Living Here

Glastonbury, Somerset, UK seen from the nearby...

“Can you tell us a little about the area where you live?” I was asked by somebody based on the Northwest coast of the United States recently.

So I did, and as I described this place, I was reminded how impossibly lucky I am to live where I do.

“Probably luck had little to do with you ending up there,” a friend remarked, and yes – she’s absolutely right.

From my perspective of belief, it’s the result of a heady combination of manifestation, agonising choices, hard work and the benevolence of an abundant Universe.

I’ve spent many years in, let’s say, less beautiful places.  I had, back in those days, security and comfort.  They came at a price.  I dare say that’s true of all of us.  The job paid well, but as politicians forced my profession down routes I didn’t want to follow, I became rebellious, dissatisfied and disillusioned.  My marriage had its good points, many of them, but here too, there were compromises I wasn’t happy with and the general feeling was far from good.  I told myself I was needed there – by my kids, by those I taught and mentored.  It was only when I found that someone else in my life needed me a whole lot more that the tipping point was reached.

My two youngest were off at university.  My oldest had her own home and life.  As for the school kids, well there would always be more, wherever I was.

Mum was frightened.  She and her encroaching dementia lived alone.  She was usually lucid and bright but there were the confusing times; the times when the ‘other lady’ – the sad, terrified person she tried to comfort, but who wouldn’t talk back or accept any help – would stare at her from the mirror at the top of the stairs.  She could not accept that this person was a facet of herself.  The ‘other lady’ made toast for breakfast seven or eight times a day, but left other food rotting in the fridge.  The ‘other lady’ went for bus rides at two in the morning, to destinations she couldn’t remember and was gone for hours at a time.

That was the tipping point.  I burned my bridges, turned my back on all my comfort and security and moved in with Mum and her other lady.  It was not an easy choice to make.  It was not an easy life to live.

The time came when Mum had all but morphed into her other self.  I wasn’t able to manage the 24/7 care she needed alone and the next choice came.  No point in going back or staying where I was.  It was time to move on again.

“You’re in freefall!” someone commented at that time.  “Where you land is entirely up to you.  What a gift.”

It didn’t feel that way to me, but looking back, I can see that she was completely right.  I followed my heart, came to the place I loved the most and risked all to own LIME Cottage.

So this is where I am:

English: Cutting for silage A farmer cuts gras...

The view from the back of my cottage is to the beautiful Polden Hills.  Usually, as I look out on misty autumn mornings, there is a second, ghostly, grey-purple ridge of hills rising behind them, built of clouds.

The beautiful  near-perfect hemisphere of Chalice Hill rises just behind the cottages across the road from me at the front.

Turn left, and it’s a ten minute walk past the ruins of the abbey to the centre of this quirky, bustling little town, filled with exciting indie shops and larger-than-life characters.

English: Glastonbury Tor from Chalice Well The...

Turn right and within a minute or two you come to a steep, tiny lane, where the waters of Glastonbury’s two famous sacred springs rise.  The white spring to the right and the red spring – supposedly stained that colour by the blood of Christ from the Holy Grail buried beneath it – in the beautiful Chalice Well Gardens to the left.

These two watercourses once ran openly along my road, feeding the abbey and town with fresh water.  Now their waters are piped below the pavement and our drinking water comes from elsewhere, but we’re free to collect bottles of the original supply from the pipes in the lane.

Above all this towers the famous Glastonbury Tor, capped by the tower of St Michael. This brilliant video will show you just how fortunate I am to be here, even if it isn’t down to luck:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So who is or was Leibster?

liebster4

Well how very kind.  Roma tells me she’s nominated my blog for a Leibster Award.  No idea who Leibster is or was, but I’m truly honoured.

Roma and I met on WordPress because we’re both enchanted with the idea of owning an old cottage.  She’s a lot further along on that than I am – she already owns hers and is renovating it wonderfully, while I’m still waiting for the cogs to turn and the deal to be finalised. (“By Easter,” the solicitor now says.  Hope he means the one this year…)

Having just read Roma’s ‘About’ page, I find there is another synchronicity.  She is one of those amazing people who care professionally for dementia patients.  For that she has my deepest respect and thanks.  My Mum passed over a year ago this week and her carers were the most wonderful people, helping her to retain her dignity right to the end and easing her final days.

So apparently it now falls to me to answer 11 questions set by Roma.  I’ll do my best.

1. Where would I rather live, town or country?

I grew up in the country – deep in the country.  In a good summer it was blissful.  In dull, wet, murky springs, summers and autumns it was muddy, damp and brown.  In fact brown is my most enduring memory of those years.  As I don’t drive and rural public transport in England is patchy to say the least, I’d have to say town, but a small town, within walking distance of countryside and especially hills.  In fact, just the sort of place I live in now.

2. Do I prefer Christmas or Easter?

Um, I can’t say I particularly like either.  Apologies for the Bah Humbug response, but I do my best to celebrate every day rather than saving it up for a couple of special occasions a year.

3. Where was my last day trip to?

Last weekend I went to the city of Bath to meet my youngest son and his partner for a day ambling around the lovely old Georgian buildings, rummaging through a flea market and being bought a delicious Mother’s Day lunch at a pub called The Salamander.  A delightful day.

4. Tea or coffee?

That’s easy.  Never liked coffee, although I love the smell.  I drink green or Earl Grey and vanilla tea, weak and black for preference.

5. My favourite fruit?

A ripe Cox’s Orange Pippin is hard to beat, but then there are raspberries… and apricots… and…

English: Amy Winehouse at the Eurockéennes of 2007

6. My favourite musician?

Truly impossible to say.  Anyone who rifled through the Top Rated playlist on my iPod would probably recommend me for psychiatric assessment.  I remember the look of terrified shock on the face of a young lad who passed close enough to me while getting off a bus to hear  Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell leaking from my headphones.  Obviously not what he expected this white haired lady to be listening to!  My tastes range from Amy Winehouse to Aerosmith;  The Doors to Damh the Bard and all sorts of others on the way.

7. Am I a cat or dog person?

No.  I prefer animals living in nature to the domesticated variety.

8. Am I glued to my mobile phone?

Absolutely not.  I use it for texting 3 or 4 times a week and hate being called on it.

9. What’s next on my to do list?

Buy the cottage, get the listed building consent application lodged and approved, have the building work done and – finally – move in.

10. How did I come up with the name of my blog?

It’s called janonlife because my name’s Jan and I tend to ramble on about Life in a quirky, metaphysical kind of way.  Also (quick plug) it ties in with my book LIFE: A PLAYER’S GUIDE which is also all about life, the universe and everything.

11. What do I aim to learn next?

What L I M E stands for.  See my next post for details 🙂

Thanks for the questions, Roma, and for prompting me to share some of my own favourite blogs:

My next task, you see, is to nominate 5 new Leibster Award recipients and set them my own eleven questions.  I think, as they are a very wise and eclectic mix, I will instead ask each of them to share with readers 11 of the most interesting or inspiring discoveries they have made on their journeys through Life.  If this award allows any readers to stumble upon their wonderful blogs, then it has done its work very well.

My nominations are:

thenewsageblog, a source of gentle yet deep inspiration

saara, an incredible and insightful poet

Awareness It Self, beautiful daily reflections

Goddess in the belly, a lady who exudes wisdom and care

and last but by no means least, the awesome and intuitive Craig Kimbrough.

Should any or all of them choose to accept the nomination, I look forward to reading their revelations.

 

 

 

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Between Two Worlds in Avebury

English: Avebury Ring. Ancient monument much m...

Yesterday, here in the south west of England, it didn’t rain.  In fact the sun shone, birds twittered, a few white clouds scudded across a fresh blue sky and all felt good, at last.  January was the wettest on record here, but January is gone.  Snowdrops are out and there is the promise of spring.

My friend (one with a car) was off to Avebury to celebrate Imbolc with fellow druids, and offered me a lift.

“You don’t have to join in with the ritual,” she told me.  “You can go off and do your own thing.”

How well she knows me!  How good it is to have friends like that.

I accepted eagerly and donning many layers of clothes (druidic rituals tend to go on a bit, so I knew I was in for a protracted wander) I headed off to meet her.

We left saturated Somerset behind and entered the chalkier, slightly better-drained hills of Wiltshire.  True, the road leading towards Avebury was bordered by large swathes of flooded field where flocks of seagulls swam and bobbed cheerfully, but grass and trees could still be seen, the road was dry and the water wasn’t deep enough for swans – mere puddles by comparison to The Somerset Levels.

So after a much-needed cuppa at the National Trust cafe, we separated – she to join her garlanded and enrobed companions and I to saunter off alone; to wander between two worlds.

English: Avebury Henge and Village, England Ph...

It seemed an appropriate way to experience Avebury – a place unique in its ability to blend cultures and millennia.  Way back in times with far too many zeros in their dates to be even vaguely imagined, huge earth ramparts and ditches were carved out across acres of this landscape.  A massive mound was constructed from chalk nearby.  Stones the size of a modest house wall were erected in circles and avenues.

We can’t begin to guess what ceremonies, rituals or meetings took place in this fantastical place.  Certainly there are books claiming to decode and explain all, but how could we honestly begin to fathom the subtleties of the beliefs and aspirations of that long-departed culture?

When the first antiquarians, wearing long curly wigs and wildly unsuitable clothes, started to recognise the site’s significance, they were met by surly villagers, busily engaged in lighting fires beneath the stones to break them into usable boulders for constructing their cottages and farm buildings.  Now the two cultures agree silently to differ and co-exist cheek by jowl, scrutinised and invaded alike by summer hordes of tourists.

Few tourists yesterday though.  The Imbolc celebrants drummed and intoned in their circle.  Day-trippers strode purposefully around the site as they sought to exhaust their dogs and children.  Circles within circles, wheels within the car park…

English: Stone 9 of the south-west quadrant of...

I felt equally removed from both groups.  Seeking out a huge and beautiful stone I leaned against it, closed my eyes and let myself drop out of time.   No visions of ancient ceremonies or connection to ancestors, just a profound gratitude that this stone had stood here through the ages and was now offering me shelter and support.

If, when my eyes were shut, I saw a green-brown sky with a glittering grey rock moon, or when they were open I saw the quartz glinting star-like from a thousand places in the megalith, it’s all one.  Seeing stones and seeing stars – is there a difference?

I felt uplifted and happy and full with the wonder of the day.  So, I’m certain, did the druids and the dog-and-child walkers.

So create your rituals, ye neo-druids; excite and exhaust your small companions ye motorists, and inside my dreams I’ll weave my invisible dance amongst you all and between the different dimensions of Avebury.

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