Thursday, 26 February 2015

I'm writing a book.

Four words that are quite simply designed to put the person on the receiving end of this statement to sleep. Watch them shift uneasily as their eye's glaze over. If they are loyal friends or loving family they will give you an encouraging smile. Don't however mistake this for interest or an overwhelming curiosity so that you rush into breathlessly giving them a rapid taster of your work in progress.

I know for a fact that were I to announce 'I'm painting a picture' then a beam of approval would be forthcoming. 'How interesting, exciting, amazing, fulfilling' may be a few responses. A few more spring to mind. 'I'm having a baby', 'I'm renovating a house', 'I'm swimming the Channel, 'I'm having an affair'. See what I mean ? you're far more likely to engage me in further conversation. Everyone is writing a book, how can they not be ? everyone has a story to tell quite probably involving having a baby, renovating a house, swimming the Channel or some other amazing act, possibly slipping in an affair for good measure. And there you have it, wallop. A story.

And the main culprit as to why I don't write as many words as I would hope for in a day is distraction. A fly buzzing round the room can be a fascinating subject should I allow my eyes to wander and chart its progress. I know how many tiny crocuses are clustered on the lawn for example, I've watched the neighbours jolly yellow daffodil heads nodding in the wind and I know how marvellous the morning light looks on the sensuous hills opposite. I love the deepening shadows as the day draws to a close. I can be fascinated by wonky chimney pots with screeching seagulls on top, sloping roofs and solid chestnut trees as they arch upwards and wait patiently for the warm air of spring to blow over them.

So that when I am asked what I have been doing all day, as sometimes I am, I can reply quite truthfully that I have been watching. I have been quietly observing, reflecting and turning stuff over in my mind.

Because I don't know if I've told you this, but, I'm writing a book.

The End.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Sally's Lent.

 'Lent is traditionally described as lasting for forty days, in commemoration of the forty days which, according to the Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke Jesus spent, before beginning his public ministry fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by the Devil'

I made some rather scrumptious pancakes last night even though I say so myself, I tossed one quite high much to the amusement of the recipient.   Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday is of course the chance to feast and party before the beginning of the 40 days of Lent commences on Ash Wednesday. It is observed all over the world whether it be street parties in Trinidad,  Cajun Mardi Gras or dancing with the devil in Bolivia.  A time, (supposedly) when we 'give up' something that perhaps for the rest of the year we indulge in. A period in which to nurture your spiritual growth.

I tentatively asked a selection of people what they would be personally foregoing for 40 days. 'Nothing' they replied, 'what is the point'? 'Chocolate perhaps' I suggested. This was met with an indignant stare.  'What are you going without' they pointedly asked. I thought about this one quite carefully. 'Nothing' I replied as I thought back to times in the past when frankly my family and I had gone without more than most, things perhaps that people I know take purely for granted and I became secretly rather agitated. And there again there were times when we had had more than most so mine is a personal dilemma between abstaining for all the right reasons rather than because I am told to or feel I should.

I realised too that I was rather 'hazy' about Lent in general, too caught up in my own life and immediate surroundings to stop and ponder so I poked around a little on the Internet and found it was seething with conflict and drowning in a babble of nasty self opinionated voices by people seeking cheap publicity by denouncing other people's beliefs. There were also countless suggestions of what you could go without, but my favourite, and the one I am going to try and achieve is to give rather than go without something that is only beneficial to me.

I got through Day 1 easily, just another 39 to go then..... This will take both time and thought and won't be without a little effort which is what the point of the entire exercise is I guess.

Have faith in yourself and your abilities, take hold of the controls, steer your own course and be the master of the road ahead. Once you do this you will give to others without even realising it.

So far so good......


Monday, 9 February 2015

Walk to Broadchurch, Dorset.

My interest was immediately piqued when I saw this chap standing alone. There was something about the way he held himself, the casual aloofness, the confident manner as he nonchalantly ignored my presence even though I crept quite close to see if I could arouse his interest. Even though he was a mere cock, albeit a rather fine one,  I couldn't help but compare him to people that I know and to secretly admire his independence.

There is something suspicious, in my opinion, of people who cannot bear to be alone. Not the awfulness of and soul destroying feeling of loneliness. Indeed there is an achingly painful divide between feeling loneliness and contemplative solitude, but people relishing their own company and being content without the need of constant distraction and amusement have my admiration. 

I don my wellies and prepare for a muddy trek. Oh how I have missed my mud, the biting cold wind that cuts you to the quick, the starkness and brutality of the trees branches against the watery winter sky. But today is surprisingly gentle, snow drops bow their gentle heads in the surprisingly warm sunshine, crocuses wriggle their brightly coloured bodies out of the soft soil to join other delicate spring flowers in subtle shades of lemons, lilacs and dreamy creams.

I head for West Bay, otherwise now known as 'Broadchurch' after the popular TV series which will undoubtably bring even more people flocking down to the beautiful 'Jurassic Coast'. I have mixed feelings about West Bay. You have to look beyond the insensitive architecture, both past and recent, which sit alongside the unique and breathtaking sheer rockface. Bite a Crunchie bar in half and you have the honeycomb layers that tower over its beach.

 It's an odd mixture of wonky wooden chalets perched on the mouth of the River Brit as it flows down to the tiny working harbour, otherwise known as Bridport Harbour.  You have to elevate yourself above the pervading smell of fish and chips if they're not quite 'your thing'. There's a real knack to being a relative pauper and living like a king. If you can grasp this handy concept in life its a real bonus, so that the mundane becomes magical and the harsh truth is that no amount of money can buy you this gift.

I just possess it.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Brief Encounter

'Every picture tells a story,
however what you see,
is only a fraction of the tale..'

The prospect of being utterly naked for four whole days was alarming. Naked insofar as bereft and stripped of the familiar safety blanket of a mobile phone or Internet access. A self imposed 'digital detox' (particularly fashionable actually).   I was to travel 'north', well Leicestershire to be precise on a coach of all things ! It seemed rather a novelty and I do enjoy a lark.  The only alarming moment really if I am to be honest was when we were caught in the jaws of the notorious 'Spaghetti Junction' the interchange in Birmingham. Opened in 1972 it is actually an engineering masterpiece. The blanket of utter grey evening gloom that enveloped as far as the eye could see required that I transport myself somewhere else temporarily so I chose the Paris peripherique.  I then vaguely and quietly berated myself for being a fantasist instead of a realist.

Actually I quite enjoy being a fantasist, escaping from the real world into a land of nostalgia combined with thrills and a touch of personal pleasure. Faced with the frightening prospect of conjuring up a novel experience for a birthday treat I opted for a trip on a steam locomotive. I rather fancied it myself and secretly played scenes from 'Brief Encounter' where the thundering crescendo of Rachmaninoff's piano concerto No2 brutally and dramatically tears the lovers apart as they finally part snatching one last lingering glimpse through the steam....

But really, who can resist 'boys with their toys' ? Taking the controls of a living breathing steam engine and feeling the pressure mounting as you hurriedly shovel coal into the frighteningly hot hungry furnace and standing on the footplate is awesome. Mega tons of steel shudder into life alarmingly responsive to the merest touch. Feeling the utter thrill of another full sized steam train whistling past you in the other direction is indescribable as you thunder down the tracks the sharp January wind biting into you as you are open to natures elements.

Who would have thought that steam trains would be so surprisingly, breathtakingly sexy ?

And how did I fare on my self imposed 'digital detox' ? Four torturous days of non communications oblivious to the 'real world'

The answer lay in her knowing smile.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

New Year from Dorset

"Actually, I just woke up one day and decided I didn't want to feel like that anymore, or ever again. So I changed. Just like that"

And so begins another New Year, another page, another chapter, same book, totally different slant.  Au revoir to 2014 and the years that went before, the blessed relief is overwhelming.

It has to be said that the end of 2014 and the welcoming in of 2015 wasn't without its merits. I found I could laugh uncontrollably and not care whereas perhaps before I had been silenced, admonished, squashed, controlled. You can try and beat a person into submission but if they have a spirit you can never extinguish the flame.

But enough of reflections. There were beaches to be embraced, waves to dodge, circling squawking seagulls overhead to avoid, muddy paths and hills to clamber, gentle undulating unassuming views to quietly admire. A hidden church quickly enveloped by the dusk and approached by a single track with grass snaking down the middle gave pause for thought and contemplation. The fabulous depths of Dorset.

Fossil hunting beckoned one seductively sunny morning where an impressive selection of belemnites and ammonites was quickly amassed although I do admit to having an 'expert' to hand... I love the Dorset coast, I never tire of gazing endlessly into shallow pools of water, burrowing into the sand in the hope of unearthing another treasure.  A little pile of goodies were slowly being collected and a stab of contentment caught me unawares. But then I wasn't too surprised, I had subconsciously been dreaming of being back here for so long.

But I confess the highlight of New Year for me was the trip to Lyme Regis.  The harbour wall, known as "The Cobb", features in Jane Austen's novel Persuasion, and in The French Lieutenant's Woman, a novel by British writer John Fowles. On a calm sunny day people saunter and breathe in the tranquillity of this quaint unspoilt British seaside resort. Thousands of pairs of feet tentatively amble along the slightly sloping harbour wall. But New Years Day was different. Mother Nature was unleashing her passions, all her pent up fury relentlessly pounding against the helpless stone.  I could hardly stand up against the gale force winds, my legs threatening to buckle with exhaustion. I lost count of the times the powerful waves cascaded over the walls, the huge burst of spray emitting delighted groans, slightly terrified yet slightly in awe of its mesmeric hold.

2015 unleashed with all the power and passion of a New Year which was promising to be a roller coaster ride.   Not a safety harness in sight.

Bloody marvellous.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Thoughts from Charmouth Beach, Dorset.

Who are you spending Christmas with ? Where are you going for Christmas ? Two supposedly innocent questions heard so frequently in the air yet for some fraught with mixed emotions.  So many people travelling to people they don't love and cherish, too many people left alone to feel the pain of having no-one to care. Where's the goodwill ? the compassion ? the love ? It costs absolutely nothing to give any of those to a complete stranger and this is the time of year when you should. Focus on sharing, contemplate on giving rather than receiving. What you gain is something far greater than you can imagine.

As it creeps to the end of the year it's easy to remember and dwell on the darker moments of the past twelve months. Don't bother. View them from afar and learn from them to become stronger. Forgive those people who sought to undermine you and drag you down and celebrate new people who have entered your life and enriched your soul.

And spare a moment or two to remember fondly people you have lost or you can no longer easily embrace. They are with you.

What are you doing in my garden,
Is it you, I’m not quite sure,
Haven’t you heard,
I don’t live here anymore.

Is it the way you bend to admire the lilies,
Run your fingers along the wall,
Gaze upwards at the hollyhocks,
Standing so proud and tall.

I can tell by your posture,
And your gentle smile,
Tranquility surrounds you,
Although its been awhile.

I’m hovering quite quietly,
Over by the wrought iron gate,
I feel overjoyed to see you,
Although for you it is too late.

Soak up the beauty of my garden,
Feel my love within,
I’m sorry you didn’t come sooner,
Where would I begin ?

You look forlorn and lost now,
The flowers no longer hold you with their spell,
Stay awhile however,
On the past do not dwell.

Come back in the winter,
When the frost is all around,
The flowers have gently gone to sleep,
So peaceful, no sound.

What beckons you to my garden,
Do you sense me on the air,
Turn around now and smile at me,
Death is so untimely and unfair.

I can’t reach out to touch you,
Feel your breath upon my cheek,
Say all the things I felt for you,
For I cannot speak.

What are you doing in my garden,
I can no longer tell,
Is it that you are still captivated,
Bound fast by its spell ?                         ©sallytownsend

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Peace in Dorset

I wouldn't really know about any pre-Christmas shopping frenzies, bulging shops, crowded shopping malls, places where goods are stacked high and the very latest 'must have' gadgets gleam and sneer at you tantalisingly out of reach as you stand bewildered by it all.  The pushing, the shoving the noise of the piped jolly music assaulting you, people talking animatedly into their mobile phones droning on about inconsequential dross mainly.

Sure I popped into the local Farmers Market in the Arts Centre, all rather quaint with the rickety wooden floor, tested some home-made pork pies, took note of the locally caught fish, stared hard and longingly at the sugary whipped flirty meringues alongside the seductive, thick deep creamy yellow local clotted cream with the slightly crusty top. Not that I would say I was easily led astray or tempted... I hurried out before I was overcome with desire and indulged unduly without remorse.

It was one of those glorious winter days. A slight frost on the ground with a piercing blue sky where even the branches of the  trees look beguiling as the sun dances on their outstretched arms. We hopped from one foot to another on the muddy ground as we struggled with wellingtons for the walk to the peak of Golden Cap the highest point on the South coast of Britain affording panoramic views of the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. When I reached the top and stood stock still I listened to the sea greedily sucking in and spitting out the millions of tiny stones that tumbled on the steep ledges. I gave an involuntary shiver, someone had just walked over my grave as well they might, this place was laden with ghosts of the past.

Later on we sat and watched the sunset. Inside my head a list of all the things I wouldn't really mind finding under the tree were forming. As the huge golden orb sank slowly and peacefully my brain was filling up so fast it was fit to burst. The perfume, the exquisite jewellery, the highest count Egyptian cotton sheets, the sparkling home accessories, the silk, cashmere, velvet attire that would hang gracefully in my wardrobe, the exotic wanton underwear, the scent of the finest leather shoes, the vouchers for a quick 'nip and tuck' and some botox while we're about it. The image of my car burning unmercifully into my retina was the most painful or was it the last rays of the sun ?

A voice beside me cut into my thoughts. 'No amount of money in the world can buy a moment like this'

I shook my head resolutely as the images tumbled out into the cold air and dispersed into the wary shadows of the night and agreed.

Peace in Dorset.


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