Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A post-card from Chloe

Hello, it's Chloe here!

My Mum is letting me send you this post-holiday post-card.  Between you and me, I think she's got a bit of a conscience.

It's true that my Mum means well, but she does make some very unfair decisions.  Were she writing this post-card I know you'd get a very different explanation for our woefully curtailed holiday.

But I'm an honest cat and, paw on heart, this is the true story.
Tell me what you think.

When a hard-working cat goes on holiday, when she behaves perfectly at the hotel and everyone says how good she is, when her beauty is the subject of general admiration . . . why should her Mum whisk her off home again after only three days?
Wouldn't you agree that it's just not fair.

Let me illustrate what I mean.
See how good I am in the hotel lounge . . . no unseemly scratching . . . no miaowing . . . not a sign of bad behaviour.

And don't I blend in well with the furniture . . . ?

Then there's my exemplary behaviour in the hotel garden . . . I'm  alert . . . interested . . . thoroughly well-haved.

Surely no cat could do better . . . ?

And, as I would advise any potential climbers, it takes more than three days to become adept at climbing box trees on Box Hill.

 You go up with zest . . .

 . . .  but you come down with extreme caution . . . there are rabbits on Box Hill and no self-respecting cat would want to make a fool of herself.

As far as food is concerned, three days is nowhere near long enough to teach the helpful waiter how I like my chicken cooked.

Nor is it long enough to explain to the kindly chambermaid that my Mum drapes rugs over the bedroom chairs because I like rugs, not because I might scratch the chairs.

In planning a holiday that lasted for only three days, did my Mum appreciate all these vital facts?

Then, to compound her thoughtlessness, look what happens next.
When, despite my vocal protestations, we finally arrived back home, wouldn't you have thought that she'd have spent some time consoling me,  and apologising for what I'd been forced to abandon?

Not on your life!  There she was, back on her computer . . . out shopping . . . talking on the phone . . . her distressed cat's sense of deprivation and shock completely ignored.

So, please, after you've read this post-card, will you speak out on my behalf?
Will you tell my Mum that three days is far too short for a holiday?

As you can see, there's only one thing left for me to do . . . to close my eyes and dream of Box Hill.
But it isn't the same . . .  you can't smell the rabbits in a dream!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Seventh Sense?

Do you read 'The Independent'?
The reason I ask is because it recently published a fascinating article by James Geary entitled:
'The wit of the wise beats any number of sermons'.

The article fully lived up to its title.  It was both witty and wise . . . and it got me thinking.

If you've a moment to spare, may I share my thoughts with you?

Did you know, for instance, that the word 'wit' comes from 'witan', the Old English word for wisdom and understanding?

Contrary to what some people might tell us, wit is not the resource of the shallow and the superficial, wit is a tool of the wise.

Thinking about this . . . reflecting on the potency of wit to make wisdom memorable, not to mention its power to sugar the unpalatable . . .  I realised that there's a broader picture to consider.

Wit doesn't stand on its own.  Like everything else in creation, it stems from a source and it gives rise to consequences.

What is the source of wit?  Undoubtedly, a sense of humour.
And the outcome?  The pictures on this page need no words of mine to convey the highly infectious outcome.
Come on, now, admit it . . . when you look at these pictures don't you have to smile?

But can we call humour a 'sense', in the way that sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell are senses?
I think we can.  If intuition is entitled to be known as the Sixth Sense, then surely the sense of humour can rightly lay claim to be the Seventh Sense?

Let's look at the essential qualities of humour.
It both lubricates the mind and nourishes the heart.  It is, at one and the same time, totally unnecessary and absolutely essential.

Humour is divine inspiration at its finest and least predictable, whilst laughter - that extraordinary sound that rises from the stomach and can bring tears to the eyes - has rightly been called 'the divine disinfectant'.

And this is where we can move from hypothesis to fact.  Laughter is not only a disinfectant, scientists agree that it boasts strong healing properties.  Did you know that laughter has the capacity to release healing endorphins into the system, endorphins that ease stress and promote well-being?

More than that, we can, if we wish, fool our bodies into releasing these endorphins.
You don't feel like laughing?
No matter, just raise the corners of your mouth into a forced smile and that will immediately trigger the dormant endorphins into beneficial action.

Can you imagine what a dark and arid desert we'd occupy were it not for the blessing of The Seventh Sense?
No, neither can I.

 Humour is surely creation at its finest . . .  a touch of divine subtlety that transforms  and redeems a weary, fractious world.

Given the wisdom of wit,  Genesis might well have written:  ' . . . God chuckled on the seventh day.'

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


If I ask whether you can remember any past lives, will you immediately stop reading?
Please don't, because I've something incredible to share.

Put any doubts you may harbour to one side . . . sit back and watch as a four-year-old's past memories stream effortlessly through his fingers.
You are going to be as amazed as I was . . . just click here.

And the moral of the story . . . ?  Keep practising . .  . !
Your efforts may not be rewarded in this lifetime, but just think of the pleasure you'll be giving to future generations!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Breaking News!

This thought has probably occurred to you, but it struck me the other day that there's one particular caption which, if it comes up on a news website, is guaranteed to capture universal attention.
The caption?
'Breaking News!'

The news item in question may relate to something very trivial . . . it may only apply to a small number of people . . . but it's 'new' news.  That fact alone entitles it to leapfrog every other item of news that has previously held prominence.
What could possibly be more important than the fact that it's new?  In fact, the very definition of the word 'news' would seem to indicate that an item is no longer valid once its age is in question . . .  logically, there can be no such thing as old news.

What does this make us, I wonder?  Are we so shallow that our interest can only be held by a new excitement?  Come to that, the phrase isn't just 'news', it's 'breaking news' . . . a qualification that implies some kind of eruption or damage.
Why this urge to break?  Wouldn't it be much wiser to mend and strengthen the old and familiar, rather than succumb to this constant desire to break open the new?

Those last three paragraphs are the start of a letter I was about to write to you exploring this theme.  I intended to wax lyrical on the virtues of sustainability, conservation and established values.  Then, quite unexpectedly, I came across a quotation.

What it said has caused me to think again . . . and I rather suspect that your letter is going to be very different from the one I'd planned!

May I share the quotation with you  .  .

"Life," it says, "does not accommodate you:  it shatters you.  
Every seed destroys its container, or else there would be  no fruition."

I have to admit it, the universe of which we are a part is not a place of make-do-and-mend.  Creation started with a Big Bang and, ever since, the nature of life has been to continue exploding.
From the moment the waters break in the womb, precipitating the baby's arrival, life is a series of breakthroughs.
Look at the effort demanded of a baby chick to break its way out of its shell . . . or the energy needed from an oak sapling if it's to successfully burst through the husk of the acorn . . . or the power required of the fragile butterfly if it's to emerge intact from the restrictive cocoon.

To evolve from one stage of development to another is not, it would seem, a question of slow and steady progress followed by a gentle emergence.  It's a story of 'breaking news'.

'The seed', we are told, needs to 'destroy its container'.
Let's look at the procedure, and see how this is demonstrated in the natural world around us.  An organism's inner growth may start at a gradual pace, but don't be fooled.  In order for it to emerge in its new state, in order for it to evolve, there's a need in the final stages for destruction and disintegration.  Components once essential, but now no longer necessary, have to go.  This is brought about by violent and explosive activity which, understandably, produces a period of considerable stress.  The pre-birth period is not an easy time, nor is a final breakthrough guaranteed.

Do you see what I'm trying to say?
If our world is undergoing a time of stress, a time of tension and confusion, could it be that we are pushing at the restrictions of our container?  Are we about to emerge as something finer, more highly evolved .  . . more sensitive to the nature of our planet?

Who knows?
Look out for 'breaking news' . . . and, in the meantime, keep pushing!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Once upon a time . . .

There is only one way to start this story . . . a tale of good triumphing over greed, of knights riding to the rescue, of a sanctuary preserved, and of an undeniably happy ending.
We'll give it a traditional start.

Once upon a time . . .  in a country area west of London, there was a medieval wood.  The time in question was the start of the twentieth century, an era when London was still encircled by countryside, and motor vehicles had yet to change the concept of distance.  It was a time of innovation, and many held ambitious plans for the future. London, they foresaw, would rapidly expand.  Fields would be transformed into highways, farms into factories . . . there would be growth, there would be progress.  It was a time to buy up the farmland and woodland.  A time to make money.

Perivale, a rural fringe of Ealing in West London, was one such area.  But Perivale was also the home of the medieval wood I referred to earlier.  Before the developers could purchase the wood, news of its possible demise spread to the Selborne Society, a society founded in 1895 to perpetuate the memory of the Hampshire naturalist Gilbert White.

Like knights to the rescue, the Selborne Society purchased the threatened wood.  By encircling their newly-acquired twenty-seven acres with a high metal fence, they ensured its survival and created the first Bird Sanctuary in Britain.  In the 1970s it became a Local Nature Reserve and now, ringed by the Central Line, busy suburban roads and light industry, it's the pride of The Selborne Society's members . . . and Chloe's and  my favourite retreat.

We'll show you why.

Let's make a slow exploration through the seasons.

If it's spectacle you want, then it's Spring that finds the wood donning its most colourful and dramatic attire.

Pause for a moment as you look at this picture . . .  let your eyes rest on the massed bluebells flanking the pathway . . . have you ever seen a more breath-taking intensity of blue . . . ?

And the bluebells don't restrict themselves to this one area.
Like a floral tidal wave, they spread out beneath the trees and carpet the entire woodland floor.
Is it possible to be saturated in bluebells?
Most definitely . . . if you happen to find yourself in Perivale Wood!

On the edges of the wood, where the trees give way to the surrounding meadows, there it is that the sun-loving primroses come into their own.

Clump after clump of upturned blooms nestle shyly beside the pathways . . . and, as you can see, are much admired by Chloe!

Then, with the advent of Summer, the scene changes dramatically.
Spring's pastel colours give way to a myriad shades of green.
The wood's summer garb is lush, shadowy, and a little mysterious.
A dense canopy of leaves closes in and creates a network of magical, inviting pathways.

And where do those winding pathways lead?

As Chloe was excited to discover, they converge on a sheltered meadow.  A secluded oasis, ringed by hawthorn and hazel, deep in the heart of the reserve.

It's a meadow that boasts a tranquil pond and a wooden hide for bird-watching.
Not only that, you need to tread carefully as you cross the grass.  Throughout the Spring and Summer it's scattered with a profusion of delicate wild flowers.

With the arrival of Autumn the he wood reaches its maturity.
This is when a mellow, golden light shines through the willows . . . when blackberries are abundant in the hedges . . . cob-nuts ripen . . . and fungi appear on the fallen trees.

After so much flowering and fertility, a period of rest is needed..
Winter in the wood is a season of all-important dormancy.
A rest that is only broken by occasional birdsong, the rustle of squirrels foraging in the fallen leaves . . .  and the regular, distant rumble of trains passing by on the Central Line.

But the story of this flourishing reserve is not a story of unfettered wildlife, it is one of mutually beneficial co-operation.  Members of the Selborne Society work tirelessly with nature to foster the fragile, check the abundant, and help the reserve to thrive.

Fallen branches are allowed to remain where they fall, enveloped in the undergrowth.  Here they disintegrate, providing fertile homes for insects and fungi.  At the same time, any rampant brambles are kept in check, the ponds are cared for,  and the paths maintained.
Ponies graze in the meadows, nesting-boxes are positioned in the trees, and unobtrusive benches give visitors an opportunity to pause and absorb their surroundings.

I don't know if others feel the same, but each time I visit the wood it's like receiving a gentle blessing.
As I'm drawn deeper and deeper down the pathways, the spirit of the wood takes hold.  I feel myself gradually relax and the wood's own tranquility absorbs any tensions that I brought with me from the world outside.
There's a powerful magic at work  . . . a magic whose benefits persist long after I reluctantly close the gate behind me and make the journey home.

What is this magic . . . ?  Who knows.  Let's call it Perivale magic.
It's the special quality that permeates our story . . . a story that started with 'once upon a time' and ends, as all good stories should, with its cast of rural characters living 'happily ever after'.