STEAMING ESPRESSO in hand I’m reflecting that I’ve watched the cycle of the seasons in Greystoke for over thirty years. A day or two ago the Japanese acer in the garden was clothed in gold – but not for nothing is frost described as “a nip in the air” and overnight every last leaf had been nipped and floated to the ground, back to the soil from whence it came. Fall and rising. Fall and rising. The pattern of resurrection, again and again. And it is startlingly beautiful. All is well.
This statue was carved out of a log of holly by Alfons Lug, a Munich wood-carver, who, with some 400 other German Prisoners of War was quartered at Greystoke Castle from the Autumn of 1945 to April 1946.
His only tools were a pocket-knife and a small chisel, but he was repatriated shortly before the work was finished. It was completed by Fritz Hofmann, a joiner from Thuringia. The colouring was done by Hans Viesel, a master painter from Baden.
This text is inscribed in calligraphy at Greystoke Parish Church
A DEBILITATING chest infection has kept me very close to home – not the ideal for one’s summer holiday. But an evening walk no more than 5 minutes from the house has its rewards … please click photo or here for slides
I LOVE THE COLOUR in this clematis, captured against – for a brief moment – a suddenly cornflower blue sky. The heavy black cloud banked behind me as I captured this shot added atmosphere and particularly distinctive colour to the scene in Greystoke village centre.
IT’S A GLORIOUS DAY in Cumbria, albeit still decidedly chilly. My always-waiting books and armchair are too frequently my default position after the little household jobs, haircut, shopping etc on Saturday mornings, up here, away from the busyness and routine of Vicarage life. That’s not good on two counts: the first, that this is a spectacularly beautiful part of the world and it’s daft to come here and not to see any of it. The second, that I woke up stiff as a board this morning and just know, in the way that one does just know such things sometimes, that it’s blooming-well time I shifted my idle self and took some exercise. And I did. And now I’m (slightly) less stiff. And my head has cleared. And I’ve decided that though we humans generally reckon sheep are silly, they’re not.
Sheep take plenty of exercise. They’re fairly focused. And they make time in their lives to sit around quite a bit and contemplate (apparently not too troubled by the fact that their young seem to leap and skip around the place like lambs). Now Simon the sheep is fairly focused, I think, and he does set aside time for contemplation and the all-important silence. It’s just this blessed exercise business. Baa! Health MOT coming up this week so it’s on my mind, because I know it’ll be on the doc’s. Can you hear me? Ooooh yes, doctor, a couple of hours a day, I’d say. Bit of weights, a few rounds of the track, the bike, swimming. Cumberland sausage? No. Only for a treat now and then. Yeah. Not bad at all. (Except I need to go to confession after this consultation!). If only I could remember that a bit of exercise can be positively enjoyable. If only my increasingly creaky old self didn’t look upon exercise as a form of penance!
HOW WE THRIVE when there’s light in the world. Every year I’m taken afresh by surprise as Spring sunshine makes the world seem a happier place. A springtime day off at home in Cumbria recharges so much more than merely physical batteries. It’s something to do with being where
in green pastures … he restoreth my soul
This sunshiney day reminds me of a friend telling me that he’s just recently discovered the joy of sitting still watching ducks on a park lake … and I remember Michael Paul Gallagher SJ quoting Bernard Meland
Whatever happens in life to open up our natures to the tendernesses of life is redemptive
Quiet warmth and the odd pottering pedestrian ambling around the village with a smile on his or her face bring to mind some words of St John of the Cross
What matters is not what happens but how one responds to what happens
“Growth action” requires that I / we make time – an all-important element in the teaching of Jesus - simply to shine!
THE ANNUAL tidy-up in the garden at Greystoke is now underway. It’s a mellow season. There’s woodsmoke in the air as it’s just turning cold enough to warrant evening fires, and though it’s dark early up here the daytime garden colours are a treat.
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER – and after decidedly mixed weather, at times really very cold, we’ll be leaving Cumbria bathed in warm sunshine this evening. Dozens of swallows are darting hither and thither above the garden, loud and cheerful birdsong fills the air, and I imagine that the drive South on the M6 will be an altogether pleasant experience. Add to that the reports of the weather forecasters suggesting that summer-like temperatures may return by the end of the week and it feels pretty good to be in England today … even if it may well take a week or two for some of our friends to dry out their Bank Holiday camping equipment!
WE COULDN’T HAVE WISHED for better Lakeland weather. An overnighter with my parents took in a late afternoon / early evening visit to Ullswater. The extra-ordinary quality of golden sunlight and a dozen shades of purple in a largely glassy lake was breathtaking. One is overwhelmed by the sense of richness in Creation at such moments. Humbled before majesty, whilst at the same time feeling intimately embraced by what seems to be pure gift, made specially, that very moment, for those who may contemplate it. Easy supper was topped with apple pie and ice cream in front of the sleep-inducing log-burning stove. By 10 we were out like a light. Purple and gold restored though this morning. Birdsong bright. Just absolutely right. And I’m deeply grateful.
THERE ARE SOME TRULY LOVELY PEOPLE in this world! Yesterday we worked flat out to be ready for the removal men coming this morning. We crawled to a Premier Inn in Carlisle in a state of near collapse. Let it go on record that Friday night’s receptionist, just off Junction 42, deserves a medal for sheer friendliness, efficiency and understanding. But so do the enthusiastic young team who were running the Broken Gate next door, where the excellent bar meal we enjoyed stiffened our resolve to complete today’s removal within the day … and be back in Bramhall for Sunday services on the morrow.
Slept like logs. Up bright and early to be in Greystoke to greet White & Co with the van. At 7.20am we found builder Ian Curry had beaten us to it. The boss himself was on hand to make sure that all would run smoothly. And I’ve said before that there’s not a member of his team, nor architect (Stephen Crichton), nor structural engineer (Ted Slater), nor Steve and Dave from Caldew Kitchens, nor anyone else who’s worked on our little project who hasn’t put heart and soul into it. Now this is not meant to sound like an advert … though I’d happily name any and all of our team for interested parties … but it is meant to be a joyful acknowledgement that in the midst of recession, health scares and a general dose of greyness in the UK – there are nevertheless some really wonderful people going about their daily business. And they make life doubly worth the living. May they know that they’re warmly appreciated.