Stitching a new garment

Iphone, Smartphone, Apps, Apple IncA week ago, my phone pinged.  One of those Facebook PM things.  I’ve been getting a lot lately – little gifs of cute cats, uplifting pictures of sunsets or seascapes, prayers in pretty fonts garlanded with flowers or rainbows, even the annoying ones that instruct you to send the flickering candle or whatever back to the sender and on to all the women/true friends/grandmothers etc. you know…  Kind thoughts, sent with love – people doing what they can to connect.  I send a smile icon back or a heart or whatever I feel will best please the sender so that I can then move on with my day.

Life at LIME Cottage right now is not Netflix, gin and scrolling through social media.  It starts at 8.30 with lesson preparation (daily multi-age primary school phonics and English resources posted online for harassed parents – opentheboxweb.wordpress.com).  God I hate phonics!  A ridiculous system, but that is what the kids have been learning, so that’s what needs to be done.  At 11am it’s a video call with the grandchildren.  Their mum gets an hour to work from home unhindered while I chat, read stories, deliver the wretched phonics and writing, cram in a bit of maths and help the little ones to make some sense of the way the world is now.  A quick lunch, a daily walk or burst of gardening then on to the afternoon job – sewing scrubs and gowns for a local care home.  It’s all very organised in our town.  The coordinator sends out packs of fabric and patterns via masked and gloved volunteer couriers and our team of makers gets to work, each in their own home, just as the spinsters and weavers of yore may have done in this very house before industrialisation came.  My ‘working day’ ends at 4.30.  I check on the salads and tomato seedlings growing around the house on sunny windowsills then put some dinner together.

So it was surprising, really, that I heard the ping.  It was from a lady I’ve been in touch with for many years.  One of those social media friends I’ve never met, and never will, but somehow feel I know.  We exchange messages from time to time and, I confess, as I opened the file I was half expecting another cat picture.  She likes cats.  What I saw instead stopped me dead. Image may contain: text  It was this:

My words reflected back to me!  She had sent me a screenshot of a passage I wrote all those years ago – back in 2012 – in my book LIFE: A Player’s Guide.  No explanation came with them.  Perhaps she had stumbled across the image and found it helpful, or perhaps she guessed that, at a time of such utter disempowerment, they were words I needed to be reminded of.

Either way, they worked.  I was transported back to the time I wrote it, returned to a state of optimism and reminded that what I’m doing now is valid.

 

Let me go a bit deeper here.

You see I’ve known a world-changing disaster was coming for a long time (see last post for details).  Stashed away somewhere in a cupboard upstairs is a rather expensive multi-use survival tool, some packs of waterproof matches and a self-sufficiency handbook.  Their time may or may not come.  I wasn’t expecting it to be this way, but I knew some cataclysm was heading inexorably towards us.  My source was impeccable.

I’d been told that me being a teacher would be important at this time – hence the time-consuming daily lessons.  I’ve been trying my best to follow the scant guidance I’d been given.

I was told more, though.  I was told that although technology would remain in tact and be beneficial, ‘finance’ – the economy – would undergo seismic changes and this in turn would have a huge effect on people.  It would, in fact multiply the changes occurring in society, leading to an attitude of altruism and general goodness prevailing over the cut-throat world of inequality, exploitation and global destruction.

It is that prediction which had been bothering me.  I’d had 15 years to prepare for this.  Now it was here, I fervently wanted to see that change.  I read eloquent passages and watched inspiring videos from people around the world stressing that we must not return to the old ‘normal’, that we need to change and that Covid 19, for all it’s cruelty, was giving us all a chance to stop and wonder and see the disparity, foolishness and waste of our old world.

Sew, Protective Mask, Sewing MachineAnd what was I doing about it?  Making a few bits of PPE for the local nursing home.  Growing a bit of veg.  Liking and sharing the positive ideas on social media.  Tiny drops in the ocean – pathetic!

Reading that message from my friend (and myself), however, helped me to rediscover the bigger picture.

Yes, in terms of the physical self, there are limits.  Once I begin to think of ‘me’ as thought and energy, though, everything changes.  There are no limits to thought or energy.  They are not confined within single individuals.  Thought is a million times more contagious than any virus.  It spreads through the aether, gathering energy and impetus from everyone who acknowledges and shares it.  Once the intention that we choose these beneficial changes in our world has been held, it grows exponentially.  It becomes our creation.

There is nothing – no multinational corporation, no bunch of self-serving policiticans, no reactionary lobbyist who can stand against the groundswell of opinion that is forming as we sit in our separate homes but combine our intent.

As I sit over my sewing machine this week, I will be pondering the deep and abiding changes that are happening in my thoughts, my energy and those of the world community around me.

Sonya Renee Taylor’s words express it perfectly:

‘We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was not normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, my friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.’

Home?

Box, Sheet, Saying, StorageHere I am then.  Back in the strange little 17th century stone cottage I own in beautiful Somerset.

At least, my body is.  My possessions are here too – many still waiting to be unpacked as I try to remember where on earth I used to keep them.  The rest of me, though, hasn’t quite landed yet.

These two lives I’ve been living this year are so utterly different.  When I moved to the East, I had to adjust instantly; there was so much to do.  Here, there is no urgency.  The days are not planned for me.  I don’t need to be in specific places at specific times.  I don’t have a list of tasks with completion dates.  I just have Life – and I can choose how frenetic or leisurely to make it.

Then there’s the space.  My house is tiny by most people’s standards, but after seven months of single-room living I’m finding it strange to have a separate room for almost every activity.  It feels almost decadent.  I will readjust, but I haven’t yet.

Oh and the people!  I am a solitary soul by nature – quite happy with my own company.  Living alone suits me well and there were many occasions when, at the end of a frantic day with the grandchildren, I could shut myself into the little studio flat and unwind.  They were always nearby, though, and while I didn’t see them every day, there were never more than two or three days without company.  Here there are friends, and no doubt I’ll see all of them soon – when the missing bits of me have landed…

So what is it that is really bugging me?

Home.  That’s what.

‘Home is where your heart is’, so they say.  Trouble is, my heart is one of the bits of me that hasn’t landed yet.  It’s scattered in several different places.

You see, the town I’ve been living in for the last half-year is the town I called home for over thirty years.  It’s where I gave birth to and raised my three children, where I taught hundreds of others, where I forged all the most significant relationships in my life.  It’s also the place I ran from when my job and my marriage and my wellbeing became so compromised that I knew I needed a new start.

I ended up here, convinced that I’d found what I grandly called my ‘spiritual home’.  Glastonbury is a powerful place.  People say it chooses you, rather than the other way about.  Certainly, over the ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen many arrive with plans to make changes and give the place what they decide it needs.  Within six months, they are scuttling off, tails between their legs.  Glastonbury chews that sort up and spits them out.  Me?  Oh, it tolerates me well enough.  It shares it’s history and beauty and energy with me.  It accepts that I refuse to join any of its tribes (Pagans, Sufis, Goddesses, Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans, Alternatives etc.) and quietly plough my own furrow, but it doesn’t welcome me into the fold.

In the East, there are tribes, too, of course – the famed ‘Essex girls’ with their madly manicured nails, immaculately tinted hair, fake tans and glitzy fashion; the overweight mothers, bulging out of skin-tight lycra and screaming obscenities into their phones or at their children; the young men with smart suits and fast cars, chattering into their bluetooth headsets as they scurry hither and thither, and the cheery but dreary housewives, who have always lived there and always will, and thank providence for their uneventful lives.  I feel a stranger amongst them, too.

I often wonder if there’s a place where I’d fit – where my tribe can be found.  Certainly there are places I’m drawn to – places whose beauty leaves me gasping, and this is certainly one of them.  Is that a sufficient reason to stay here?

Well, why not?

After all, if this strange year has taught me anything, it’s that my body and my possessions will happily settle anywhere.  Maybe my heart and soul just need to float for a while longer…

 

 

 

 

The Rest of my Life

I found that phrase in a friend’s blog this morning: The Rest Of My Life.  It set me thinking.

Is this it?  Is this hiatus – this temporary pause in ‘normal’ – a rest from metaphysical and psychic ponderings?  Did I need, perhaps, a reminder to stop theorising and clamber back into living the hard, gruelling daily toil of physical life?  Certainly there’s been little or no opportunity for such things since circumstances changed back in February and I found myself catapulted into survival mode.  I’m at one of those ‘end of level challenges’ I wrote about in the Player’s Guide, with a many-legged monster attacking on all sides.  There’s no time and no opportunity to chat about akashic realms or the nature of the psyche.  Even my trusted and wonderful remote viewing partner – the one person I could rely on for a good weekly long-distance chat about all things numinous and mindbending has retired behind a wall of silence once more.  He does that sometimes, but this has been a long silence, even by his standards.  It’s almost as if the Universe is telling me something…

So am I, at soul level, resting myself?  Has my greater self designed this strange sojourn to remind me that I’m currently engaged in being human, and being a human being is all about having physical experiences?  After all, transcendental ones are always available, always there, whether or not I’m clad in a suit of skin-and-bone, blood-and-guts.  Will I emerge from this ‘rest’ period ready to grapple with even greater metaphysical challenges?

 

Then there’s the possibility – I must confront it – that this is indeed the Rest of my Life in the sense that this struggle to confront physical, dreary, awkward and heart-wrenching challenges and support others on a daily basis will take over permanently.  I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that possibility.
“What would you like to return to?” asked a friend, recently. “What are you missing?”
He had this romantic notion that I long to return to Avalon, to drift back to a simple life of long talks with like-minded friends, of strolls in the Somerset hills and sacred sites, of writing weekly blogs from the heart and soul.
“What you’re looking for,” he suggested, “is Peace, isn’t it?”
And I shook my head.

Peace, to me, sounds far too much like that Heaven place the Sunday School teachers used to try to bribe me with when I was small – somewhere with no worries, no troubles, no challenges, just beauty and happiness and calm for eternity.  It sounds crushingly boring.  And if I’m scrupulously honest with myself, my life was getting perilously close to that state before all this happened.  I distinctly remember telling the Universe I was ready for a new challenge…

 

The third possibility is that The Rest of My Life will start when my lease on this nasty white box runs out and I return to Lime Cottage to take stock.  By then, the people I’m working with here should be settling into their new life.  That’s the plan, anyway.  The autumn equinox will arrive and the wheel of the year will turn to the quiet, darker, introspective times of log fires and contemplation.  That will be a time to take stock, to decide what matters to me the most and to determine how I would like to happen to the autumn of this particular physical life.

I don’t know yet which decisions I will make, but whatever I choose to do, it will expand my experience (and thus the experience of the Universe) in new and interesting ways, because that’s the mission I chose to accept when I arrived here in the physical this time around.

 

 

 

 

Talisman

I have a friend, here in Glastonbury, who we’ll call Mark.  He’s a talented wood carver and one of the most generous people I know.  Every time we meet, he has some lovely trinket or other which he wants to give me.  Apparently he does it for all his friends.  He comes into the story later, but I had to put him there before I started.

Now for the story.

Glastonbury, England, MonumentThere’s a lovely lady I met several years ago at a conference.  She’s a spiritual seeker, a lover of trees and nature and a very caring, sensitive person.  She adores Glastonbury, and despite living in a city in Switzerland, she comes here for short visits whenever she can.  We always meet up when she’s here, usually in town for a meal, but this time I felt a strong urge to invite her to my home.  I never question such feelings any more – just act on them.

She only had two days to spend here this time and she’d spent the first hunting for a special object that would remind her of Glastonbury and embody the spirit of the place for her when she was far off in her own country.
“It could be anything,” she said. “Maybe I’ll find it in a charity shop. Maybe it will be just a stick or something simple.”

She showed me an egg-shaped stone she had bought, carved from local crystal.  I could tell that, much as she liked it, she wasn’t convinced that this was the special object she had come to find.  Now she had a dilemma.  Should she spend the next day – her last – hunting for The Object or should she relax and enjoy the delights of Glastonbury while she could?

Pendulum, Commute, Energy, Vibration“Would you…  I feel bad for asking, but could you ask your Guide?” she asked.

Then I knew why I’d needed to invite her here.  She’s had advice from, Koimul, my spirit guide before.  I opened the computer and asked Koimul if it would be possible to seek advice for her.  Koimul said it would.

I typed:

“Did she find the object that will allow her to remember Glastonbury when she is at home, or should she search for it tomorrow?”

Sometimes the responses I receive come ‘out of the blue’.  Sometimes I can feel them – or snatches of them – just before the pendulum spells out the replies.  I certainly knew what the first part of Koimul’s reply would be before it came.  I also knew that it wouldn’t satisfy my friend.

MUCH OF GLASTONBURY LIVES IN HER HEART

It was true.  We all carry the essence of the places we love within ourselves and can draw on feelings and memories whenever we wish to.  In my mind – because I knew my friend wanted more – I asked for advice on an object.  Koimul was ahead of me, though.  Without pausing, the message continued and I became aware of the word ‘talisman’.  It was a perfect way to describe what she sought.

Slowly, as the crystal wheeled around the keyboard, I realised what was coming.  I started to laugh with utter delight.  My wise guide had the perfect solution!  The words that were spelled out said:

BUT IF SHE WANTS A TALISMAN IT WILL BE GOOD TO GIVE HER THE RUNE

This is where ‘Mark’ re-enters the story.  Once, he and I had been discussing Dion Fortune – a writer and occultist who had lived in Glastonbury early in the last century.  He told me he had recently been asked to cut down an overhanging branch from a yew tree which had been in Dion’s former garden, just along the road from my cottage.  He had, he said, used every scrap of this very special wood to make a wonderful set of runes and other items, because he felt that something of her presence remained in it.  He had given me a tiny pendant, carved from a fragment of the branch and hung from a leather thong. It bore the symbol for the letter I in Ogham, as well as the word for ‘yew tree’.

The strange thing is that although it had been given to me and was a lovely object, I had never felt it was mine.  I’d worn it once or twice, but always I felt uncomfortable – as if I had no right to this, and it was meant for someone else.

Koimul’s message made perfect sense to me.  This little pendant (she’d said it might be a stick!) encompassed all that my friend loved about Glastonbury.  I rushed upstairs to find it, hurriedly told her its background and joyfully handed it to its rightful owner.

When she had stopped crying, she slipped it over her head and it looked perfect.  It belonged with her.  There was just enough light left in the evening sky for me to take her down the road and show her the tree it had come from.

Another reminder of how magical life can be when we let go and allow it to gently unfold.

 

 

Mother

Bag Gypsofilia Seeds, Gypsophila, BagIt was Mothers’ Day here yesterday.  I say ‘here’ meaning the UK, because I know other countries celebrate it at other times.  Our Mothers’ Day changes each year – something to do with Easter wobbling about, which is something to do with the moon, I think.  Never really figured out what or why because it never really interested me that much.  All I know is that it often more-or-less coincides with my birthday, which means my offspring tend to send me some sort of greeting on one or the other, but rarely both.

This year the two dates were separated by a few weeks.  All three remembered the birthday.  For Mothers’ Day I received a text message and two phone calls, plus a DVD which arrived a week ago, it’s computer generated Amazon gift message proclaiming it to be an extra birthday/Mother’s Day gift.

I just didn’t rear the kind of kids who splash out on expensive mail order bouquets, trawl through Etsy for the perfect personalised gift and quirky card or spatter Facebook with multi-coloured ‘best mum ever’ photo collages covered in hearts and anaemic-looking teddy bears.  For that I’ll be eternally grateful.

No longer having a mother in the physical realm, I spent my Mothers’ Day communing with Mother Nature in my garden.  It was a glorious spring day and I was blissfully happy, up to my elbows in deep, dark loam, planting out a new herb bed, enjoying the nodding daffodils and clearing the grass from the ever-expanding clumps of primroses and cowslips that beam up from every cranny and corner.  My garden had a gift for me, too – a beautiful little tumbled crystal, just lying on the earth’s surface and waiting for me to find it.

In the evening, I sat down to watch the gift DVD – a sci-fi film called Arrival.  My youngest had selected it for me because he knew I would love it – intelligent, very cleverly constructed, with some fascinating takes on how language, communication and – most important of all – time itself works.  One line shone out and left me buzzing by the end.  It was something like: Imagine writing a sentence, using both hands, and starting from both ends at once.  You’d need to know everything that the sentence was going to contain in advance and you’d need to know exactly how much space to leave so that it met up perfectly.  You’d need to know the future.

Yes, my kids don’t shower me with trinkets on Mothers’ Day, but they know me very well.  I’m one lucky mother.

The Back Door

20161002_103854_resizedThere was only one way in or out of my cottage when I bought it – the huge, ancient black wooden door that opens from the street into a shared hallway.  At the end are separate doors leading to my home and the one adjoining it.  A lane runs along the side of my back garden, but there was no access to it.  I decided I’d feel safer if there was a second way out, just in case…

‘No,’ said the man from the planning office.  Due to its great age and architectural interest, my cottage is Grade 2 listed, which means the planning office can stop me changing anything in the building or the grounds.
‘Boundary fences must be left as they are,’ he told me.  ‘If they break or fall down they must be replaced by identical fence panels.  Any changes would have to be subject to Full Planning Permission.’
He then told me the cost of Full Planning Permission and I went very quiet.

Door, Old, Scrape, Entrance, AntiqueThere are ways around these things.  I asked a skilled craftsman friend to construct me a lockable gate that, from the outside, is completely indistinguishable from a fence panel, but which opens perfectly from the inside.

Why, you may ask, am I prattling on about my invisible back gate?  It’s because of a wonderful analogy I just discovered in the writings of Jane Roberts.

The book has taken weeks to arrive.  I had to order it in from the US, and it was far from cheap.  The title would be enough to put most people off: The Afterdeath Journal of an American Philosopher: The World View of William James.  I had to have it though.

Angel, Wings, Feather, HeavenYou see, I trust Jane Roberts.  I’ve been to so many talks and workshops where channels stand at the front in long, wafty, pastel-coloured frocks and proclaim something like, ‘The Angel Ganneril is here with us in the room.  He is pouring his pale mauve energy on to each of you.  He is telling you to hold love in your hearts and to care for the animals.  Feel the tingling down your spine as…’ and so forth.

Fine.  Such people speak their truth and reach many, but they don’t reach me.

Jane Roberts is a very different character; hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-bitten and as cynical as you like.  Faced with a new situation (in this case, unexpectedly receiving messages from a famous, but dead philosopher) she does what I’d do.  She files it away and ignores it totally, on the grounds that the whole thing seems way too unlikely.  The messages keep coming and Jane feels increasingly uncomfortable, as they don’t fit her world view and she wishes they’d stop.  Finally, she realises that she’d better find out what is going on, and why.  She interrogates the evidence, chats it through with Robert, her husband and eventually asks Seth for guidance.  Only when she is wholly convinced that her world view needs to expand to incorporate this new information, does she decide to write it up and publish.

So anyway, the gate?

Well, I’d had a long and busy day yesterday.  I arrived home after dark, to find the package containing my new book waiting for me.  I grabbed some food and a cup of tea and flicked through a few pages.  The first section was – intriguingly – called Front-Door People, Back-Door People, and World Views.

Her analogy runs thus:

img_20150415_112830_resizedWe all have a conscious mind – what she calls a ‘house of awareness’.  This ‘house’ has a front door, the one we open to the world for normal business and interaction, the one all messages are supposed to come to.  But – she continues – there is a second door, ‘a secret back door from the time of our childhood’.  This is a ‘magic’ entrance, one that opens to other worlds.  Sometimes we can see it; sometimes it’s invisible.  Jane speaks of the half-sensed messengers who sometimes call there and of the strange packages and papers left waiting there for us to find.

It made me smile, as I thought of my physical sometimes-there-sometimes-invisible back gate and what an apt way that is to describe the place where I can receive strange, magical information that comes to me.

The front door of my ‘house of awareness’ was very busy yesterday, but so too, in its quiet yet insistent way, was the back door.  Just as I have all the information in Jane’s book to read and understand, so I have other, more numinous information which has come to me from other sources to sift through and contemplate.  I’ll settle to that now.

 

Pink…

IMG_20160510_123740To quote one of my favourite Aerosmith songs (selectively – don’t want to cause offence), ‘it’s my new obsession’.

Why?  Because it’s the colour I’m painting my bedroom: walls, ceiling, the whole shebang.  Not some trendy hot pink, you understand, more a wistful, nostalgic dusty pink – the colour of the columbines that nod all around the garden below at this time of year.

You’re wondering why I’m updating you on my cottage renovations, no doubt.  Well, like I say, I’m slightly obsessed with it at the moment.  It’s trying hard to take over my life.  If I wanted to go all new agey, I could say it’s grounding me (‘Pink, it’s like red but not quite’ – more Aerosmith).  Not sure about that.  Certainly it’s anchoring me in the physical, if you can call wobbling about on a dust-sheet shrouded bed with a drippy paintbrush anchoring.  This self-created cave becomes my universe.  The aches in my shoulders and neck become my whole experience.  Most of all, though, the pink obliterates the ugly, stained, yellowing white that was there before, so I’m transforming my little world.

IMG_20160504_094431The rest of the cottage was finished ages ago.  This one room – the one that didn’t matter so much, because no one else saw it – was left.  I lavished attention on the spare room, so friends and family would have a lovely space to stay in; the study, so that my students had a good place to work; the kitchen, bathrooms, living room and stairwell – all relatively public spaces.  Then, each night, I’d repair to the depressing, grubby box of a bedroom, peer up at the water-stains left from when the roof used to leak and close my eyes quickly.

It’s taken me two years to give myself the gift of a new bedroom.  How pathetic that sounds!

Decorating is hassle – especially when you’re getting on a bit, arthritic and doing it all alone; especially when you work from home and have to keep parts of the house tidy and acceptable for the students; especially when you know all that peeling ceiling paper has to come off, and that it hides a depressing topography of ravines and craters; especially when most of the furniture is too big to move out of the room and has to be eased and shunted around .  Yes, I’d elevated procrastination to an art form.

IMG_20160522_163501Then I discovered something that will doubtless have been glaringly obvious to you; I was feeling cheated – cheated by myself.  And that was a pretty stupid state of affairs.

I reminded myself that I deserved a beautiful space to rest in, sleep in and wake in.  Suddenly, all those obstacles didn’t seem such a problem.  I’m taking them on, one at a time.

Initially there’s fear:  I pull back a piece of ceiling paper and find a gaping 5 cm hole behind it.  Next I tell the fear to move on, and wait for it to subside.  After that, I wait for the solution to come to me.  If I stay in that mindset, it always does.  Then I work through it.

The room, like so much of the cottage, is becoming a testament to positive thinking.  If I can imagine that it will be solved, then it will be.  Not finished yet, but getting there…

 

 

Morning Glory – Memento Mori

IMG_20150816_092603William Wordsworth may have famously wept to see daffodils ‘fade away so soon’.  Lucky he didn’t grow morning glory.

This is the first time I’ve grown them – nursing the tiny seedlings, transplanting to pots and finally planting them outside.  All that messing around for plants that will vanish at the first frosts, never to return.  I don’t normally bother with annual plants, but that perfect blue drew me, and there was a bare archway in the garden in need of some cover.

The flowers, when they finally appeared, were certainly worth the effort.  They are perfect, stunning, beautiful, and very brief.

IMG_20150913_090045All through August, and still now in September I’ve opened the bedroom curtains each morning, eager to see how many flowers have appeared.  Sometimes only one or two, sometimes ten or more.  After breakfast I’m outside peering into the flowers, drinking in their incredible colour and feeling such gratitude for their presence.  By lunchtime, though, they are fading fast.  Visitors who arrive at two or three in the afternoon are told, “Oh if only you’d come an hour or two earlier, you would have seen them.”

Unidentified Morning Glory Wilted 2000px

All that remains is a crumpled stump of a flower, the petals turned in on themselves, as if ashamed of the toll time has taken on their beauty.

It’s an absurdly short life, isn’t it?  Half a day of glory and they’re gone.  Certainly there are more blooms to replace them the following morning, but still there’s something curiously poignant in the energy and perfection crammed into those short lives.

A bit like us, really…

I always rather liked the idea of adding memento mori  to portraits – the skulls, fading flowers, clocks or hour glasses placed on a side table or held in a hand, to remind the wealthy sitter that ‘this, too, shall pass’, that the fine body and sumptuous clothes are a temporary casing with a limited future.

Gloomy?  Perhaps you’ll see it that way.  To me it seems just fine.  I’m here, in this particular body and life for a few brief decades before moving on.  I don’t measure my value in quantity of years, but in quality of life.

So my morning meditation with my morning glory flowers is a mixture of gratitude for the beauty and perfection of this short life, of determination to make the most of every day – every half day, even – and a calm assurance that there will be countless more flowerings of consciousness to come.

Wish you were here…

On the 17th July last year, I spent my first night in my cottage.  There was nothing much here – just me and an ancient futon (long since free-cycled).

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The studio, with damp. peeling wallpaper removed

The furniture didn’t arrive until the next day. I can’t say I slept much that night, but still it was a momentous time for me.

The studio now

The studio now

I never managed a house warming party.  The place was full of workmen until well into the autumn, and by then I was so exhausted and crushed by the whole adventure that parties were the last thing on my mind.

So, I decided, this first anniversary would be the perfect time to celebrate.

Upstairs landing.  Note the large hole in the ceiling!

Upstairs landing. Note that large hole in the ceiling!

Obviously, I’d invite friends – people who helped me with the move, people who took me out for a coffee or a meal when all became too challenging, people who made encouraging comments about the changes and kept me going when miracles seemed a little thin on the ground.

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Replastered landing, with my knitted enchanted forest leading down to the tutoring study

Then I decided to invite all the neighbours.  They’d put up with months of scaffolding, yelling, banging and clanging without a single complaint.  They must have been curious to know what was going on inside but with typical British reserve, few called round to look.

Next, I wanted to invite back the tradesmen who had made such incredible changes.  After all, such people rarely get to see the finished article.  A room is plastered or a shower plumbed in, but to see those rooms decorated and finished would perhaps be of interest.

The kitchen when I moved in

The kitchen when I moved in

And last but not least, although you’re scattered around the world, I’d love to have invited you, my dear supportive WordPress followers.

The kitchen - now

The kitchen – now

Your likes and comments have been a source of such great pleasure and encouragement since the very start of my LIME story.  I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for a virtual tour of the place, and  you won’t get to meet all the wonderful, warm-hearted friends and neighbours who joined me last Friday, but thank you so much for staying with me on my journey through time to reach the point where I can say the cottage is (mostly) in a fit state to enjoy.

I heard some fascinating stories from neighbours…

There was the time the Chalice Well stream, which still flows beneath the front of the building, suddenly overflowed in the middle of the night.  An elderly couple lived here then and were woken to the sound of rushing water filling the living room.  Apparently the water board engineer was unwilling to do anything at first, since it wasn’t his company’s water.  The neighbour who told me the story described how, in very forthright language, he told the engineer that since his van bore the word ‘water’ and this was indeed that substance, he should put these good people out of their misery and fix the leak at once.  Apparently there have been no problems since.

I was told that the little rubble stone garage that lies in a tiny lane of colour-washed cottages just behind my garden used to be a betting office, while the cottage opposite it once sold paraffin.

The downstairs bathroom then

I discovered that badgers have a huge sett in the garden of the house opposite and can often be seen padding past my fence at night.

Same bathroom now

Same bathroom now

Visitors arrived with jars of home-made jam, cordials and honey, plants and flowers, along with friendship, congratulations and kind words about the renovations.

It was a glorious day and I felt so grateful to have such kind and caring people gathered around me.

Now that I’ve proved to my own satisfaction that miracles can and should be expected, and more-or-less finished my repairs and decorating, I’m free to focus on the other passions in my life – the writing, the metaphysics, the teaching and the living of this glorious physical reality I find myself in at this point in my consciousness.

The alcove now

The alcove now

The alcove in the iving room - then

The alcove in the iving room – then

Stone Mullions

2014-02-28 11.01.26A lovely word – mullions – don’t you think? And the sheer romance of having stone mullions (window frames) was one of the factors that induced me to buy LIME Cottage.

Of course they’d been painted and were yellowing and peeling when I first saw the house, but my meticulous builder and his lads cleaned the outside windows back to the original stonework, even going to the local quarry at Doulting (from where the original stone came, all those centuries ago) and bringing back stone dust to mix with the filler for any cracks that needed repair.

The results were fantastic.  I was delighted.

IMG_20150708_100309Then I began decorating the upstairs front room.  Without a thought I started removing the flaking paint on the window frame, expecting to sand it down and paint over it.  That was when I discovered that with minimal effort, I was revealing the stone on the inside too.

Exciting!

I beavered away with the paint scraper – some parts were easier than others, and had soon exposed a decent sized chunk of stone.

My Man Monday arrived the next day.  LIME Cottage and I like our Man Monday.  He’s a wonderful, intuitive odd-job man who adores old buildings and knows exactly how to treat them.  He comes on Mondays because that’s his day off from running his organic wholefood restaurant.  He was as thrilled as I was to see the stonework and agreed that it had to be cleared.  He showed me how to use various parts of a chisel to remove the paint and buff up the surface.  IMG_20150708_100316A YouTube video taught me how to re-putty the glass (surprisingly easy and fun – like playing with Plasticine) and I was happy.

I suspect the stone had remained untouched for centuries.  Then someone – probably in the 1950s, judging by the materials used, had skimmed a layer of plaster over the stone and covered it with a thick golden lacquer of some sort.  I remember the front door of my parents’ new-build house, in 1956, being covered with this same material, and my father’s deep delight and pride at having this new state-of-the-art finish applied to it.  Maybe whoever was the cottage’s custodian back in those days was equally proud of their work.

The next layer – in the sixties perhaps – was a very pretty pale turquoise – just the colour I probably would have chosen myself, had the mullions not decided it was their time to breathe again.  A few coats of ‘brilliant white’ gloss topped things off, but sun and many years of neglect had worked their magic, providing cracks and crannies for my chisel to get a hold.

IMG_20150711_172246I’ve left flecks of the earlier coats here and there.  They are, after all, part of the cottage’s rich history, as are the dents and chips in the stone.

Sometime in the future, no doubt someone will decide to cover the stone again, with some new technological breakthrough.  That’s fine, and as it should be.  History doesn’t stop.  The cottage will do as it’s always done, adapt and change with the ages.

The stone mullions will continue to look out on the road below, The camper vans and hatchbacks, delivery lorries and tankers, tourists and neo-pagans added to their store of memories.

I love to imagine black-clad puritans and straw-chewing ploughmen passing beneath them; earnest men with pitchforks and muskets rallying to Monmouth’s rebellion; gents in curly wigs, smoking long clay pipes; ladies in lace and sprigged muslin frocks; farm carts and haywains; ponies and traps; horse-drawn coaches filled with journeying Victorians, keen to view the Abbey’s ruins; Dion Fortune and her retinue heading to secret ceremonies at her house, just down the road; eager young farm boys hurrying to sign up to fight in the Great War; heartbroken parents heading to church to mourn for them; hippies with flowers in their hair off to climb the Tor…

My beautiful stone mullion windows have seen all that and more, and caked as I am in stone dust and lead paint chippings, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my intimate encounter with their story.