9th June 2015
As I sit here gazing out of my window in fellow author Looby Macnamara’s spare room at clear blue skies and the lime green of early summer foliage in the tree across the way, soaking up early morning silence, it is hard to feel the inner turmoil of yesterday’s walk.
It started out well enough, catching up with my blog, but soon went downhill with the arrival of breakfast my B&B host brought in for me. Though she had insisted several times that I wrote a list from the breakfast menu she had left in my room, as well as the dinner menu which she did not mention, suggesting a pub two miles away, and leave it at the top of the stairs, what she brought was rather a hotch potch of items, including two slices of fried bread, which never eat, of different shapes, looking for all the world like leftovers, one of them looking like it had been have eaten and chewed already, baked beans that had been over cooked and dried out, two hard lumps of black pudding, that were mishappen and looked like bits you’d throw to the dogs, and several rashers of bacon she’d tried to cook to my liking but that were rock hard as they were more like bits of gammon. I tried to eat from my plate but it was impossible, veritably the worst breakfast I have been served. In the window a peeling sticker denotes the establishment AA one star. Upstairs on the landing is a certificate that proudly announces AA four stars.
That there has been a decline is obvious. I eat the dish of blueberries provided and leave to pack. I have to call and rouse the dogs to pay my bill. There is an elderly lady with my host as I count the notes into her hand. She does not speak but stares. When I ha e given my host the last coin she says
Leave it there
And abruptly tips it onto the dresser. I hand her my poem, the thank you I am giving to each host for giving me their hospitality she looks at the paper saying very nice
Then as if another part of her psyche is taking over, tips that too on the dresser and turns to retreat to behind her door. As I turn to leave she says
And I go. I wonder what has happened in the life of this kindly spirited lady that she has become so fuddled and a bizarre mixture of sanity and not quite on track. I wonder about the absent husband who should come out of hospital today and wish them well although I cannot recommend that others stay in this B&B where when I stood on something hard on my bedroom rug it turned out to dried out dog faeces.
I walk back into the garden where I had such hopes, two male peacocks strut but do not display. The three affectionate goats are waiting by the fence. I spend a pleasant few minutes scratching their heads as they stick them through their fence. Their soft noses snuffle against my hand and I feel for sure they are treated kindly. A tall proud llama struts over as I am feeding them handfuls of lush green grass from my side of the fence. Obviously a male he keeps the goats and twhree other llamas away from the source of food claiming it all for him. I tire of this and walk on, feeling bad that the female llamas got no treat from the wrong side of the fence.
I think of the patriarchal society we live in and how we perpetuate it through learnt habits, becoming our own oppressors judging ourselves and others, and so maintaining an unhealthy out of balanced system.
I wonder at the llama’s behaviour. Would he have pushed the females out of the way if they weren’t call in captivity or is this the way of things at a certain level of development? I do not know but I leave with an irrational dissatisfaction of the masculine species and trundle off to Caplers camp, the next in a series of iron age forts I am following northwards. The place is full of keep out signs. Only the southeasterly edge can be attained. I feel the seething anger at this ownership of our shared heritage that brews beneath the surface. John Clairesque despair and a longing for a sense of trust to be shared amongst all.
I walk back to the village to see the church. I have no idea what to expect but as I turn the corner and it comes into view I am in awe, the partly thatched edifice is quite simply stunning. A jewel amongst buildings it sits in perfect symmetry with the landscape, would that every building did.
It is a church built at the start of the last century as part of the arts and crafts movement and has William Morris tapestries inside as well as a collection of embroidered altar cloths that were donated by an anon ymous lady of all the wild flowers along with a hand written book of the uses of all the plants another hand written copy of which can still be seen and read in the church.
A Stitch in Time is a church publication of this act of generosity with prints of the exquisite embroidered flowers with the words in print to raise funds to maintain this gem for further generations.
It is a delight to see wild flowers venerated in this way in a church and a delight to be in a church built honouring the sacred geometry of the land as this one has been. Our society would feel quite different if all structures were built in this way.
I leave Brockhampton pleased I have spent time here, in spite of the disappointing bed and breakfast experience.
I walk west to the next village, Hoarwithy. It is time for an early lunch at the New Harp inn. I meet a man looking at the menu too. He says the pub has recently changed hands. It used to be wonderful then became terrible as these things are wont to do but now maybe it is OK again. I am hungry and decide to try.
The menu declares nation famed chefs but sadly these two men, one grotesquely fat and the other painfully thin have gained more inflated egos than culinary skills. The battered fish chips and peas is of perfectly edible quality and well presented but fairly tasteless and the pleasure of sitting in a country inn is a!most complete untarnished by the radio station blaring out pop music and a DJs puffed up self importance and the frequent appearance of the obnoxious fat chef as he bullies his staff and struts around his clearly newly defined territory like a peacock. The skinny chef has already put in an appearance to boast that the crab cakes I have ordered are off because he hasn’t made them yet and might be on later in the day if he can be bothered.
Well, they won’t last long then. A diet of too many TV cookery shows will not stand chefs in good stead when they head out to try and shine in country villages where a more discerning taste may well expect the ambience to be if equal import to the quality of the food.
I spot a bed and breakfast, the Mill, across the way and think that might well be a better choice of overnight stay in these parts, though whether the pub will survive with its comic book chefs is another matter.
Onwards I walk. I find it hard to stay present. I am with my thoughts and dissatisfaction seems to be the order of the day. By mid afternoon I am needing respite from myself as much as anything, cross at any I care to think about.I resolve to sit in the pub in the next village and get cosy in an easy chair for an hour. I need to find a sense of kindness for myself. The pub is closed down in Little Birchs, fairly recently by the look of it. I sit acrossfrom its closed doors on the grassy verge pondering the map. I don’t have far to go now but do a go the long way round the village or head straight for kings thorn?
A man comes by, pauses, asks if I need assistance with directions. I say not but he turns again and asks if I k now the area. Then he tells me of Higgins well and the church. I take the long way round and visit the clearly ancient well and wonder how it got that name. The nearby church is St Marys. Its doors are open and I sit, finally taking solace. I cry tears of grief for my dead father. There hasn’t somehow been space for that in the three years since he left. I feel better and set out once more.
It doesn’t take !ong now and I am soon at my destination but I have no address and Looby isn’t home when I ring. I sit in the village pub and am well cared for by the young landlady who helpfully thinks of places I might stay if for some reason I cannot contact my host. I ask to plug in my phone and when I do a message comes in.Looby has my message and now I have the address.
She comes to the pub with her daughter to meet me and a minute later I am home for the night.
After supper it is bedtime stories with seven year old Teya who creates virtually the whole tale herself. Then hearing from 15 year old Shanti, a most well informed young lady. Looby is the author of People and Permaculture and another shorter more accessible guide written as an introduction to this most practical , effective and earth friendly method of gardening. Shanti wouldmake a fabulous publicist and I wish I had such easy access to such a smart young mind.
We pore over maps and I see where I will be staying in a couple of days, at Applewood permaculture site. Shanti is excited. They have been to a plant sale today and along with the blueberries that Looby had procured and rosemary and lavanda and bay, much as I would have chosen, the girls have bought flowers. Shanti plans to adorn her little caravan , where I will get to spend the night, with pots of the flowers she has chosen.
Looby shows me the day’s plants. She shows me too the perrenial kale. From only three plants there is full and lush bed of edible greens for the whole year. I learn about Japanese wine fruit, small tight blackberry fruits that is growing well in the back garden and experiments to propagate it.
We finish our evening learning if the horrors happening in Baltimore. Shanti keeps up with the news on the internet. It feels like a brood of unruly children have been allowed to take over, not just the state but the country and most of the world,bullying and intimidating anything other than their small world of beliefs. It is disempowering to learn if the scale of the things that are still so far out of balance.
Yet what more can we do but take the next step forward, and the next, towards the society we can be proud to be a part of? What is the next step towards racial acceptance for those who have been taught prejudice?
At bedtime Shanti gives a gift. She teaches me how to cut and paste my work into Facebook.
There are other projects afoot; a funder to pay for a really good translator tool so we can all
The map is clear, the land doubles back on itself and the lane is fairly straight forward
It is a simple act of kindness, a fitting way to end my day. I lay in the bath for an hour, simply sitting, simply being, no hurry to get anywhere at all. Today I have learnt that kindness begins with taking good care of yourself first. We can only offer others what we are capable of offering to ourselves.