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In Praise of Goodness

September 17, 2017

We can all laud, lament, wallow and sizzle in the nastiness, the rats, the rot, the deceitful selfish unfairness that humanity creates and fuels*. The glorious joys that warm our world are all too often contemptuously ignored in our familiar routine race to our daily desires.

Joy to the world, the breath we breathe, an amazing thing, gives us opportunity to be, to receive, and to give.

Two of my favourite ideas; one from Wallace Stevens “the interaction between things is what makes things fecund”, and from Ezra Bayda “What happens when we slow down and pay attention? Everything! Innumerable delights are right at hand.”

Occasionally I feel the need to sing. To breathe in the largest helping of the essence of life and exhale…

A friend (EL), reminded me recently; In our endeavours, we blossom and flourish, and wither and perish; but nought changeth the immortal, invisible, wise, inaccessible, blessed, glorious, ancient, almighty, victorious, great, unresting, unhasting, and silent as light … fountains of goodness and love.

The gut-grafting, heart-healing, womb-warming, brilliance is ever present, a clenched fist must be opened to receive it, a simple gift. Yet, so often our culture smothers life with needs, wants, synthetic pretence, and all manner of nonsense dressed up as beauty.

In praise of Goodness;

The enthusiasm of youth.
The companionship of friends.
The hope of rescue.
The promise of pregnancy.
The bounty of sharing.
The healing of laughter.
The surprise of ingenuity.
The colour of spring.
The warmth of soup.
The wisdom of the old.
The options of the alternative.
The wishes of the brave.
The power of honesty.

Always simple and never easy. But, good is good, sing and shout it. Celebrate, just a little.

*Don’t let the b.stewards of doom get you down.

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Save £585 a year?

September 9, 2017

Ahead of #cycletoworkday this year, I thought I’d just look at some figures, as I’ve biked ~3700miles commuting over the last year.

Below is an update to my 2011 ‘Commute’ costs post.

Current 2017 fuel costs:
Driving ~9.6 miles @ 7.5mpl, £1.18p/litre, costs £1.51 each way, that’s £15.10/week.

You can read about a previous bus, car, bike experience and costs here: Commute

So simply on fuel, I’m saving us ~£15/week.
That’s 39 weeks x £15 = £585/year.

Yes, I know I’m lucky to be able to ride a bike to work, yes there are some jobs where it’s not possible, but there are a lot of jobs where IT IS POSSIBLE!  You may recall, when it was initially suggested that I could cycle to work once a week, my response was ‘never in a month of Sundays!‘ – it was seriously not an option!  The idea was simply crazy!

(i) I’d get wet and cold and be a gibbering wreck when I got to work.
(ii) I really don’t fancy the ride home after a day at work.
(iii) It’s too far.
(iv) It would take too long.
(v) The traffic would be a nightmare.
(vi) I like my podcasts in the car.
(vii)…

After a few months and a transition to cycling daily, I found…
(i) Buzzing! and ‘up for it’ when I get to work. (The weather is not an issue if the right clothing’s worn, and inclement weather is much less frequent than you think!).
(ii) Take it from me, surprisingly the ride home is a great tonic!
(iii) It’s not as far as you think.
(iv) At an average rush-hour, by bike’s not much more than by car.
(v) Don’t be part of the traffic!
(vi) Radio* in one ear on the bike is fine (low volume). and ride off-road where possible.  (*BBCRadio3 AM, BBCRadio6 PM)
(vii) …

It’s taken me years to rediscover, there’s a lot to unlearn, perspectives change and the world becomes quite a different place.

I am not a follower of the sport of cycling, worthy though it is. Just as an average driver is probably not a follower of Rallying or Formula 1, exciting though they are. I am not a lycra lover. I don’t (anymore) try to beat my time! I don’t think you should have to “dress like a cyclist” to ride a bike – practical ‘normal’ clothes can be found to suit most purposes. It’s just riding a bike to get from a to b.

The simple act of riding a bike is good for so many reasons – personally, socially, mentally, physically, community, interaction, pace, progress, ambition… all can be fed by a new way (an old way) of experiencing things.

Perhaps think again, and perhaps cycle again?

Read my previous Celebration of Cycling post here.

You can see my bike related posts here: bike

Butternut Squash Soup…

September 3, 2017
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We were recently given a whopper of a butternut squash by a friend with an allotment. Thanks H.

And so to add to our store of Green Bean Soup, we now have 5 packs of BNS soup in the freezer, (as well as roast BNS with our roast today).

And so for our take on BNS Soup:

  • 1 large BNS.
  • 2 Onions
  • A helping of lazy Garlic (to your taste)
  • A teaspoon of lazy Chillies.
  • 1.5 litres of veg stock

 

  1. Peel and chop the BNS (see here), drizzle with oil & seasoning, and roast for 20-30mins (to your liking). We also roasted some carrots that we had left in the bottom of the veg tray! Add what you wish!
  2. Fry the onions, and add the garlic and chillies.
  3. Add the veg stock and the roasted veg and simmer for 20-30mins.
  4. Allow to cool a tad, and then wizz with a blender to your desired consistency. It will blend to a thick saucy soup. To serve, you may wish to dilute the mixture with hot water to your liking
  5. Eat a portion or two, with some crusty bread and real butter! Nice!
  6. Cool and freeze the rest! Ready for the cooler months approaching.

Happy Autumn!   Other recipes here ‘Recipes’

A walk around Goscote…

August 28, 2017

You may have seen some of the walks we’ve posted before here: ‘walks’.  Unlike the other walks, if you live in Goscote, this involves no car.

We tend to say, there’s no nice walk around Goscote, you need to drive somewhere, but actually, there is.

Below is a simple 7 miler, that circles around Wreake Valley School pass by The Gate Hangs Well pub (after a swift half) , up the River Wreake pass the Beedles Lake Golf Course, skirt Ratcliffe on the Wreake, pass Reasby Mill Cottage, through Reasby (another swift half), and back through Goscote.

You can cut it short if you use Broome Lane to cut off the Rearsby/Ratcliffe bit if you want.

Yes, there are a few cow and sheep fields, there will be mud if it’s been raining and at the height of growth there may be some nettles to pass by, but that’s all part of walking in the great out doors I guess.

Happy walking!

 

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Another walk we extended recently is below. This one’s about 8 miles, and circles from Barrow-upon-Soar, along the Rover Soar, through Mountsorrel, around Buddon Wood Quarry, skirting Swithland Reservoir, through Quorn and back to Barrow.

Both of these walks are right on our doorstep (for those who live here) and have some beautiful aspects. You will never find them if you don’t venture forth.

Like reading, fresh air and ‘the natural’ can be good for you. Search wild, nature…

NaturePrescript

Check out http://www.viewranger.com/en-gb# if where there’s a load of free tracks already checked and mapped.

The Library Angel?

August 19, 2017

I’m not a big reader, and I can’t pretend to know much about literature, or the intricacies and artistry of the English language. I am a Cornishman, and schooled in a Grange Hill fashion during the 1980s my CSE in English Language was perhaps achieved against the odds. My Degree in Creative Arts was also achieved without mastery of the English language.

Despite the above, I and many others can appreciate a good story and a good book.

I remember as a boy encountering the phenomenon of ‘the library angel’. The idea that, seemingly without direction, one might encounter the right book at the right time. You might wonder the shelves of the local library not knowing what might pique your interest. Without ambition or reason, a book would be seen, picked up, often at a moment of resignation. There’s probably a dozen or so times this has happened to me, where the said book turns out to be an illumination, a stimulation, a joy and an energising tonic!   Of course, there’s no real mystery in ‘the library angel’, one seeks, one decides to venture down a certain aisle, one chooses to look at a certain shelf, and one picks up the stimulating title. Or does one?

Although I am not a big reader, I have enjoyed numerous good reads at different stages of my life to-date. From frippery like the Jonasson’s ‘The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared’, through Stewart’s optimistic ‘Driving Over Lemons’, to my hallucinatory reading of Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’.

Before this year’s holiday, I had no idea what book I might take away. A ten minutes meander in the library was fruitless but at last minute I saw the ‘Classics’ display stand, and after a spin, I picked up Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’. Heaven knows why.

WOW! What a journey. It’s a captivating read. My mind lived the journey, smells, colours, grief, joy… Steinbeck really demonstrates the story’s world descriptively painting sensational scenes, events, emotions, and ideas. I can’t give you an analysis except to say what a powerful read. “Man’s inhumanity to man”, “a story of human unity and love as well as the need for cooperative rather than individualistic ideals during hard times.” To quote SparkNotes “Mournful, awed, enraged, sympathetic”. Thanks Leicestershire Libraries!

And so, as one thing leads to another, on returning from my holiday, we find in the library Steinbeck’s ‘East of Eden’. Another great read! Quite a different experience to GOW. But again, a sensational read. To quote Sparknotes; “The perpetual contest between good and evil”, “Philosophical; foreboding; nostalgic; hopeful”.

Those two experiences left me quite saturated; with images, feelings, thoughts, fears, and hopes … 

And so I turned to the library and books again for some lighter relief.  No ‘library angel’ this time, but I did meet a neighbor in the library and she offered a casual suggestion. The blurb quotes “Non-stop action – this book delivers”.  At first sight, I thought hum ‘pop literature’, not sure if I fancied spending time on the literary equivalent of Gillette’s ‘a best a man can get’.  But, like much good pop culture, it was a feast for the senses. Great fun. So much so that after ‘The Sacred Sword’ I am now reading ‘The Armada Legacy’.  James Bond meets Jason Bourne, with a historical twist.

Books, stories, what might we be without them? Libraries, free public libraries, what might we be without them?

Reading is good for you.

Whether we are looking for education or entertainment, or a bit of both, the public library offers possibilities for discovery and personal growth. The loss of good public libraries would indeed be steps away from discovery and against the idea of free personal growth.
Reading helps; reduce stress, keep the brain in shape, educate, entertain, stimulate, boost empathy.
Reading fiction can simulate real-world problems and therefore has real consequences for the reader. Reading helps to engage mental skills at the same time as stimulating enjoyment, self-confidence, motivation and a sense of achievement.

©julesprichards

What have you been reading? Dare you tell?

 

Paradise…

July 30, 2017
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I wonder if anyone’s checked TripAdvisor for posts about paradise?

While holidaying in Greece recently, modern metics meandering, we approached a very secluded aquamarine bay with white sand and clear waters, and my 10-year-old daughter proclaimed “that’s paradise that is”.  It was indeed a great trip. On the surface of it, as well as deeply ingrained, the Greek vibe is chilled yet warm, rich and simply welcoming.

But, as the 14th C. poet John Lydgate realised “You can’t please everyone all of the time” – of course this is still true. Going by TripAdvisor it seems some people might never be satisfied. Are you?

“Taste is the enemy of art”, oft quoted by many an art student. But perhaps taste, or preference, is a hindrance when it comes to a shared utopia?

Our wisdom, our preference, our expectations, our wants… We all have different ideas of what is ideal. The Greek Plato, realised “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” I think the word ideal comes from the Latin idealis “existing in idea”, therefore, perhaps a common ideal is not achievable in a sharable way.

But back to our paradise…

One person’s heaven is another person’s hell.

Our opinions, habits, prejudice and other survival mechanisms can get in the way of knowing paradise on earth.

Alexia from Ghana has been Greek island-hopping for 6 years, she braids wrist bands for the tourists as she recites popular Bob Marley lyrics “rise up this mornin’, smiled at the rising sun”… she has a certain bonhomie but I sensed her mind was elsewhere.

Our fervently friendly municipal bus conductor Katrina tells the passengers “we’ve only one life, best be happy now”, and indeed she did exude happy everytime we saw her.

Our barman Spyros is originally from Athens. “The city’s ok for the young” he says, but he’s “happier now on the coast, where it’s easier”.

The mysterious mountains of Albania morph colours with the light like a giant chameleon lazing across the hazy strait. There are super-yachts the size of planets moored in the millpond sea just out of reach of the port, where old wooden vessels, wizened and lost, rust and decay amid big brand tourist fodder and small brand tourist tat.

Spyros serves us a Blue Lagoon and a Roda Garden Sunset, gin, and brandy cocktails. The beach is 10 meters from the door and the sea’s warmer than the pool.  It’s 3pm, 35 degrees, and the sun is scorching the lizard’s tail as it scuttles behind a cactus.   Cicadas buzz in a never-ending chorus, but the frequency of the sea’s waves is so low, even Eirene herself might fall off her peaceful perch… The Tower of Bable does seem to have fallen, around us a hum of multiple languages create an odd sense of freedom, (nobody mention a brexit).

Despite all this, we still reach for home, creature comforts, our own beds, familiar flavours and totems…

I guess we may need to acclimatise to paradise if we ever get there. Three little birds might make an awful din!

Having said all that, we did have a great Greek holiday.

It’s not all about the performance…

July 16, 2017

It’s not all about the performance…

It’s about the act of singing, together.”Global Harmony” from Melton Mowbray.

Yes, at the end of each term we perform a concert and it’s always a very enjoyable event. Recently we had a great time (and the audience did too we trust) at Harlaxton Church in Lincolnshire, helping to raise funds for the community’s church. The church was full and the atmosphere was great.

However, I think it’s worth remembering that it’s not all about a performance.

Singing with these fine folk is a privilege. It’s not all about the performance, it’s about the act of singing, together. The whole thing’s bigger than the sum of its parts.

We don’t often get a chance to see film of us singing… but here are a few candid recordings of what we do…

As well as a 40-70 strong choir, us blokes get together when we can and try our hand at ‘things’.  There’s often 8-10 of us but in this instance, it was a challenge as there were only 4 of us available, one on each part – not much room for wobble. But, T, M and D did a great job here, and I think I just kept it together.

This song’s called ‘Kroz Planine’ (Through the Mountains). It’s a Croatian folk song that translates something like this:

Through the mountains and hills, I will spend my youth time, I will ask the cold stone if he has seen my lovely girl, Cold stone says to me: – there is you lovely girl, I go to my lovely girl and kiss her black eyes…  #ahappysong.

I have said before… “Singing, making a noise… what’s it all about… expression?
Have you ever overheard someone singing their own song as they casually walked down the street?
Compare this with the routine recitation of a prescribed composition. The true expression of a feeling, often with a subconscious root, is what it’s about, I think. Rather than trying too hard to tick all the right boxes – just let it out? Relax and express yourself… words, sounds, notes and Musical Direction* are a great help.

Essentially, on a Monday night in Melton, Global Harmony just sing for pleasure, with no specific pressure to “perfect it”. OK, yes, there is gentle pressure to polish off a few rough edges and remember to ‘listen’ so that we’re realise we’re part of a bigger whole, but first let’s just pull the treasure from the ground, polishing the diamond is an ongoing affair.  Our *Musical Director Liz takes us all over the world with a variety of cultures, languages, and rhythms. Liz’s encouragement and enthusiasm is infectious and we are privileged to benefit from her dedication.

If you’re interested, there’s more here: ‘good old sing’ 

You can see some clips of the Choir’s smaller group ‘Close Harmony’ here:

If you fancy joining Global Harmony give it a go! The main choir can be found here: www.globalharmony.org.uk