Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Category: Out and About (Page 1 of 4)

Party Inspiration

I have just received an amazing book through the post!’ The Book of Wizard Parties; in Which the Wizard Shares the Secrets of Creating Enchanted Gatherings’.  I bought it from Bibliophile, a mail-order book suppliers. It is really for children, but to my (possibly) juvenile mind, I feel that some of the ideas could easily be adapted for adults too – I don’t think much of so-called parties where one simply sits and eats and talks – I like activities and something to do!

The themes are varied and interesting as well as magical. There is the Alchemist’s Gathering, the Aladdin’s Cave Party, and the Egyptian Summer Solstice Party, as well as Merlin’s Birthday Party , Springtime Fairy Frolics and the Wizard’s Winter Revels, the Chinese Dragon Fete, and, most applicable to me and this time of year, the Spirited Druid Hallowe’en Gathering.

Each themed party has instructions on how to make a suitable costume or accessories to wear, decorations for your party room, games to make and play, food to assemble or bake and little stories to tell. One of my favourite suggestions is how to make a royal throne, (this one of for King Arthur, but would do for any royalty, or adapted for a celebratory ‘birthday chair’), and is simply formed by taking a rigid plastic garden chair and covering it in silver kitchen foil, then decorating the back and arms with fake jewels or other similar haberdashery. What fun children could have creating their own very special chair. Heck! What fun I could have!

The pages are all beautifully laid out – it is an absolute joy to just to handle and certainly to read.

Or how about adapting a fallen tree branch into a Christmas Bough (as opposed to a tree) and making all the decorations for it in the form of silver icicles, glittery snowballs (fir cones could be adapted here) and paper snowflakes. You would only need to spend a very little money on craft supplies to enjoy a lot of family fun and shared activity to produce something utterly personal and unique for Midwinter celebration.

At the front of the book, there is also some sound advice on how to both give and attend a party – and the activity really is a two-way street with just as much responsibility on the guest as the host to make the event enjoyable and successful for all. There are also a couple of pages about how to make, send and respond to party invitations – again, valuable and sound information based on good manners and thought for others, something which we perhaps all need reminding of occasionally.

The book originates in North America, but the differences in names for hardware and kitchen items aren’t too difficult to get around. It is beautifully written and presented and I find it simply inspiring, which is why I wanted to share it with you all.

Anyone who has read any of my books, (but especially ‘Merry Midwinter’), will know that I do not normally encourage consumer spending, but there are certain items which are incredibly helpful, fun and full of the feel ‘good factor’ as well as invaluable in getting one started on creating, making and baking for oneself, and this is certainly one of those instances.

I have found ‘Wizard Parties’ on Amazon, priced at £12 54,  but from Bibliophile, it was a paltry £3.50      Give it a try – I promise you that old and young alike will not be disappointed.

Happy Partying!

Just Another Afternoon

How is it that some of the simplest activities can be transformed into something special and everyday actions into memorable occasions? I tend to think that it is how we chose to view something, how we seize an opportunity, how we allow it to inspire us and – to coin one of my favourite phrases – how we make much of little.

This is exactly what happened to me yesterday when I travelled the thirty-five miles or so up the coast with my husband to the seaside town of Llandudno. We left home in rain and wind but arrived to brighter skies and sunshine just beginning to peep through the clearing clouds.

First we went to lunch in one of my favourite restaurants, ‘The Habit’ which has a huge selection of tasty dishes and delicious cakes, clean, relaxing, and cosy decor and excellent service. I hardly had time to enjoy my pot of tea or the selection of daily newspapers and books provided before my meal arrived.

You would never know all this fascinating information and deliciousness was behind this unassuming facade.

As we left the ‘Habit Tearooms’, I almost bumped into a sandwich board on the corner, advertising a chocolate museum down the little sideroad – now when had that sprung up without me noticing? My husband went off to his afternoon of voluntary work at the North Wales Wildlife shop on top of the Great Orme (which he does once a fortnight) and I disappeared down John Street to investigate the museum which is housed in old buildings alongside a very modern chocolate producing factory, all of which was started by entrepreneur, Timothy Winstanley, shortly before the pandemic. Regardless of its apparently small size, an amazing selection of delicious chocolates are produced here (for sale in Maisie’s Chocolate Shop just across Mostyn Street round the corner into Vaughan Street ) as well as creating between one and two tonnes of chocolate flakes each week. Anything to do with the handling and processing of chocolate is a black art and takes a great deal of skill, technique and care.

It was disconcerting to find some of my favourite chocolate bars, tins and boxes among the exhibits!

The museum was an intriguing and delightful experience; a veritable warren of small rooms and corridors full of chocolate-related artefacts, interactive experiences, scenes, models, information boards and recordings. I travelled 5,000 years from the cocoa-rich kingdoms of the Olmec, Maya and Aztecs (including bird song and other sound effects) through to the Crusades and Mediaeval Europe when both chocolate and sugar first found their way into modern western society, the chocolate houses of London, Songhai, the last indigenous empire of North West Africa, the slave trade, piracy, fashions in eating and drinking and monarchs who promoted it. To enhance my experience, on entering the museum I was issued with a plastic beaker containing five gorgeous chocolates, all of which are made on site, and which I was gently instructed to eat at various stages of my visit to help enhance my experience and illustrate the changes in chocolate and what it actually meant.

Floating in a warm fuzzy haze of sweet treats, I finally exited the museum to explore my favourite kitchen shop (where I did a little Christmas shopping for useful but much-needed items which I know will be greatly appreciated) and my favourite craft shop across the road. Here I found lots of little goodies for gifts to fill our Christmas Elf’s sack on the breakfast table on Christmas morning, or pack the model Victorian Snowy House which graces our dining table on New Year’s Day. I bought spools of 3mm wide ribbon in various shades of green for tying packages to go under the Tree, and gorgeous purple satin ribbon to make into bows to adorn the herb pillows I plan on making later in the autumn. I also found synthetic orange berries which will look great clutched in the pipe cleaner fists of my little autumn fir cone gnomes and extra sheets of felt for the making of pointy hats for my fir cone witches – more on those in a week or so as we approach Hallowe’en!

I also found a bunch of pretty gold fabric poinsettias which I might use to decorate our Christmas or New Year crackers this year. On the other hand, I might just adorn myself instead – such simple decorations can pull an outfit together for a seasonal occasion – one in my hair with two or three more as a corsage sewn onto my dress… or perhaps attached to my evening bag – or stuck on my shoes… or…

Entering a different kind of ‘fairy land’ through an archway of beautiful synthetic autumnal leaves!

This autumn I have been enchanted by all the seasonal decorations – the garlands of coloured leaves alone are glorious. Yes, I love authentic decorations straight from garden, but how long does a trail of beautiful brown and red Virginia Creeper leaves last in the warmth of our living room? About two hours before it wilts and curls away to practically nothing. Yes, we should use less plastic, but let’s not throw the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater. There are some truly beautiful items manufactured with which to decorate our homes and celebrate the seasons (not just Christmas) and if stored sensibly they will last many years – I still have a spray of plastic harebells which my mother bought when I was eight years old and sixty years later they haven’t even lost their colour.

The delicate, life-like shading and colouring make these garlands, flowers and sprays works of art in their own right.

In another shop I discovered lovely Christmas cards which depict an snug shed in a snowy winter’s garden but which to me looks remarkably like our Hafod down on our land on the Llyn Peninsular. (Oh, that we might actually get some snow this winter!)

Later, I sat on one of the old wooden benches in the sunshine beneath the trees in Mostyn Street, cooled by the unseasonably warm breeze and made lists: planned and dreamed my coming autumn and winter celebrations into being. Someone sat down on the bench beside me. I took no notice as I squirrelled away with my pen and paper. Finally a voice spoke… it was my husband! The shop had been fairly deserted all afternoon and he had decided to close a little early.

Happily, we drove home together, back along the coast and into the mountains where strong gusts of wind whipped up white horses on the surface of the water all down the Menai Striates, Anglesey was merely a thick black line on the horizon and the skies still wept above cloud enshrouded mountains. Apparently, it had been pouring with rain at home all day… I smiled as I remembered my lovely afternoon in the warm breezes and sunshine of the town… but then that is part of the magic of Llandudno and a very simple but special afternoon!


All the Fun of the Fair

Well, I couldn’t go without some of Herbary Books’ publications, including my own!

Greetings! I hope that you have all had a good summer? It has been a busy time for me but I am finally back with you all, commenting on various aspects of life and, hopefully, soon to bring you news of my latest publication! (More of that anon.)

Yesterday I found myself taking part in the ancient Honey Fair within the mediaeval town walls of Old Conwy in Snowdonia. Originally, I was supposed to be somewhere else entirely, but as it happened, I was glad not to miss this annual event, the Royal Charter for which was originally given to the town by Edward I over seven hundred years ago and which entitles beekeepers to sell honey within the town walls free of charge.

From early in the morning the narrow main street and small town square was vibrant with stallholders setting out their wares and tourists and shoppers strolling around the bustling streets. After two days of cloud and rain, the sun shone hot from a clear blue sky. Many stalls were piled high with jars containing every conceivable flavour of wild honey, their precious sweet contents an array of amber and light golden jewels shining in the sunlight.

Not all stalls offer honey for sale. There were also vegetable, plant, craft and charity stalls. My son, who is a medical herbalist, had a stall selling natural creams and teas promoting his herbal practice, and I was there to help when he had to leave early to see patients. Most of the day was very busy with the streets thronging with visitors. The annual event draws people in from near and far and it was lovely to watch friends greeting each other, dogs jostling while leads became entangled and the cafes and coffee shops doing a roaring trade.

Once upon a time, every town centre across the land was like this. People coming together to trade, to replenish their larder, animals and hardware necessities, exchange news, do business deals and generally socialise. Our town were packed with people at least once or twice a week. What a difference a few decades can make! Now, our civic centres have become empty, dilapidated, near-deserted ghost towns while we all sit at home like Twenty-first Century Scrooges, huddled over our various electronic devices ordering everything from pineapples to hair combs from the great anonymous warehouses which internet shopping is based on.

We are increasingly a society of isolated individuals suffering from various medical/mental health issues, many of which stem from not getting out and socialising. We are a herding species, we are not meant to be so alone and we need other people. Surely the lockdowns of the Covid19 pandemic amply demonstrated this?

Conversely, our town, village and city centres need us. To help protect the planet and reduce pollution and travel miles, we need to support local producers. Items from outside our area need to regain the true significance they once held, that of occasional special treats. Travelling to other areas would regain extra pleasure as we once again discover different foods and goods and the rich tapestry of human life laid out in locally stocked shop windows. Currently, from one end of the land to the other (and beyond) we all dress the same, eat the same foods, furnish our houses with the same mass-produced items.  And it would give small businesses a chance to start up and thrive – there is even an argument here (which I won’t go into now) for abolishing money altogether and returning to a system of barter… an exchange of goods and services, person to person, face to face – bringing us together, walking more lightly upon the Earth.

So what about it? What are you going to do today to help re-establish local trade and community? Perhaps instead of reaching for that keyboard, you might instead consider the healthier option of walking into town and taking a look around at what is on offer. Carry a wicker basket or cotton shopping bags instead of plastic carriers. Be more discerning;  choose quality not quantity. And if you don’t find what you are looking for, ask in the shops which are still available to you if they would consider stocking it. At the same time, this also gives you the opportunity to make new discoveries about just what is on offer and to also find bargains, especially of the seasonal variety where foods are concerned.

Yes, it takes more time – and we are all desperately short of that these days – but purposely slow down, organise yourself, write a good old fashioned shopping list and only go shopping once a week or fortnight – that is what we have fridges and freezers for.  Set quality time aside and make it an occasion by arranging to meet up with friends or family and have coffee or a snack or meal out.

Here is to the better times, the good times, the more socially responsible and aware times – but it needs you to make them happen.


Anglesey Writing Festival

Come and join me for a workshop on how to write a biography, whether that be your own story or that of a family member or friend or family history.

The Anglesey Writing Festival takes place in Menai Bridge on Saturday, 29th April – very reasonably priced and a great day out when you will get the chance to talk to lots of local authors – specialists in their own field – and listen to heaps of great advice and inspiring ideas.

Writing your own story or the story of someone else’s life can be utterly fascinating and absorbing. As the writer you become detective and it is amazing what you can uncover!

In my workshop we shall be looking at perspective and subjectivity, timelines and titles; the use of letters, diaries and other documents and the vital hidden clues they may contain; the importance of artefacts; tips on how to interview someone and the perils of transcription; context and prioritising information. Also what details to include and when to leave something out; not forgetting the all important step of organising your information and beginning to write it down.

Check out the details Perhaps I might see you there!

Make the Very Most of Life!

We all know that the pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives and has presented us with huge challenges. But, as with most things, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is all bad. Take my experience of yesterday, for instance.

I am a member of the committee for our local branch of the Theosophical Society. In the past, our business meetings tended to be dry, dull and uninspiring. Then along came Covid and we could no longer meet in person – a great relief where committee meetings were concerned as we could hold them via Zoom instead, and, due to the fact that there was very little happening during lockdown, we had correspondingly little to discuss.

Three years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, we let the tenancy of our regular meeting room go. Earlier this year, with life and activities opening up again, we felt that it was time we met in person to decide the future of our group. We opted to meet over a pot of tea in the restaurant of our local garden centre. Overjoyed at being able to greet each other and hug again after so long, we had a lovely meeting and all enjoyed the experience tremendously.

Yesterday, we had our latest meeting at the garden centre which was held over lunch.  First came the minutes of the previous meeting and some of the days business over cups of coffee. Then we stopped to eat – delicious plates heaped with salads and cold cuts or very tasty savoury flans – followed by more cups of coffee while we completed our meeting afterwards.

Along the way there was a great deal of laughter, teasing and fun. We have decided that we now love the new form our business meetings take so much that we shall carry on with this hugely enjoyable format in the future.

And why not? If something can be made an enjoyable treat while still getting the job done, why not do so? It is all too easy to focus on all the negative, difficult and painful aspects of life. Why not do the same with all the possibly joyful ones too? I feel that it is almost a duty for us to ring every tiny measure of happiness and pleasure out of life that we possibly can. Why leave a vacuum to be surreptitiously filled with lack, unease, discontent and irritability? Why not make up one’s mind that something is going to be a blast and stick to it?

Nor is this a selfish decision for our happiness and positivity grows and spreads like a forest wildfire. Unbeknown, our warmth touches everyone around us and they, in their turn, are affected by it and pass it on to all they meet along the way… and so it goes.

So, to anyone reading this, I call on you to begin a new movement – that of engendering goodwill, light and love through your own happiness, pleasure and contentment. It only needs you to decide that you are going to make your everyday tasks as enjoyable as possible and then do just that, enjoy them.

One of my favourite maxims is ‘Make much of little’ which is a neat way of encapsulating all I have just taken several hundred words to woffle about. Go on, give it a go – what have you to lose?


Tea and Carols

Advent Wreath Pictures | Download Free Images on Unsplash

The church in Beddgelert dates from the early 13th Century but the religious community here reaches back to much earlier Celtic Christian times. It is a peaceful spot beside the Glaslyn river and glowed in the late November sunshine yesterday afternoon when a small group of us joined the congregation there for carols and readings which were sung and read in both Welsh and English, accompanied by the sonorous tones of the organ. At the end of the main aisle stood the Advent wreath with its different coloured candles, one for each Sunday before Christmas and the fifth white candle to be lit on Christmas Day.

There is something very special about old churches, as if their very stones have absorbed the love and devotion of the countless previous generations who have prayed their and now, like a charged battery, give back the courage, strength and love of our forebears. As always, the sounds and cadence of my Celtic mother tongue which I do not understand, nevertheless resonated deeply with me and for a brief time brought me directly into contact with my Welsh ancestors. Fancifully, I could hear their voices, and felt at one with them as the Earth once again approaches the Midwinter Solstice and the time of Christmas celebration.

These days I do not often spend time in a church and as the afternoon progressed I gradually became aware that my seat was growing warm and then positively hot. Am I unwell? I asked myself. I removed my glove and placed my hand on the pew seat next to me. Yes, that was warm too! Old churches can be very cold places, especially at this time of the year, but this marvellous building actually has heated seats.

The notes of the last carol died away and then afternoon tea was laid out for us at little tables in the North Transept where we all sat down to enjoy plates piled high with dainty sandwiches, dishes of scones, jam and cream, and cake stands loaded with sweet delicacies. We ate and drank from bone china plates and cups and happy chatter filled the room while willing helpers cheerfully passed among us wielding a seemingly endless supply of scalding hot tea and coffee.

It was also a delight for me because I now met again so many of the ladies who I have come to know over the past few months when I have visited the village to give talks and workshops. Continually waylaid by by warm greetings and hugs from so many, I never got to actually look at the little sale of bric-a-brac and gifts which were on display in the aisle – although I did manage to purchase two adorable knitted festive mice which are now sitting companionably on my mantlepiece. I later learned that the afternoon had raised over £220 for church funds.

The sun was beginning to set as we drove home past Snowdon and through the mountain pass at Drws y Coed, back down towards the sea. What a magical afternoon it had been, and how very much I had enjoyed it. Who needs lots of glitz and excitement? I can get just as much joy from songs in a language I cannot understand, loving welcome from new friends, teatime goodies and, oh, yes… a warm bum!

My Little Sacred Garden

Clear skies, drying boisterous winds, temperatures above 21 degrees… it doesn’t sound much like mid-November does it? But that was what we were treated to last weekend and I grabbed the opportunity to spend Sunday afternoon out in all that glorious freedom of unexpected, unseasonal sunshine.

I spent my time working within our little stone circle, repotting our nine oak saplings which form a protective outer circle around the nine small stones within. Oak trees do not like to be disturbed or have their roots touched or damaged in any way, so I had to be very careful – or at least as careful as it is possible to be while forcibly wrestling young trees out of pots they have grown too large for and are now tight and constricting!

I sincerely hope that they are not too traumatised. The young trees have given me a huge amount of pleasure this year, from their leafy lush foliage back at Midsummer through all their autumn colours. The rustle and scent of their very presence has frequently brought a smile to my lips. Now their leaves are mostly brown and the first  are beginning to drift to the ground. One caught and stuck in my hair while I was working – a large curled paper-dry leaf, surely far too large for the tiny tree it had grown on.

Once the trees had been seen to, I planted snowdrop, daffodil and tulip bulbs around the edges of the pots so that – mice permitting – we might have spring flowers in the circle when all the rest is still a little drab.

And then it struck me… I was planting a sacred garden! In my humble opinion, all growth, all that is encompassed by the natural world, all life, is sacred for it contains that element of divine energy which is life itself… life which ultimately can never be destroyed, only change form.

Once all this was done, I then decided that I needed to do something with our tiny firepit in the centre of the circle which was just an irregular rectangle cut into the grass. I enlarged it and turned it, too, into a circle, edged with old red bricks which contrast nicely with the dark grey of the slate stones. Among these bricks are some from the living room fireplace of my old childhood home in Lancashire, providing continuity of hearth as an important focal point.

Here, where we shall sit to warm ourselves at our Midwinter fire, celebrate the return of the light half of the year at the Spring Equinox, and dance for joy at Midsummer in the full light and heat of the sun amidst the blossoms, here I lay the tentative foundations by planting seeds of new life. Tended with love, there can surely be no greater act of faith and positivity than to plant a garden, a burgeoning beautiful symbol that life continues, and that, contrary to popular belief, working in harmony and understanding, together humanity and the natural world can produce something amazing… and thrive.

Greetings for Guy Fawkes!

‘Remember, remember, the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason, why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!’

Did you used to chant this when you were a child? Perhaps after all the recent political shenanigans the old rhyme might have more relevance to us today than merely remembering a chap who attempted to blow up parliament nearly four hundred years ago.

However, I would suggest that the instinct to gather together around huge bonfires at the beginning of winter is much older than a few centuries – it reaches back into pre-history and fulfils an ancient calling which our ancestors practiced from the dawn of time – sympathetic magic when, fearing the lengthening dark and intensifying cold, they encouraged the warmth and light of the waning Sun to stay with us by lighting the largest fire they could muster.

Yesterday evening, I witnessed this deep subconscious call first hand as hundreds of villagers hurried along the dark lanes to the rough ground beside our football pitch for the first communal celebration of Guy Fawkes Night in several decades. Streams of cars were also arriving from further up the valley and soon there was nowhere left to park a vehicle. Shouts of recognition as friends and neighbours greeted each other and lots of excited chatter filled the dark night.

In principal, the event was organised to raise funds for the football club which supports teams of every age of youngster, male and female, as well as adults and is growing rapidly in popularity. A nominal fee was asked of each attendee at the gate; hot food, drinks and sweeties were on sale, but not overpriced. And I suspect that it was held the day before Guy Fawkes so that those who wished to could still attend larger displays held in the local towns the following day – except that we later heard that many of these annual events have been cancelled, perhaps due to lack of council funds.

My husband and I walked down with friends to the designated field which was already crowded. My son had offered to provide his medical services for free, and when someone decided to jolly the sizzling sausages along and the refreshments tent nearly caught fire as a result, he feared that he might be in for a busy evening! But other than a rogue rocket detonating horizontally and disappearing off into the bushes, (fortunately away from the crowd!), and a small child burning her finger on a hot sparkler wire, there were no casualties whatsoever.

For the gathering of young and old; the family groups, the many teenagers and even more numerous  children of all ages, were without exception enthusiastic and good tempered and as everyone stood and watched the bonfire be lit and the flames slowly grow into a roaring, blazing inferno, I was wryly amused to reflect on the mesmerising effect which this powerful elemental energy still retains. Where and when else in this day and age will you find several hundred youngsters content to stand for nearly an hour to watch a pile of wood burn away?

The bonfire was still blazing when the fireworks began. Rocket after rocket hurtled into the sky and burst into blooms of coloured stars and shining petals above our heads. From the crowd came suitable “Ooooohs!” and “Aaaaahs!”. Some small children wore ear-defenders at this point… I had my fingers firmly stuck in my ears, for I have never liked loud bangs but love the beauty of the ignited, exploding gunpowder.

At last it was over. The crowd quickly dispersed. I was saddened to see some empty cans and papers cast on the ground, but on reflection, marvelled that there was actually so little after such a large number of people had stood there.

Memories of our recent segregation and isolation due to the pandemic still haunt me and it felt SO good to once more stand in the middle of a large gathering of people. Humans need humans… need each other’s company… we are sad indeed when we cannot mill together.

Altogether, it was a wonderful evening. We strolled home to eat plates of hot meat and potato pie which had been burbling happily in the cool oven of the Aga, heaped with home pickled red cabbage and sit around drinking mugs of hot tea. Hopefully this will be the start of a revival of activity in the village, a new era of communal events and interaction – the public response last night shows that there is certainly an appetite for it… and we suspect that the football club raise somewhere in the region of £5,000.

I was just a little sorry that, though, this particular occasion involved so much noise. Our timid white and black tomcat, Bandit, was discovered curled up, hiding beneath the old dresser in the living room – I’m sure that it he could have found a tin helmet to wear he would have done so!

If you are venturing out to bonfires or firework displays this evening, do take care… but have a wonderful time!


Come and Meet Me!

If you are in the Borth area this weekend why not come along to the Goblin Fair at the Community Centre and meet me?

The market will be open with free entry from – 6pm. with storytelling, music, a costume competition, and talks alongside the market itself. In the evening there will be music, dancing and entertainment – £6 entry fee for that.

I shall be there with my publishers, Herbary Books, as the lady organising this unusual event is also one of their authors.

For a really different experience, why come and join us – have a chat, enjoy some of the vegetarian and vegan food, sit and listen to the music and stories… and meet ME!!!

Seriously, it would be lovely to see you there.

Lots more details at

Just Ambling Along

Yesterday I went for a walk, out into the autumn sunshine among the browning bracken and the gold and copper-coloured trees. We left home in low cloud and drizzle, but on leaving our slate valley (which attracts moisture like a sponge!) we drove out onto sunshine.

The magical hill of Dinas Emrys

The path we took follows the River Glaslyn from Craflwyn to Llyn Dinas, passing the ancient hill fort of Dinas Emrys on the way. Legend tells how it was here, aged little more than a boy, that Merlin first flexed his magical powers by identifying the battling red and white dragons which lived beneath the pool on top of the hill.

Llyn Dinas also has its legends and stories – one in which the local community would build a raft at the time of Beltane (beginning of May) and using it to transport their chosen May king and queen across the water to the opposite bank where an ox would be slaughtered and great feasting and celebration take place.

It all looks so placid and tranquil now. Yesterday I was content to sit upon the rocks and simply ‘be’… to absorb the heat of the sunshine, the warmth of the soft breezes, the beauty, space, silence and peace of the place. That is, until a walking party began to approach down the hillside. Loudly talking all the way I could hear them from quite a distance. Unfortunately for me, they decided to make brief temporary camp at the end of the lake where I was, still loudly talking all the while.

The path home

I suspect that they were missing a vital part of their experience by taking their human busy-ness and gregarious sociability with them as they walked. What greater wonders might they have experienced if they had quietened and simply stood or sat for even just five minutes to allow themselves to absorb their surroundings via all their senses on every level? The fact that by the time they reached me I was standing stock still in an inch of lake water, eyes tight shut, with my hands raised to the sky perhaps might have given them a clue.

I recently read in the newspaper that English Heritage have launched an initiative this autumn whereby visitors are encouraged to spend the final hour of opening in silence – switching off their phones and other devices, finishing conversations and deeply entering into the peace of their surroundings in a more contemplative day. What a marvellous idea! After all, what has initially prompted these people to visit such venues in the first  place? A different backdrop from which to send their texts, emails and play games from? Surely not.

The problem is that folk tend to immediately jump to the conclusion that if they are asked to be contemplative they must dive into some deep, difficult, mystical form of meditation which they don’t know how to ‘do’. All it needs is a little stillness and silence; to take the time to look about one and absorb one’s surroundings as best one can… look, watch, smell, feel and taste where you are with appreciation and gratitude… and so we begin to more deeply connect with our wonderful world and our own unique life.

Through the woods besides the Glaslyn

I once suggested a little exercise to my Earthwalking students whereby they were to stop every hour – just for a minute or two – and look about them. (I also advised them to set an alarm to prompt them not to miss the hour.) It didn’t matter where they were or what they were doing – on the bus, in the middle of shopping, eating a meal, at work, bathing the kids, hanging out the washing, (not driving, of course, unless they chose to pull over and stop). I asked them to then take that minute or two to look about them and really see where they were; touch, smell, listen to their surroundings, and be thankful for them…

By the end of one day doing this every hour, most of them felt much calmer and far more engaged with their ordinary mundane surroundings – some even began to see how lovely they were and feel joy and thankfulness for them. Try it and see for yourself. You don’t have to go and sit besides a gorgeous lake in the mountains, anywhere and everywhere is magically beautiful. It just depends on how you choose to see it.

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