Interesting facts, stories and wisdom from our grandmothers to new age yogis.
A little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on the roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, “My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?” “I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes,” was the boy’s reply.
The lady took him by the hand and went into the store and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel. He quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet, and dried them with a towel.
By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy’s feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes. She tied up the remaining pairs of socks and gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, “No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?”
As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears his eyes, answered the question with these words: “Are you God's wife?”
This week we thought we would look at some cooking wisdom. Below are some facts, hints and useful tips that you may not already know.
If your food tastes bland, it usually just needs more salt
Sugar enhances the flavours of savoury foods such as roasted carrots, beets, and tomatoes
Dry your meat before cooking it - this ensures you'll get a crisp, golden skin that won't stick to the pan
If you plan cooking for a crowd of people, keep it simple. Don't cook several courses — instead, focus on making one thing and make it great
Cook your eggs over low heat to prevent them from becoming dry and rubbery.
Pre-soak pasta and it will cook in about 60 seconds. Soak the pasta in water in a sealed bag for a couple hours or overnight.
Grate frozen butter straight into pastry dough for fast, even distribution.
Hold cherry tomatoes between two plastic lids to slice them all at once.
Coat your cheese grater with nonstick spray for delightfully clean, easy shredding.
Microwave lemons and limes to get more juice out.
No need to peel potatoes before boiling them; the skin will just slide off once they're cooked.
Use an apple slicer to quickly cut potatoes into perfect wedges.
A Story From Chicken Soup For The Soul - By Jack Levine
A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his yard. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy “Mister,” he said, “I want to buy one of your puppies.”
“Well,” said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat of the back of his neck, “These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money.”
The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer. “I’ve got 89 cents. Is that enough at least to take a look?”
“Sure,” said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. “Here, Dolly!” he called.
Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse.
Slowly another little fur ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then the little pup began awkwardly wobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up. “I want that one,” the little boy said, quickly pointing to the runt.
The farmer knelt down at the boy’s side and said, “Son, you don’t want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would.”
With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down, and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, “You see, sir, I don’t run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands.”
With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup. Holding it carefully he handed it to the little boy.
“How much?” asked the little boy. “No charge,” answered the farmer, “There’s no charge for love and understanding.”
3 Short Stories With a Message For us All
Finding your balloon
A professor gave a balloon to every student, who had to inflate it, write their name on it and throw it in the hallway. The professor then mixed all the balloons. The students were then given 5 minutes to find their own balloon. Despite a hectic search, no one found their balloon.
At that point, the professor told the students to take the first balloon that they found and hand it to the person whose name was written on it. Within 5 minutes, everyone had their own balloon.
The professor said to the students: "These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people's happiness, we'll find ours too."
It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors.
It was summer but it was autumn I wanted; the colourful leaves and the cool dry air.
It was autumn but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.
It was winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and the blossoming of nature.
I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect.
I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit.
I was retired but it was middle-age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over but I never got what I wanted.
An old man, a boy and a donkey were going to town. The boy rode on the donkey and the old man walked. As they went along, they passed some people who remarked it was a shame the old man was walking and the boy was riding. The man and boy thought maybe the critics were right, so they changed positions.
Then, later, they passed some people who remarked, "What a shame, he makes that little boy walk." So they then decided they'd both walk!
Soon they passed some more people who thought they were stupid to walk when they had a decent donkey to ride. So, they both rode the donkey. Now they passed some people who shamed them by saying how awful to put such a load on a poor donkey.
The boy and man figured they were probably right, so they decided to carry the donkey. As they crossed the bridge, they lost their grip on the animal and he fell into the river and drowned.
The moral of the story? If you try to please everyone, you might as well... Kiss your “donkey" goodbye! And even this ending won’t please everyone.
Is The Outside World Making You Angry?
A monk decides to meditate alone, away from his monastery...
He takes his boat out to the middle of the lake, moors it there, closes his eyes and begins his meditation.
After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly feels the bump of another boat colliding with his own.
With his eyes still closed, he senses his anger rising, and by the time he opens his eyes, he is ready to scream at the boatman who dared to disturb his meditation.
But when he opens his eyes, he sees its an empty boat that had probably got untethered and floated to the middle of the lake.
At that moment, the monk has an insight...
He understands that the anger was within him — not outside of him.
And this makes him wonder...
How often do his thoughts tell himself a flawed story that isn't true?
It's at this point he starts to truly understand the teachings of his mentors over the years...
"When you stop listening to the limiting stories of your mind - you have more freedom than you could ever imagine".
And at that point...
He closed his eyes again...
But not to meditate...
Just to enjoy the feeling of joy that washed over him as the insight touched his soul.
So the question is...
Which stories are you listening to that are false?
Just something to think about.
Running With the Hare
Have you ever wondered why we associate rabbits with Easter? The connection with the Easter Bunny probably goes back to the festival’s association with the pagan goddess Eostre.
Eostre (sometimes spelt Oestre) was a fertility goddess from whom we derive the word “oestrogen” and she is closely associated with fertility symbols such as eggs. The rabbit, being known as a highly fertile creature made an obvious choice for symbolising Easter. However it is more likely to have been a hare as they are usually considered a sacred creature belonging to Eostre.
During the time of the Spring equinox, Pagan fertility festivals were very common. At this time, when day and night were of equal length, so was the balance between male and female energies.
The earliest known reference to our modern day Easter bunny appears to be dating back to 16th century Germany. The bunny was known to them as Oschter Haws but he was more than likely to be a hare who brought gifts of chocolate and Easter eggs to children who were good. The children would sometimes make up little nests for Oschter Haws using their Easter bonnets in the hope they would get some treats.
It is because of this strong connection with pagan traditions that Hares were strongly associated with witches and witchcraft in Christian times. People claimed that a witch could shape shift her form at night and become a hare. These solitary creatures, rarely seen, sometimes standing on their hind legs like a person, aroused suspicion. When in distress they uttered a strange, almost human-like cry, which gave the animal a supernatural quality. For its behaviour would mimic that of a supposed witch. In this form she stole milk or food, or destroyed crops. Others insisted that hares were only witches’ familiars.
WEEK 4 2021
Maybe, Just Maybe
A wise man won an expensive car in a lottery.
His family and friends were very happy for him and came to celebrate. ‘Isn’t it great!’ they said. ‘You are so lucky.’ The man smiled and said ‘Maybe’
For a few weeks he enjoyed driving the car.
Then one day a drunken driver crashed into his new car at junction and he ended up in the hospital, with multiple injuries.
His family and friends came to see him and said, ‘That was really unfortunate.’ Again the man smiled and said, ‘Maybe’
While he was still in the hospital, one night there was a landslide and his house fell into the sea.
Again his friends came the next day and said, ‘Weren’t you lucky to have been here in the hospital.’ Again he said, ‘Maybe’
Extract taken from A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle, his new book, worth a read and very inspiring.
Don’t be so quick to label things good or bad on what happens to you. Things happen for a reason and if we can just go with them and be more accepting we will have a more peaceful existence and less stress.
Out of Adversity Comes Opportunity
There was once a man named Bob May. Depressed and brokenhearted he stared out of his draughty window into the chilly December night.
His 4-year-old daughter Barbara sat on his lap quietly sobbing.
Bobs wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer.
Little Barbara couldn't understand why her mummy could never come home.
Barbara looked up into her dads eyes and asked, "Why isn't Mummy just like everybody else's Mummy?"
Bob's jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears.
Her question brought waves of grief, but also of anger.
It had been the story of Bob's life.
Life always had to be different for Bob.
He was smaller than the other kids and was often bullied by the other boys.
He was too little at the time to compete in sports.
He was often called names he'd rather not remember .
From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to fit in.
Bob did complete college but he married his loving wife and was grateful to get his job as a copywriter at Montgomery Ward during the Great Depression.
Then he was blessed with his little girl.
But it was all short-lived.
Evelyn's bout with cancer stripped them of all their savings and now Bob and his daughter were forced to live in a two-room apartment in the Chicago slums.
Evelyn died just days before Christmas in 1938.
Bob struggled to give hope to his child, for whom he couldn't even afford to buy a Christmas gift.
But if he couldn't buy a gift, he was determined to make one - a storybook!
Bob had created an animal character in his own mind and told the animals story to little Barbara to give her comfort and hope.
Again and again Bob told the story, embellishing it more with each telling.
Who was the character?
What was the story all about?
The story Bob May created was his own autobiography in fable form.
The character he created was a misfit outcast like he was.
Someone who was different. The name of the character?
A little reindeer named Rudolph, with a big shiny nose.
Bob finished the book just in time to give it to his little girl on Christmas Day.
But the story doesn't end there. The general manager of Montgomery Ward caught wind of the little storybook and offered Bob May a nominal fee to purchase the rights to print the book. Wards went on to print, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and distribute it to children visiting Santa Claus in their stores.
By 1946 Wards had printed and distributed more than six million copies of Rudolph.
That same year, a major publisher wanted to purchase the rights from Wards to print an updated version of the book.
In an unprecedented gesture of kindness, the CEO of Wards returned all rights back to Bob May. The book became a best seller.
Many toy and marketing deals followed and Bob May, now remarried with a growing family, became wealthy from the story he created to comfort his grieving daughter.
But the story doesn't end there either. Bob's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, made a song adaptation to Rudolph.
Though the song was turned down by such popular vocalists such as Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore , it was recorded by the singing cowboy, Gene Autry.
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was released in 1949 and became a phenomenal success, selling more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of "White Christmas."
The gift that Bob May created for his daughter so long ago kept on returning back to bless him again and again.
Thought : Opportunity to find deeper powers within ourselves comes when life seems most challenging.
The Power of Now
Inside all of us there is a space out of which everything in our own reality shows up. Everything we experience, hear see, touch, taste, everything, 100% comes out of this space of creation within us. Everything comes from the inside out. Every moment from birth to death comes from within. Within being a metaphor and not literally in our body, it’s beyond the physical. Anything we can conceive, any ideas, beliefs go beyond the physical to touch a space within that is spiritual, formless. It is the source of everything. A space that is quiet. A space for thinking and feeling. Space = wisdom, intelligence. A source that knows how to create life and bring it to life and operate it. It is pure awareness and
consciousness, it is always aware. But the awareness itself is not these objects, it is free, free of our conceptual minds. We are all looking for an experience of pure consciousness, an awareness that is free of the contamination of our personal mind, free of our ideas, concepts, free from the influence of the outside world.
Space is the power of thought and out of those thoughts come all of the specific feelings we experience because of our thoughts.
If you have a sad thought - you feel sad
If you have a happy thought - you feel happy
All are created out of that space.
If and when you touch that space you can become aware of the true nature of thought, consciousness and mind. If we can wake up to the fact that we are all caught up in our own personal thinking and that is where the experiences and feelings are coming from, then the quality of our thinking will improve, we will begin to feel better.
We are all human beings.
Human is the form part.
Being is the spiritual part.
“You are not just a physical being, you are something far greater. Go beyond the physical part of you. There you will find more power than you’ve ever realised in you life because your soul is the intersect between your personal, physiological experience and the universal spiritual energy of life. There is no greater power than thought.”
Think of a baby when it is just born. They are not thinking anything because they are free, they are present, they are living in the NOW, there is nothing else but the NOW, they have just been born, nothing else has happened to them, they have no experience of the outside world, only the inside. They are free of judgement. Our conceptual mind is to try and create a better later. Later I’ll have a better house, latter I’ll be thinner, later I’ll meet the love of my life, later I’ll get there etc etc. When you fall out of thinking, then there is no later, there is only NOW and its perfect. It’s the ordinariness of NOW, the freedom of the NOW, whatever you are looking for in life is here NOW. Look within.
The Story of the Three Travellers
There was once 3 travellers who set off on a journey to a holy place. Each had suffered some sort of sadness and were looking for peace and a way to go on with their lives.
Each traveller carried two bags
One on his front
One on his back
The first one filled the bag on his back with all the good things of his life and at the front he kept all the bad things, sadness, guilt, bad memories. He wanted to think about them, dwell on them and try and make sense of them.
Because of this he didn’t make much progress and sadly gave up the journey.
The second man carried all the good things in the front bag in order to show them off and he kept the bad things on his back. These weighed heavily on him.
His journey was too slow and he gave up
The third man carried all of good things at the front but to him they were an inspiration, sails on a shop moving faster. He carried the bad things on his back BUT he had cut a whole in the bag so that all the bad things would gradually drop onto the road- in other words he let them go.
He eventually reached the holy place, found peace and a new way forward.
Morale - don’t let your future be weighed down by your past.
Six Values to Meditate On
This year has been one that we will all remember for a long time and one that has brought many challenges to us all. It has brought out the good and the bad in people. We have witnessed amazing acts of kindness and self sacrifice but also greed and anger has been apparent for many. We are only human and lots of people have been pushed to the limits. Many of us cannot see out loved ones this Christmas due to Covid restrictions and it won’t be the same as other years but knowing we are all in the same boat can sometimes make things a little easier. If we are well, still alive, have food on our table, a warm bed, and a roof over our heads, then we are blessed. I think it’s really important for us all to reflect on what Christmas is really about. Obviously, we celebrate the birth of our dear Lord Jesus Christ and his message of peace and love to all humanity, but there are so many things surrounding that message we can ponder on and celebrate the gifts we have been given.
Here are six values to meditate on this Christmas:
The joy of giving to others, whether as a gift at Christmas to family and friends, or giving your time, money or energy to helping others, is one of the most precious things we can do. It spreads the importance of sharing what we have with others, whether we know them or not.
Christmas is a time to be thankful for all the beautiful people in your life and to express your love to them. Being grateful for the little things in your life can improve your mental health, over time. So, why not think about writing gratitude notes to all your loved ones and telling them how much they mean to you.
This Christmas, I have decided to put special focus on the value of simplicity. For every new thing we may receive, choose something you can give away to charity or someone who can make use of it. Maybe a homeless shelter, food bank or other.
BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY
Send cards to your neighbours, check on the elderly ones and make sure they are Ok. If anyone is on their own, spend time with them on their doorstep if you can’t enter their house. Bake them some mince pies. Have a little social distancing street party with mulled wine and minced pies. We did this a few weeks ago and everyone said what a wonderful thing it was for the whole street to come together and celebrate.
Practising forgiveness to someone who has either harmed you or hurt you in some way is very difficult, but it has been proven that the more you hold on to that grudge, the worse it will make YOU feel. It’s Ok to have those feelings but look upon them as a cloud. They flow into your mind, sense them, let them in but then watch that cloud float away. As you see that cloud floating away, allow those pent up feelings of hurt to float away with it. Let it go from your body and mind. Know that no one is perfect and realise that perhaps the person who has treated you badly has also suffered and has taken it out on others. Remember, there is always a story behind everyone.
We know that gratitude helps us appreciate life, improve our health, build strong relationships and handle adversity. In fact, research shows having an attitude of gratitude is consistently associated with greater happiness. Why not make a list of things you have instead of things you want. Write a thank you note for the gifts you receive or just to someone who you love and has helped you through this year. Meditate or pray. If you are religious, praying can often help cultivate gratitude and help us focus on things outside of ourselves. Much in the same way, meditating can help us to reestablish priorities and remind us of what we have to be thankful for. Gratitude is about focusing on what we have rather than what we lack. In doing so, we can boost our mental health and help those around us.
A CHRISTMAS GHOST STORY
by Jeanette Winterson
We had borrowed the house from a friend none of us seemed to know.
Highfallen House stood on an eminence overlooking the sea. It was a square Victorian gentleman's residence. The large bay windows looked down through the pines towards the shore. Six stone steps led the visitor up to the double front door where a gothic bell-pull released a loud mournful clang deep into the distances of the house.
Laurel lined the drive. The stable block was disused. The walled garden had been locked up in 1914 when the gardeners went to war. Only one had returned. I had been warned that the high brick wall enclosing the garden was unsafe. As I passed it slowly in the car, I saw a faded notice falling off the paint-peeled door. DO NOT ENTER.
I was the first to arrive. My friends were following by train and I was to collect them the next day and then we would settle down to Christmas.
I had driven from Bristol and I was tired. There was a Christmas tree roped on the top of my 4x4 and a trunk-load of provisions. We were not near any town. But the housekeeper had left stacked wood to build a fire and I had brought a shepherd's pie and a bottle of rioja for my first night.
The kitchen was cheerful enough once I had got the fire going and the radio playing while I unpacked our festive supplies. I checked my phone – no signal. Still, I knew the time of the train tomorrow and it was a relief to feel that the world had gone away. I put my food in the oven to heat up, poured a glass of wine, and went upstairs to find myself a bedroom.
The first landing had three bedrooms leading off it. Each had a moth-eaten rug, a metal bed and a mahogany chest of drawers. At the far end of the landing was a second set of stairs up to the attic floor.
I am not romantic about maids' rooms or nurseries, and there was something about that second set of stairs that made me hesitate. The landing was bright in the sudden way of late sun on a winter's afternoon. Yet the light ended abruptly at the foot of the stairs as though it couldn't go any farther. I didn't want to be near that set of stairs, so I chose the room at the front of the house.
As I went to bring up my bag, the house bell started to ring, its jerky metallic hammers sounding somewhere in the guts of the house. I was surprised but not alarmed. I expected the housekeeper. I opened the door. There was no one there. I went down the steps and looked round. I admit I was frightened. The night was clear and soundless. There was no car in the distance. No footsteps walking away. Determined to conquer my fear, I walked round a little. Then, turning back to the house, I saw it; the bell wire ran along the side of the house under a sheltering gutter. Perhaps 30 or 40 bats were dangling upside down on the vibrating wire. The same number swooped and swerved in a dark mass. Obviously their movement on the wire had set off the bell. I like bats. Clever bats. Good. Now supper.
I ate. I drank. I wondered why love is so hard and life is so short. I went to bed. The room was warmer now and I was ready to sleep. The sound of the sea ebbed into the flow of my dreams.
I woke from a dead sleep in dead darkness to hear… what? What can I hear? It sounded like a ball bearing or a marble rolling on the bare floor above my head. It rolled hard on hard then hit the wall. Then it rolled again in the other direction. This might not have mattered except that the other direction was upwards. Things can come loose and roll downwards, but they cannot come loose and roll up. Unless someone…
That thought was so unwelcome that I dismissed it along with the law of gravity. Whatever was rolling over my head must be a natural dislodging. The house was draughty and unused. The attics were under the eaves where any kind of weather might get in. Weather or an animal. Remember the bats. I pulled the covers up to my eyebrows and pretended not to listen.
There it was again: hard on hard on hit on pause on roll.
I waited for sleep, waiting for daylight.
We are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes.
It was a brooding day that 21st of December. The shortest day of the year. Coffee, coat on, car keys. Shouldn't I just check the attic?
The second set of stairs was narrow – a servants' staircase. It led to a lath and plaster corridor barely a shoulder-width wide. I started coughing. Breathing was difficult. Damp had dropped the plaster in thick, crumbling heaps on the floorboards. As below, there were three doors. Two were closed. The door to the room above my room was ajar. I made myself go forward.
The room was under the eaves as I had guessed. The floor was rough. There was no bed, only a washstand and a clothes rail.
What surprised me was the nativity scene in the corner.
Standing about two feet tall, it was more like a doll's house than a Christmas decoration. Inside the open-fronted stable stood the animals, the shepherds, the crib, Joseph. Above the roof, on a bit of wire, was a battered star. It was old, handmade in a workmanlike but not craftsmanlike sort of way, the painted wood now rubbed and faded like pigments of time.
I thought I would carry it downstairs and put it by our Christmas tree. It must have been made for the children when there were children here. I stuffed my pockets with the figures and animals, and left quickly, leaving the door open. I had to set off for the station. Stephen and Susie could help me with the rest later.
As soon as I was out of the house, my lungs felt clear again. It must be the plaster dust.
The drive to the station was along the coast road. Lonely and unyielding, the road turned in a series of blind bends and tight corners. I met no one and I saw no one. Gulls circled over the sea.
The station itself was a simple shelter on a long single track. There were no information boards. I checked my phone. No signal.
At last the train appeared distantly down the track. I was excited. Memories of visiting my father as a child when he was stationed at his RAF base give me a rush of pleasure whenever I travel by train or come to meet one.
The train slowed and halted. The guard stood down for a moment. I watched the doors – it wasn't a big train, this branch line train – but none of the doors opened. I waved at the guard who came over.
"I am meeting my friends."
He shook his head. "Train's empty. Next stop is the end of the line."
I was confused. Had they got off at the earlier stop? I described them. The guard shook his head again. "I notice strangers. They would have boarded at Carlisle, asked me where to get off – always do."
"Is there another train before tomorrow?'
"One a day and that's your lot, and more than anybody needs in a place like this. Where are you staying?"
"Highfallen House. Do you know it?"
"Oh aye. We all know it." He looked as if he were about to say something else. Instead, he blew his whistle. The empty train pulled away, leaving me staring down the long track watching the red light like a warning.
I needed to get a signal on my phone.
I drove on past the station, following the steep hill, hoping some height would connect me to the rest of the world. At the top of the hill I stopped the car and got out, pulling up the collar of my coat. The first snow hit my face with insect insistence. Sharp and spiteful, like little bites.
I looked out across the whitening bay. That must be Highfallen House. But what's that? Two figures walking on the beach. Is it Stephen and Susie? Had they driven here after all? Then, as I strained my eyes against the deceit of distance, I realised that the second figure was much smaller than the first. They were walking purposefully towards the house.
When I arrived back, it was nearly dark.
I put on the lights, blew the fire into a blaze. There was no sign of the mysterious couple I had seen from the hill. Perhaps it had been the housekeeper and her daughter come to make sure that everything was all right. I had a telephone number for Mrs Wormwood, but without a signal I could not call her.
The snow was thickening in windy swirls. Relax. Have a whisky.
I leaned on the warm kitchen range with my whisky in my hand. The wooden figures I had brought down from the attic were lying on the kitchen table. I should go up and get the stable.
I don't want to.
I bounded up the first set of stairs using energy to force out unease. At my bedroom I put on the light. That felt better. The second set of stairs stood in shadow at the end of the long landing. I felt that constriction in my lungs again. Why am I holding on to the handrail like an old man?
I could see that the only light to the attic was at the top of the stairs. I found the round brown Bakelite switch. I flicked down the nipple. A single bulb lit up reluctantly. The room was straight ahead. The door was closed. Hadn't I left it open?
I turned the handle and stood in the doorway, the room dimly lit by the light from the stairs. Washstand. Nativity. Clothes rail. On the clothes rail was a child's dress. I hadn't noticed that before. I suppose I had been in a hurry. Pushing aside my misgivings, I went in purposefully and bent down to pick up the wooden nativity. It was heavy and I had just got it secure in my arms when the light on the landing went out.
Hello? Who's there?
There's someone breathing like they can barely breathe. Not faint. Struggling for breath. I mustn't turn round, because whoever or whatever it is, is behind me.
I stood still for a minute, steadying my nerve. Then I shuffled forward towards the edge of light coming up from downstairs. At the doorway I heard a step behind me, lost my balance and put out a hand to steady myself. My hand gripped something wet. The clothes rail. It must be the dress.
My heart was over-beating. Don't panic. Bakelite. Bad wiring. Strange house. Darkness. Aloneness.
But you're not alone, are you?
Back in the kitchen with whisky, Radio 4 and pasta boiling, I examined the dress. It was for a small child and it was hand-knitted. The wool was smelly and sopping. I washed it out and left it hanging over the sink to drip. I guessed there must be a hole in the roof and the dress had been soaking up the rain for a long time.
I ate my supper, tried to read, told myself it had been nothing, nothing at all. It was only 8pm. I didn't want to go to bed, though the snow outside was like a quilt.
I decided to arrange the nativity. Donkey, sheep, camels, wise men, shepherds, star, Joseph. The crib was there, but it was empty. There was no Christ child. And there was no Mary. Had I dropped them in the dark room? I hadn't heard anything fall and these wooden figures were six inches tall.
Joseph was wearing a woollen tunic, but his wooden legs had painted puttees. I pulled off the tunic. Underneath, wooden Joseph wore a painted uniform. First world war.
When I turned him round, I saw there was a gash in his back like a stab wound.
My phone beeped.
I dropped Joseph, grabbed the phone. It was a text message from Susie. TRYING 2 CALL U. LEAVE 2MORO.
I pressed CALL. Nothing. I tried to send a text. Nothing. But what did it matter? Suddenly I felt relief and calm. They had been delayed, that was all. Tomorrow they would be here.
I sat down again with the nativity. Perhaps the missing figures were inside. I put in my hand. My fingers closed round a metal object. It was a small iron key with a hoop top. Maybe it was the key to the attic door.
Outside, snow had fallen snow on snow. The sky had cleared. The moon sped above the sea.
I had gone to bed and I was deep asleep when I heard it clearly. Above me. Footsteps. Pacing. Down the room. Hesitate. Turn. Return.
I lay in bed, eyes staring blindly at the blind ceiling. Why do we open our eyes when we can't see anything? And what was there to see? I don't believe in ghosts.
I wanted to put on the light, but what if the light didn't come on? Why would it be worse to be in darkness I had not chosen than darkness I was choosing? But it would be worse. I sat up in bed and pulled back the curtain a little. The moon had been so bright tonight, surely there would be light?
There was light. Outside the house, hand in hand, stood the still and silent figures of a mother and child.
I did not sleep again till daylight, and when I slept and woke again, it was almost midday and already the light was lowering.
Hurrying to get coffee, I saw that the dress was gone. I had left it dripping over the sink and it was gone. Get out of the house.
I set off for the station. There was an air frost that had coated the trees in glittering white. It was beautiful and deathly. The world held in ice.
On the road there were no car tracks. No noise but the roar and drop of the sea.
I moved slowly and saw no one. In the white, unmoving landscape, I wondered if there was anyone else left alive?
At the station, I waited. I waited some time past the time until the train whistled on the track. The train stopped. The guard got down and saw me. He shook his head. "There's no one," he said. "No one at all."
I thought I would cry. I took out my mute phone. I flashed up the message. TRYING TO CALL U. LEAVE 2MORO.
The guard looked at it. "Happen it's you who should be leaving," he said. "There's no more trains past Carlisle now till the 27th. Tomorrow was the last and that's been cancelled. Weather."
I wrote down a number and gave it to the guard. "Will you phone my friends and tell them I am on my way home?"
On the slow journey back to Highfallen House, I filled my mind with my departure. It would be slow and dangerous to travel at night, but I could not consider another night alone. Or not alone.
All I had to do was manage 40 miles to Inchbarn. There was a pub and a guesthouse and remote but normal life.
The text message kept playing in my head. Had it really meant that I should leave? And why? Because Susie and Stephen couldn't come? Weather? Illness? It's all a guessing game. The fact is, I have to go.
The house seemed subdued when I returned. I had left the lights on and I went straight upstairs to pack my bag. At once I saw that the light to the attic was on. I paused. Breathed. Of course it's on. I never switched it off. That proves it's a wiring fault. I must tell the housekeeper.
My bag packed, I threw the food into a box and put everything back in the car. I had the whisky in the front, a blanket I stole from the bed, and I made a hot-water bottle, just in case.
It was only five o'clock. At worst I'd be in Inchbarn by 9pm.
I got in the car and turned the key. The radio came on for a second, died, and as the ignition clicked and clicked, I knew that the battery was flat. Two hours ago at the station, the car had started first time. Even if I had left the lights on… But I hadn't left the lights on. A cold panic hit me. I took a swig of the whisky. I couldn't sleep in the car all night. I would die.
I don't want to die.
Back in the house, I wondered what I was going to do all night. I must not fall asleep. I had noticed some old books and volumes when I had explored downstairs yesterday – assorted dusty adventure stories and tales of empire. As I sorted through them, I came across a faded velvet photograph album. In the cold, deserted sitting room, I began to discover the past.
Highfallen House 1910. The women in long skirts with miraculous waists. The men in shooting tweeds. The stable boys in waistcoats, the gardening boys wearing flat caps. The maids in starched aprons. And here they are again in their Sunday best: a wedding photograph. Joseph and Mary Lock. 1912. He was a gardener. She was a maid. In the back of the album, loose and unsorted, were further photographs and newspaper cuttings. 1914. The men in uniform. There was Joseph.
I took the album back into the kitchen and put it next to my wooden solider. I had on my coat and scarf. I propped myself up in two chairs by the wood-fired range and dozed and waited and waited and dozed.
It was perhaps two o'clock when I heard a child crying. Not a child who has scraped his knee, or lost a toy, but an abandoned child. A child whose own voice is his last hold on life. A child who cries and knows that no one will come.
The sound was not above me – it was above the above me. I knew where it was coming from.
I put my hands over my ears and my head between my knees. I could not shut out the sound; a locked-up child, a hungry child, a child who is cold and wet and frightened.
Twice I got up and went to the door. Twice I sat down again.
The crying stopped. Silence. A dreadful silence.
I raised my head. Footsteps were coming down the stairs. Not one foot in front of the other, but one foot dragging slightly, then the other joining it, steadying, stepping again.
At the bottom of the stairs, the footsteps paused. Then they did what I knew they would do with all the terror in my body. The footsteps came towards the kitchen door. Whatever was out there was standing 12 feet away on the other side of the door. I stood behind the table and picked up a knife.
The door swung open with violent force that rammed the brass doorknob into the plaster of the wall. Wind and snow blew into the kitchen, whirling up the photographs and cuttings on the table. I saw that the front door itself was wide open, the entrance hall like a wind tunnel.
Holding the knife, I went forward into the hall to shut the door. The pendant metal lantern that hung from the ceiling was swinging wildly on its long chain. A sudden gust lurched it forward like a child's swing pushed too high. It fell back at force against the large semi-circular fanlight over the front door. The fanlight shattered and fell round my shoulders in shards of sharp rain. Flicker. Buzz. Darkness. The house lights were out. No wind now. No cries. Silence again.
Glass-hit in the snow-lit hall, I walked out of the front door and into the night. At the drive, I turned left and I saw them: the mother and child.
The child was wearing the woollen dress. She had no shoes. She held up her arms piteously to her mother, who stood like stone.
I ran forward. I grabbed the child in my arms.
There was no child. I had fallen face down in the snow.
Help me. That's not my voice.
I'm on my feet again. The mother is ahead of me. I follow her. She's going towards the walled garden. She seems to pass through the door, leaving me on the other side.
DO NOT ENTER
I tried the rusty hoop handle. It broke off, taking a piece of door with it. I kicked the door open. It fell off its hinges. The ruined and abandoned garden lay before me. A walled garden of one acre used to feed 20 people. But that was a long time ago.
There were footprints in the snow. I followed them. They led me to the bothy, its roof patched with corrugated iron. There was no door, but the inside seemed dry and sound. There was a tear-off calendar still on the wall: 22 December 1916.
I put my hand in my pocket and I realised that the key from the nativity was there. At the same time, I heard a chair scrape on the floor in the room beyond. I had no fear any more. As the body first shivers and then numbs with cold, my feelings were frozen. I was moving through shadows as one who dreams.
In the room beyond there was a low fire lit in the tiny tin fireplace. On either side of the fire sat the mother and child. The child was absorbed playing with a marble. Her bare feet were blue, but she did not seem to feel the cold any more than I did.
Are we dead then?
The woman with the shawl over her head looked at me with deep expressionless eyes. I recognised her. It was Mary Lock. She nodded at me, or at not me, at some other me in some other time, I do not know. Her gaze went to a tall cupboard. I knew that my key fitted this cupboard and that I must open it. I did so.
A dusty uniform fell out, crumpling like a puppet. The uniform was not quite empty of its occupant. The back of the faded wool jacket had a long slash where the lungs would have been.
I looked at the knife in my hand.
"Open the door! Are you in there? Open the door!"
I woke to blinding white. Where am I? Something's rocking. It's the car. I am in my car. A heavy glove was brushing off the snow. I sat up, found my keys, pressed the unlock button. It was morning. Outside was the guard from the train and a woman who announced herself as Mrs Wormwood.
"Fine mess you've made here," she said.
We went into the kitchen. I was shivering so much that Mrs Wormwood relented and began to make coffee.
"Alfie fetched me," she said, "after he spoke to your friends."
"There's a body," I said. "In the walled garden."
"Is that where it is?" said Mrs Wormwood.
At Christmas 1914, Joseph Lock had gone to war. Before he left for Flanders, he had made a nativity scene for his little girl. When he came back in 1916, he had been gassed. They heard him, climbing the stairs, gasping for breath through froth-corrupted lungs.
His mind had gone, they said. At night in the attic where he slept with his wife and child, he leaned vacantly against the wall, rolling the child's marbles up and down, down and up, pacing, pacing, pacing. One night, just before Christmas, he strangled his wife and daughter. He left them for dead in the bed and went out. But his wife was not dead. She followed him. In the morning, they found her sitting by the nativity, her dress dark with blood, his fingermarks livid at her throat. She was singing a lullaby and pushing the point of the knife into the back of the wooden figure. Joseph was never found.
"Are you going to call the police?" I said.
"What for?" said Mrs Wormwood. "Let the dead bury the dead."
Alfie the guard went out to see to my car. It started first time, the exhaust blue in the white air. I left them clearing up and was about to set off when I remembered I had left my radio in the kitchen. I went back inside. The kitchen was empty. I could hear the two of them up in the attic. I picked up the radio. The nativity was on the table as I had left it.
But it wasn't as I had left it.
Joseph was there and the animals and the shepherds and the worn-out star. And in the centre was the crib. Next to the crib were the wooden figures of a mother and child.
Rose was a wise 78 year old woman...
Every morning she had to walk a mile or so to the river in order to fetch water for drinking, cooking and cleaning that day.
She carried two buckets with her, filled them up at the riverbank, and walked with them to her cottage.
One of the buckets was newer, perfectly sealed and held water without any problems.
The second bucket, on the other hand, was older and contained a few thin cracks.
As she walked - water would leak out of the cracks and onto the ground.
By the time she arrived home she'd usually lost one third of the water from the cracked bucket.
One day she was walking back to the cottage and carrying her buckets as per usual.
A man stopped her and pointed out that there were cracks in her bucket and water was leaking out.
"You should get a new one!" he said.
"Why?" asked the wise old woman.
"Because anything with cracks is broken and must be fixed!".
The old woman smiled and thanked the man for his advice.
But then said something that changed the man's view...
She pointed towards all the beautiful flowers and greenery that had grown along the path she was walking.
"I've lived here for thirty years. And it was only when the cracks appeared in this bucket and water leaked as I walked that these flowers grew and turned the barren path it once was into what it is today".
The man stopped...
Took a deep breath...
And, with tears in his eyes, looked at all the stunning flowers that had sprung up and beamed a big smile.
"You mean those flowers wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the cracks?"
"No" said the old woman.
He had heard something deeply that touched his soul.
Rose smiled at him and asked him what insight he'd just had.
With a beaming smile of his own and tears rolling down his cheeks he said...
"It hit me that I've gone my whole life thinking that I had to be perfect or I was broken...but right now I see that imperfections create beauty too".
THE WISDOM OF WINTER
Another way of looking at this magical season.
We are heading into the season of Winter. To be honest, it is probably my most favourite season (I know people think I am weird, especially as I was born in June!) I don’t really know why I love it so much but I have always loved hunkering down and making my home cosy and warm for my family. I don’t think there is nothing better than sipping hot chocolate by a roaring fire, candles are lit, blanket on knee (with added cat) and a blanket of snow outside (if only we would get some snow. Oh, for a white Christmas!)
I think it gives me a feeling of protecting my family. A feeling of all being cuddled inside by a cloak of stillness and calm. Winter is a subtle season. It hides its treasures under a blanket of cold, grey stillness. It encourages us to dig deep, slow down, take stock, withdraw and take comfort in our homes and the simple pleasure it brings.
Walking home, seeing lights lit in cosy places, the smell of homemade soup rising, as if giving thanks to the earth allowing you to soften your heart and unwind.
A hot bath, a warm bed and clean sheets are all you need to know about heaven and the joy of your own four walls.
Winter teaches us to wait. Wait for Christmas, wait for spring, wait for the new year, new plants and flowers lying dormant under the earth, waiting. Time, itself, slows to a crawl as the nights grow darker we can do nothing but wait for the light to return once again.
The animals that hibernate surrender to a deep unconsciousness trusting in the safety of their shelter. So we can have faith. Faith is the simple-hearted recognition that despite all the temporary set backs, in the long run the universe is conspiring in our favour
We rest. Winter allows us to slow down and turn our thoughts inward. As the earth turns its energy inward so can we. Taking the time to rest and restore your body, mind and soul is an essential and often-overlooked aspect of our productive creativity. It is literally true that sometimes the most productive thing you can do is nothing.
Winter is silent. When snow blankets the earth, there is a silence like no other. In our own lives winter calls us away from the hustle and bustle of day to day life and tells us to STOP, BE STILL AND LISTEN.
Winter gives us so much yet so many moan and groan about it, yet it asks for nothing of us in return. It lets go and with that letting go comes freedom, and great clarity. We can do the same, we only have to slow down, have faith, trust and awaken ourselves to the wisdom of winter.
PUMPKINS, SOUL CAKES AND APPLE TOSSING
Next Saturday will be HALLOWEEN with all things spooky, cooky and orange.
Pumpkins are everywhere and this year, I have seen so many different coloured ones too.
White, pale green and a pale yellow. My daughter recently went to a pumpkin patch to choose hers and came back with a huge white one which is now sitting outside our front door. But why do some people celebrate Halloween? What is the reason? Below are some really interesting facts about this time of year.
Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain The Celts who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1.
This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.
In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort during the long, dark winter.
To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes.
When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints. Soon, ALL SAINTS DAY incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats. People would still light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
Pope Gregory III later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.
By the 9th century, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honour the dead. It’s widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, church-sanctioned holiday.
All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.
All Souls Day and Soul Cakes
The American Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives.
The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling,” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighbourhood and be given ale, food and money.
Halloween Lesser-Known Rituals
But what about the Halloween traditions and beliefs that today’s trick-or-treaters have forgotten all about? Many of these obsolete rituals focused on the future instead of the past and the living instead of the dead.
In particular, many had to do with helping young women identify their future husbands and reassuring them that they would someday—with luck, by next Halloween—be married. In 18th-century Ireland, a matchmaking cook might bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween night, hoping to bring true love to the diner who found it.
In Scotland, fortune-tellers recommended that an eligible young woman name a hazelnut for each of her suitors and then toss the nuts into the fireplace. The nut that burned to ashes rather than popping or exploding, the story went, represented the girl’s future husband. (In some versions of this legend, the opposite was true: The nut that burned away symbolised a love that would not last.)
Another tale had it that if a young woman ate a sugary concoction made out of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg before bed on Halloween night she would dream about her future husband.
Young women tossed apple-peels over their shoulders, hoping that the peels would fall on the floor in the shape of their future husbands’ initials; tried to learn about their futures by peering at egg yolks floating in a bowl of water and stood in front of mirrors in darkened rooms, holding candles and looking over their shoulders for their husbands’ faces.
Other rituals were more competitive. At some Halloween parties, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut-hunt would be the first to marry. At others, the first successful apple-bobber would be the first down the aisle.
Of course, whether we’re asking for romantic advice or trying to avoid seven years of bad luck, each one of these Halloween superstitions relies on the goodwill of the very same “spirits” whose presence the early Celts felt so keenly.
Their origin comes from an Irish myth about Stingy Jack, who tricked the Devil for his own monetary gain. When Jack died, God didn’t allow him into heaven, and the Devil didn’t let him into hell, so Jack was sentenced to roam the earth for eternity. In Ireland, people started to carve demonic faces out of turnips to frighten away Jack’s wandering soul. When Irish immigrants moved to the U.S., they began carving jack-o’-lanterns from pumpkins as these were native to the region.
LIVING IN THE NOW
Everyone in this world shares the same innate source of wisdom, but it is hidden by the tangle of our own misguided personal thoughts.
Through the centuries, the wise have told us to live in the NOW.
This is why:
THE PAST IS A GHOST THAT CANNOT BE HELD IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND
THE FUTURE CANNOT BE GRASPED, NO MATTER HOW DESIRABLE OR ENTICING IT MAY APPEAR
NOR CAN THE PRESENT BE HELD NO MATTER HOW BEAUTIFUL OR EXCITING
Begin the process of nourishing the soul by living in the NOW
Forget the past and the future and JUST BE and you will be rewarded by living in the NOW.
When Eastern mystics describe the NOW, they are not talking about today as a specific day of the month and year. Their meaning goes deeper. When they refer to the NOW they mean the personal mind is free from the contaminants of yesterday’s memories and fears. This is turn frees the mind to see with clarity things as they are and not through distorted memories and apprehensions.
If you want to replace a glass of stale wine with fresh wine, first you must pour out the old wine. It is the same with clearing our minds of unwanted and stale thoughts.
We do not need to ignore our past experiences as this would be denial and denial is not a healthy state. So, instead, seek a clearer understanding of the past and realise that the negative feelings and emotions from past and maybe traumatic experiences are NO LONGER TRUE. They are merely memories, a collection of old, stale thoughts.
The past is dead. Forget what is old and dead and start life anew.
Change the pattern of your thoughts from negative to positive and automatically the condition of your life will change for the better.
A short tale on manifestation
If you have never ever seen or heard of The Secret and are interested in changing your way of thinking, this book is a must. Find it here.
In the book, it tells you how to manifest and it is full of stories of how it works.
(Submitted by: Al R.O.E)
When I was 18 I came to the U.S. to study. I used to read a lot of books on becoming a better person, self-improvement, self-help and spiritualism. When I graduated college I went to my second job where I met the most extraordinary person I have ever met. He taught me so much and I learned things I had never known before. Then I had to move on to another job. After a year in my new job, it changed me and I became a ‘lesser’ me.
Many years later, I ended up in a country that I had nightmares about every night. It took a toll on me and in the last year I got an unexplained illness. The pain was 24 hours a day and unbearable. Even 15 codeine pills a day did not help, and I was basically bed ridden and moaning. I did not have any money to see a doctor.
Then a couple of nights ago, I remembered reading The Secret. I heard of it due to my prior training I thought it was an amazing book. I decided to force myself out of bed and watch The Secret movie. It lit a spark and made me remember who I was, and my prior training. I then used a special technique I had forgotten about, for pain, physical and mental. It took 3 hours and honestly, all my pain was gone! All of it. Within 3 hours!!
When the pain was expunged from my body, I went back and watched and re-watched The Secret. I loved the Commentary track on the movie with Rhonda. I decided to do everything in the video. I setup my ‘Gratitude List’, my ‘Vision Board’, and decided on what I wanted, both short term and long term. I made or got pictures of everything I wanted and put them on my board and my PC wallpaper. I did this to keep my goals in front of me at all times. I meditated on it and visualIsed everything.
One of my goals was to get $5000 in a week. The next day when I woke up, I got a phone call. It looks like I will get the $5000 this week!! The number is almost $5000! I am short just $44 but I have a plan to make that happen too.
What I want to say that everything Rhonda Byrne said is in fact real and true. All you need for it to happen is an open mind, and you need to surrender to what she says 100%. Surrendering to it is the first step.
So let me recap:
I was screaming in pain, and the pain is all gone in 3 hours. I even threw all my pills away. I am visiting my family right now, and my mother was looking at me in bewilderment about what the heck happened.
I am getting the money I asked for within the period I asked for it, within hours of applying the methods in The Secret.
This really works! Suspend disbelief, and surrender to it and the magic will happen.
P.S. After hearing the Commentary by Rhonda, my next goal is to meet her and be further inspired. Would also love to meet the other teachers in the movie. They seem like an exceptional group of people.
HALLOWEEN OR SAMHAIN
Halloween or Hallowe’en is now celebrated across the world on the night of 31st October. Modern day celebrations generally involve groups of children dressed in scary costumes roaming from house to house, demanding “trick-or-treat”. Fearing the worst, intimidated householders normally hand over vast amounts of treats in the form of chocolates, sweets and candy to avoid whatever dastardly tricks may have been dreamt up by these little darlings.
The origins of these celebrations however date back thousands of years, to pagan times. Until 2,000 years ago, the Celts lived across the lands we now know as Britain, Ireland and northern France. Essentially a farming and agricultural people, the Pre-Christian Celtic year was determined by the growing seasons and Samhain marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark cold winter.
Ancient Celts marked Samhain as the most significant of the four quarterly fire festivals, taking place at the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. During this time of year, hearth fires in family homes were left to burn out while the harvest was gathered. After the harvest work was complete, celebrants joined with Druid priests to light a community fire using a wheel that would cause friction and spark flames.
The wheel was considered a representation of the sun and used along with prayers. Cattle were sacrificed, and participants took a flame from the communal bonfire back to their home to relight the hearth.
Samhain is a pagan religious festival originating from an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition. In modern times, Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced “sow-win”) is usually celebrated from October 31 to November 1 to welcome in the harvest and usher in “the dark half of the year.” Celebrants believe that the barriers between the physical world and the spirit world break down during Samhain, allowing more interaction between humans and denizens of the Otherworld.
Some people who practice Wicca celebrate Samhain by preparing a dinner to celebrate the harvest. The time is meant to be shared with those who have passed on as well as those still with us. They set a place at the table for those in the spiritual plane, provide an offering for them upon every serving throughout the meal. In addition to those who have passed, they invite friends and family to enjoy the feast with them. Typical beverages include mulled wine, cider, and mead, and are shared with the Dead throughout the meal.
One of the recipes they might include is:
Fairy Spice Cakes
These delicious cakes are best left in the garden for the Elemental Folk on nights of Wiccan significance, such as Samhain.
½ cup sweet Muscat wine
2 tablespoons fine brown sugar
1 large egg
⅔ cup flour
½ teaspoon poppy seeds
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon salt
Sunflower oil for frying
Mix the egg and the Muscat wine in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, mix together the flour, poppy seeds, cinnamon, sugar and salt. Stir this into the egg mixture. Let it stand for about ½ hour. Combine the nutmeg and honey in a small bowl. Heat some oil in a frying pan (about ½ inch in the bottom) until it’s hot. Drop the batter into the oil one generous spoonful each time and fry until golden. Place on paper towels to drain and then dip into the honey mix. Delicious!
If you fancy celebrating this coming Halloween or Samhain with a family meal, why not add some of our amazing quality orange dinner candles that burn for 8 hours at a time. Made in Scotland and only £2 each or 6 for £10 they can be found in our store. Other colours also available.
Do you ever just want to run away?
Have you ever wanted to just run away somewhere else and forget about your troubles, debts, problems or other things that have been niggling you? I know I have, years ago, many years ago. You just want to get in your car or camper van and go and have new adventures somewhere else. Obviously, at the moment, that is a very difficult thing to do as many places, once again, are on lockdown. I think this feeling of wanting to be free appeals to many people especially when they start to feel more grown up as they leave school. It is quite normal to want your independence and freedom to do as you please. As children (if we are lucky enough to be brought up in a loving family) we are sheltered from responsibility by our parents. We live in a home where everything is paid for, there is always food on the table, a warm bed to sleep in and loving arms to wrap around you if you feel sad or ill. But, once we grow up and leave that comfort, suddenly the reality of responsibility becomes all too real. When we enter our latter teenage years most of us can’t wait to escape the family home, fend for ourselves, stay up late drinking, partying and not have anyone telling us what to do, and that feeling of freedom lasts for quite a while. Some people cope really well but others start to feel nervous or depressed as time goes on and the burden of bills, and obligation really hits home. But what if you want to run away when you are older? say in your 30’s or 40’s? Is that normal? The reason we all want to go on holiday is to escape for a few weeks, to somewhere new, somewhere where you don’t have anything to do but relax and unwind, explore new places, live under the stars, sing around a campfire. We feel recharged and ready to go back to our normal lives, or do we? For some people it is enough to just have a break now and again but for some they need more. More and more people are deciding to leave their present lifestyles and move abroad, some even going “off grid”. Could you do that? Would you do that? There is a really good programme that has been on recently called NEW LIVES IN THE WILD with Ben Fogle. It shows many folk who have just had enough of the nine to five, social media, pressures of modern day life being bombarded with bad news on the TV, constant repeats of adverts to buy this, have that, look a certain way and all to the detriment of our health, wealth and not spending enough time with their loved ones. Many of these people have just had enough and have decided to literally escape to, what they hope will be, a better way of life Some of the places they have moved to are extreme and would not be for many of us, but others seem to live in an idilic environment, living off the land and doing exactly what they want. It is the whole premise of simple living but to the extreme. A couple and their two children were featured living in an extended yurt in a remote part of New Zealand. The children were home schooled as and when they wanted to be and were totally free to run around outside without a danger to themselves. Others were living in Sweden, Borneo, Spain, South America and the USA. Admittedly, this is extreme lifestyle if not for everyone but for the people who were featured, it certainly seemed to be the only way to live. They seemed so happy and free so perhaps this is the answer to a lot of people’s prayers.
Many people I have spoken to recently are fed up with the way the UK is going, whether it be poor government, greed, anti social behaviour and/or the rise in crime and so, have been toying with the idea of possibly moving away, either abroad or to a more remote area in this country. Having looked at some of the amazing properties for sale for example in France, makes you realise just how cheap they are compared to the UK. For example, a farmhouse in the south of France had a purchase price of just 120,000 Euros. This was a property with 2 acres, shutters at the windows, rustic charm, four bedrooms and came with outbuildings which could be turned into holiday lets.
Why am I writing this piece you may ask? I think it is something deep inside us all, this longing for a simple existence, more time spent with our families, enough money to live on without having to work 64 hours or more (as some people do), a week for a pittance. The freedom to actually to do what we want to do and to not be told how to live our lives by the ever powerful media that has come to indoctrinate so many of us into thinking this is how it should be. This blog as you know, was started with a view of helping people. Helping people to live more simply, to be aware of how they can help to change their lives if they so choose, to enhance their lives with the new ideas and suggestions I write about and to challenge what we have been taught from a young age with other options to live A Simple Life.
Life is short - live it happy.
THE WISDOM OF CHILDREN
This was a recent post that I saw on Facebook and just had to share it with you lovely readers. I was so moved by what these little children had to say about LOVE that I thought the wisdom of the young had to replace the wisdom of the old this week. A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, 'What does love mean?'
The answers they got were broader, deeper, and more profound than anyone could have ever imagined! Each one is so precious, so wonderful and so pure and proves that children speak from their heart. Read on and enjoy.
So what does love means to 4-8 year old kids?
Slow down for three minutes to read this.
When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore.. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.
Rebecca- age 8
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.
Billy - age 4
Love is when a girl puts on perfume,
and a boy puts on shaving cologne,
and they go out and smell each other.
Karl - age 5
Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.
Chrissy - age 6
Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.
Terri - age 4
Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him , to make sure the taste is OK.
Danny - age 8
Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.
Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)
If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.
Nikka - age 6
(We need a few million more Nikka's on this planet!)
Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday.
Noelle - age 7
Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still
friends even after they know each other so well.
Tommy - age 6
During my piano recital , I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.
Cindy - age 8
My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night.
Clare - age 6
Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.
Elaine - age 5
Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.
Chris - age 7
Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him
alone all day.
Mary Ann - age 4
I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.
Lauren - age 4
When you love somebody , your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.
Karen - age 7
Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross..
Mark - age 6
You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.
Jessica - age 8
And the final one:
The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbour was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard , climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbour, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just helped him cry.'
Take 60 seconds and post this for other to see. Be a child again today!
A Look at the Charities We Support
This week we wanted to tell you about some of the amazing charities that our suppliers to our Etsy shop support. As our ethos is about sustainability, saving the planet, helping to make a difference in other people’s lives, supporting charities in the UK and abroad, we only ever buy products that are fair trade and “eco”. These benefit the environment and are indeed ethical. Our suppliers follow the important principles of Fair Trade such as safe working conditions, decent wages and no child or forced labour.
Our suppliers believe in ensuring that the artisans who make the products get a fair wage and they work in a safe and healthy environment. They try to make sure that the community as well as the individual benefits from our trade, and they visit as many suppliers as possible to check that fair standards are being applied, for instance adequate lighting and ventilation in the workplace. They comply with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and The Modern Slavery Act 2015. They also aim to minimise harm to the environment by using sustainable or recycled materials in production, and shipping goods by sea instead of by air.
By buying from us, you are helping to provide much-needed jobs in countries like India, Nepal, Thailand, Bali, Kenya and Guatemala - for people who are often on the margins of society with little or no other source of income.
We know that you, our readers have the same ethos as we do and that is why at the Violet Cottage we believe in supporting these artisans rather than giving our trade to huge corporate companies.
More products coming soon but as they are shipped by sea instead of air they can sometimes take a little longer but are definitely worth the wait.
MAKE AN AUTUMN WREATH
This week I thought it might be nice to make an autumn wreath to put on your front door or somewhere else to welcome in the season. If the leaves aren’t quite turned yet then you can always keep this until later in the month and make it then.
You will need
Wire wreath frame
Leaves, berries, pine cones and seasonal flowers
Brown garden twine
Separate the leaves and berries into small bunches. Lay in the middle of a 20cm length of florist wire. Twist the middle section around the stems, leaving the wire ends like a hair pin. Do the same with berry and flower clusters and pine cones.
Starting with the foliage, secure the leaves to the frame with florist wire adding leaf bunches at intervals around the frame. Remember to check for gaps and spaces.
Next add the clusters of berries, flowers and cones, spacing them at regular intervals.
Finally add bows of garden twine around the wreath.
You could also adapt this by making a smaller one for a child’s headdress.
Click on this link to go straight to a tutorial on how to make: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTIACLx-Nvc&ab_channel=SarahRaven
DRESS UP AND CLEAR OUT
A friend of mine once told me this story.
They decided it was time to clear out their spare room.. Now the spare room was like a lot of our own spare rooms, full of stuff we don’t use or don’t know where else to put it.
But, she decided to go head first into the room of Stuff as she simply could not bare to look at it anymore.
So, one Saturday morning in she went. Just as she had started, her little girl shouted ‘Mummy can you come and play dressing up with me?’ “not now darling, I’m really busy and have to clear out this room” said my friend. So her daughter went off and played dressing up by herself but, about every fifteen minutes after that her little girl would keep asking the same question and my friend just kept on saying ‘no, sorry darling, mummy’s busy’.
Later on there came a knock at the door. It was my friend’s neighbour. My friend invited her in and told her what she was doing and how long it was taking her to sort stuff out.
The neighbour responded with “Oh yes, that’s why my cousin is a minimalist. She tells me ‘we don’t need all this stuff’.
My friend then looked at the heaps and heaps of stuff in the spare room that she had barely made any headway into and then, once again, heard her daughter asking her to play dressing up again.
By now the neighbour had left and the friend sat down and thought for a moment. She suddenly realised something very important.
All this stuff, these possessions, things we were told when growing up would make us happy if we had MORE, earned MORE, got MORE things and by having more it would make us ‘happy’ were NOT making her happy. This STUFF was owning her, distracting her from doing what she should have been doing, what she wanted to do, and that was spending precious time with her child. Time that would soon be gone, time that would never be wasted, time she would never get back, time that would create the most special memories for her and her little girl.
She then thought, ‘so, what would happen if I had less stuff?’ ‘I’d have more money, more time, more energy to do other things, my house would be cleaner, less cluttered, leading to my mind being less cluttered and my thoughts clearer.
It is a well know fact that if you sit in a tidy room you are able to thing clearer, your subconscious allows you to breath, stop and focus more on things, especially important things like making decisions etc.
Suddenly the existence of an entirely different worldview and idea came to my friend. She decided she was, from that day onwards going to declutter the whole house room by room but, only after she had played dressing up with her child. Did it matter that she entered the spare room wearing a pink feather boa, silver snakeskin boots and a tutu? No because from then on, she felt she could take on each room, gradually working her way through one at a time but with always stopping to play dressing up!
If you are feeling like my friend at the moment or finding your possessions are taking over your life ask yourself the following questions:
“What if I throw out something I need later?” How many times have we kept things we might just need later, but later very rarely comes. So ask yourself instead,
“What if I keep a whole bunch of stuff I never end up using? Keeping these things only adds to anxiety, stress and robs someone else of using it.
If you find it difficult to let go of stuff you might just need, think of it differently - by giving it to someone else who can really use it, you are helping them, giving them a gift if you like. This in turn does them a favour but also make you feel good and happy that you have done a nice thing.
Perhaps we all have a bit of Gypsy in us?
If you love to travel (when we could) then maybe we all have a little bit of a gypsy in us.
Roma Gypsies originated in the Punjab region of northern India as a nomadic people and entered Europe between the eighth and tenth centuries C.E. They were called Gypsies because Europeans mistakenly believed they came from Egypt. This minority was made up of distinct groups called "tribes" or "nations." Romany Gypsies have been in Britain since at least 1515 after migrating from continental Europe during the Roma migration from India. The term Gypsy comes from “Egyptian” which is what the settled population perceived them to be because of their dark complexion.
Most of the Roma in Germany and the countries occupied by Germany during WW2 belonged to the Sinti and Roma family groupings. Both groups spoke dialects of a common language called Romani, based on Sanskrit (the classical language of India).
For centuries, Roma were scorned and persecuted across Europe. Zigeuner, the German word for Gypsy, derives from a Greek root meaning untouchable.
Many Roma traditionally worked as craftsmen and were blacksmiths, cobblers, tinsmiths, horse dealers, and toolmakers. Others were performers such as musicians, circus animal trainers, and dancers.
During WW2 during the Nazi occupation, many Gypsies were persecuted and killed. In 1939, German authorities murdered tens of thousands of Roma in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Serbia and thousands more in the killing centers at Auschwitz-birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec and others. Something I have never heard of.
Irish Travellers mainly came to England after the potato famine in the 1850s and then after World War II, when men came over to build motorways and work as labourers. Many Irish Travellers moved between the town and other traveller sites in eastern England.
Their treatment reflected majority society’s deep ambivalence about the presence of Gypsies and a nomadic way of life. Some envied this, the fact that they could literally go where they wanted, live off the land, sing songs round the fire and make a living by doing things they enjoyed. Others, however, became afraid of them, they saw them as folk who evaded the law, had no regard for other people’s land and no responsibility. This created fear and a hatred toward the Gypsy.
Contrary to these stereotypes, Gypsies and travellers have worked and lived alongside the rest of the population suggesting a high degree of interaction between both communities.
With the early ‘caravanning movement’ and the cult of the ‘outdoors’ this style of life became popular especially with New Age Hippies. Along side this group, there also emerged a movement called ‘gypsiologists’,. They became preoccupied with the foreign ancestry of British Gypsies.
Crucially, such Gypsies were always portrayed as ‘pure blooded’ or ‘true’ Romanies, largely untouched by modern, industrialised Britain. As one gypsiologist, Arthur Symons, wrote in the early 20th century:
‘ Why ... are we setting ourselves the impossible task of spoiling the Gypsies? ... they stand for the will of freedom, for friendship with nature, for the open air, for change and the sight of many lands; for all of us that are in protest against progress ... The Gypsies represent nature before civilisation ... the last romance left in the world.’
I think for a lot of us, this way of life sounds romantic and exciting and has the idealistic image of escapism, life on the open road and a rose tinted vision of excitement and rugged charm. But in reality it is no longer like that. We can, however, emulate it, maybe for a few weeks of the year, by taking our tents and/or caravan on holiday, sitting around our fire pit, strumming a guitar and dreaming dreams of this idealistic lifestyle. But then we return back to our homes, secure, warm and comfortable.
The latest insight into Gypsy life is portrayed by the Channel 4 series My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding which does seem a hundred years away from the romantic vision we once thought of. It is a long way from those early years back where it all started in India. Times have definitely changed for everyone, including these Nomads.
A GHOST STORY
WATCH THE SKIES
A week ago, I wrote about a place near to where I grew up called Kinver. It is full of mystery and is home to the unique Rock Houses built into the side of the cliff known as Kinver Edge which is the last remaining part of an ancient forest.
Recently, whilst researching some more into Kinver, I came across this lady called Prudence S Thomas. https://prudencesthomas.com/She is a story teller who is part of a group who spend time searching for traditional tales of folklore to tell and write about at various events.
She has written a short story about one of the many ghosts who still, to this day, haunt KINVER EDGE. I hope you enjoy it.
The winter of 1850 was harsh and cold. The fish suffocated in the ponds under an inch of ice and people shivered in their homes in the village of Kinver, many unable to afford to keep their fires burning through the long cold nights.
In the dark high street, a cheery light shone from the windows of the White Hart Inn. Lottie, the young serving wench, had spent a long shift serving the guests forced into the inn from the coach road by the foul weather. Her feet were stinging with fatigue from standing so long, and she was glad of the chill night air on her hot face as she stepped out of the side door into the street.
The moon was full and bright as she made her way through the quiet streets of the town, looking up at the sparkling icicles on the edge of the rooftops from time to time.
Lottie’s way home took her down the main street and then on into the narrow streets at the edge of the village. The moon’s light could not penetrate the close lanes and alleys, but Lottie knew them well and walked on confidently, humming as she went, the fresh snow crunching under her neat boots. Lottie paused, noticing her lace had come loose. Crouching to retie it she heard the sound of a foot lowered gently into the snow behind her. Her heart contracted in fear, and Lottie jerked upright, looking wildly around. She could see only cold white snow laid out all around her, with no soul other than herself in sight.
Her heart still beating hard in her breast, Lottie walked on, still humming softly in a show of unconcern. Lottie looked dead ahead as she walked, but strained her ears to trace every sound around her.
Lottie walked on for what felt like an age, then pulled to a sharp stop. There was the soft crunch of a foot coming to rest in the snow – just behind her.
Lottie did not look back. She ran, her black boots pounding, slipping and sliding on the snow-covered cobbles as she went.
Lottie zigzagged through the alleys, desperately trying to rid herself of her pursuer, but the heavy steps behind her drew closer and closer until Lottie could almost feel hot breath on her neck. Lottie tried to scream, but could not make a sound.
Then, there was only darkness as Lottie felt a sharp blow on her head and crumpled to the ground.
She awoke – she could not tell how long she had been unconscious, maybe for a moment, maybe for hours. Her head was dangling down, and she felt a powerful shoulder swaying under her stomach – she was slung over the shoulder of a big, tall man. She could smell liquor on his breath and the smell of sweat on his rough wool great coat. Lottie tried to remain limp in his grasp so that he would not notice that she was awake. Lottie could not see much from her position and had no sense of where the man might be taking her.
Inch by inch, Lottie raised her hand, trying to move with the sway of her captor’s gait, until she had her hand on the clasp of her cloak- a little pearl pin her mother had given her. In one swift movement, she pulled the pin free, jabbed it point first into the man’s buttocks and rolled off his shoulder. The man bellowed in pain and confusion and flailed around, finding himself holding only Lottie’s cloak.
Lottie sprinted away through the trees- she knew it not, but she was running towards Kinver Edge.
The man grunted and strolled after her. He was in no rush – he was an excellent tracker, and the girl would not get far, uncloaked and alone in the icy woods. The moonlight shone on Lottie’s footsteps, and he walked softly alongside them.
Step by step he traced her, through the trees and into a large clearing. Left foot, right foot, left- the man frowned in puzzlement and dropped to his knees, examining the tracks. There was no right footstep after that final left. There were no more footsteps – only smooth, virgin snow. He looked up – there were no trees within reach above him- she could not have leapt up into their limbs.
The clearing throbbed with an unnatural silence, broken only by the soft fall of snow upon snow.
His heart pounding, the man ran, heedless of where he went and wishing only to get away from the fearful blank snow.
The man’s body was found by the villagers, frozen beneath a covering of snow. But try as they may, the villagers could find no trace of Lottie.
It is whispered, even now, however, by the poachers who have cause to walk on the Edge after dark, that they sometimes hear a soft voice humming a sweet song on wintery nights
WATCH THE SKIES
Ever had a close encounter?
I believe that I have witnessed seeing a UFO. I was with my father. We had just pulled into our drive, we both stopped and looked at each other as if to say “can you see that?”. In front of us was a large dome shaped object floating over the tops of our neighbours houses. It wasn’t going fast, just sort of cruising, is the best word i can describe it.
It sat there for a while and then, just, flew away. It all happened very quickly and we wanted more, we wanted it to stay but it didn’t.
I remember thinking, ‘did that really happen?’ If I had been on my own, I might not have believed it but, as my father also witnessed it and confirmed that he too had seen it,
I truly believe, to this day I had encountered a space craft from another planet.
The weird thing is, it had happened during the same time as the Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk incident which made headline news.
In late December 1980, there was a series of reported sightings of unexplained lights near Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, which has become linked with claims of UFO landings. The events occurred just outside RAF Woodbridge, which was used at the time by the United States Air Force.
This event made headline news and below is a description of what the main witness, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, says he saw.
Around 03:00 on 26 December 1980 a security patrol near the east gate of RAF Woodbridge saw lights apparently descending into nearby Rendlesham Forest. Servicemen initially thought it was a downed aircraft but, upon entering the forest to investigate they saw what they described as a glowing object, metallic in appearance, with coloured lights. As they attempted to approach the object, it appeared to move through the trees, and "the animals on a nearby farm went into a frenzy". One of the servicemen, Sergeant Jim Penniston, later claimed to have encountered a "craft of unknown origin" while in the forest, although there was no publicised mention of this at the time and there is no corroboration from other witnesses.
Shortly after 04:00 local police were called to the scene but reported that the only lights they could see were those from the Orford Ness lighthouse, some miles away on the coast.
After daybreak on the morning of 26 December, servicemen returned to a small clearing near the eastern edge of the forest and found three small impressions on the ground in a triangular pattern, as well as burn marks and broken branches on nearby trees. At 10:30 the local police were called out again, this time to see the impressions, which they thought could have been made by an animal.
During this investigation that a flashing light was seen across the field to the east, almost in line with a farmhouse, as the witnesses had seen on the first night. The Orford Ness lighthouse is visible further to the east in the same line of sight
Later, according to one of the witnesses Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, three star-like lights were seen in the sky, two to the north and one to the south, about 10 degrees above the horizon. Halt said that the brightest of these hovered for two to three hours and seemed to beam down a stream of light from time to time.
In June 2010, retired Colonel Charles Halt signed a notarised affidavit, in which he again summarised what had happened, then stated he believed the event to be extraterrestrial and it had been covered up by both the UK and US.
This story still remains one of the biggest and most talked about extra terrestrial encounters in the United Kingdom to this day. Whether you believe it or not is up to you, but I do. I also truely believe I saw a UFO with my father all those years ago and I am almost certain there is and always has been a total cover up by, shall we say, the powers that be. Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area_51
Whatever you believe, dear readers, remember
ALWAYS LOOK UP, WATCH THE SKIES
you never know what you might see.
The Wisdom of Old Dogs
There is a new book out which has been voted by The Sunday Telegraph as Top gift book of the year, A dog is for life, but an old dog's wisdom is for ever.
'A truly heartwarming book - a perfect gift for any dog lover' Trisha Ashley
' The Wisdom of Old Dogs is an absolute must-have' Countryside Magazine
'A beautiful read that will leave dog owners and animal lovers brimming over with love and gratitude' Woman's Way Magazine
It’s called The Wisdom of old dogs. Lessons in life, love and friendship.
A dog loves unconditionally. Even if they have been on their own for part of the day, they don’t sulk or whine, but as soon as they hear the door open, they greet us with a welcome as if they haven’t seen us for weeks. A tail wagging so fast, a lick and a sniff, it really is the most wonderful thing and it happens every time you come back home.
Dogs are so wonderfully loyal. Even if they have been badly treated in the past, once they trust you, they will be your best friend for life.
They don’t judge you, they just love you.
We could all learn from dogs and animals in general.
We need to be kinder to each other and not take each other for granted because one day, that someone won’t be around anymore.
Dogs don’t care what we look like, they just love us. Isn’t that the most amazing thing, ever.
The book is full of practical advice, uplifting stories, and scientific expertise, this book reveals how dogs can be a constant source of wisdom, comfort and love in their old age.
An old dog holds no grudges. To live, you must forgive
Love yourself like your dog loves you.
Do old dogs regret the past? No, so why should
You're never too old for new tricks.
See the world through my eyes, and you'll see the good in everyone
These wise words are a lesson for us all and the book is just overflowing with joy and beautiful photographs of some of the cutest and oldest dogs I’ve ever seen.
As an owner of an older black lab called Buddy, I am interested to see what lessons I can learn from it. But I do know one thing
“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.”
Vintage Lemon and Lime Cordial Recipe
1 tbsp grated lemon rind
2 tsp grated lime rind
200ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
200ml freshly squeezed lime juice
600ml boiling water
Place all of the ingredients in a large pan
Add boiling water
Stir until sugar is dissolved
Leave to cool
Once cooled completely add cordial to sterilised bottle.
For a wonderful summer time drink just add water either sparkling or still, some ice and float pieces of lemon or lime on the top.
Can also be put into ice lolly moulds and frozen for wonderful homemade treats.
COVID-19 AND CURIOUS KINVER
WORDS OF WISDOM ABOUT COVID 19
There has been a letter supposedly written by Bill Gates doing the rounds on the internet since March this year. The letter entitled - COVID-19/ Coronavirus and what it is teaching us however, has not been written by Mr Gates but, it has gone viral. The reason, I believe is because it makes perfect sense and is probably true on all accounts. See what you think.
It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should do. If you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hanks.
It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.
It is reminding us of how precious our health is and how we have moved to neglect it through eating nutrient poor manufactured food and drinking water that is contaminated with chemicals upon chemicals. If we don’t look after our health, we will, of course, get sick.
It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick. Our purpose is not to buy toilet roll.
It is reminding us of how materialistic our society has become and how, when in times of difficulty, we remember that it’s the essentials that we need (food, water, medicine) as opposed to the luxuries that we sometimes unnecessarily give value to.
It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this. It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into our home and to strengthen our family unit.
It is reminding us that our true work is not our job. That is what we do, not what we were created to do. Our true work is to look after each other, to protect each other and to be of benefit to one another.
It is reminding us to keep our egos in check. It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.
It is reminding us that the power of freewill is in our hands. We can choose to cooperate and help each other, to share, to give, to help and to support each other or we can choose to be selfish, to hoard, to look after only our self. Indeed, it is difficulties that bring out our true colours.
It is reminding us that we can be patient, or we can panic. We can either understand that this type of situation has happened many times before in history and will pass, or we can panic and see it as the end of the world and, consequently, cause ourselves more harm than good.
It is reminding us that this can either be an end or a new beginning. This can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes, or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.
It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off of shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.
It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease. Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass.
Whereas many see COVID-19 as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a great corrector.
It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten, and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.
Thank you to Anonymous
THE CURIOUS VILLAGE OF KINVER
The Curiosity of Kinver
This week we look at the interesting village of Kinver in the Midlands.
Kinver is a very special place and one that I visited quite often when I was younger as it is near where I was born.
As locals, we knew if as the haunted village and the mysterious and ancient Kinver Wood, the place where witches met and performed their rituals.
It is a large village at the end of a narrow finger of land surrounded by the counties of Worcestershire and Shropshire.
Kinver Edge comprises approximately 600 acres of land which is now owned by the National Trust and open to the public. The historic Rock Houses at Kinver Edge, are well known for being the last caveman dwellings in England. A key feature of this formation known as Kinver Edge, is a huge outcrop known as Holy Austin Rock where people once made their homes by tunnelling into the sandstone to create comfortable and weatherproof rooms. These houses were thought to be the inspiration for Tolkien’s The Hobbit. It is a unique and very strange place to visit. The Rock houses were inhabited as early as 1777. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kinver-edge-and-the-rock-houses
Kinver is also known for many myths and much folklore. At the base of the Edge stands the large Witch's Tree which was believed to be the central location for the witch trials in the area and where several women were believed to be hanged for witchcraft and heresy.
Other myths and legends include the sightings of many ghosts and spirits, especially around the area of the Scout camp which is situated between the Edge and St Peter's Church. Ghosts here include the mysterious Lottie who was kidnapped from the nearby village in the mid-1850s but escaped her captors only to be chased over the Edge before her footprints mysteriously disappeared from the snowy track.
Other famous hauntings include the spirit of Lady Jane Grey, whose ghost has been reported at the Whittington Inn, and the infamous William Howe, a footman who murdered Benjamin Robins of Dunsley Hall and became the penultimate person to be gibbeted at nearby Gibbet Lane in the early 19th century.
WISDOM - COOKING EDITION
This week we thought we would look at some cooking wisdom. Below are some facts, hints and useful tips that you may not already know.
If your food tastes bland, it usually just needs more salt.
Sugar enhances the flavours of savoury foods such as roasted carrots, beets, and tomatoes.
Dry your meat before cooking it - this ensures you'll get a crisp, golden skin that won't stick to the pan.
If you plan cooking for a crowd of people, keep it simple. Don't cook several courses — instead, focus on making one thing and make it great.
Cook your eggs over low heat to prevent them from becoming dry and rubbery.
Pre-soak pasta and it will cook in about 60 seconds. Soak the pasta in water in a sealed bag for a couple hours or overnight.
Grate frozen butter straight into pastry dough for fast, even distribution.
Hold cherry tomatoes between two plastic lids to slice them all at once.
Coat your cheese grater with nonstick spray for delightfully clean, easy shredding.
Microwave lemons and limes to get more juice out.
No need to peel potatoes before boiling them; the skin will just slide off once they're cooked.
Use an apple slicer to quickly cut potatoes into perfect wedges.
THE BEST VEGAN CHOCOLATE CAKE EVER
Everyone’s Talking Vegan
Now I know this is in the Wisdom section but as we are talking food this week, I thought I would share this amazing recipe.
Made by Nora Taylor from Portland, Oregon. Her website is full of the most wonderful vegan recipes but this one caught my eye. www.noracooks.com
You won’t believe it’s vegan. A quick and easy recipe and made in just one bowl.
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil OR melted coconut oil
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegan butter, softened,
4-5 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
Preheat oven to 350F and grease two 9-inch cake pans. I also line them with parchment rounds and lightly flour for easy removal of the cakes later.
Measure 1 cup unsweetened almond milk and add the tablespoon of vinegar to it. Stir slightly and set aside to curdle.
In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk well to combine.
Now add the oil, applesauce, vanilla and almond milk/vinegar mixture. Mix on medium speed with a hand mixer (or stand mixer with the paddle attachment) until well combined.
Lower the speed and carefully pour in the boiling water, continuing to mix into the cake batter until combined. The batter will seem very runny at this point; that is how it should be, trust me!
Divide the batter evenly between your cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. After 10 minutes of cooling in the pan, carefully remove the cakes from the pans and let cool completely before frosting.
Add the cocoa powder to a large bowl (I just wipe out the cake bowl and use it for the frosting). Whisk well to remove any clumps.
Add the softened vegan butter and mix with a hand mixer until creamed and well combined.
Add half of the powdered sugar and half of the almond milk, and mix until combined. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix starting on low, and turn to high. Mix until fluffy and combined.
If the frosting seems too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon or two at a time. If the frosting seems too wet and doesn't hold it's shape, add more powdered sugar until it thickens up.
Frost the cake using a butter knife.
How to deal with stress and anxiety in these strange and trying times...
"As long as you feel pain, you're still alive. As long as you make mistakes, you're still human. And as long as you keep trying, there' still hope." - Susan Gale
Are you constantly anxious and stressed? Here are some wise words on staying mentally healthy.
Mental health is one of the fastest growing illnesses today, especially amongst our younger generation. I write this with first hand experience as two of my children have and still are suffering from it. The recent outbreak of the Corona virus has been the ultimate test of our emotional resilience.
Our lack of control and the uncertainty this vile virus has brought us is enough to make anyone feel stressed and anxious whether you suffer from mental health or not.
But, there are things we can do to try and combat these things.
First, we must face the fear.
Let’s get it out there. One of the worst things we can do is KEEP IT IN! It has been proven that by talking to someone, a friend, counsellor or a family member is one of the best therapies. By sharing the panic and the challenges we are facing helps us to feel validated. When we share these feelings with others, we realise we are not alone. They are probably feeling exactly the same and may be only too grateful to you that you took the initiative and started the conversation. But once you’ve got it out there and allowed them to express how they are feeling, then start to turn it around. Talk about, what is going right for you? What are you looking forward to? How are you coping? Encourage and praise the other person.
It can be anything. Giving someone something you no longer need, something you have grown or made. Giving someone your time. Help someone with a chore. It is a scientific fact that by being generous produces a positive reaction in your brain called a “Helpers High!”
Take a break from technology
Even when we are relaxing we tend to scroll through Facebook or Instagram, we are all guilty of it, we all do it. But this does not give our brains (or our eyes) a break. A mental break. We need these mental breaks to create space from ruminating thoughts. We need to hit the reset button. Try meditation. I have done this if I have not been able to sleep and it really does work. I find it works a lot better when you use your breath though. I use an app called INSIGHT TIMER. You can choose timed mediation, you can choose sleep, with or without music, daytime or nighttime, middle of the night and many more. And……….. it’s FREE! Other stuff to do DANCE (See how good it is for you on JIGGLE) run, walk in nature, or just listen to your favourite music.
Allow yourself to feel and flow
This one is probably the hardest thing to do as we try to suppress our feelings of stress and anxiety but this only makes it worse. We try and push our feeling down or suppress them with food, alcohol or drugs. This doesn’t make those feelings go away, it just makes it go even further inside us.
So let’s do it, let’s face our fears. First when you have these feelings, ask yourself how your body feels? Are your shoulders hunched up, is your jaw clenched, is your neck tense?
What about your stomach? Are you fists balled? What you are feeling is physical stress, accept these feelings, BREATHE! Deep breath in count to 8, deep breath out count to 8 release, repeat 3 times. Say to yourself, "I am allowing these feelings to be present." Notice if your body feels less tense. If not repeat with your eyes closed. Allow yourself to feel. Visualise this tension now flowing out of your body. Flowing out of your extremities. Out of your finger tips, your toes, the top of your head. yourself. Say to yourself ‘they are not causing me any harm’ ‘I am letting them go out of my body’.
After you have done the last exercise, write down how you are now feeling. Thank God, the universe or whatever or whoever you believe in for your life, the fact that you are still here, the fact that your are well. Keep a gratitude journal this one from Tiny Buddha is great https://tinybuddha.com/gratitude-journal/ Write down things you are grateful for each day, each week or whenever you feel the urge to do so.
Remember, help is always out there, you are not alone
In these days of technology we are much more able to access the help we need now more than ever. Counsellors, doctors and specialists are available day and night to talk to.
There is always someone there for each and every one of us. This is the website of just one such group https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/
Listen to Your Elders
This week we speak to members of the elderly population for some sound advice on how to get the best out of our lives.
LISTEN TO YOUR ELDERS
Older people can be a great source of wisdom and sage advice on how to live our lives to the fullest. Here are some KEY LIFE LESSONS that I have picked up along the way working as a music therapist in different care homes and talking to the wonderful elderly folk who live there.
Learn to take the rough with the smooth
We all hope to have a healthy, happy and prosperous life but we also know that is not always the case. Life can never be about being happy every day, or else how would we be able to appreciate the good times to the full? This teaches us to appreciate what and who we have in our lives and practice gratitude each and every day.
Don’t forget your elders.
They have and will always be, part of our families. We won’t always live together in the same house, town or country even but we must not neglect them. If they go into care homes we must make time to visit and call them so they know we still care and love them. We’re all going to face criticism at some point, but we don’t have to let that criticism affect us. Those that don’t mind, don’t matter.
Never forget to tell your family and friends how much you love them. Don’t leave it too late to reach out to loved ones. The healing and redemptive power of love in all its forms is the most beautiful thing ever.
Try to find the humour in every situation if possible. Many older people are renowned for their ability to laugh in the face of adversity, and this is a lesson that we can all learn from. A little humour goes a long way towards making bad times more bearable and good times more memorable.
Make time for what’s important before it’s too late. Nobody ever went to their grave wishing they had spent more time at work. Make time for family, phone that friend that you keep meaning to call. Send that letter that you keep meaning to write. Visit your parents because one day, they won’t be there!
I recently watched this short film on youtube. It’s about a few elderly people giving advice on some life lessons.
Are you a glass half empty or glass half full person? I would like to think I am the latter but sometimes, especially lately during the lockdown, I have felt as though my glass as been half empty. Having lost both forms of income due to the Corona virus, I did wonder what we were going to do. Then, two things happened. I found the book called THE SECRET which I had bought a few years ago and I came across the practice of PRATISPAKSHA BHAVANAM. Let’s just say things I started to think a lot differently.
HOW TO NEUTRALISE THE NEGATIVE WITH A POSITIVE
This type of practice in yoga is called PRATISPAKSHA BHAVANAM meaning to cultivate the opposite.
In other words - when negative thoughts are worrying you think the opposite with positive thoughts. This applies to mundane experiences (for example, choosing not to be bothered by being stuck in a traffic jam and instead enjoy the audio book that you are listening to in the car) and life-altering events (for example, choosing to see downsizing at work as an opportunity to pursue your true calling). (This was me) it has allowed me to pursue something I have always wanted to do. One, is starting this blog.
Here are some more examples of how we can turn situations around:
Examples: When everyone is feeling anxious and worried, especially during this time of Covid 19, be a strong and steady rock, help others,
When all are panic buying and hoarding food and other items - be generous - give.
When you feel discouraged or down, that a particular something isn’t working out - cultivate the opposite - think -
what can I do differently? How can I make it more beautiful? Stop, have a coffee, listen to your favourite song, get outside, breath deeply be grateful we are still alive.
THE SECRET - Rhona Byrne
The Secret is a best-selling 2006 self-help book by Rhonda Byrne, based on the earlier film of the same name. It is based on the belief of the law of attraction, which claims that thoughts can change a person's life directly. The book has sold 30 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 50 languages.
This amazing book has changed so many lives and if you haven’t heard of it, is well worth a read. It encourages the same practice as the above.
The key message of The Secret is that everyone has the ability to create their own reality. In other words, The thoughts inside our mind summons the things happening to us. Basically meaning
what you think is what you get. Negativity attracts negativity - positivity attracts positivity. Darkness to light - losing into winning - hating into loving.
Goodness knows we all need something positive in our lives now.
Find it here on amazon.
BOOKS OF WISDOM
In ancient times older women were the keepers of primal mysteries and were revered for their special wisdom. Today our culture is reawakening to the power of our elders and there is a new interest in this important part of our life cycle. This book WISE WOMEN by Joyce Tennson puts a different slant on the ageing process. I for one, can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.
WISE WOMEN BY JOYCE TENNESON
Tenneson's compelling and compassionate portraits are each accompanied by short poignant statements by these remarkable women about the experience of ageing. WISE WOMEN is a heartfelt book that speaks to the grace and wisdom of our elders. No one who sees this book will think about ageing in the same way again.
For this very special book Joyce Tenneson travelled throughout America to photograph and interview women ages 65 to 100. What she found was a revelation - women who were vital, energetic and deeply beautiful inside and out. Many confided in her that they had never been happier or as in touch with their inner self. The eighty portraits in the book are of women from all walks of life, from the famous, such as Sandra Day O'Connor, Julie Harris, Lily Tomlin, Jessica Tandy, Lauren Bacall and Angela Lansbury, to the familiar - our mothers and grandmothers.
OLD FASHIONED REMEDIES /RECIPES
"Detox" Drink to Supposedly Get Rid of Belly Fat
It is a very strong taste but it does make you feel clean if you know what I mean!
Water: 250 ml
Lemon Juice: 2 tablespoons
Apple Cider Vinegar: 2 tablespoons
Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
Honey: 1 tablespoon
Below is an old, very old, recipe that I have recently found of my grandmothers.
It is for a cough mixture that they used years ago. I have just found out that Laudanum was in fact, Opium! What! my grandmother took Opium? Then I googled Paregoric and guess what?
Paregoric, or camphorated tincture of opium, also known as tinctura opii camphorata, is a traditional patent medicine known for its antidiarrheal, antitussive, and analgesic properties.
What was going on back then in 1944?
Needless to say - DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME (or anywhere else!)
The Humble Dandelion Flower
Every flower has its own, unique meaning. Sometimes this meaning is simple and easy to understand, and other times we have to get to know more about a certain flower in order to understand a meaning behind a flower.
Dandelions have many secret meanings that make us want to know more about this, on first glance, ordinary flower.
The name Dandelion was created in the 15th century. Word Dandelion was derived from the words “dens lionis”, which mean lion’s tooth.
The seeds inside the flower, when it is dried down, reminded them of lion’s teeth therefore this name was created.
Slowly, the words Dens lionis transformed into dent-de-lion, which in French had the same translation. This is the name most people use today, since it still is a perfect representation of the flower’s appearance.
Of course, different cultures have different names for this flower, or even several different names, as well as countless different meanings.
Every flower has a secret message and meaning hidden behind it. Dandelion flowers give us an opportunity to make a wish and hope for something better to come. They are also telling us to be strong and to persevere through all of the hard moments in our life, just like this plant does no matter how cold or warm it is outside. They are universal symbols of happiness and joy, and their bright yellow flowers simply bring optimism into our lives.
This humble flower hides these secret meanings:
Wishes Coming to Life
The Power of the Sun
Emotional Healing: Dandelions might look simple and humble, but they are certainly symbols of healing. Even leaves of this peculiar flower have healing powers that can make our bodies and souls feel rejuvenated. Dandelion leaves have been used to cure many illnesses and pains, but as a flower symbol, dandelion is the symbol of emotional healing. Since they can endure almost any living condition, they represent overcoming every hardship by standing strong and proud.
Wishes Coming to Life: Dandelions seeds have been used to make a wish for as long as we can remember. Picking up a flower and blowing to make the seeds fly into the air, and then making a wish is something I did as a child and probably you have too. Some of those wishes did come true, while others still have time to come to life. Next time you see a dried Dandelion, pick it up and make a wish while you blow off the seeds. Perhaps the stars are going to join in and make your wish come to life.
The Power of the Sun: The 3 phases of a dandelion represent the sun, moon and stars. The yellow flower represents the sun, the white puff ball represents the moon and the dispersing seeds represent the stars. How beautiful is that!
I have just found this awesome site https://ethical.market/ which sells vegan And Natural - Cruelty Free Skincare - plant based products.
The cream below looked and felt divine - follow the link and treat yourself. The description below says it all:
'Dandelion flowers were chosen for the recipe linked below since they are especially effective at reliving chapped, dry skin. Their Body balm melts into the skin, deeply penetrating the epidermis and nourishing from within. Use all over from head to toe and can even be used lightly on the face in summer for natural glow. It leaves the skin enriched, silky smooth and feeling loved'
You can buy dandelion tea from this wonderful company called BIOVEA who support 8 fantastic charitable organisations worldwide, with a particular focus on underprivileged children. https://www.biovea.net/uk/product/detail/14556/roasted-dandelion-root-herbal-tea--organic--caffeine-free--16-tea-bags
But if you prefer something a little stronger....................... and aside from all these magical hidden meanings, there's also the possibility to make delicious Dandelion Wine, as linked in this article.