasn't particularly religious, although his mother was.  So when he died, the service was held in this church and he was buried in the little cemetery close by.  

The church was damaged by bombs in 1940 and as part of the refurbishment, 13 hand-etched glass windows replaced the damaged ones.  The windows were by Sir Laurence Whistler who was said to have revived the art of glass engraving in the 20th century.

I've never seen etched glass in church windows before but they let in a lot more light than the traditional stained glass (don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with stained glass and the way the changing light plays with the colours and reflections within the building). But the etched glass lends a distinct, ethereal quality to the building, making it feel quite heavenly!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Why Worry

We had a lovely week-end last week, spending time in Dorset with some of Mr Cocopopia's family who had travelled down from the Midlands. 

We visited Cloud's Hill which was the rural retreat of T E Lawrence (otherwise known as "Lawrence of Arabia").  Until this visit, all I'd really known about Lawrence of Arabia was that Peter O'Toole played him in the epic 1962 movie (and that memorable scene of him sitting on a camel and getting very angry and shouting "NO PRISONERS!").

But then I discovered, like a diamond, there are many aspects to this man. From the impression I got, he studied history at Oxford and had interests in archaeology, he was good with languages (Ancient Greek, Arabic and French, in addition to his native English), he was a good military man and strategist.  On a more private level, he appreciated art, music and literature (he was a writer himself), had a good sense of humour, was sociable and enjoyed the outdoor life including cycling and motorbikes.

But when he needed to retreat, he could be found at his tiny little cottage Cloud's Hill in the Dorset countryside.  And then it became evident he was very practical and had really good design skills too, to make his cottage just how he wanted it.  For instance, he made a ship's cabin bed for his guests, with drawers underneath for storage.  He found an old piece of metal that someone had thrown out so he recycled it by getting an ironmonger to make it into a door-knocker. And when he needed some cups and plates, he apparently "threw a couple of items" at a local pottery to show what he was looking for.  

Probably the only thing he did fall down on was food as he wasn't bothered about having a kitchen and just ate food cold from tins or perhaps a piece of cheese kept fresh under a bell jar.

But one thing I will particularly try and keep in mind is the inscription above the doorway in ancient Greek, which when translated means "Why Worry" - wise words indeed.