Thursday, 29 March 2012

London again - parakeets, parks, Portobello, Picadilly and David Hockney

 The Curate and I have escaped from Devon again! We have been to London for more exploring. With a little more time than the last visit in November, we managed to walk from Tower Bridge along the Thames to Westminster,then to Picadilly and lunch in Chinatown. This was a continuation of the walk we made last time and we were determined to walk rather than take the tube. it is surprising how short the distances are when you are above ground! And we had to remember to look up - there is such a wealth of detail and history if you just remember to look up (but mind the lamp posts!)
The real highlight of our trip was seeing the David Hockney  exhibition at the Royal Academy. His paintings are of the changing landscapes of East Yorkshire but we saw similarities to the landscapes we know and enjoy. The sheer scale of his work is incredible - the vibrancy and vitality of the colours are stunning. His use of an ipad, instead of the traditional canvas, certainly challenges the conventional approach, as does his use of colour. I found it a very stimulating exhibition and everyone around us seemed to be smiling.

The Curate and I walked back to our apartment in the warm evening sun, stopping only at a deli to buy our supper. It was unseasonably warm . London is full of foreign students at the moment and when we stopped for a while in Trafalgar Square, we were surrounded by a cacophony of languages. By the time we reached home, we both felt that all our senses had been totally saturated.

How do you follow a day like that? For us it was with a walk through Notting Hill to Portobello Road Market. Although it was not a proper market day there were a few interesting stalls and we enjoyed exploring a part of London neither of us knew. The rest of the day was spent people and parakeet watching in Kensington Park. We were fascinated by the parakeets that have settled in London - and, as a non-native species, they are not always welcome. But they looked so exotic as they darted amongst newly budding horse chestnut trees  - you don't get them in Devon......yet!  
(And the sky really was that blue!)                                            


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Saturday walk - Crazy Well pool

Our walk on Saturday followed yet more ancient crosses and took us to Crazywell Pool on Dartmoor. It's that time of year again when I start to think about swimming spots and I am always on the look out for suitable places for a dip. Crazy well pool looks inviting but there are strange and unhappy stories associated with it. I did not think this was a place I will be swimmming in in a hurry.
The Collie was not worried by the history and tested the waters on what was a unseasonably warm Saturday. Despite the warmth, he was determined to dry himself with a good run. It is great to have so much space to explore!
And then we see them... an army of walkers training for the Ten Tors Challenge that happens in May. Over two thousand young people will be taking part this year. Both our sons have completed the Bronze, Silver and Gold Challenges and they  became familiar with the moor through taking part. It was the end of a perfect training day for these young people and they were making for camp. Everywhere we looked they seemed to be heading towards us! Time to go home!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

British Summer Time

The clocks jumped forward one hour today - so we will begin to have the lighter evenings, the longer days and time to get out enjoy our surroundings. I'm not sure about summer but it is certainly looking very springlike at the moment.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The process of discernment - 31 hours on the Isle of Man

What next? This must be the question all curates have to ask as they approach the end of their curacy. What direction should they go? What route should they follow? Where does God want them to serve? And these are the questions The Curate and I have been asking ourselves over the last forty eight hours. I just hope I feel 'called' to the same place as The Curate!

We have spent the last 31 hours on the Isle Of Man with a group of people with varying anglican experiences, exploring the possibilities for ministry .  It was amazing! The warmth of welcome, the hospitality, the scenery and the variety of churches we visited was incredible.
I have never been to the Isle of Man before. I knew it to be famous for the TT motorbike racing and that it was located somewhere in the sea between Liverpool and Belfast! The Curate had called into Douglas on several occasions while serving in the Royal Navy. He recalls it for a particularly infamous event between seawalls and boats which I will not embarrass anyone by retelling here. The Curate had been invited to explore ministry in the Diocese of Sodor and Man. It was not somewhere we had been considering but as we researched the Island, we both felt  that we needed to explore further. The rural parishes, the proximity of the sea and the vision of the Diocese for the future, all seemed a little too exciting to ignore - despite the location of being 'up North'!

Living 'down south' meant that we had to fly to the Isle of Man. For those of you who questioned whether there really is an airport at Gloucester - I can assure you there is (and it has free parking).  It must have one of the fastest, friendliest check-ins in the UK, we were boarding the plane within 40 minutes of arriving. The flight took about 45 minutes, the skies were clear  and  the views spectacular.

And so the process of discernment began. While The Curate engaged with everyone, I suddenly understood that I really was a curate's wife. I was surrounded with a variety of vicars and spouses. I visited numerous churches. I listened to discussions on churchmanship, congregation numbers, faculties and liturgy. I tried to imagine living in the vicarages we were shown. I tried to engage in the vision for the parishes and with the members of the various churches we visited.

What churches! What coffee and cakes! What countryside! The Curate and I were very impressed and excited by so much of  what we saw. The  rural churches were particularly memorable and stirring - maybe this was because of their simplicity or because they were such ancient Christian sites. We saw collections of ancient celtic stone crosses, I learned about keeills which were very ancient Christian chapels. I was reminded of the stone crosses and ancient sites that we pass on our walks on Dartmoor. In fact much of the Isle of Man reminded me of Devon and it felt unexpectedly comfortable.
Come unto Me and I will give you rest.
remains of a keeill
superb coastlines
We attended evening prayer in a rural setting and morning prayer in more urban surroundings. We were driven over the mountain road and enjoyed the far reaching views across the island. We drove the roads that made up parts of the TT course and heard how the island was transformed by the vast number of visitors that come to see the racing. We visited The Sound, watched the seals and looked across to The Calf of Man. We saw so much and have so much to think about.

 Island living offers different experiences and The Lord Bishop and Archdeacon were keen that everyone appreciated how separation from 'the other coast' might cause island fever! Bad weather could mean we couldn't race back for a family emergency. Bad weather could mean that some supplies on the Island could run short at times (stock up on toilet paper!).

We flew from the Isle of Man with so many thoughts turning over in our minds. We flew over the sunlit evening clouds trying to make sense of all we had seen and our feelings about this unexpected experience. Is this a door that The Curate should push open a little further? Or have we been reminded that we live in a very beautiful place already?

Friday, 16 March 2012

Moretonhamstead Festival of Food, Drink and Arts 2012


Last weekend The Curate and I  visited the Spring fair in the moorland town of Moretonhamstead. After the winter,  the fair heralded Spring with a celebration of food, drink and the arts. The town was buzzing with visitors, live music and market stalls which were selling a wide variety of Devon food and drink. The art trail around the town gave us the opportunity to see the work of local artists. We were fascinated by this ancient forge behind one of the cottages - I wonder how many years this workshop has been in use.
 We passed these ornate railings on the way into the village - the mouse was at one end and the bird at the other. I loved these unexpected details.

The Bookshop
This is the first time I have seen decorative flags used to decorate the streets. Each flag represented a different aspect of the community life of Moretonhamstead and they had been made by the residents, as part of a community project. These type of projects and fairs are so important for bringing rural communities together. 

It was interesting to see the church being used as a central venue for an art display and musical events. It caused me to do some serious thinking.......but more of that on another blog!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Friday walk - under grey skies we fail to make the falls.

Crossing a miniature clapper bridge.
The Curate and I set off for our walk rather late in the day. The skies were grey and there was little sign of the spring weather that  the weathermen had be talking about. We drove to Postbridge which is famous for its clapper bridge. This type of bridge is unique to Dartmoor and is constructed from granite slabs that straddle the river. They were constructed in the 13th and 14th century by the local tin workers and farmers.  Our walk took us beside the East Dart river and then onto the open moor. This involved crossing the leats and streams that fed into the main river. The Collie would rather wade through the stream rather than cross a bridge but we do get him to use the bridges if we can. 

There was nothing springlike about our walk  - which was a little disappointing. I guess this is because we are so much higher. The colours of the moor make it look a desert at the moment. The grass is still dead and has not started to recover from being covered by the snow blanket. The bilberry bushes and the heather are brown and show little sign of wanting to wake up. Only the occasional gorse bush shone out from the muted moorland colours. 

As we headed out onto the moor we saw that every gate and stile had signs to remind dog owners to keep their dogs under control (1st March -31st July).  There are plenty of lambs lower down on the moor and we have seen the result of dogs chasing and attacking sheep. It is not pleasant. 

The notices reminded us that it will also soon be the bird breeding season on Dartmoor. Skylarks, meadow pipits, curlews and lapwings are just a few of the ground nesting birds that breed on Dartmoor and so we take care to keep The Collie and The Lakeland under control.

We passed the bank of tall  beech trees growing out of the wall. Beech hedges are planted on top of walls today but they are not usually left to grow into a majestic  line of trees like these.

I resorted to using the 'art' setting on my camera because it really was such a drab day especially as the light was fading as well. While this setting brightens up the day it also emphasises the strength of the stone walls  and the bare branches.  

 The path was very boggy in sections.
 and not much fun to walk. We met some delightfully fluffy sheep - I don't know what breed they were but they watched us struggle through the mud with much amusement I think.
The rest of the walk was uneventful  and not as interesting as other walks we have done. We were following the Dart up river and we had intended spotting secret swimming spots for later in the year. We soon realised that this must be an over walked path and any swimming spots would not be very secret! We were aiming for the East Dart waterfall but we decided to turn back as the Lakeland was tiring and the light was fading. 

This is a walk for another day.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

An extrordinary school day.

The look on their faces as they stepped through my classroom door on Monday morning reminded me of why I trained to be a teacher. The group I was working with were quite familiar with my room - but Monday was no ordinary day. As the children reached my door (flanked by two potted rosemary bushes and along a star lined corridor) they began to slow down and seemed to move in slow motion. I was aiming for a multi-sensory experience and air was perfumed with lavender and my hyacinth bulbs that had just come into bloom. This mix made a sweet, slightly unfamiliar  perfume and the air was filled with bird song (from  a CD of the dawn chorus). The usually busy notice boards had been covered in white sheets and the busy shelving had also been draped with plants and unusual fabric. Each work table had a dish of tea lights which were battery operated ( the children soon associated this with turning on and off their creative light) and the blinds were half down. That two minutes of stunned amazement was brilliant!
The children knew it was no ordinary day as the whole school was going to be writing ......all day! This was the first time my present school had tackled a 'creative writing day'. Our stimulus for this day was the book 'Once Upon An Ordinary School Day' by Colin McNaughton and Satoshi Kitamura 
It is a wonderfully creative book which allowed us to explore what 'ordinary' and 'extraordinary' might mean. One day the ordinary boy who had a very ordinary life, was encouraged to draw pictures as an unusual new teacher played music to his class. But our children didn't know that, we only read to the point where 'something out of the ordinary happened'.  That was where their imagination was allowed to take off. Each year group explored the story in their own way. Even some of the teaching staff started the day in dark clothing and gradually became more and more extraordinary as the day progressed, either by adding brighter colours bit by bit or turning into a pirate! I started with one red and one black shoe which puzzled the children when they noticed! Brighter colours came later.
When writing was finished, the children heard the rest of the story and one class danced to the music, having dipped their feet in paint. (full marks to a courageous member of staff). This class now has a wonderful backdrop for their notice board.
Stories were written and pictures created. There was definitely a buzz about the place. I love this sort of teaching and having had some inspiring primary teachers myself, I know it is what drew me into teaching.  Now I do more individual teaching and I do miss these classroom opportunities. The first time for a new venture is always challenging but I hope we do it again. And I was so pleased when the children in my group told me how much they had enjoyed it  - and also a mother who said that their child had come home buzzing. 
This is what education should be about - lighting a few fires!

Friday, 2 March 2012

While the curate's away..........

While the cat's away, the mice do play!
The Curate's away for a training weekend - he went about an hour ago and already the Collie is sulking. I don't think he appreciates a weekend with 'the girls' (The Lakeland and myself). I am actually looking forward to a bit of space and my own time management. One of the things I am still getting use to is having The Curate coming in and out of the house all the time and working from home. Having been a part time worker or at home with the children while The other half was away at sea or going out to work, I am used to my own company. I enjoyed being able to spread a project over the kitchen table and leaving it there for the day undisturbed. Nowadays I usually have to clear The Curate's books and laptop off the table as he has taken to using it because his study is so cold ( a converted garage). So I am going to make the most of this weekend and the space!
I resented these weekends when we were living apart during the week last year -  but now I appreciate a little space as we are rather squeezed into this house. I had to persuade The Curate that he did not need to come home each night ( he is 8 miles down the road!) and that I could manage. I am looking forward to spending some time catching up on the great blogs I follow (recently neglected by me), watching some of the TV we have missed on iplayer (weekdays are too hectic) and having some quiet reflection time. Quiet time seems almost impossible at the moment and I know I need to still my mind as life is very busy at the moment. 
For now - I'm off to the 24 hour supermarket to get the dog food as we have run out (and stock up on some bath smellies, some tasty snacks and Chocolate magazine). I need to be back before The Curate rings home to check up on me!