Lost in the NEC

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Yesterday we went to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham to the Caravan, Camping and Motorhome Show, just for a look round and an update on what’s new. Not with any significant purchase in mind. You just have to keep up with what’s currently around.

Our van is just over 7 years old, it’s our 3rd van, and has started to show a few signs of age, with the odd  (and sometimes rather expensive) thing going wrong which needs replacing. So a visit and a day looking at new vans and sussing out the state of the art promised a good day out.

No, we didn’t decide to buy a new van, but we got plenty of ideas on what we might and might not like. It was interesting to note that our tastes and preferences have changed very little over the past 7 or so years, and the van we chose then to be our palace on wheels is still top of the pops for us in so many ways.

When we’d seen enough and had enough van viewing, it was time to head home and make our way back to car park N3, somewhere outside in the vast NEC estate. We’d walked from the car park to the exhibition centre and had more or less followed the flow of the crowd, also going in the same direction. But late on in the afternoon, when the crowds started to thin out, there were not too many people around aiming for car park N3. We got lost.

We looked in vain for signage and directions to the car parks, we followed directions which took us to nowhere we recognised, and we asked for directions from several different members of NEC staff, the press office staff, the bureau de change staff and various stewards on how to get back to car park N3. They were all helpful. Most of them didn’t have a clue and sent us off on wild goose chases. We ended up at the station, then at the airport, then at the main entrance, which was not the one we’d entered by. We looked at a plan of the entire NEC complex and tried to use that to navigate by. We tried to gain access to the Skywalk we needed to cross, but the access doors were locked. It was beginning to feel like us getting Lost in Cumbria all over again. I almost started humming Hotel California – “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave….”

On our second arrival at the main entrance, we asked the security guards for help. One of them vaguely waved directions at us, the other came up with the goods and finally, at long last, we managed to get out of the building and on our way to car park N3.

It had taken us over an HOUR to get out of the NEC and back to our car. As we thanked the security guard who’d come up with the right solution, another stressed out couple were approaching him to ask for directions.

If I ever go to the NEC again I’ll consider taking a large ball of wool to tie to the door I enter by, and keep it with me in my hand to help me get out of the place!

Brexit day: Better to light a candle

bright burn burnt candle

Better to light a candle…..

We light candles to remember someone, to honour them, to keep their memory, essence and spirit alive in our own lives and in our minds. It’s a conscious act, to light a candle. I sometimes do it in a church or cathedral to remember and honour a person who has passed from my life and our world. It’s a bit of an emotional thing to do, but it’s also satisfying. Action has been taken and a statement made.

The saying “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” is said to be a Chinese proverb. It’s been quoted as something Adlai Stevenson said about Eleanor Roosevelt. The first time I heard it said was by  Satish Kumar at a talk he was giving, sometime back in the early 1990s. It struck me as a very powerful thing to do, to take action rather than rail against the darkness, to bring light to the situation. I’ve never forgotten it.

I remember it now, as I write this a few days ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union. Here in Britain there have been some crazy fund-raising schemes to raise money so that Big Ben – currently silent and undergoing renovation – can be allowed to strike eleven bongs at 11pm on 31st January in celebration of our leaving the EU. A vast sum of money was donated to the fund by one of the donors who is inextricably involved in the dubious promotion of Brexit. But the scheme has fallen flat and Big Ben will not bong. Thank goodness I say. What a crazy misuse of money.

Is the UK’s exit something to celebrate? Maybe, if you voted to leave, especially if the likelihood of new trade deals is believed. But what is to be celebrated? What are these leavers going to get? Sovereignty used to be mentioned as one reason, but we don’t hear much of that word now, although there’s still a fair bit of ardent Union Jack flying going on. The dodgy-sounding mantra “Take back control”, which was the Leave campaign’s motto, never satisfactorily clarifies exactly what that “control” will be. Or maybe their idea of control is putting a halt to immigration, which will leave us in need of British workers who are willing to get out into the fields to pick our fruit and veg. And who will replace the social care workers and NHS staff we’ll be losing out on? The government have made reassuring noises about getting additional NHS staff, but I’m a sceptic and nowadays I don’t swallow a lot of the duplicitous stuff that is promised.

Many people believe that Brexit is done and dusted, but in reality it’s only just about to start. The truth is we don’t know what will change in our country and in our everyday lives .

Trade deals they say – we shall be free to have new trade deals with other countries – but as I understand it, these things take several years to negotiate. In the interim, we don’t quite know what this will mean for the people of the UK; those who voted to leave and those who voted to remain will be in the same boat, the same murky, misty darkness. Some will be hoping for a bright new start, that it will all be alright, we’ll muddle through, we’re British and we won the war! Remember Churchill? Yes, of course we can stand on our own etc. etc. I’ve heard all of these arguments and more, but supported by very little of substance because the truth is, we none of us know what will happen when we move into this new, unknown space.

I read Will Hutton’s article pubished in The Guardian several days ago. As well as analysing Britain’s potential future prospects, he comes up with a sound idea for peaceful action to mark the occasion, saying:

So at 11pm on 31 January, dismiss [Boris] Johnson’s extravagant claims for what lies ahead and the faux celebrations. Light a candle in a window, at your door, in your garden; find friends to do it together. We stand for a European Britain. We will be back.

I rather like that. I feel European, but I’m also British. The two are not mutually incompatible. I wanted to remain, and that desire will not go away; I have a French daughter-in-law and extended family in France because of this, Spanish friends in Spain, colleagues with mutually-shared interests and aims in Germany, former students in Greece, Italy, Malta, Belgium, Ireland, Sweden, Bulgaria and The Netherlands. European countries all of them and in the EU too.

So on Friday I will be lighting a candle to mark the passing of our EU membership, but I will also be lighting it for a European Britain. We may appear to be physically leaving, but in spirit, we’ll always be there.

The Four-Fold Way

Some tim4foldwaye back in the 1990s I came across the Four-Fold Way, which was referred to at a personal growth workshop I attended. The Four-Fold Way was attributed to anthropologist Angeles Arrien, and I was impressed by it’s four simple points of wisdom:

· Show up and choose to be present

· Pay attention to what has heart and meaning

· Tell the truth without blame of judgement

· Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome

This led me to read her book, entitled The Four-Fold Way – Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. The book, its content and ethos have come back to mind right now. The times we are currently living in are blighted with fake news, lies, trolling, disrespect of people who are different in some way, divisions within society and climate breakdown. It’s time for us all to start taking responsibility and stop moaning.

Angeles Arrien suggests four paths we might take, and her opening sentence, way back in 1992 when the book was published, is pressingly relevant today. She says,

“Today it is imperative that we pay attention to ecological issues. Our planet, the house we live in, is in danger of becoming unliveable, due primarily to the neglect of our own industrialised society. It is clear we need to take action before it is too late.”

She goes on to say that the word ecology comes from the Greek word oikos, which means house, in other words, our planet.

The four ways she describes can be shown diagrammatically using the medicine wheel layout and includes the four points of the compass, and the four elements of fire, earth, air and water. Each Way has a single line description which more or less lays out what it’s about.

The Way of the Warrior – Show up and choose to be present– the message here is to stip dillydallying about and do something, take action. The associated human resource is power, the way of living is right action.

The Way of the Healer – Pay attention to what has heart and meaning – this suggests don’t allow yourself to get distracted (by smart phones, social media etc?) but remain in touch with what is really important and connected to your heart. The associated human resource is, unsurprisingly, love; the way of living is right speech.

The Way of the Visionary – Tell the truth without blame or judgement – here we have to remember to speak our own truth, be true to ourselves, and not take on board what others have tried to foist upon us. This can be a tough one as it’s much easier to go along with things we don’t really agree with in order to fit in, or keep the peace. And we have to remember not to blame or judge ourselves and others. The associated human resource here is vision, and the way of living, right placement.

The Way of the Teacher – Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome – the message is to stay open to the new and not have an end goal in mind. A good teacher will always be open to new ideas and viewpoints because so much fruitful material can come from staying open and learning more. Good teachers are always learning! The associated human resource is wisdom and the way of living is right timing.

Angeles Arrien’s work as an anthropologist, educator and facilitator of workshops aims to build a bridge between cultural anthropology, psychology and comparative religions, revealing how indigenous wisdoms are relevant to our families, professional lives and our relationship with the Earth itself. There is something in The Four-Fold Way for all who wish to develop themselves, their potential and their ability to live life creatively, and we need this approach more than ever in our current times.

“Do all the good you can, with all the means you can, in all the ways you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can” – Angeles Arrien.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse

BoymolefoxhorseThis book was a Christmas gift (thank you daughter) and its simple message, full of wisdom and magic, bears hope and significance for the times we are living in as 2020 and the new decade begins. It’s about love, friendship and kindness.

I’ve read it through cover to cover, I’ve dipped into it, and I’ve used the attached glossy ribbon it comes with to mark pages which hit the spot for me when I open it at random. I’ve even had a go at playing the music printed inside the front and back covers; there’s no title, just the instructions “Lively and in strict time”, the musical staves themselves adorned with drawings of the four characters in the title, and horse, like Pegasus, with wings, galloping and flying through the notes. I recognise the tune but can’t name it; it’s a cheerful trotting tune.

The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse is a book which will entrance children and have equal appeal for the oft-neglected inner child in adults. With my astrological psychology hat on, I’ve read passages which I can relate directly to the psychological meanings of the planets in a natal chart and the sub-personalities of Assagioli’s Psychosynthesis. The mole is like the Moon – needy for love, wise about love, but not averse to substituting it with cake.

The mole tells the Boy “I’ve discovered something better than cake.” “No you haven’t,” said the boy. “I have,” replied the mole. “What is it?” “A hug. It lasts longer.”

The Boy is lonely and full of questions. He seems to be searching for himself and perhaps could symbolise the Sun/sense of self. He wants to get back home and is joined on his journey by the mole, the fox and the horse. The fox is quiet and buttoned up, having been hurt by life. He doesn’t say much but the other characters include him and love him just as he is. The fox has a Saturnian quality; he is restrained and caught in a trap when the boy and mole discover him and set him free. His presence is welcomed even though he is silent. The fox rescues the mole when he falls into the water, and contrary to his nature, doesn’t attempt to eat him.

The horse is the last character to appear. He is white and wise and very special. He has Jupiterian qualities of wisdom and Neptunian qualities of unconditional love and acceptance. “When have you been at your strongest?” the boy asks the horse. “When I have dared to show my weakness. Asking for help isn’t giving up,” said the horse. “It’s refusing the give up.”

The horse also reveals to his travelling companions that he can fly, but I won’t spoil the rest of the story or the magic for you because this illustrated book is beautiful to read, to look at and to provoke thought and introspection. The author, Charlie Mackesy, has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press.

In these changing, troubled times, it’s essential to have reminders of how we can be when we draw upon our latent goodness and decency and give it out into the world. “Nothing beats kindness,” said the horse. “It sits quietly beyond all things.”

 

The most wonderful time of the year?

IMG_0547Switching on the radio the morning after the UK General Election (I already knew the result), what I heard was Andy Williams singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” – a schmaltzy Christmas song that I’ve never liked. I switched off.

For me, it’s a trite and rather dreary song, but it did get me thinking. Regardless of the result of the election, there are and will be people sleeping rough on the streets of Britain. There are and will be people barely managing, needing to go to food banks, even if they’re in work – maybe on zero-hours contracts.  Will this go away under the new, jubilant Tory government? Despite what our MP, herself a Tory, said at the recent hustings I attended, I feel in my gut that the erosion and depletion of care and concern for those less fortunate in our society is likely to continue for some time. I may be wrong, the glass may be half full, and right now there is only so long I want to stay in this rather gloomy place.

So Brexit will happen then, on 31st January….or will it? It seems a lot of  people in Britain fell for Boris Johnson’s 3-word mantra of “Get Brexit Done” and voted him in as Prime Minister, even though many of them were traditionally Labour voters. The country is still reeling with jubilation or shock, depending on which way they voted. My vote is a floating one these days, and I voted tactically – not for Boris I might add.

He’s going to have his work cut out trying to bring healing to our disunited country; time will tell if it works.  There will be much work to be done to secure and finalise leaving the EU – it will probably take years to get it done. Oh joy.

In the meantime, I’ll step out of Scrooge mode and do my best to express in my everyday life the sentiments of the quote I have on the About Me page on this blog.

Three things in life are truly important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; the third is to be kind – Henry James

With the cup half full – probably a lot more full than that – here’s to more kindness and generosity of spirit, smiles, warmth and humanity towards all people, living creatures and the environment as we approach the festive season and the turning point of the year – the Winter Solstice. May the returning warmth of the sun and light awaken something more positive in us all. We need it.