"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

The Purpose of Life...


"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, 26 April 2010

To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive

Train"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labor," wrote the Scottish novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson in 1881. Everything that means most to us is to be found in that journey, rather than in the achievements, or the destination. Mind you, he would never have experienced the frustrations of the average plane journey these days, especially when it leaves you stranded in a foreign clime for days on end.
I wrote of aeroplanes and volcanoes and hurricanes the other day and wondered whether good may yet come out of the recent fiasco in European air travel following the Iceland volcanic ash plumes that blew across our normally crowded flight paths.
Apparently the answer is yes! Aside from the devastating and very real experiences of wedding plans ruined, business deals disrupted (does that matter so much?), vital life saving medical supplies delayed, travel insurance shocks, etc., many people have actually been able to relax into the situation or have shown huge resourcefulness in getting home. What is more, many have then said how they have appreciated the journeys by train and boat rather than above the clouds. The latter may, just may, be usually quicker, but you see so much more from the train or car (not so green!) window - or indeed from a bike!
Several years ago I cycled from Vilnius in Lithuania to Warsaw for Marie Curie Cancer Care: well not strictly true - I broke my elbow at the end of day 2 and was carried on the support bus from then on, along with a very damaged bike! As we travelled along the route we had plenty of time to see the countryside, the fields and woodlands and small hamlets;  even experienced some over generous hospitality from locals drinking at a roadside bar at one refreshment stop. Our leader was unhappy about the bottles of strong local beer that were being pressed into our hands by those more than slightly inebriated men - and this was only 11am! Myself, I was most interested in the gradual change from small family subsistence farming, from manual and horse driven implements and tethered cows, to larger fenced fields, small herds of cattle, and old tractors putting in an appearance as we came nearer to Warsaw.
We then caught a train from Warsaw to Krakow, from whence we flew home. That train journey was so interesting - as we rolled along through more beautiful scenery, seeing glimpses of rural life, snapshots of gardens and smallholdings, horse and cart carrying produce presumably to a local market. I didn't want to miss a single detail, wanted to watch out of the window throughout the journey, but people wanted to talk, to miss all this experience of a different culture in all its fascination as it flashed by. 
I love the journey. In a car I love to be able to take my time, to stop in villages, to visit churches along the way, to have a closer look at quirky things! On my bike I can see into gardens that we miss on a car journey, can see rabbits and birds at close quarters as there is no noise to frighten them away
I foresee a future where many more holidays will use overland and over-sea travel to a destination. Even have no destination - just a circular route taking in all the sights and sounds and history of a place. Perhaps we shall be forced to do more of this kind of holiday anyway - air travel is often very very far from being a green choice, and how many more runways must we build before the planners see the long term folly of further growth in air traffic?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Aeroplanes and volcanoes and hurricanes

We were woken at 3am or thereabouts by a huge bang and crash. Michael Fish our UK weatherman had famously said we were definitely not going to have a hurricane. He has ever after lived to regret those few words of assurance! Our neighbour’s enormous Oak tree had landed on our roof, and a huge branch had smashed through the lounge window, ripped the settee to shreds, and left a legacy of acorns in amongst all the books and ornaments, that we were finding for years after. Most important though was the fact that our two boys were OK. Aged 6 and 3 at the time, their bedroom was narrowly missed by the flying tree trunk. That was a very close shave.
But good things came out of that 1987 hurricane. Although there were injuries and a few fatalities across the south east of England, important lessons were learnt: that trees need checking for disease, and pruned or lopped as appropriate when needed, that woodlands don’t look after themselves but need careful attention. The hurricane created an enforced and brutal sorting of the healthy from the diseased trees. And as lessons in wood husbandry were learnt, so new spaces were made available for careful replanting and new views were opened up for us, all across the county.

In 2010 another piece of history is being made, and perhaps in the end good things will come out of the current grounding of all aeroplanes across Europe. Some are suffering. This is a desperate and serious time for those gravely ill patients waiting for donated organs and bone marrow to arrive for essential treatments. Some couriers are making amazing journeys over land to deliver some of these vital medical supplies. 
And the families of the Kenyan farmers who cannot deliver their beans to our UK supermarkets will also suffer. But many are finding very welcome peace and relief from the desperately loud planes landing over their chimney pots into Heathrow and Gatwick and other airports. If Her Majesty is at Windsor Castle at the moment she will certainly notice the difference!

And we all know that we cannot sustain the continuing growth in air traffic. And is being able to fly to where we want at any time a human right or a privilege? This is an interesting question. Comments please.

I went to a local garden today that was open to the public and there I met a man whose job is measuring aeroplane noise! Actually he welcomed this current silence in air space as it gives a useful base line against which to compare the “normal” situation.  

So who knows what the longer term effects will be of this current situation? Meanwhile make the most of taking photos without the aircraft trails. And this is coinciding with the most glorious weather and clear blue skies. So there are plenty of photo opportunities to be had. Enjoy!

Monday, 19 April 2010

The UK National Health Service and CAM - FREECAM

Pills,Wallpaper,Background,Eminem,Refil,RefillAlthough this blog considers the UK National Health Service, the issues are every bit as relevant to USA Healthcare. In fact as with so many things the US leads the way and we I hope will follow.
I read in today's newspaper  that in trying to make savings the financially stretched NHS is likely to cut "talking therapies" and other services to mentally ill patients by 5%. What folly! I suspect this will mean in the long run that more pills will have to be prescribed to deal with the depression and stress and anxiety.
Every month or so I go to a meeting of the Scientific and Medical Network. It is a wonderful network through which I have made many friends and learnt a great deal. And very often I have a serendipitous experience. Last week's meeting was no exception. I bumped into John Kapp, and how I wish I had met him years ago. pills
Because for many years I have been pondering about the costs pumped into health care for drugs and invasive procedures and have often wondered whether we should rather be concentrating on nurturing holistic well being, with yoga, meditation, tai chi, counselling, psychotherapy, and using reiki, chiropractic, and the many other complementary and alternative medical procedures available to treat our illnesses. I have written elsewhere and at some length on this, and on the need to bring soul back into medicine, rather than pursuing a policy of continual pill pushing, and am personally convinced that this has to be the future of the National Health Service. 
Because not only is the link between stress or anxiety and physical illnesses been well documented, such treatments are almost certainly safer and pretty much bound to be cheaper than many of the sophisticated drug regimes that are dished out regularly in the average doctor's consultation. We simply cannot go on funding the escalating costs of pills and procedures when many illnesses could be prevented or at least relieved by dealing with the underlying mental causes. pills
But how often does a doctor suggest these alternatives?
Of course the drug companies want us to consume their pills. But at what cost to our health in side effects, interactions between drugs, etc etc?

Did you know that the NHS is now required to prevent illness in their patients and staff, and that preventing illness is the aim of complementary and alternative medicines? 3 out of 4 of us want free CAM on the NHS, but when GPs recommend CAM to us we usually have to pay for it.
All of this and more is covered in papers to be found in THE COLLECTED WORKS OF PROF REGINALD O. KAPP (1885-1966) AND HIS SON JOHN KAPP (1935- ).
under section 9. Here are papers written by John Kapp that continue the philosophy of his father before him, keeping the ideas alive and hopefully working towards recognition and change. Here you will find lots of information and more details of the FREECAM campaign. Do support this fantastic initiative.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Tadpoles and bugs

The frog spawn has hatched - on 7th April to be precise. The days have been so unseasonably warm lately, but next week colder weather is forecast - I do hope the tadpoles do not suffer - perhaps by then they will have moved deeper into the pond. At the moment they still form one solid writhing mass, within the remains of the spawn on the surface of the pond. They will gain nourishment from this for a little while before moving onto solid food - some people supplement their diet with cat food and cat biscuits, I have heard.

Another thing I have learnt is that some frogs apparently die at spawning time after becoming entangled with other enthusiastic frogs!!! Mating is clearly a dangerous game for a frog!!

Visiting a garden open to the public this weekend I came across this rather super example of a home for hibernating bugs of all sorts. So easy to do - all one needs is a pile of pallets, and then the gaps can be filled with various materials - old broken crocks, straw, twigs and logs, corrugated cardboard - materials limited only by the imagination.
In my own garden I have a "stumpery," a motley collection of twigs, branches and logs that may look untidy to some but provides a wonderful haven for wildlife.

And I could not resist a picture of this! Isn't it so cute?!

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Golden Rule

Tom was a young chimney sweep in Victorian England. These lads had a rough life, having to climb up inside chimneys to clear the soot, and no doubt had miserable health as a result. But in those days child labour of this kind was common. The story goes that Tom was chased out of a house by the upper class Ellie, fell into a river, drowned and changed into a Water Baby. There in the water he is introduced to fairies who are responsible for his spiritual and moral guidance. The story continues in The Revd. Charles Kingsley's book, The Water Babies: .....

So far so good. As a young child I recall we had the book, and I loved reading it. What I remember of it now is the role of Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby. What she taught Tom is self explanatory and I have lived with that value, or tried to, throughout my life. But I am no saint. How many of us are?

I thought of this when I heard a newscaster the other day reporting on and discussing terrible events in a faraway place. The news seems to carry such items all too often. But because this is all happening so far away and has no political significance for us, why should we care, she said?! I'm sure I must have heard that wrong, I do hope so, but it did take me back to Tom the Water Baby. Because should we not all care? In my mind I linked Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby with the Golden Rule which is a part of all the World's great religions: "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," Jesus Christ taught us. Christianity is still the faith to which 33% of the world’s population and 78% of North Americans turn for their healing and spiritual nourishment. Indeed the ministry of Jesus Christ reflects the very essence of the Wounded Healer, with his compassion borne out of his own redemptive suffering for mankind.
The Islamic version is as follows: "No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." Judaism says: "What is hurtful to yourself, do not to your fellow men." I could go through all the faiths - they all basically say the same. Do as you would be done by.
And of course atheists invariably argue that religion is not necessary to ordain moral and ethical values.

So on that basis we should all care, every last one of us, for the lives of all people on the planet. They are all our brothers and sisters. They all deserve compassionate treatment and justice. And we should all be doing all we can to support initiatives that address such issues. I know we are mostly pretty good and generous when it comes to money for disaster relief - but how many of us go further than that? I wonder.

earthquakes?New Orleans 9th Ward Levee break 043We saw the distress that extreme weather can inflict in the 2005 devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Even those who cannot quite believe or accept the evidence for the part humankind may be playing in climate change cannot deny the extent of human suffering now seen on a global scale. This then becomes more than a debate on climate change. Katrina AftermathIt becomes a matter of human compassion and justice. These injustices brew a potentially dangerous potion of civil unrest and worse. There is a social and moral imperative for us all to share everything, to watch out for each other, to work for global healing. I believe we can no longer ignore our global responsibilities.

But there is another side to this book. Goodness me, in my childish innocence I had absolutely no idea that there were undertones to this story. Perhaps my version was the expurgated one. Children were so innocent then. Anyway I googled and came to the Wikipedia site. It tells me that this was a didactic moral fable, that it portrayed the prejudices of that time, making offensive references to Jews, blacks, catholics, particularly the Irish, and Americans. Not to mention a social comment on child labour. Phew!! The Wiki site is fascinating if you wish to pursue this line of information.

I leave you with the thought I began with. Do to others as you would wish others to do to you.The world would be a much better place if we all followed that simple advice, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Hope, Optimism, Change and a Fresh Start

Yesterday David Cameron, launching the Tory election campaign in the UK, claimed that his party offers hope, optimism, change and a fresh start. 
Hope and optimism: don't they mean pretty much the same? I think not. We must not confuse hope with optimism. Optimism is passive. We believe that something better will happen. Hope is far more than that. It is a firmly held conviction that it is worth taking action to improve something; and for me it is grounded in spirituality and faith.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells us: “I've never been an optimist. I've always been a man of hope - I am a prisoner of hope…hope holds on even when things are seemingly doomed and dark.” “We must,” said Martin Luther King, “accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.”
In Christianity hope is one of the three great spiritual virtues or God given graces, of faith, hope and love. These form the foundation stones of the spiritual wisdoms that have served us well for 2000 years. For the sake of the world, as well as for UK society, the need to return to them is urgent!
And David Cameron surely understands that.

Barack Obama has a prayer he says for America today. It is for

“ hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all.” 


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

"Some viewers may find the following images disturbing."

We have all heard the cautionary warning at the beginning of yet another dreadful news item on TV. But shouldn't we all be disturbed by these events every time they are broadcast?  
And as if the real life news is not awful enough, man is quite capable of creating things that hurt, as well as making beautiful artefacts that can be a source of healing. The choice is ours.
Many share my dismay at the almost unbelievably violent computer games sold to children, but how many have the courage to take a stand against such things? Patience Wheatcroft in The Times (1) wrote: “Whatever previous research has determined, it is hard to believe that prolonged exposure to such horrors does not breed some nasty ideas in the more impressionable of minds.” She went on to say: “The instances in which youngsters have gone out and committed murders akin to those they have watched are mercifully rare, although there have been a few notorious cases. But instinct suggests that bloodlust cultivated on a computer screen might at least have a desensitising effect, even if it does not drive the player to go out and…(copy that violence.)” She quotes research from the University of Missouri-Columbia that shows that “regular players of violent games suffer reduction in a type of brain activity called the P300 response, which reflects the emotional impact of an image on the viewer. The reaction of gamers to violent images was muted, suggesting that they were desensitised to brutality. They were also found more likely to behave aggressively…” Surely this can be extrapolated to the News Bulletins? Even without the benefit of scientific evidence, common sense tells us that the emotions provoked by such violence can hardly be healing. We are healed by beauty, sensitivity and spirituality, not by ugly brutality. Studies such as these are always controversial and science rarely proves anything, it simply offers balances of probability. Nonetheless those who create such horror for the retail trade seem to be allowing their own wounds to crush them. They certainly have a responsibility for the potential negative effects of their work; for the harm it possibly inflicts on the minds of others. 
We know that people who are subjected to too much gratuitous violence put up a barrier of defense and they become desensitized, a process sometimes known as “psychic numbing.” It is not hard to see that the longer-term effects of such material on the general behavior of the human race could be far reaching. And this brings us back to the appalling and disturbing news items. How dreadful, and what awful implications for us all, if we are not deeply disturbed by those graphic violent images that come into our living rooms every night on the TV news bulletins.

We all need to feel disturbed enough to do something, however small, to heal the world.There are plenty of organisations across the globe addressing the issues behind the news images - they need our time and our funding. Just supposing we all started one tiny Ripple of Hope with a small action every time we saw disturbing images on our news bulletins ...? 
Arun Gandhi travels the world trying to keep alive his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, based on the principles of love and truth. A young teacher in one of Arun’s lectures raised the question of “the corrupting effect of violent movies, TV shows and obscene and violent music on the young people in America.” Should they avoid such things, she asked. This, he replied, placed the cart before the horse. Those who live a life of practicing “truthfulness” would not want to watch or listen to any such media in the first instance. But such a noble life is not so easy for many of us to achieve.
for some reason, i couldn\'t stop taking pictures of these gorillas.  courtney and mark had to eventually pull me away or else i would have stood there all day.When I was a very young girl we had an illustrated nature book at home. Amongst the photographs was a full page spread of a family of fearsome looking gorillas. They terrified me and made me scream every time I opened the book at that page, but I still insisted on continually going back to that photo! They held a gruesome fascination for me.
Many of us have an almost ghoulish tendency to look at the evil that is around us. We are certainly not very good at protecting ourselves from harmful influences. We therefore have government and industry guidelines that protect us from ourselves! We have rules and regulations that prohibit or restrict certain creative material, such as those that may determine the content and timing of television and radio programs. Films are classified according to their perceived suitability for different audiences. Such rules are often although not exclusively designed to protect the young and vulnerable in our societies. But no one can escape the events that actually happen, that feature in our TV news programmes.

And we all need to do something. Start Ripples of Hope - to heal this fractured world.

1. Patience Wheatcroft, The Times on January 13th 2006 in an article entitled “Bloodlust at the click of a Mouse.” 

Men are from Mars

Why is it that the Easter Bank Holiday weekend always gives us less than perfect weather? And it doesn’t matter when Easter falls! It is a moveable feast and can be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25. But whatever the date, the weather tends to be lousy and the days before and after the holiday tend to be lovely!

Actually yesterday, Easter Sunday, wasn’t so bad in the South of England in spite of some dire and gloomy weather forecasts but I know it was pretty grim for lots of other places and we had some terrible showers, some of hail, in between the sunny spells.

And now that most people here are back at work I woke up to a lovely sunny and mild day. Great, I thought, at last an opportunity to do lots of outdoor gardening jobs, generally sweeping and tidying up and checking on all the seeds that I have been sowing in seedtrays and pots for planting out later.

So I went downstairs for a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge to start the day right. I make the porridge in the Microwave oven. It takes exactly 5 minutes on medium and is always perfect.

And during that 5 minutes, and whilst the kettle boiled for the tea, I emptied the dishwasher and put all the stuff away, watered all the plants on the kitchen window ledge (lots of orchids, a strelitzia that I am really proud of, grown from seed, and several cyclamen), swept the kitchen floor, checked the temperature of the propagator where I have sown several varieties of squash, wiped the dining room table not done after supper last night, put in the fridge various food stuffs that should also have been put away last night, took a load of washing out of the tumbler dryer, and did all those things just in time to pour the tea and take the porridge out of the oven ready to eat!

And all this reminded me of a cartoon by Annie Tempest. If you do not know about the village of Tottering-By-Gently and the work of Annie Tempest you have really been missing something. Do visit her website. Annie is a fantastic observer of British life and the British character, but she also has an international following, as she “touches a note of universal truth in her exquisitely detailed and beautifully executed cartoons as she gently laughs with us at the stuff of life.” She has captured this Mars and Venus phenomenon in a wonderful cartoon, called “The Male and Female Characters.” In this she depicts on the one hand the woman doing all these things and more whilst the kettle boils to make coffee. When it is the man’s turn to go downstairs to make the coffee, he simply leans against the aga doing absolutely nothing whilst he waits for the kettle to boil! Life I guess was ever thus, and always will be.

So...I have spent all morning doing those gardening chores, and now I better go and fold all the washing and put it away and cook some lunch. Who was it I wonder who said that “a woman’s work is never done?”

Sunday, 4 April 2010

He is Risen indeed, Alleluia

Today is Easter Sunday, the most important day of our Christian year, the day when Christ crucified rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb. During the service we all went up to the cross in the centre of the church and decked it with flowers, transforming it from a stark instrument of torture into the most beautiful symbol of new life and the joy of creation.

I think this is a particularly wonderful way to celebrate the glory of the Risen Christ, but I am sure other churches have different and equally striking ideas, probably as many ideas as there are priests! I would love to hear of them.

But perhaps we need to start at the beginning. We have just come to the end of the most important and Holy Week in the Christian Church year. It started on Palm Sunday, when we commemorated Christ's entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, to cries of adulation and singing, Hosannah in the highest! We processed along the road into church waving palm crosses, not only reminding us of what happened to Jesus on that day, but also serving to praise Christ the King who reigns and triumphs on the cross. It expresses our own readiness to take up our cross and follow our crucified and risen Lord, as we go with him to the place of suffering and death.

Through the week we continued to follow Christ's journey, from his trial to his death upon the cross. On Maundy Thursday we remembered how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, and we stripped out the chancel and sanctuary ready for Good Friday when we held the most solemn and simple of services around that cross, this time stark and simple and cruel. We had carried nails around with us all week, given to us on Palm Sunday, and we laid them at the foot of that cross on Good Friday, a symbol of the burdens we had carried, now left to the care of the Christ crucified. 

But then comes Easter Saturday, and that night, the time when our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life, we joined Christians across the world to gather in vigil and prayer, lighting our Paschal or Easter candle from a fire in the churchyard and carrying it into the church in darkness, to light all the candles and spread that Light of the World to all the congregation and beyond.

And of course Easter would not be Easter without Easter Eggs for the youngsters and indeed for the not so young!! There were cream eggs handed out to all the children who came up to the communion rail and as if that was not enough for them, an egg hunt had been set up in the churchyard whilst the adults had their coffee and biscuit - and sneaked a few eggs as well no doubt!

He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


Total Pageviews