Monday Meditation: St Luke’s Village Church, Hodnet

29400880_Unknown

St Luke’s Church is next door to the beautiful Hodnet Hall Gardens, sitting just beside the entrance. This small, intimate church was open for visitors when we were at the gardens in the summer and is well worth a look if you like historic buildings and richly-coloured stained glass windows.

This Grade 1 listed building is Norman in origin and listed in the Doomesday Book. Much of the original Norman nave still exists. It has the only octagonal tower in Shropshire, with octagonal wooden clocks on each side. I had never seen a tower like it. I warmed to this unusual church instantly before venturing inside the porch, its open door inviting us in.

The stained glass windows were beautiful. One is in memory of Mary Heber, an ancestor of the current family in residence, and the other tells the story of The Holy Grail.  It was really difficult to find the right angle to do justice to the vivid colours and images, the sun was streaming through windows and washing out some of the colour. We were the only ones there and took our time, not feeling in anyway rushed by person or event.

29400944_Unknown29400992_UnknownIMG_3988

The aisles and chapels are tiled in various colours and intricate patterns. They are in wonderful condition. I spent a lot of time just sitting, contemplating, taking everything in, all the magnificent beauty and craftmanship.

 

 

IMG_3995The families who have owned the Hall have been – and still are – long-time patrons of this church, supporting its upkeep. Many of them are buried there or memorialised within the church. There are some very elaborate marble memorials on the walls and in the family chapel. Unfortunately, my camera battery died and I didn’t realise it had given up on the marble sarcophagus in the family chapel.

I’ve never seen pews like these before, they were all across the front of the congregation, no doubt there for the great and the good! I found them incredibly uncomfortable, forcing me to sit up rather than lean into them.

IMG_3994

I don’t know exactly what it was about this church, but it had a very welcoming feel to it. It’s quite small which makes it more intimate, less intimidating, for all its imposing stone and sense of history. There was a sense of continuity through the family names that you get in small villages, and lots of notices addressed to visitors and parishioners inviting them to look around, providing information and histories, a visitors’ book, but also framed photographs of the current incumbents and articles about local people and activities.

A lovely touch was the invitation to request a prayer for, or thoughts be sent to, someone who needed it, whatever the circumstances, no names necessary, and there were candles and matches if you also wanted to light one on their behalf. No charge. I requested a mention for our dear friend, Terry at Spearfruit.

(Please Note: I wrote this post some time before Terry passed away and I hope it doesn’t cause distress to anyone close to him. He was very much on my mind at the time of our visit).

One project I particularly warmed to was some research conducted by the local Scouts group into the names on the War Memorial in the church yard. This research was left out for all to see and filled in the details behind the names, turning them into real people not just ciphers. The project was at the back of the church for anyone to leaf through, with an invitation to contact the authors if any information is incorrect or if the reader had more up to date details to include.

There was a small piano alongside the ancient organ, and really old prayer books, Bibles, registers in full view, not locked away or removed for fear of vandalism, as in many churches these days. This added to the welcoming atmosphere of this beautiful church.

29400960_Unknown

I was reluctant to leave, but we had been out all afternoon and now it was approaching evening and the gardens where we had parked the car would soon be closing. If you click on the link in my first paragraph, you can read about this magnificent estate, one of the most stunning and unspoiled places I’ve visited.

A final look up towards the church from the entrance to the Hall:

29400848_Unknown

Copyright: Chris McGowan

 

Advertisements

Monday Meditation: Appeals for Help for Homeless People in the Prolonged Icy Weather

295843B4-63EE-4573-BC5B-133F6C8D6401As I write, the latest fall of snow is melting. We had the littles here for the weekend and they had a lot of fun playing in it, as did their dad, a little too much as it turned out – if you enlarge this photo, you’ll see a hole in the right garage window!

Towards the end of the first prolonged period of snow when it had hung around for about 10 days, I braved the outdoors during a brief fine spell for a short walk. I had been cooped up in dry central heating for so long. How good it felt to fill my lungs with the sharp fresh air!

As I gingerly walked along the roadside, avoiding the sometimes slippery paths, I pondered about how we coped without central heating when we were young children, when there was often ice on the inside of the windows and a bath was a weekly affair to be dreaded and shivered over. I remembered about chapped red legs from wearing wellies to walk to school. Dead white fingers when I walked my young son to school and I couldn’t untie his shoes. And then I thought about all those having to work in these conditions, but most of all, people who were even now having to spend the nights outdoors in flimsy clothing. I chastised myself for complaining the other night about not being able to sleep when it was -10C . I had a thick duvet, two hot water bottles, woolly socks, central heating and a comfortable bed. How many didn’t have any kind of bed, or slept in damp rooms with ill-fitting windows and no heating?

I came home and went online to see if there was a charity for homeless people in my area – how did I not know that already? We support the local Foodbank, but as I thought, there was no dedicated charity for homeless people in our immediate area, although I found one for the nearest large town and made a donation. Nowhere near enough. It felt like conscience money.

719CAC7A-861A-4A48-8CAE-9F7A86FDE4F0This past weekend, the icy winds and another 3” of snow have returned and I read an appeal on Twitter from @StreetsKitchen in London (also StreetsKitchenOffical on Facebook) for warm socks and underwear to give to homeless men. I went on Amazon and ordered some to be delivered there. (They had recently also appealed for sleeping bags). A drop in an enormous ocean, I know, but many people have responded, so let’s hope a few more people will be supported during this freezing weather.

F33F7235-8ADE-4166-A0F3-47E8D6B6E378

 

Please click the link if you’d like to know more or can help in any way. They need food donations too. Or please think about donating warm clothing to your own local charity, or your time to hand out warm soup and drinks.

 

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: The End? Absolutely Not!

CA6CD8E5-4285-419D-B9C2-01DAECA3E688I lost a dear friend last week, she had just turned 103 and I have been thinking about The End a lot.* Until relatively recently, we used to share a daily short walk, which inevitably reached its halfway point at the cemetery where her husband’s memorial stone stands and my dad’s tree lives. She, too, has now left her physical form, but whenever I go on that walk, I shall be thinking of her when I visit her husband and my dad’s tree. I am continuing our walks, I will visit her, too, when she joins her husband, and have a chat. I will tell her about the latest exploits of my grandsons, about whom she always inquired. There is no ending yet.

Her house is being sorted, her clothes given away, but her possessions will have a new life with others and so too will the house. It will be renovated and look spanking new again, ready to enter its new era. And it will contain all the memories created there by her and her family, who have occupied it for over half a century. There is no ending here.

I visited Barbara on her birthday a few days before she died. She was half-sitting in bed. She hadn’t seen me for quite a while as she had a fall on the stairs in the autumn and then developed a chest infection. Her sight had deteriorated and I was wearing a different coat, with a black scarf around my neck. She hardly knew me. I helped her open the card I had written for her, in which I had mentioned my grandsons in case I didn’t get to talk to her that day. Things began to come clearer at the mention of the boys’ names and now she knew who I was. I sat with her while her daughter had a break to make some calls. She looked tiny and frail. She was not happy. I asked her what the ETA was on her being up and about again. She grimaced and looked towards her daughter and her carer, whispering that they wouldn’t let her attempt to walk up and down the hall with her walker. She said, ‘You don’t get better lying in bed!’

She was right of course. She had such spirit, such determination. Her daughter told me after her mum had slipped away in her sleep that she knew her mum had somehow got herself out of bed a few nights before and she had found her in the hall by the radiator because she was cold. She had got there without her walker.

Three days before Barbara died, this heron came to visit on her roof.

1FC1898F-9B81-4DA7-A6FE-48ADB10058DA

A few years ago, in her 90s, Barbara broke her hip. The authorities wanted her to stay in hospital and then go to a care home. She was having none of it. She insisted they send her home. We all feared the worst, that she would never manage and would injure herself or catch an infection. We should have known better. Up to that point, she was still weeding her own garden, going to the shops, to church and to the hairdresser, she was a member of the Townswomen’s Guild and held a coffee morning every Thursday. There was to be no ending because of a pesky broken hip!

Every winter she developed a chest infection and we all shook our heads and thought she was unlikely to survive the winter. Barbara had other ideas.

5A2D5BF6-5273-4FC7-9254-99C3D1D17ADFThe day before she left us, I had decided to make some cards. Barbara and I had established a tradition of sending each other notecards when one or other of us – often both – were confined to barracks – in my case when my back had given up the ghost. I had run out of cards with the one I sent just before Christmas. This time I chose a picture that was an image of a garden, as she loved hers. I had no idea I would be sending it as a sympathy card next day. I happened to take the photo to write about the smoothie I was having at the time. I had no idea it would be featuring in her eulogy. I finished the card, and sent it on its way to convey my thoughts and some memories to her family. No ending here either. Barbara’s daughter has found all the cards I sent to her mum and is going to let me have them. I will be able to relive the memories I shared with her, of my family as they grew, and smile at her own quips in response.

I am sad for her daughters and son, I am sad that I will no longer look over at her windows when I get up to check her curtains are open, or see her with her carer slowly taking her afternoon stroll, stopping to chat to the schoolchildren as they hurtled past. But I know she was not happy at being confined to bed. She was rapidly losing her strength (she wasn’t eating), and was adamant she didn’t want to go into the local Cottage Care Home. She was relieved to have her daughter back staying with her, from her home on the Continent, and she was ready to go.

But there is no End here. So many people looked out for her. She was loved by all her neighbours, a few of whom had known her for several decades, us included. Her death has brought us all together, we are all talking about her as we pass in the street. Some of us are used to seeing each other in passing and saying ‘good morning’ or commenting on the weather, but haven’t really got to know each other. Barbara has brought this small community even closer by our common bond of friendship with this tiny, frail-looking woman who was as strong as steel and insisted we all – young and not so young – call her by her first name.

The rain has stopped and the wind has dropped, I’m off to put on my coat and boots. I will wave to Barbara’s daughter and if I have the chance, I’ll invite her over for a cup of tea and a change of scenery. She looks so tired. Having only exchanged a few remarks when she has thanked me for writing to her mum, we are getting to know each other a bit more. There is no ending here.

Au revoir, Barbara. You continue to be an inspiration and I am grateful you came into my life. Thank you for all the walks and the memories.

78FD412B-C20E-4506-BC04-3DF43E9D5909

Inspired by a post called Conversation With The End by Cathi at Over The Hill On The Yellow Brick Road

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: A January Day in the English Countryside Part II

Last year at this time, I posted photographs of a walk along the local lanes on a clear, warm January day in what turned out to be another mild winter.* This year, the weather couldn’t be more different. We had 7” of snow before Christmas, sub-zero temperatures and cowered under numerous storms as we shivered by the woodburner and gradually desiccated in the central heating. This past week has again been freezing and wet, and we’ve just had another two days of sleet and snow.

This particular afternoon, however, the wind abated, the rain stopped and the sun peeped out for a look-see, so we took the chance for some fresh air and exercise and decided to retrace our steps from the previous year.

There was so much mud, debris (squashed plastic water bottles and other litter blown hither and thither by the gales) – and horse manure – on the lanes and verges! But I spared you all that detritus and picked out as much green as I could. We didn’t see the animals on the smallholding, which seemed abandoned, but we did see some sheep. Here are the photos I took this time around:

639A2F9F-0754-45CA-BC12-A2BED3D8071A

39089900-D669-4CC4-B7F3-540CA08AF904

610692D8-6E23-4666-BE9F-CE256BA61CBF

E8DFA552-622D-4B87-9F84-28FA33EBCC6A

This proud wood pigeon wasn’t at all camera-shy, he posed for a very long time, allowing me to get the perfect picture, making sure I only caught his good side, though!

461D9A18-FE0F-4FA2-9F8D-ADAE2320E9D5

If you zoom right in on the next photo, you should be able to see a flash of orange just a little left of the tree trunk in the middle. This robin flitted about the whole length of the lane but was always in too much of a hurry to get a decent shot.

B3243D05-8DD5-4AA5-98B9-483BF13B828B

This squirrel on the other hand sat motionless for so long he could have been an ornament. He was so well camouflaged, much darker than all the other grey squirrels, it was a while before I realised he was there. We had met a friend of my husband’s and they stood chatting under this tree. I had my eyes skyward, looking for birds when I spotted him.

9A1AFF31-8EEF-484D-AE44-5A1D9FCE98AE

Do you remember the odd long pods that looked like suspended grey broad beans from last year’s post? This year, there were hardly any, those that were in evidence were shrivelled and black and much smaller, but there were many more of these pink, blossom-like flowers on the twigs. I still don’t know what it is.

28243BB8-9691-4A71-B7DD-08CC7FF4CB50

From the colour of this sky, you wouldn’t believe we have had endless days of heavy dark cloud, rainstorms and winds strong enough to blow you along the street. My mum’s fence was blown down last week! It was so calm this afternoon, but cold enough to freeze your breath.

91C01BBD-B382-455C-9ECD-2E63F1D767E2

I think this is my favourite photograph from today. 

It was such a refreshing break to be outside amongst the nature we are so privileged to have all around us. It is threatened, sadly, by endless new housing developments which have taken up all the open fields around the schools here. These views are on opposite sides of the lane we walked. The view on the right used to be the same as that on the left.

 

 

We make the most of it and appreciate it while we can.

*Monday Meditation: A January Day in the English Countryside

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Feeling Overwhelmed: World Mental Health Day

29934448_Unknown

This wasn’t planned. I just this second decided to write it after reading first Carol’s post about memories of her mum and then Gary’s post of his latest ‘sighting’ of Terry.* It won’t be long, I just thought I should put my hand up and say ‘Me too!’ (I lied about the ‘long’ bit, sorry).

So many of us suffer in silence when we feel overwhelmed. We try to cope, to carry on with our daily lives and not worry anyone else. I used to keep everything inside. I never talked about anything. It just built up and built up until I suffered a physical and nervous breakdown, my first aged 17, my second aged 19, my third aged 25 and on through adulthood. Once I had children, I learned to hide it better. When Dad died suddenly, I took up red wine! But I eventually recognised that it wouldn’t solve anything. When I was bedridden for 5 years, my children had gone to university and my husband worked long shifts, I was at my lowest and started writing poetry to stop me writing suicide notes. As I matured, I learned to recognise the signs and adopt strategies to get me through them. I took up creative activities, used aromatherapy, meditation and so on.

I haven’t had depressive episodes for a long time. Changing diet, positive thinking, keeping a gratitude journal and acquiring a couple of grandchildren led to improvements in health and a life to look forward to. There have been very low times when family concerns have caused almost unbearable stress and worry, but I got through them.

Recently, though, I have felt a head of steam building. My elderly mum needs a lot of attention – from a distance, this is extremely difficult – and we have taken on a lot of extra responsibilities which often require a lot of butting of heads against brick walls. At the other end, family members are struggling to cope with the fall-out from a rare condition, which also affects us inasmuch as we can do so little as so little can be done, and we have to stand on the sidelines and watch those close to us stretch themselves to the limit on a daily basis.

The upshot of all this is that on Saturday I found myself sitting in our local twelfth-century church with tears rolling down my cheeks. I have lived here 30 years and never been in this church. I had been to a nearby shop and on coming out, had turned towards home but something made me look behind and I saw the church tower. I have often meant to go in to have a look round. It was Saturday afternoon and I expected to see the trappings of a wedding going on, but it was quiet. I started to walk towards it, the main doors were wide open. I hesitantly stepped in the porchway expecting to see a congregation but again, it was quiet. I could see a couple of women attending to the flowers, so I stepped inside.

As soon as I did, my shoulders relaxed. Facing me was a notice inviting people to have a prayer said for someone who needed it. I am not religious. I just love old churches. I love the tanquility, the architecture and sense of history, and of all the people who have been there before. I like the peace to sit and contemplate. However, I stepped forward and wrote a card out for the young person and her children, struggling with the disease. I placed it on the table at the front of the church, sat down and let the tears flow quietly.

A flower lady came over and asked if I’d like her to sit with me. I thanked her and explained that I hadn’t realised how overwhelmed I was feeling or that I was going to cry and I just wanted to sit for a while and contemplate. She passed the message on to the others and they let me be. After a while, one of them saw me looking about me and asked if I’d like a guide on the history of the church. I said yes, thank you. It was absolutely the right thing for her to do. It got me out of my head. I walked around and took it all in.

Later, in the early evening, after 3 long calls and 2 messages from Mum I couldn’t sit still. I needed to go outside. I needed to talk to Dad.

I visited his tree in the local cemetery just down the road. When I had finished, I was just saying thank you when a squirrel ran by, a few yards in front of me. I stood and watched for a minute. Tears filled my eyes. I looked down and there was a white feather and a smile grew on my face.

The moral of this story is, talk to someone; whether it be a flower lady in a church you don’t attend, a long-dead parent or even a tree, share what’s going on. Find somewhere where you can be quiet, somewhere away from the causes of your stress, your worries, for just a few minutes. Take slow breaths. Then look outward, take notice. When things build up, we can spend too much time in our heads. I like to watch the birds in our garden, talk to the neighbourhood cats while I have the doors open and I paint or make cards. At other times, only loud music accompanied by raucous singing will do! And occasionally I rage against the world.

Just let it out.

Thanks, Dad x

*Voices From The Margins – Remembering

Another ‘Terry’ Encounter

Feeling Overwhelmed? You’ve Got Your Back!

Mind.org.uk – the mental health charity

The Samaritans – they have a telephone helpline for anyone to call when in emotional distress

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation : Gratitude & Faith in Nature

About 15 years ago, I bought a baby tree. The label said it was an hibiscus and that it would grow 6′ wide and 10′ tall. Its job was to fill a gap between a maturing leylandii hedge along the drive and the garage at the top of the drive, so that the back garden was enclosed and private. I liked the idea of a hibiscus tree. I had read of them in novels set in an exotic context and always wondered what they were like.

I waited and waited. It crept up inch by inch but did little to inspire my confidence in its reputed inherent beauty and ability to fulfill its allotted task.

Several years went by. It grew up, but didn’t reach anywhere near its full potential. It did not grow out. It eventually began shooting tight and tiny dark burgundy buds but they resisted any enticement to open out and show themselves off.

About 5 years ago, we released this tree from its obligation. We didn’t think it would ever have the strength or intent to fill the gap. We decided to put a fence behind it. We allowed the tree its freedom. I made sure it was kept watered during dry weather, and occasionally admired the variegated leaves. There were by now lots of plants below and around it that had more colour and vibrancy.

 

Two summers went by and I noticed the tree had grown about 5″ above the fence. It had bushed out too. I didn’t let it know I had noticed, but I kept a close eye on it.

Last year, the tree had put on about another 12″ of growth above the fence and now filled the gap! It was covered in tight burgundy buds. I realised it most likely hadn’t been happy being exposed to chill winds in winter and baking sun in summer. It was much happier sheltered by the fence and was now paying back for our consideration.

IMG_0807

The other day, I was walking on the drive, in a great deal of pain throughout my back and legs and trying to ease it with movement. I had been struggling for several weeks and nothing was improving, or at least, if it did it was only for a brief while and then it would come screaming back, laughing at me for thinking I could get away with making a smoothie or drying my hair. I was finding it hard to keep smiling and have faith in my improved health.

It was getting chilly and I knew I should go back inside, the cold would just make things worse. As I passed the fence, I glanced up and saw the most amazing sight: it wasn’t that big or overly showy, but there it was, a single pink flower in the middle of the hibiscus tree, showing just above the fence. I stopped to take a closer look and smiled. A broad, happy but disbelieving smile. I momentarily forgot about my back and the cold. I reached inside my back pocket, but I’d left my phone inside. I slowly made my way to the house to find my camera. I was afraid that either I wouldn’t be able to make it back outside or the flower would have dropped off before I had time to capture it.

But I did on both counts.

29666752_Unknown

It is still the only open flower on the tree. It is still making me smile, even just to think about it, just knowing it’s there. I’m so glad I held faith with this tree and it with me: neither of us gave up.

I can’t wait to see what happens next summer.

29666736_Unknown

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation : A Stroll Along Sustrans Bike Trail 55

29401840_UnknownIn my recent post, Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It! I briefly mentioned our woodland walk along the Sustrans* bike track to the canal, where we found the painted rock that made me smile when I was in a lot of pain. I promised another post with the photos I took along the walk. As I always keep my promises, here it is!

First, though, let me explain to non-cycling enthusiasts and readers from outside the UK that Sustrans is a charity that has spent 40 years promoting cycling and walking, whilst constructing a national network of safe bike and walking trails. Recently, we got our own section which runs along the route of a disused railway line. It is easily accessible from several points and family-friendly. Whenever our families visit, they all toddle off on their bikes together, often the only way to separate the teenagers from their screens.

My husband, a serious bike rider, found it particularly useful after his accidents when he was trying to regain both his fitness and his confidence before rejoining club rides on the roads.

I have never seen it before as I don’t cycle (back injury), but one afternoon when my husband had spent most of the day repairing bikes and I was itching to go somewhere, he suggested we drive to one of the access points and walk a short part of the trail.

It was so quiet and peaceful. The tall trees, many of them silver birch, some oak and elm, shaded us from the sun that came out after we had wrapped ourselves up against the chilly breeze and possible showers forecast!

29402000_Unknown

We met a few people along the way: couples walking their (small) dogs (always on a lead), a couple of cyclists, but mostly we were on our own.

Here are some of the photos I took on our walk:

 

29401712_UnknownI amused myself spotting the wildflowers I used to tick off in my iSpy books as a child  – do you remember those? Rosebay willowherb, giant willowherb, cow parsley, red campion, elder berries… We don’t see as many now so it was especially surprising to come across a single red clover, I haven’t seen red clover in decades, the white variety seems to have taken over.

 

This though, remains a mystery:

29401824_Unknown

They reminded me of Muscari or Grape Hyacinth but I can’t identify them. The odd thing is, I’ve never seen them before and then a few days later on a completely separate walk, I saw another solitary group.

Eventually, we came to the towpath along the canal, where my back gave in and I found the smiley rock. The mature trees and all the vegetation alongside the sedately-moving barges made for a tranquil setting, with the sun streaming through the branches and reflecting on the still (if a tad murky) water.

I took a few photos of the boats and then slowly – very slowly! – inched my way to the pub nearby to rest, while my husband went to retrieve the car. Despite my over-enthusiasm leading to several days’ bedrest, I had a wonderful afternoon out, meditating on nature, childhood games and family outings.

 

This is how they used to do it in the olden days:

IMG_4029

And this is my favourite:

29402128_Unknown

Oh, and the smiley rock? Here’s where I hid it, good luck!

29402304_Unknown

 *Sustrans

Ps It’s my brother’s birthday today. I can’t imagine him as an aging hippy! It will be my dad’s birthday in a few days. He would have loved this walk, he loved boats too.  I thought of him alongside me, and all the walks we did together and wondered if he was still playing the pied piper leading groups of children in Follow My Leader, with his mischievous smile playing on his face as did a skip or a funny walk.

See: Sweetpeas For Dave

You Were So Much More Than Your Job: A Tribute to My Dad For Father’s Day

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Monday Meditation: Stunning Stained Glass in a World-Reknowned Medieval Shrewsbury Church

As some of you will know, I recently had a birthday outing to Shrewsbury (see Vegan Birthday Burgers at O’Joy Wellness Bistro, Shrewsbury – Review). When we had finished lunch, we were so stuffed and had been sitting so long, we needed air and exercise. The skies were heavy and grey, it didn’t look too promising. However, close by the bistro in the town centre stand three medieval churches. We randomly chose to take a look at the redundant Anglican Church of St Mary The Virgin, not knowing anything about it, but once inside it took my breath away. It has the most stunning stained glass windows I have ever seen, which are apparently world-reknowned: it is said that there is no other collection like it.

The Norman Gothic style church dates from Saxon times and has additions dating from the twelfth century onwards. At over 500 years old, the spire atop the tower is reputedly the third tallest in the country, in fact it is so high I couldn’t get it all in the one shot. Unfortunately, the weather was really taking a turn for the worst, the light was awful for taking photographs. I had also forgotten to take my camera so these were taken with my iPhone.

 

I’ve borrowed a photo from Wikipaedia of the exterior and spire to illustrate its entirety:

IMG_8659

 

These beautiful wooden doors welcome you into the most overwhelmingly imposing building, with sweeping stone arches, a huge ancient carved stone pulpit, a dark wooden organ gallery.

However, you are immediately drawn to the enormous and detailed panels of brightly-hued stained glass in the famous fourteenth century ‘Jesse’ window*, with its panels of portraits of Old Testament Kings and Prophets, as well as a medieval cartoon strip of the life of St Bernard. Much of the glass was originally used for a Franciscan church, then moved to nearby St Chads after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry Vlll.  It was rescued after the church went up in flames and reused to dramatic effect here. The rest of the glass came from various parts of Europe.

IMG_3830

IMG_3832

IMG_3838

The photos really don’t do it justice, the light streaming through the intensely-coloured glass left me lost for words. I couldn’t get the right angle to include it all in the best light. The Trinity Chapel on the right, first created in the 1300s, also has brilliantly-lit stained glass panels. These are bolder and more dramatic.

IMG_3847IMG_3848IMG_3851IMG_3856

The aisles and chapels have beautiful Victorian tiled floors and the ceilings have intricate fifteenth century oak carvings of animals, angels and birds, that are so high up you have to use the handheld mirrors provided to view their reflection.

 

I found the whole experience humbling. It was awe-inspiring. I am not a religious person, I just love historic buildings including churches and this was one of the most affecting that I’ve visited. I constantly marvel at the craftmanship, creativity, ingenuity and sheer hard work that went in to building these churches, often not just over decades but centuries too. They survive fire, flood, hell and damnation – in the form of Henry Vlll’s distruction of these fine buildings – and are still here for us to enjoy and to sit in peaceful contemplation. I feel the presence of all those who have gathered here before me, and it is an opportunity to feel close to my dad and my brother who both passed away at this time of year.**

This church is now under the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

Visiting old churches and ruins is my favourite thing to do, Shrewsbury and the surrounding area is awash with them – there will be further posts I’m sure – and all in all I had a very enjoyable day. The weather even held off until we made it back to the car – just – before the deluge arrived!

* A ‘Jesse’ window refers to an artistic rendering of the biblical family tree starting with Jesse of Bethlehem, father of King David.

To read about other historical visits, please see:

A Nursery, a Ruin and a Baby Cow

Wroxeter – A Roman City on A Beautiful Summer’s Day.

William Penny Brookes, Father of The Modern Olympics!

Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep!

For more photos of buildings in a Shrewsbury:

Some Fine Tudor Buildings – And Albert’s Shed!

**To read about my dad, please see:

You Were So Much More Than Your Job: A Tribute to My Dad For Father’s Day

Two poems:

My Dad Walked Straight and Tall Like A Soldier

Hand in Hand: A Poem for Father’s Day

and my brother:

Sweetpeas For Dave

Thank you!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It!

 B4B53D6F-9C92-4C30-920B-75FB1D18287AMany of you know that I have a long-term back problem, but perhaps not how serious it is. The warmer weather helps and today we ventured out for a walk along the former railway line, now turned Sustrans bike track. Unfortunately, I was enjoying myself so much that I pushed my body too far and my back seized up by the side of the canal where I had wanted to look at the brightly-coloured barges. I was in a bit of a pickle and knew I couldn’t turn around and go back, nor could I see a bench to perch on while I worked out how get out of this predicament.

I was wondering how on earth I would make it back to the car when I looked up and saw on a ledge a small rock painted with the words: ‘Staffs Smilesstones, please share a pic on FB then rehide me’ with the name of the family who had put it there. It did indeed make me smile, it was such a surprise, sitting there at my eyeline, waiting for me to look up and smile.

This smile and its subsequent break into laughter helped me relax enough to make it to where I needed to go – a nearby pub where I waited while my husband walked back to fetch the car.

When I got back home, and after a few hours’ rest, I looked up Staffs Smilestones and they have a page on Facebook, full of photos of young children with painted stones and cute happy faces, finding and re-hiding the rocks all over Staffordshire for the pure joy of giving someone a smile. I joined their group and will be painting my own rocks very soon.

I am sitting here with a heat pad on my back, having taken some Arnica and smoothed on some Arnica cream, about to go to bed, but wanted to share this story with you.

Here’s a calming photo of a barge drifting along the canal for your Friday night meditation 💜 I love the reflections in the water.

29402128_Unknown

I’ll be writing a fuller post with lots of photos of our walk when I’m up to it. Oh, and we didn’t get lost!

This story was first shared on Terry’s blog

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Sweetpeas For Dave

IMG_3915

I so wish this was scratch-and-sniff and I could fully share these beautiful sweetpeas wth you all! They have such a powerful scent, my husband’s allergies won’t allow him to be in the same room. But every year he grows me a pot full because they are my favourite flowers and they bloom in July, which is doubly significant as it is my birthday month and also the anniversary of the death of my younger brother, Dave, age 22, who also loved sweetpeas.

I have struggled for some time to find a way to mention him. We as a family find it difficult to talk about him, even after all these years. His death was so violent, so sudden and so incomprehensible. Far fom home. It is still too raw.

This month is so difficult because he died the day after Mum’s birthday, 5 days before my birthday and 7 days before my son’s second birthday, and in between all those dates we had to cope with a post-mortem, an inquest and a funeral. In fact, I learned of his death as I was getting my toddler son ready to attend his friend’s birthday party. I hid my tears as I operated the music for Pass the Parcel and Musical Chairs. Since then, we have added three more July birthdays, so this month is bitter sweet.

One of my other brothers and I have spoken about him in recent times, we have different perspectives as I was away from home in the latter years and there are huge gaps in my memories. However, Judith at Nature Knows Best published a post today that happened to be about grief and the colour of one’s kitchen (yes, really, pop over and read it), and it struck a chord – in particular because we are currently choosing the colour of our kitchen! I commented on her post and it seemed to open a way for me to publish my own post on this topic.

Dave was an artist, poet, lyricist, bongo player; he loved animals, nature programmes and being outside; he hated being cooped up. He worked intermittently, finding it difficult to fit in and adhere to another’s routine. He worked for the park’s department so he could be outside.

When we were young, people thought we were twins, there were only 13 months between us. We both looked like our dad: mousey hair, skinny, short-sighted. He was not in robust health through his short life. I remember him having Scarlet Fever and breathing problems. But he was so strong, he could easily beat me at arm wrestling and I still remember the Chinese burns!

Dave was a bit of a cuckoo and there are few photos of him past a certain age as he rarely seemed to be present for family photos. He was always off doing his own thing. The one below was given to me by my best friend, Denny, with whom he wrote many songs and whose guitar he decorated. Denny still uses it. It is well-worn now!

29134752_Unknown

I cut some sweetpeas every year and bring them into the house for him. They are fragile, colourful and last only a short time, but they have a strong impact while they bloom and few are unaffected by their appearance.

img_6209

Copyright: Chris  McGowan