Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Tag: Garden Centres

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?


A Very Happy Birthday!

As so many of you sent me emails and messages, I decided to respond with one huge  ‘Thank you!’ to you all – I did indeed have a very happy day, in part because of all the love and goodwill channelled in my direction which warmed and deeply touched me.

Late morning found my husband driving us down to one of our local garden centres… sadly, not the one I used to habitually frequent; that has become far too commercialised –  big, garish and a prime example of the rampant consumerism that I dislike with a passion. This other garden centre is further away but much smaller, more intimate and very Welsh.

Oh, joy! The place was filled with winter flowering cyclamen and pansies and many other colourful shrubs and flowers. It was an utter joy to see and scent and experience this glorious show of natural beauty when all around us our gardens, fields and woods are turning to drab and seeming lifelessness. My spirits instantly raised and my heart swelled.

At this time on a Sunday morning, the Christmas displays were very quiet. Happily, I strolled around enjoying all the sights and sounds. There were marvellous collections of fairy lights, large jolly gatherings of Father Christmases, gnomes and elves, herds of deer, polar bears and penguins, small woodlands of synthetic trees and crate after crate of beautiful baubles – many with a natural theme and others to delight a small child with their picturesque traditional fantasy. In one corner, a life-sized Father Christmas drove his sleigh past a large Welsh castle inhabited by animated elves who waved cheerily from every window, zealously guarded by an enormous inflatable green dragon. I was suitably amused, inspired and enchanted.

My sore knee (which has been giving me increasing problems for a couple of years now) was beginning to heartily complain, so briefly, I sat down on a garden bench which was for sale. I did notice people staring at me. I thought that it was because I had sat on something which was for sale, but when I came to stand up again, I realised that the bench had been pulled across the entrance to Father Christmas’ grotto which is not yet open… and there was me wearing my little red cape and white fur hat trimmed with a sprig of Christmas decoration tucked in the side! Mother Christmas in waiting, perhaps?

Now there is a job I would LOVE to do… play Santa Claus for the children… I have the right figure but not the right gender! Perhaps in my next incarnation I may get the chance…

Home again, later that afternoon, my husband, son and myself settled down by the blazing log stove in the drawing room with a tray of hot tea and my birthday cake… coffee and walnut, one of my favourites! Candles were blown out… cards and gifts were opened… outside the daylight waned and drifted into a wet and windy dusk… we talked and read and I gloried in contentment at just being safely at home all together – this was my best gift of all.

Years spin around with quite amazing – not to mention sometime alarming – speed. My life seems to get busier and increasingly exciting. But it is the little things, the simple times, the unguarded, unplanned moments which sometimes catch me unaware and suddenly, I see a reflection of my life… myself… in this unique yet ordinary moment and it is breath-taking in its perfection.

Even the longest life does not contain that many ‘moments’. Be aware of yours… they lurk in the shadows and most unexpected corners, ready to blaze out and stun us with their transitory glory and then vanish again. Be ready to recognise them, to be aware of what is taking place. I know I treasure mine.

So, once again, thank my dear friends and readers, for your support, good wishes and kindness. Collectively they provides just such a very special moment. Love, light and blessings to you all.

Light In The Darkness

Daffs at Fron GochYesterday, I ventured out from my home and the almost hermit-like existence which has become habitual over the past eight months and went to visit my local garden centre. I haven’t been down there since last January and the first shock was to discover that there has been an extensive programme of extension and rebuilding and I hardly recognised the place! The second shock to my system was to be among so many people again – so many families with young children… ah, there is still life – and hope – out there!

As I sat in a new outdoor cafe area sipping a scaldingly hot latte, I reflected that here was truly a miracle. After all that has happened this year… the fear, worry, tension, loss, bereavement and grief… the political argy-bargy and wrangling… here are families – my local community, bless them – celebrating and enjoying the time of year and each other’s company. Their eager excitement and anticipation was almost palpable.

Tucked away indoors was the usual array of mind boggling glitz and glitter – the amazing sensory overload which constitutes the seasonal display of Christmas decorations.  Normally I revel in the sheer exuberance of it all, a counterbalance to my very personal, private and mystical experience of the Midwinter, but somehow it all seemed too much for me this time.

I took myself off outside and, while my husband went to browse the bookshop and organic market, I found myself wandering the aisles of winter plants. Here I regained my perspective of what our Christmas/Midwinter celebration is all about; a gaudy, frenetic event of light and light to illuminate this darkest time of the year – an island of colour and hive of activity in a sea of stillness and shadows. For the exhibition hall containing all the sensual overload of Christmas festoonary sits couched in a sea of winter flowering shrubs and plants… a miracle of life unostentatiously displayed in blooms, berries and foliage.

Beyond the confines of the garden centre itself, the leafless trees and sere fields lie sleeping, a counterpane of mist and cloud dulling  edges and softening stark realities. Here is my true Midwinter reality; that no matter what happens in the world – no matter what disasters and plagues and heartbreak – life carries on. Held within the palm of dead winter sits the beating heart of new life… new vegetation and abundance, new human life and potential – totally irrepressible, unstoppable… and utterly inspiring and heartening!

Here is to the continuation of life and to new beginnings… and blessings for all.

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