A Post Election Plea For Compassion & Peace

A year ago, when very new to blogging, I published a post called Compassion is Good for Our Health in the context of negative newspaper and political rhetoric about refugees, homeless poeple, those with disabilities and mental health issues. It was also written against the background of the shootings and bombings in Paris.

I explained how demonstrating acts of compassion is beneficial to our physical as well as our spiritual health.

Then we had the terrorist attacks in Belgium.

In June this year, after the attacks in Orlando, I reposted it. We in the UK had also lost an MP, a campaigner for peace and for human rights, in an attack outside her surgery. The nation was stunned.

Next came Brexit and all the lies and infighting, and there seemed to be an open season on anyone considered non-British, or on benefits and so on. Again. Only more so, and with impunity. These people felt able to be quite open about their views and to express them in the most hurtful and derogatory terms, often along with physical intimidation or even violence, without fear of restraint, recrimination or incarceration.

Now, following the US electoral compaign and vote, and all the online vitriol towards women, minority and vulnerable groups, I find myself revisiting these issues. Videos of High School students carrying Trump posters while chanting about White Power made me feel sick.

I don’t post about politics, this blog is not about that. But all this hate, negativity and lack of compassion is not good for us or for our society. It certainly isn’t good for those who bear the brunt of it, those who already find life challenging.

Twelve months on from that first publication, I can’t believe we have not moved any further forward, but rather it would seem we have taken a huge step backwards. I can only believe like many others that hope and humanity will win out, that –  as Chris Martin of Coldplay said very eloquently on The Graham Norton Show recently – once those who feel disenfranchised and ignored have had their voices heard, things will calm down.

Please take a look at my original post. As Ellen Degeneres says, Be Kind To One Another.

img_3462

(Sorry, I found this on Instagram, I don’t know the source).

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Advertisements

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

Believe it or not, these are the grounds of our National Sports Centre at Lilleshall where Olympian gymnasts and archers, and professional footballers train. Not a bad place to work and train, eh?

It’s in a beautiful setting, I love the trees, especially this majestic cedar tree. It is stunning close up and the glade that it forms with the tall pines is home to lots of squirrels, rabbits, birds, pheasant and the odd fox and badger. We have brought friends and family, young and not so young, here to enjoy the peaceful surroundings in all seasons, even on Boxing Day!

The estate was originally in the demesne of Lilleshall Abbey but fell into private ownership during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monastries. For part of its history it was owned by the Dukes of Sutherland and the second duke’s wife played a large part in the architectural design and landscaping of the estate.

In 1949, The Central Council Of Physical Recreation bought the hall and several thousand acres of land and it has been used as a sports centre ever since. The future Queen Elizabeth II opened it in 1951. The entrance gates are replicas of those at Buckingham Palace.

The England football team trained there for two weeks before the 1966 World Cup – the fresh air and stunning views obviously did the trick!

I thought I would share a few photos from our recent visit.

image

image

The view from the terrace

The water gardens are between the formal hedged garden and the woodland

image

These water lillies looked like they were really enjoying the sun

image

These are grapevines growing over the path

image

image

image

image

There are several follies around the grounds.

image

Count the chimneys – we got to at least 40! Imagine having to light all those fires and clean them after, not to mention the chimneys themselves. This is the side of the hall.

image

At the far end of the estate there is a pet cemetery, one area for dogs, one for cats, some have their own headstones, some share them with others; there is even a memorial to a Russian wolfhound called Czar, who was given to the Marchioness of Stafford by Czar Alexander II in 1836 and lies buried alongside – but a little apart from – the other dogs and cats, as befits his aristocratic status!

I tried to take some video of our walk through the trees for a friend who could do with some sunny smiles, but finished up with a lot of footage of feet and pink knees! Apparently when I thought I was recording, I was in fact on pause and vice versa. Unfortunately when we tried to rectify this on a second visit, the rain came down and it doesn’t show the grounds at their best. Because we’d had storms in-between, the ground was too wet to retrace our steps (there used to be a canal system running through the estate, built to transport coal and limestone to and from local mines, and parts of it are very marshy, even in the summer). So I present to you some photos of sheep in a neighbouring field!

There is a lot of excitement around at the moment over the impending visit of the medal-winning gymnasts, who are currently having some much-needed chill-out time first.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

I Love My Garden!

image

(Image Credit: timelesswheel)

It’s yet another heavy, darkly overcast day and I felt so disappointed that yet again there was no sun showing off the garden to it’s best advantage. Yesterday, I had watched as the rain distorted the view we have from our kitchen window, and sighed. I have always looked forward to this time when all the blossom and the rhododendron flowers burst forth in a synchronised display and the garden looks altogether very pleased with itself.

I could see that there would be more heavy rain before long which might ruin the display so, checking first that it didn’t feel as wintry as it looked, I decided to make the most of it and sit outside drinking not only a cup of licorice and cinnamon tea, but also drinking in the spectacularly colourful show around me.

I love my garden. I love the peace of it. I can sit there in contemplation and hear only the birds, the bees, the occasional thwack of leather on willow in the distance (that’s cricket to my American readers!) or wood on wood from the local bowling green. Sometimes I can hear young children laughing and splashing in their paddling pool – children laugh so uninhibitedly, it always brings a smile to my face.

My garden is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; it is informal, wild plants have insinuated themselves and been welcomed if they fit and don’t get greedy, while other cultivated plants have self-seeded in nooks and crannies, like the pink nemesia covering an ugly corner of the path, and have been allowed to take up residence.

I never fail to have my spirits restored and uplifted when I’ve been in my garden, even for just five minutes. Breathing in the fresh air scented with floral perfumes and sometimes wood smoke fills me with joy and gratitude. I feel renewed. Any stresses and frustrations are lifted for a while as my brow unfurrows and I lift my gaze from the ground and up towards the sky, the trees, the shapeshifting clouds.

I am always grateful that I have been fortunate to have this space and I wanted to share a part of it with you.

Forgive the quality of the pictures, I only have the iPad camera!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The baby apple tree will hopefully have a better backdrop soon: my lovely daughter has volunteered to paint the garage against which it stands after I gave up on the fairies performing this kindness over the past couple of years!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The bright pink azalea and the irises are from last year when the sun was more generous with its rays, this year the frosty hail and constant rain destroyed the azalea flowers before they could sit for a while and be admired, while the irises are still thinking about waking up.

I hope you enjoyed the show!

Copyright: Chris McGowan