Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Thoughts from Charmouth Beach, Dorset.

Who are you spending Christmas with ? Where are you going for Christmas ? Two supposedly innocent questions heard so frequently in the air yet for some fraught with mixed emotions.  So many people travelling to people they don't love and cherish, too many people left alone to feel the pain of having no-one to care. Where's the goodwill ? the compassion ? the love ? It costs absolutely nothing to give any of those to a complete stranger and this is the time of year when you should. Focus on sharing, contemplate on giving rather than receiving. What you gain is something far greater than you can imagine.

As it creeps to the end of the year it's easy to remember and dwell on the darker moments of the past twelve months. Don't bother. View them from afar and learn from them to become stronger. Forgive those people who sought to undermine you and drag you down and celebrate new people who have entered your life and enriched your soul.

And spare a moment or two to remember fondly people you have lost or you can no longer easily embrace. They are with you.

What are you doing in my garden,
Is it you, I’m not quite sure,
Haven’t you heard,
I don’t live here anymore.

Is it the way you bend to admire the lilies,
Run your fingers along the wall,
Gaze upwards at the hollyhocks,
Standing so proud and tall.

I can tell by your posture,
And your gentle smile,
Tranquility surrounds you,
Although its been awhile.

I’m hovering quite quietly,
Over by the wrought iron gate,
I feel overjoyed to see you,
Although for you it is too late.

Soak up the beauty of my garden,
Feel my love within,
I’m sorry you didn’t come sooner,
Where would I begin ?

You look forlorn and lost now,
The flowers no longer hold you with their spell,
Stay awhile however,
On the past do not dwell.

Come back in the winter,
When the frost is all around,
The flowers have gently gone to sleep,
So peaceful, no sound.

What beckons you to my garden,
Do you sense me on the air,
Turn around now and smile at me,
Death is so untimely and unfair.

I can’t reach out to touch you,
Feel your breath upon my cheek,
Say all the things I felt for you,
For I cannot speak.

What are you doing in my garden,
I can no longer tell,
Is it that you are still captivated,
Bound fast by its spell ?                         ©sallytownsend

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Peace in Dorset

I wouldn't really know about any pre-Christmas shopping frenzies, bulging shops, crowded shopping malls, places where goods are stacked high and the very latest 'must have' gadgets gleam and sneer at you tantalisingly out of reach as you stand bewildered by it all.  The pushing, the shoving the noise of the piped jolly music assaulting you, people talking animatedly into their mobile phones droning on about inconsequential dross mainly.

Sure I popped into the local Farmers Market in the Arts Centre, all rather quaint with the rickety wooden floor, tested some home-made pork pies, took note of the locally caught fish, stared hard and longingly at the sugary whipped flirty meringues alongside the seductive, thick deep creamy yellow local clotted cream with the slightly crusty top. Not that I would say I was easily led astray or tempted... I hurried out before I was overcome with desire and indulged unduly without remorse.

It was one of those glorious winter days. A slight frost on the ground with a piercing blue sky where even the branches of the  trees look beguiling as the sun dances on their outstretched arms. We hopped from one foot to another on the muddy ground as we struggled with wellingtons for the walk to the peak of Golden Cap the highest point on the South coast of Britain affording panoramic views of the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. When I reached the top and stood stock still I listened to the sea greedily sucking in and spitting out the millions of tiny stones that tumbled on the steep ledges. I gave an involuntary shiver, someone had just walked over my grave as well they might, this place was laden with ghosts of the past.

Later on we sat and watched the sunset. Inside my head a list of all the things I wouldn't really mind finding under the tree were forming. As the huge golden orb sank slowly and peacefully my brain was filling up so fast it was fit to burst. The perfume, the exquisite jewellery, the highest count Egyptian cotton sheets, the sparkling home accessories, the silk, cashmere, velvet attire that would hang gracefully in my wardrobe, the exotic wanton underwear, the scent of the finest leather shoes, the vouchers for a quick 'nip and tuck' and some botox while we're about it. The image of my car burning unmercifully into my retina was the most painful or was it the last rays of the sun ?

A voice beside me cut into my thoughts. 'No amount of money in the world can buy a moment like this'

I shook my head resolutely as the images tumbled out into the cold air and dispersed into the wary shadows of the night and agreed.

Peace in Dorset.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Words from Dorset.

It's the smallest things that can make your heart soar. Looking out of the window and seeing the tiny white dots of the sheep on a frosty hillside as the sun rises is one. Feeling the warmth of the winter sun as you stand and listen to the Salvation Army is another as anticipation and happiness tingle in the air and unwittingly enter your subconsciousness as the sound of the carols soar above your head.

And I think, I think an awful lot lately. There's a voice in my head, it won't keep quiet, it keeps telling me how lucky I am and I believe it too because I am told this constantly by friends and family.  It seems whatever I wish for comes true and I am beyond amazement when it keeps happening, I have just learnt to calmly accept it. But I am careful what I wish for because its a very powerful potion and it has to be handled with care. There's a catch though, there always is if you are to find something good in life and hold onto it.

You have to step back, climb out of your mould and take a long hard look at the person you have become. You must strip back the layers and stand naked and painfully in the full glare of the light of your conscience. Then you glance down at the labels of your discarded clothes. Selfish, rude, uncaring, obsessive, self centred, mean, aggressive, devious, bossy, egotistical, moody, selfish, bullying, cruel, vain, belligerent, callous, deceitful, pompous, sarcastic, vengeful, cunning... to name but a few. It's very uncomfortable standing bare and exposed but you have to let go of everything that has gone before to embrace the new that is waiting to come to you. It takes time, tears and humiliation and you will lose people you thought you loved along the journey but that's cool because they don't have the stamina that you do and they will hinder your progress.

Take your time now and evaluate people more carefully and choose whom you spend your time with, lavish your affections on, open your heart to. Do they wear any of the above labels ? if so walk quickly by and seek instead the liberating clothing of, affection, courageous, joyful, reliable, honesty, kindness, compassionate, faithful, gentle, loyal, modest, courteous, unassuming, calm, wise, dependable.

You will be free. Your reflection will not alarm you and your shadow will not haunt and seek to swallow you whole.

Which brings me to a poem I wrote and which will go on my new website showcasing my creative writing, photography and poems.

i love words,
adore the way they sound,
they can send you soaring high,
or tumbling to the ground.

inflict them without mercy,
or use them to ease pain,
choose them with caution,
the opportunity may not come again.

roll your tongue around them,
feel the power from within,
those who need fear nothing,
are the fortunate without sin.

but for those of us who harbour secrets,
that rejoice in the shadows of the night,
we fear not the touch of our enemies,
but the written word in all it's might.

so guard your thoughts with care,
be wary of what you say,
they may come back to haunt you,
and it's you alone they will slay.   ©sallytownsend

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Drawn to Dorset

From the Isles of Scilly I 'nipped' back to France disposed of a large amount of my personal possessions and freed myself in the process to start another chapter afresh and uncluttered.

The doctor looked at me with a somewhat bewildered air when I went to him grumbling that I felt rather tired. I watch the dawn rise in the mornings now from my über modern apartment where I received a warm welcome. 'I hope you'll be very happy' one charming gentleman said. I felt stunned by the simple comment, I had received only hostility and resentment on my arrival at my previous two homes. . What had I done in the last fourteen years ? Painstakingly and lovingly restored gloriously abandoned and unloved houses in the South West of France, given them back their life whilst they greedily sucked the life out of me. Sure, there were the highs along with the lows. The beautiful 'Maison de Maître, Le Chateau surrounded by vineyards and sunflowers with views of the glorious snow capped Pyrenees in the distance. The elegant Louis Phillippe style wide stone staircase which wound its way up three floors, the endless 19th c sombre tiles, the wooden panelling which lined the wide corridors in which we played cricket with Basil the dog. Friends that poured through it's front door, great fires lit in the numerous fireplaces and huddled round with glasses of wine, afterwards people would melt into the various bedrooms and appear the next morning. The house charmed people, whilst it was full it had vitality and breathed happily once more but in it's shadows lurked secrets.

And onto Carcassonne. Riding into the narrow Medieval dark streets just as the Black Prince had done in 1355 filled with purpose, hope and a burning desire to conquer and succeed. A house of 'historical importance' turned into a successful chambres d'hotes 'No.11'. The mysteries, the intrigue, the irresistible pull of the truly magical La Cité. The feeling of reverence as you crossed Le Pont Vieux, the worn cobbles whispering it's history to you as your eyes feasted upon the majestic castle, lit up at night to appear even more seductive. The River Aude flowing gently through, the Canal du Midi sluggish and silent its famous trees gripped by a sickness. The individual bars, the quirky restaurants, the shouting and sometimes noisy streets, the heat of the summer, the non-stop partying as the music festival brings the town alive. The pinnacle of the year, the immense overwhelming, breathtaking display of fireworks on July 14th setting La Cité ablaze.

I have some scribblings about it all somewhere, 70,000 words relentlessly and unforgivably poured into a document on my computer. My life so far in France. A roller coaster of a ride to be sure, not to be indulged in or sought after by the faint hearted. 'Hold tight' the voice inside my head would scream as life hurtled by at an unforgiving speed, sometimes glaringly painfully in focus and other times so raw the memories are muted.

But because I am blessed the hand of fate intervened, plucked me from the 'merry go round' of my existence and plonked me down afresh in exactly the same place that I had left behind a lifetime ago.

 Drawn to Dorset once again.

Monday, 27 October 2014

With love from the Isles of Scilly 1926

I felt at home as soon as I had set foot back on the Isles of Scilly.  This is perhaps the secret of the islands, people return year after year because it has the ability to make you 'feel at home'.  Home is where the heart is....

On my rapid return to the mainland I quite unwittingly unearthed a postcard from my Great Grandfather William Earnshaw of Solihull, Warwickshire who would have roamed and cycled the same simple and stunning countryside made famous by the authoress and nature lover Edith Holden. She wrote the charming depiction of the beauty of Warwickshire in the 1920's 'Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' which was an instant best seller.

The small postcard was of Peninnis Head, St Marys, Isles of Scilly, the very spot that I had recently returned from.  I had no idea he had even been there and I had never seen the postcard before. He wrote:

Scilly Isles August 23rd 1926

'Dearest Evelyn, I am having a day here staying at Penzance, glorious sunny weather and magical islands to explore on my bike. Lands End tomorrow and then off to St Ives, North Cornwall. Never saw such beautiful country. All well and do wished you could have joined me. The enclosed sprig of heather is from the island which is a good luck charm. I believe the islands are owned by the Prince of Wales. I will call at Ilfracombe Post Office if you drop me a card there'. 

He would have travelled on the first Scillonian vessel which set sail in 1926 providing a regular passage from the mainland to the islands.

It is rather touching to find that four generations of my family have now been visiting the islands which perhaps explains the irresistible pull as anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting will fully understand.

It all feels like a rather jumbled puzzle which is finally falling very nicely into place !!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Whisked away, from the Isles of Scilly

Most people can only dream about being whisked away to The Isles of Scilly but I like to do things slightly differently, I was whisked away from the islands.

The fabulous newly opened pub on St Martins, the Seven Stones Inn was ready for a party.  The candles were lit and gently dripping on every table, the disco ball ready to throw out its kaleidoscope of light as the music was cranked up as the night rolled on.

Only events went slightly differently for us.  Have you ever wondered what would happen if you were taken ill on an off island ? There is a slight niggle that it would be the worst possible scenario and that you would simply be placed in the fragile hands of fate.  How wrong you would be.

You call the doctor, within minutes  the islands medicals arrive at the door in a small buggy with oxygen and take your blood pressure and generally calm you right down. The paramedic zooms over from St Marys and is met at the quay and bought straight to you. The decision is taken whether you are taken on high speed boat to the small hospital on St Marys or flown by helicopter to the mainland. It was a helicopter to the mainland and what a well oiled operation it all is. It is getting dark by now and we clamber onto the small buggy, the walkie talkies are crackling, 'helicopter ten minutes away, touchdown on the fire station field'. Be ready.

The wind is blowing, bags are bundled aboard and we hang on for dear life as we are sped to the field. There are flashing torches and then suddenly the roar of the overhead circling helicopter as it descends with the overpowering smell of the fuel fills your nostrils. We are guided firmly to the flimsy steps and the thought that I had been dragged unwittingly into a James Bond action movie did flit through my mind. The two hunky professional crew members are in vibrant orange flying suits  We are strapped into the small aircraft and headphones clamped on whilst the dark distinctive outline of the islands disappear before my eyes and I wonder when they will close the door.

It's a rather good way of making a graceful exit without all the gawky and squeamish farewells.

I owe a very large 'thank you' to the lovely medical team on St Martins, St Marys and the Royal Navy  rescue team at Culdrose.

Keep calm and carry on.

Photograph of the Treliske RAF rescue helicopter by Rick Ingham (I was pre-occupied)

Monday, 13 October 2014

Big Skies, Big Tides, Big Dreams on Scilly.

Anything is possible on Scilly.  You simply detach yourself from everything in life that is unjust, unkind, unfair or irritating and focus. Focus on the big glorious skies, soak up the beauty of the big tides and allow yourself to dream.  Dream big and bold.  Do this for yourself because no-one else can do it for you.

Have you ever walked on the ocean floor ? It's the most peculiar surreal feeling knowing that hours before and hours after you have made an imprint with your footsteps the waves will wash away any evidence of you.

St Martins is well known for it's unique flats, the vast stretches of sand that link the islands together at the Spring tides/big tides and expose the hundreds of rock formations. Sometimes it is possible to walk between St Martins, Tresco, Bryher, Samson and the Eastern Isles. The sands take on a lunar like quality and its an eerie feeling, I felt quite 'displaced'. The lovely local boatman started to gently chide us for gazing too long at tempting shells, tantalising strands of seaweed, the obsession to take copious photographs.  I wasn't going to linger once I was told the tide was on the turn.

It was one of those magical days where pictures and words would never be adequate. You just looked about you and counted your blessings, felt glad to be alive, privileged to be there and slightly sad that time tumbles on quite so quickly.

And that after every hello comes the inevitable goodbye.  Just as after every sunrise comes a sunset.

Big skies, big tides, big dreams.

Sally on Scilly.


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