Monday, 25 July 2011

Little people

This weekend has seen a young family staying with us, two small children and a large dog; there has been much fun and I don’t know how we kept our energy levels going. I opted for what I thought would be an easy option; walking the dog. He is an extremely large long haired German shepherd but a trifle nervous despite his stature. He walks very well on the lead till something spooks him, then he rears up like a horse and lurches to the side; but we managed to complete a 3-mile walk (twice). I enjoy walking, time to think, but not with a dog such as this.

We decided it would be a good option to take the children out, run some energy off them and get some fresh air. I dressed the little girl and managed very, I thought; only to be told the Velcro  belt I had put round her was in fact a head band, she was more impressed with it round her middle and refused to have it on her head (I have started a new trend). Our trip onto the North York Moors took us through Danby and a chance to see sheep being sheared, wood carved and many country crafts, the children just wanted the swings that are there every time.217555_10150333757736111_752431110_10034363_2465140_n

Onward to Hob Hole and the best part of the day, throwing stones in the beck and trying to fly a kite in very little wind, you can just imagine me running with the string and the young boy chasing the kites shadow as it darts over the grass. Larger stones make bigger splashes and you can’t throw them so far; so we all ended up a little wet. Time for home and some tea. I tried to explain about Hob Hole and how mischievous goblins used to live there, the 5-year old wanted to know more; where are they now? I began one of my stories that I had chased them away when I was a young boy, so how old were you and were they invisible, how did you see them, where did you get the magic glasses from.. .. .. I didn’t bargain for the inquisition but managed to cover most of it and promised a bedtime story about the whole episode.

Meal times were a riot and although all around the table were well behaved, the routine and actions were very different to the norm. It seams the whole friary has been turned upside down (in a nice way). It is always a challenge to experience something different, stepping out of our usual run of things, especially when it is for the benefit of others. Soon the friary will return to how it was, comfortable and predictable. I wonder how good it is for us to live in a predictable status?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Alnmouth Friary

I sit in the library at Alnmouth friary, a room that has not changed in its purpose since its beginning. On both sides of this great bay window, nothing much has changed in almost 100 years. Some of the surface material of course is new, furniture, books, and outside, a golf course and greenery. Coquet island in the distance maintains its shape and the stone work of the window frames our view; the clouds have many different shapes but their familiar types denote our weather. P1100130

This is one of my favourite places and I think it is more to do with the quality of silence. Its 6am and the faint smell of incense lingers from last night’s lucinarium, (the chapel being immediately below me) and the echoes of plain chant still in my mind. There was a moment last night, at the end of the service, I did not want to leave; the everyday distractions were so far away from me, they had no hold.

I notice three young men approach the waters edge and cast their lines as far out into the sea as they can; the tide is on the turn. A little farther out in the estuary, a host of sea birds are performing intricate aerobatics and diving for fish. The spray of white foam as they plunge into the water is quite impressive, even from this distance. The movement and excitement is like an underwater firework display, some going in two or three at a time. This was a great treat for me, to witness a great mastery of both air and sea; climbing so high, to turn (almost back flip), dive and at the last minute, with wings swept back – splash.

In contrast, the advancing tide is no more than a smooth ripple, the gentle morning light shimmering across its surface, but slowly, and persistently, it pushes in; the two men with their cameras begin to retreat. I am reminded too that I also must retreat from this place, into the world that is my life, I take with me many things, the sights, sounds, and taste and smell, the conversations, laughs and thoughtful moments. I have appreciated company while still finding time for solitude; this silent place touches into the fabric of our soul and feeds us. The rhythm of the tide reminds us that this is a much needed part of our life and should not be an optional extra or fashion accessory.

P1100075 Stepping into this different routine of prayer and silence is like trying one an old overcoat, that someone else has moulded; there is a surprise at how well it fits. Silence is kept between nine pm and nine am, breakfast in silence is not so strange if you don’t think about it. The silence drives thoughts to the emptiness, where speaking normally resides and presents us with a different level of awareness. Discipline in a routine, how ever that may fit into our life, will always overflow into the rest of our life, (in this case) becoming more content and focused. So do not trouble your mind with what will be; attend to the now, in serenity and confidence that Gods will is being effective in the moment.


Coquet Island.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011


Early morning and I am awake before the alarm again. Anticipating the chime and hanging on the moment to see if it will strike now.

In this moment I am picturing a clock makers shop, its not the kind of shop that displays its products for sale, but a range of time pieces from small to large, ornate to plain and very old classic to not so old. These are all cared for by the clock maker and wound
till almost tight (just right). The ticking of each clock is adjusted with fine attention, counting the seconds and giving substance to the passing of time.

Some of the clocks chime on the quarter hour and some on the hour; the time being set by the same clock maker. Although each clock counts the seconds, some tick at double speed and some seem very slow indeed. The moment has arrived - the o'clock marker and each clock, in its turn chimes, strikes; making its own sound in its own time. The room fills with individual sound, moving around the room as some begin moments before others, chimes in quick succession, longer and deeper ones; until silence save the ticking once more.

Note to morning office: Thank you for my individual time.