Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The Cottage; It is finished, at least my son-in-law's hard work, various photos arrive through the day of the carpet as it is laid, him sprawling on the newly arrived sofa, waiting for his lunch at the garden table we carted down last time.  Emails, phone calls, funny texts and photos have arrived daily so I'm going to miss them and I expect he is going to miss going down to the cottage as well.  Sad times ;)
Yesterday I wrote something else but news flys by at the moment interceded by migrainal headaches which seem to cluster in that familar pattern the last few days.  One of the things i wrote about was Layman P'ang, so I will carry it forward.....

So what I had decided on writing back there at the top of the page before I deviated, was the problem that I have began to acquire 'stuff', if you put a carpet down you need a vacuum cleaner, beds need sheets, kitchen china and pans, so there I was complaining and then learnt of a 9th century Chinese monk called Layman Pang getting rid of his worldly goods. The book was found in the study, and the story goes that this monk decided to turn his house into a temple, he filled his boat with all his worldly goods (and his wife and daughter but I learnt later they survived this clearout) rowed out into the middle of the lake and threw everything overboard. And then with his daughter wandered round the countryside, all his sayings and poetry collected into a book. I must say mostly the sayings are too cryptic and of its time in history but he was instrumental for being a Zen 'ancestor'.

The book is called The Recorded Sayings of Layman P'ang (a Ninth Century Zen Classic) and is translated from the Chinese by Ruth Fuller Sasaki, Yokita Iriya and Dana R.Fraser. Given as a present to my partner in 1971 with a warm dedication for help in choosing the illustrationa of the book. Ruth Fuller Sasaki, an American who intrigues me and I shall go on to explore her character eventually, she was the person who invited LS to Japan and I wrote about her here.
One verse of P'angs musings

To preserve your life you must destroy it;
Having completely destroyed it you dwell at ease,
When you attain the inmost meaning of this,
An iron boat floats upon water.

Funnily enough it brings to mind 'Jesus' of Whitby who wanders around wrapped in a cloak completely oblivious to the world around him, muttering to himself and homeless he manages to get looked after by the community, another personality that needs exploring may be.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Today a parcel arrived with the new blue enamel coffee pot that is going down to Whitby,a sort of house present for the house.  It is a lovely deep blue, and not very well taken by me the photographer, but in gathering some of the photos taken over time, came up with a beautiful white capped blue sea at Skinninggrove, and the wool roving I am spinning at the moment, pale shades of blue, two greens and a pink.
This idea of combining wool colours with what you see around is beautifully photographed in  Alison Daykin and Jane Deane's book of Creative Spinning.  Taking the seasons of the year and the colours you see around in nature.
My external drive with all my photos refuses to work at the moment, and I'm not sure how to get the photos back except inviting a computer expert to extract them - costs money so its been put on the back burner at the moment.

This is a photo from the roof when the great plan was hatched to put up a camera there

These are the gypsy ponies taken late summer, gently snoozing at midday

Tuesday photos show them sleepy once more

her mane is a tangle of burrs, a good groom would not come amiss

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Cottage

Not sure if I should think of as 'the house that Jack built', or perhaps I see it more like a pyramid being built from the top downward - impossible I know! Everything depended really on the chimney being fixed from leaking into the attic bedroom, this was done a couple of weeks ago (after the much waited arrival of the scaffolding), so now guttering and chimney fixed, the plastering was finished off last week and final painting is almost done.  Then after all that, the carpeting will go down and the SOFA will arrive on the 29th of this month, so hopefully we will spend some time in Whitby in comfort this Xmas.
 A tv bought a week ago, a satellite dish has already been fixed discreetly on the roof which means I lose two aerials on the front of the house (one belonged to my neighbour) and all my neighbours are getting excellent reception because their tvs are feeding off my dish (I think) any way reception in the yard was pretty bad apparently especially the little cottage in the corner. Did I get threatened by the tv licensing people, for not buying a license this year (£1000 fines for goodness sake) till I negotiated a stand-off period as the cottage was empty but I got one this month so I'm legal in that department.  One idea that had been mooted was to have a camera fixed to the chimney so that you could see over the rooftops to the harbour, I have photos somewhere its pretty spectacular the view but that idea has fallen by the wayside. 
Lots of things we have all learnt along the way, firstly vegetative growth on the roof, the birds must bring seeds which they generously drop in the gutter which then sprouts and blocks the water going down the drain- yikes an ongoing thing.  Now as I walk round Whitby my eye is always caught by plants growing on roof tops. Dampness; now apparently old cottages always have this, no damp barrier as in new houses, but it is not that serious, after all the cottage has been standing for 300 years.   The builder said cottages were kept fairly dry in the past by the fire in the main room which was kept going all the time. One of the things that made me fall in love with Pottery Cottage was the narrow tiny twisting staircases (bit dangerous though) and the door to the stairs down below.  It reminded me of my grandma's door to the stairs  covered with its thick chenille curtain.
The other thing is of course living in close conjunction with the neighbours and sharing a communal space, the delicate play of what we can and cannot do.  My son-in-law has been in charge of all the work and I'm very proud of him, his attention to detail is marvellous, even to the point of telling me off for shoddy work! Though it really doesn't worry me my love is also meticulously tidy and puts up with my untidiness without a complaint slipping from his lips and I really do believe we need a subtle blend of people in this world, those that are untidy and and those that are tidy......
Problems still to work out in a tiny space is there is no space for a washing machine, and various bits of furniture to fill in, though there is an auction house in the lane behind, plus of course a fish and chip shop, and Indian restaurant, food will never be a problem.  My daughter suggested going down from early December so that we could be there for Matilda who has a birthday on the 10th.  She has asked that as a birthday treat she spends a whole day alone with her mum without her sister, they are going shopping in York.  LS remembered something funny this morning about our ever curious Matilda, she had asked him did Japanese ladies keep their chopsticks in their hair? funnily enough he did not know the answer...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mirror images

For years I have gone walks often following the paths by rivers, the small shallow Welsh tumbling rivers, the deep, large river Avon that snakes its way through Bath (often in a more sinister fashion taking a life here and there as someone slips drunkenly in at night) and now Essex rivers. Essex rivers flow placidly along the flat landscape, sinuously curving through the fields you only know they are there by the long lines of upright willows that trace their path through the fields. Sometimes I think they occupy my soul, their peace and tranquillity for ever flowing on, they are a source of comfort in a world that whooshes by.
Yesterday we went a walk from Paper Mill Lock, the weather is unnaturally warm, worryingly warm, and it has been very dry here in the East, blue skies, no wind and the trees reflected sharply in the still waters, the only time I had seen such clear transparency was on a cold winter day with snow around and the river trees were an exact replication of the real trees.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Every morning we wake up to the 'crisis', where are we going, what is going to happen, the end of the world is nigh, etc, etc. Try tackling climate change for a time for relief of Europe (and the world) going belly-up, there really is no peace from this continuing saga.  But..... there are people out there being positive as well.
Below is a statement from the Quakers in Bristol (a stronghold of Quakerism), though I have no creed to believe in, their strong simplistic moral approach always appeals, and I'm glad that they have thrown their weight behind the Occupy movement which has set up in various parts of the world.  After the closure of the Wall Street protest yesterday and today St.Pauls protest group we need people to at least highlight the problems.

“Quakers in Britain share the concern for global economic justice and sustainability expressed by the Occupy movement. We agree with the statement of Occupy London Stock Exchange that our current economic system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives. We, too, “want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich,” (as stated in Occupy LSX initial statement). We are grateful to the various Occupy groups for raising these issues so passionately and respond to the deep spiritual significance that we recognise in the movement.

“Those of us who have visited have been welcomed, and found the Occupy sites an exceptional learning experience. We honour the values and positive ways of working within Occupy communities: without hierarchy, based on care for others, open to the contributions of all and searching for the truth. These are in harmony with our Quaker practice and business methods.

“The idea that another world is possible is crucial for us too. We cannot accept the injustice and destructiveness of our economic system as it is. At the annual meeting of Quakers in Britain in August 2011 we wrote: “We need to ask the question whether this system is so broken that we must urgently work with others of faith and good will to put in its place a different system in which our testimonies can flourish”. We support the process initiated by the Occupy movement to create a path towards a different future, and to develop it democratically.

On Facebook my choice of organisations to follow are few, even fewer friends because I think it is a silly business, but I can keep in touch with family and friends I know from long ago, but I'm meandering away from my point, Transition Bath has also been added, though I no longer live in that city.  There is always hope when the young band together to create city gardens and plant trees, mostly useful trees with edible fruits, around the city of Bath.  Transition Towns are slowly being set up around England, the latest sustainable idea that has taken hold.  Reading Bill Mckibben's Eaarth book also gives hope of community and localism taking hold in America as well.
His optimistic argument being that we will not descend into anarchy and civil disobedience but that the neighbourness of most people will prevail and each will help those nearest to them.  So we are moving away from that word globalisation to localism, the need for all of us to live in that immediate space that surrounds us and not to go hiking to the ends of the world to find our pleasures and sustenance.
So to two books I pulled out for future reading, Wendell Berry, another back-to-the-land person, I don't know how much I agree with him, but a strong philosophy by its nature dictates a moral and ethical stance...... 

Monday, November 14, 2011

more mushrooms

A walk in Blake's Wood to look for mushrooms, we did'nt really turn up as many as last year though it could be due to the fact we were later in the year. The sweet chestnuts had mostly gone, lots eaten by the squirrels, they lay scattered around shells broken under the thick mulch of the fallen leaves. Fly agaric was in the same place as last year, more earth balls around but no puff balls. There seems to be a type of milk cap which is prolific also, and I think the dark brown one is a shaggy parasol one.

A ploughman's lunch

Fly agaric

Earth balls (poisonous)

the woods

Shaggy parasol

Having studied the mushroom book once more I have decided that there is more poisonous mushrooms out there than edible ones. Quite a few seem to give your stomach ache and others of course are fatal.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Greyness, the vegetation sinking into wetness and death

Old Grumpy, disdainful as ever in his smart tartan coat

When we walked back by the river yesterday, the word that came to mind was dank - clammy, misty, damp and dark also follows.  The weather is miserable in the sense that the sun is missing from the sky and we are covered by heavy clouds that leak a fine misty rain.  Pansies hang their heads in misery, fallen leaves lose their colour, is it depressing? not really this is British weather you become accustomed to it.
Dank is a Scandinavian word, middle english, wet, marshy ground, a pool, it flows as a word through the Scandinavian language in its wet form.  Our language follows the many times in history when we have been attacked by outside forces, the Romans, Saxons, Angles, Vikings and then the Normans, our language is a reminder of the mongrel nature of being British.
It is in evidence when we drive through villages with strange names,  latin will denote Norman overlordship, the manorial system; Saxon etmyology has a simplicity and more often or not is the name of a specific person's land.

This morning I came across an article by A.D. Mills, he has written a Dictionary of British Place Names, so if you were to look up Whitby his explanation would be thus; "White farmstead or village, or of a man called Hviti.  OScand. hviti" 1086.

 In actual fact Whitby had an earlier name The earliest record of a permanent settlement is in 656, when Streonshal, was the place where Oswy the Christian king of Northumbria, founded the first abbey, under the abbess, Hilda. The Synod of Whitby was held there in 664. Wiki entry.....

The sea mists at Whitby are called frets, or so my daughter informs me

Scandinavian heritage in Essex,
British (Celtic) /Saxon heritage;

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Global recession grows closer as G20 summit fails;  Front page Guardian news this morning, and no I'm not going to speculate where we are going, though we had a serious discussion over the price of the coffee beans this morning over said beverage!  The week has been a fiasco of self-important heads of mostly European states trying to address a problem that is insoluble - we've spent too much and there isn't any more to go round.  But my eye was taken by this on Facebook, capturing human progress.

Ken Cangi
Evolution of stupidity.

What else to capture my indignation? Well this is the rather terrifying prospect of hydro fracturing, we have already seen the fire lit water coming from the taps in the US.  Well 'fracking' as it is subversively called in this country is also here as well.  We were told last week that minor earthquakes round Blackpool were actually caused by the nearby blasting of one of these (experimental) gas wells.  No problem the company said, a one off occurence, yes well we all know what oil drilling does to our seas, so maybe we should be a little more sceptical like this video 'Ironic News Report'.  What is worse there are plans afoot to sink wells in the Mendip Hills, source of a great deal of water around Someset, including Bristol and Bath.  The hot springs of Bath would also be contaminated should anything happen.
We are led by greed and stupidity but blighting the earth on which we all live by these idiots who only see profits in their companies and bank accounts does take the biscuit........

Ending on biscuits was what I was going to talk about anyway, but indignation got in the way, at least the rising cost of food and going to shop at Lidl's.....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Early morning musings

It is early morning, I am listening to the quacking of a duck, someone has a pet duck a couple of houses away, perhaps its lonely as it welcomes the daylight.  As the light has grown, the sky had those beautiful colourways of a rising sun, but now it is dull, the rainbow I spied over the green has vanished, the brilliant coppers, yellows and burnt bronze of the leaves have dulled and rain spatters on the ground.  Sometimes I get heartsick for my walks up on the downs with Moss early morning.  At this time of the year, the moon would still be in the sky, and I could see the sun rising over the downs at Avebury a good 30 miles away. Yesterday I was thinking about the golden plovers that spent the night on the downs, I once crept up to them nestled in the grass and took a photo of them,  Moss was implacably well behaved and followed on my heel, I do miss him so.. But to the plovers, they rise in a great swoop, and their synchronised movement as they take to the air is something marvellous to behold, wings tipped down and a lovely musical note as they climb higher and higher into the sky.
The duck is welcoming the rain now, quacking away to himself, always wanted to keep ducks, Indian runners to be precise, along with a variety of hens but I doubt if I shall.  There is always a sad note to this time of the year, Samhain has gone with little celebration, and I must think of xmas presents, for Lillie I have made a miniature bed and bedding and bought her two children dolls. Matilda has fossil books, and fossils from LS (they share the same interest) and a flower press for her birthday early December, so I have to think of something else, she likes crafts but has little patience for stitching, but she is enormously curious about everything.
The boys are always easy, it will be on their Amazon wishlists, either computer games, books or something to do with football.  Tom (age 17) was reading John Grisham by the time he was 10, and now James Patterson, one who wrote about the law, the other about the police.  It seems this may have influenced his career choice as he wants to work in the CID/police force.

An article on dogs From The Cave to the Kennel, which just shows how long dogs/wolves have been with us.