Back to the Forgotten Way of Life..

It was a beautiful day here at Dove Lane yesterday. A perfect winter’s day with clear blue sky and not a breath of wind. The freezing air brought a crispness to the leaves bejeweled with frost that crunched under my feet,and as a big golden sun just topped the fir trees, it was the sort of day that reminded me a  magical Christmas could be just around the corner.

Thinking about Christmas drawing closer, I was prompted to wrap up warmly and head off to the shopping centre to start some Christmas shopping. ‘Himself’ had gone fishing with his oldest friend who was over from Canada and was therefore well occupied, so I was ready to devote some hours to serious shopping.

Driving along with the radio on I listened to the news and to a report on the situation in war torn Syria, I listened to the  very sobering news of people in Aleppo walking over the rubble of damaged buildings, while carrying their belongings. Around twenty thousand have fled their homes just over the past 72 hours. Many more thousands left before. Some people live in shelters, some in mosques, schools or tents, while others find refuge in damaged buildings. The majority of those who flee are families, many with infants and young children. How can they cope in flimsy shelters; their situations made worse for all as winter takes hold and temperatures drop?

I feel ashamed to think I have been a bit stressed over an imminent house move; bickering has broken out with some of the people in our housing chain who want to get on with things. This move is a chosen one with excitement and promise for the future. It has not been forced upon us in dire circumstances. Whatever happens, the situation is not dangerous or life threatening.

But for some, the implications of fleeing home are immense. It’s not just a matter of picking up a few things and leaving. There is a huge knock-on effect. Apart from leaving the familiarity of home, when sometimes it is all they have ever known, all their security, their haven, is gone. All they have left is a few belongings. I can only pray these innocent people, caught in the ugly crossfire of war, can be guaranteed a safe passage, and access to food and water, and medical care if they need it.

I saw a picture of children as young as six playing together amongst the destruction in Aleppo, with beaming smiles on their faces as they looked at the camera. Children are our future, the future of the world, and whatever their race and wherever they come from, they need a safe place to live; to learn and grow, and most of all, play without fear.

By the time I had parked in the busy town car park, I was in much more of a thoughtful mood. I listened to the cheerful Christmas music blaring out in every shop and looked at the shops loaded with luxury goods of all descriptions and wondered about all the commercialism, and how it is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of the festive season. Do we lose sight of what is really important when we rush around trying to tick everything off our shopping list? The paradox is this: we get stressed at Christmas because we want to please everyone, and yet we would probably please them more if we reverted to the more simple ways of doing things.  I still did my shopping; of course I want my loved ones to have a good Christmas, but I was more mindful of treading lightly with my thoughts, being considerate, and realising that everything gets done in time.

It is always easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles. To look back at a time when life was simpler, and there was no online shopping, no permanent bombardment of advertisements tempting us to buy things we don’t really need, and we didn’t spend a fortune on gourmet foods with exotic names,( because we hadn’t heard of them and didn’t know we needed them).

But maybe sometimes it is good to stop and think about what we really need to be happy. And to think about those people who are just trying to survive.

You can donate to help a child in Syria at http://www.savethechildren.org or call 0800 8148 148

Every amount, no matter how small, will make a difference.

I’ve just been listening to people talking about having arguments at Christmas; how to keep the relatives happy and how can they make time for themselves. Every year it happens and yet the year rolls around and we forget about last years trials and tribulations and start the whole process again. Maybe this year things could be different!

In these frantic weeks before Christmas I wish you peace and love and the power to make a difference in whatever small and positive way you can.

Blessing to you.

Flags of Peace

I wish that I had special powers

And could turn everything around

So we could change the way we look at things,

And keep our feet upon the ground.

To ask the floating clouds above,

To spill the gentle rain,

To water the dry and barren land

And make it green again.

And could I harness the force of the wind,

Calm the raging sea,

Reign over nature’s wayward mind,

And let it quietly be?

For every child in every land,

There would be food enough to eat,

Arms stretched out to hold them tight,

And shelter from the heat.

And the warmest blanket

In the coldest night;

Comfort from a stranger;

And a candle burning bright.

And what if I could ask the world,

To find the path to peace,

With every country’s ‘flag unfurled

As all the wars have ceased?

But if I cannot change the world,

I can bend when the storm appears,

Do great things in smaller ways,

To dry another’s tears.

For I alone cannot decide

The way the world should be,

And I cannot begin to know

What there is still to see.

                            (C) Lyn Halvorsen

 

 

An Angel by the Table..

Do you ever have a day when you want to be with good friends and share a welcome cup of hot chocolate?

On this quiet November day, I started thinking again about a cafe dear to my heart. A few years ago, I published my first novel ‘Tea at Raphael’s.’

Here is a short resume:

Hello. My name is Mary Kindly.

Many years ago I was guided by new friends to open a café in the town of Starbridge, in the West Country. Situated in Dove Lane, a pretty, narrow street not more than twelve feet wide, the café was called Raphael’s and became a meeting place not just for those needing food and drink, though there was more than enough delicious food on offer, but for anyone seeking friendship and comfort.

With the help and divine intervention of my friends Gabriel and Raphael all things were possible at Raphael’s café. I soon learned not to fret about running a business that was entirely new to me for I found help and guidance at every turn. From the beautiful cook, Grace, who always left a trail of vanilla behind her, to the kind and helpful Michael and Ariel, we were a group like no other.

As the sun set each night, I would retire to my attic bedroom above the café and look out across the rooftops. Often I would see Gabriel’s figure looking out from his own window a few streets away and could sense rather than see, the serenity in his being.

As time passed, many people from all walks of life passed through the doors of Raphael’s. I like to think we played a part in the healing and rebuilding of some of the lives of the customers; sometimes the most difficult of days were helped by the simplest of actions: a free sandwich placed without fuss in front of someone we knew had fallen on hard times; an introduction to a new friend for someone looking lonely or a chance to help in the kitchen for someone in need of work.

Sometimes we would go out to help people in the community who were struggling and we met many new friends this way.

Time and time again we found that ‘Raphael’s seemed to provide a haven just when someone needed it.

Before long I realised that my friends Raphael and Gabriel and their band of helpers couldn’t stay with me forever; once they knew Raphael’s café was in safe hands they had to be on their way and carry on their work wherever they were needed. But as the cold, chill winds of winter blew down Dove Lane I felt bereft as my friends prepared to leave.

‘I suppose you can’t tell me where you are going?’ I asked Gabriel.

‘I can’t Mary, but I promise you, you will never be alone. I love you and my love will always be with you. Always have faith and believe in all that is good in the world.’

The day they left, the doves that were perched on the ledge outside my window looked down at me unperturbed.

As I looked up, I saw a large white feather float down and settle by my feet.

I hope you find a peaceful haven today.

‘Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for in doing so some have entertained Angels unawares.’       Hebrews 13:2

Blessings to you.

local-author-with-picture

My book ‘Tea at Raphael’s is available at Amazon.co.uk

Kindness and a Cornish Pasty…

Do you ever have a week when all the positive vibes and thinking deserts you? When you ‘sweat the small stuff’ even though you know it’s not helping anything at all, and what you are bothered about today won’t even matter in years to come.

I’m working on a book for a friend at the moment – it’s a book about being true to yourself, following a positive path and changing the way we look at things. It’s going to be a great book and I’ve already learned a lot from working on it. Every time I re-read a chapter I think ‘wow’ that’s good advice! So why do I falter some days? Just as I get my head into gear I hear some sad news or another depressing health statistic and feel my shoulders slump and the old negative questions start to re-surface.

I went to a lovely wedding at the weekend and saw my goddaughter re-affirm her wedding vows. It was such a happy day and we connected again with a lot of old friends. One of the friends said in passing that she wished that she handled life as I did – she thought nothing ever really fazed me and had never seen me look as though I couldn’t cope. It is interesting how others see us. My friend had no idea that I have had dark days; days when just getting out of bed is a struggle. I admit that I always try and put on a brave face – it’s just the way I am, and I guess putting up a front is a coping mechanism for me, but just like the swan, it doesn’t stop me paddling my feet like crazy underneath the water!

Sometimes no matter how hard we try to be positive life just sucks. Sometimes we just need to admit that to ourselves. Sometimes we do need to give in, even if for just a short time. We  feel sad for people that are struggling. Today my dad told me about a friend of a friend who is undergoing chemotherapy for the third time and may not recover. She was just concerned that her family would have Christmas presents, worrying about her loved one’s more than herself. My heart went out to her and everyone is similar situations. In fact I wept for her. It just isn’t fair.

What do we do when we have a bad day; when we want a bit of comfort and cheer? Alcohol is bad for us, sugar is bad for us too now. Of course we want to stick to a healthy lifestyle most of the time but there are times when only a good glass of wine or a chunk of rich chocolate cake will do. It will not harm us now and again. and even if it does I am willing to risk it!

We have a house move looming and the form filling is more than tedious. Demands come from all quarters. Money goes flying out of the door as everyone takes their share for services rendered. One thing is for sure – I NOT MOVING AGAIN! ( At least not until the next perfect house comes along). As I looked at my poor husband making yet another call to sort out an irritating demand, his hair standing on end, I collapsed into laughter. We had let ourselves get dragged into the mire of pointless stress. We needed to lighten up as really everything will be sorted. We are lucky to be in the minority of the human race. We have a roof over our head and are looking for a bigger one. We have a choice. We should be thanking our lucky stars!

I’m thinking of kindness too, today and how being kind really makes a difference to someone’s day and I know a small act of kindness can really help make a difference when the skies are grey. We never know what anyone may be going through when we rush past them lost in our own world. I want to remind myself to take time out of a busy day and check on my friend who’s feeling low. A good point to remember too, is that people don’t always want to be given answers or explanations as to why they are feeling as they do; they probably know why already. We don’t always need someone to come up with reasons and platitudes; we just want someone to be sympathetic and say they understand. That’s ALL we need sometimes.

A Sympathetic Voice

Lately it has come to mind

It is most important to be kind,

To take a moment, and make a choice

To comfort with a sympathetic voice.

In this complex world we keep afloat,

Care for ourselves without rocking the boat.

Weigh up the politics, try and do what is right,

Find something we believe in and follow the light.

Too many times on a solitary track

Have we passed on by, and not looked back

Not knowing the difference we could have made

To the person standing alone and afraid?

After frantic years of business deals

With arrogant managers clicking their heels,

Would anyone look back and say

‘I’m glad I acted mean today?’

  Lyn Halvorsen (C)

 

Actually, I have decided not to open the wine. I need comfort food. I am going back to my roots and I am going to cook a Cornish pasty. And probably eat in in one fell swoop. So there.

Maybe you need to be Cornish to appreciate the comfort in this but in case you are interested, the recipe is below.

For the pastry:      

250 g chilled butter

500 g plain flour

1 beaten egg.

For the Filling

350 g steak, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 small potatoes, diced

175 g  swede peeled and chop

salt, pepper and chopped parsley

Method.

Rub the butter into the flour with a pinch of salt until it is like breadcrumbs. Blend in 6 tbsp cold water, or enough to make a firm dough. Cut into four and chill.

Heat the oven to 200 c/gas 7 180 fan.

Roll out the pastry into rounds ( I cut a circle around a medium size plate) Firmly pack a quarter of the filling on each round. Brush the edges with beaten egg and draw up both sides and crimp to seal.

Lift onto a non-stick baking tray and glaze with remaining egg.

Bake for ten mins then lower temp to 180c or 160 fan. Cook for a further 45 mins. Check regularly as ovens vary. Great served warm.

Blessings to you.

 pasty

Lest we Forget and The Importance of Small Things

It’s been quite a week.

We all woke up yesterday to an era of change. Again.

This year has been interesting. Have we missed obvious signs pointing to an overall desperate need for change? A lot of us were shocked or surprised by the Brexit result and the American presidential election results, but perhaps we assumed too much. Perhaps we didn’t see the  signs of unrest and dissatisfaction that were simmering away under the surface. And although some of us wanted things to stay the same, history has a way of showing us that this rarely happens; there will always be a new leader with new ideas waiting in the wings, bringing change, sometimes with far reaching consequences.

So much has been spoken. So much vitriol. There has been so much mud slinging and media manipulation. Wherever we live, is easy to feel real despair about the choices that are made in our own countries. The interesting thing is, as human beings we all passionately believe it what WE feel to be right, and cannot always understand other points of view. Of course, it is a good thing that we challenge each other. There have to be opposing views and discussions otherwise we wouldn’t have any hope at all of a fair society. But what do we do when we feel real despair about things over which we have no control? And what do we do when we are frightened about what could lay ahead ?

Maybe we should look to the past and ask ourselves what we have learnt, if anything. We need to question things of course. We want to be well informed and up to date with current events, but maybe now we are bombarded with too much information and too much negativity. And how much of the news we are fed is really unbiased? Are we manipulated and led in the wrong direction? I’m talking in riddles here I think, but I don’t want to make this a political rant, that is not what my blog is about and my aim has always been to steer away from politics. It’s more a case of talking about how we deal with where we are now. How do we do that? How do we face a changing world?

Actually, is the world really changing?

No. The people who run the world are changing, but the world still turns in exactly the same way as it always has; the seasons come and go, the moon waxes and wanes; the sun rises and the sun sets. We may not think we can change the way things are done, but we can make a difference if we all look towards a positive future, even if we can’t always see a clear path ahead. And every small act counts. Good things start in your own back yard. We can act kindly to our neighbour, nurture our families and ourselves, and aim to create an eco friendly world.

As we approach Remembrance Sunday in Britain, we wear our poppies with pride and remember fallen heroes; we think of the pain and the loss suffered by so many and remain forever saddened by the terrible inhumanity of war.

I think of unsung heroes. I think of my own uncle who was awarded the D.F.C  – The Distinguished Flying Cross – awarded for acts of valour, courage and devotion to duty- in the second world war. Flying many times in a Lancaster Bomber, he was only nineteen years old when he was first sent to war. He was one of the very few in his squadron to survive the war, and we will never know what he really experienced as he never wanted to talk about those times. The only thing we do know was that he was incredibly brave and a wonderful person who my sons completely looked up to and revere to this day. And he had an amazing sense of humour.

My   grandfather (pictured below) was an Air Raid Warden in Exeter during  the second world war; Exeter was bombed very badly and he witnessed unimaginable sights. He was the very kindest of men, and my mother once told us of how he comforted a young girl who was being herded onto a train to get to safety and was distraught about leaving her dog behind. He gathered the dog into his arms, and smiled at the little girl, assuring her the dog would be just fine with him. This story always brings tears to my eyes; it is often the small acts of kindness that affect us the most.

That brings me to think of today, and the importance of the smaller acts of kindness. Kind words and compassion will never go amiss, whoever sits on the smartest throne,  wears the glitziest crown or rides in the smoothest presidential limousine.

   ‘Never fear; Thank Home, and Poetry, and the Force behind both.’

    ‘All I ask is to be held above the barren wastes of want.’

    Two quotes by English war poet and soldier Wilfred Owen.

What are your thoughts today?

Blessings to you.

 

Arthur Richard Harris  1891 – 1972

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Thoughts on All Hallows Day and Getting a bit Serious…

As we all know yesterday was Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve as it is less commonly referred to. I know some people feel it is an evil day that should be shunned altogether, but I would respectfully disagree. It is said to be the night when all the spirits of our dear departed come back to life as the walls between our world and the next become thin and porous, allowing their spirits to pass through. Trick or treating was said to have started in the 16th century, when people went door- to- door in costume asking for food in exchange for a poem or a song. Many dressed as souls long gone in the hope that they were protecting themselves from the spirits.

I think of it as a time when we reflect on our mortal state and think about the spiritual world, whether we believe in ghouls and ghosts or not.

And is there any harm in letting our children have a little bit of fun as long as it is respectful and monitored by an adult? It seems to me that it heralds the start of the winter season; with cosy evenings, fireworks and bonfires, and the gradual build-up to Christmas.

But as we put away the pumpkins and scary costumes and finish up the sweets and treats for another year, perhaps there is time for a little reflection. Today the atmosphere seems fitting for just that. As November dawned this morning with an eerie damp mist, it was as if nature was calling time on the rich, golden hues of autumn and preparing us for winter. Nature always move on, as does life. And on All Hallows’ Day it is customary in many faiths to pray for those who have gone before us, to honour their memories and take time to remember for a while.

But it is not necessarily a time for sadness. It is a time for remembering good times, parties, family gatherings, and perhaps the loving touch of a grandparent long gone but who played a part in making us who we are.

I remember a Godmother who was a wonderful person; kind and always cheerful. She was disabled but never let it get her down, and indeed managed to drive a scooter. I will never forget her turning up at my school to pick me up; we roared home, laughing all the way. She left this world far too soon and I miss her still. I just hope she is up above somewhere riding high and keeping everyone entertained.

So today I will light a candle for all those we loved and love still. The friends I miss and still talk about, and a little person I never had the chance to know.

There is a certain wistfulness in the air today, which reminded me of one of my favorite poems.The last four lines are etched on a tombstone in the graveyard at St. Enedoc Church, Trebetherick, Cornwall. Beautiful.

 The Day is Done by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

 The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.

Blessings to you.