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Friday 31 October 2008

The Ghosts of Temple Newsam

Temple Newsam House, a short walk from where I live, is renowned for its ghosts and it seems appropriate to speak of them at Halloween. Thousands of years ago, when I was a child, the famous 'Blue Lady' was the stuff of nightmares. Many times, since, I have been through the house half hoping to see her - alas to no avail! Children, today, though still speak of her and the various legends about how she was attacked and robbed while returning home and died soon afterwards. Legend has it, she returns in search of her stolen jewels. Then there is the story of the maid strangled in the cellars while resisting the advances of a footman...
I have never seen any ghosts at Temple Newsam but I have walked thousands of times in the woods there and I believe there is something so mystical and ancient about them. It would not surprise me to see fauns and satyrs skipping around those gnarled trees. The Templar legends resonate in that place and there is something so unique about the atmosphere of Temple Newsam that I have never experienced anywhere else. I would love to hear more of other people's stories of the ghosts they have encountered there, for I know there are many!

Monday 20 October 2008

The Message of a Beautiful Prince

Once upon a time a beautiful prince, called Albert, who had spent his whole life in service to his country, his family and his people, had a beautiful dream of peace throughout the world. A wise and brilliant man, born into a position of some authority, then married into a position of great power, he was determined to use his gifts for the good of all. Whatever the cost to his health or his own comfort, he dedicated himself to duty so wholeheartedly that eventually it cost him his life. The tragedy was that his beautiful dream turned into a nightmare on the battlefields of WWI. His children and grandchildren found themselves on opposing sides. They became enemies and their positions of authority crumbled away as monarchies were overthrown.

Now, here's the rub. If this beautiful man had forgotten the world, forgotten his responsibility and duty, and had simply cared for his family, wouldn't they have been better off? Wouldn't he have been better off? He did it because he felt it was his duty and he cared for the people. The people were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves but, as always, people look to a figure of authority for guidance, and cast their own problems onto that figure, projecting every difficulty onto someone else - a figure of authority. The appalling part is that, as we 'came of age', instead of taking back responsibility, we (people) let ourselves be led by someone who claimed to speak for us: a Hitler, a Stalin, a dictator in any guise. These Hitlers, Stalins (who still appear) did not have the beautiful prince's love for their people, they saw only his power and they wanted it for themselves...

Sadly, to me, the days of the beautiful prince have gone. The sadness I feel about that, is only the sadness that we all go through when we pass out of childhood. The scary thing - far more scary that anything in the past - is the way that we go on following figures who come as wolves in sheep's clothing, promising change or a better world, or promising a great future. No one can do it for us; we can only do it for ourselves by taking back the power that is our birthright, and realizing from the mistakes of the beautiful prince and his beautiful family, that we'd all be better staying at home - not Empire-building, not seizing power, just living without having to rely on someone else to make our decisions for us.

If there were a choice between corrupt bankers and politicians or people like the beautiful prince, I would go for the latter. If there were a better choice between being ruled or simply living and minding our own business, I would go for the latter again. If we learn anything from history, it is surely that we need neither rule nor be ruled. Let's live according to our lights and grow up.

Wednesday 15 October 2008


Anyone who has ever written from the heart will empathise with this: Wow!! This book is published and, for the first time, it is published exactly as I created it, and will be available for anyone who wishes to read it within a couple of weeks. A labour of love that has become a reality at last!!

Thank you so much for all the emails and kind support given to this book!! I trust it lives up to expectations!! And am deeply grateful to you!!

Wednesday 8 October 2008

There Is So Much More....

Perhaps it is dangerous to say that, amid the chaos of economies crashing and banks and bail outs and everything else in the news, I believe that what is now being reported so widely, is not so great a catastrophe as the loss of individual self-expression and the deep appreciation of beauty and freedom. What is happening, to my mind, is the natural outcome of a world where we have lost our way as far as individual freedom and the recognition of beauty goes. If we hang our hopes on economics, and let art be defined by unmade beds, piles of bricks, lights turned on and off, thrown-together things by those who are afraid to say, "The King is in the altogether," what can we expect? A throw-away society, depending on nothing of substance is bound to end up with nothing.

Happily, in spite of what they would have us believe, all is not lost.

That which is truly beautiful always prevails in the long run. That which is truly beautiful is always individual, original and free of the constraints of trying to be fashionable or living up to anyone else's standards or the general consensus of 'it must be this way...it must be that way...'

Isn't it fascination (aside from the power of individual thought and the circumstances we create for ourselves) that so many artists who were not recognised in their lifetime, now have their paintings stored in safes and selling for millions? It was ever thus, I think. The vast majority of us, most of the time, are asleep and want to be told what to do, what to think, what is good, what is bad. Whether these instructions come from governments, churches or are the acting-out of our childhood, we feel safe that way, because, when it all goes wrong, we have someone to blame. Hence, the individuals who couldn't fit into that - like Van Gogh or John Claire - ended up in 'asylums,' and then, when their art is recognised, along come those trying to emulate that 'madness' by trying to shock. It's so passé and unoriginal!

Looking for true beauty, it is so wonderful to come across truly original eyes - the kind of work that makes you stand back and think, "Yes!!! There are people who don't give a damn for what is said to be the norm because they are real artists and truly have an eye for the real!" There are several websites that seem to me to speak this way. I love this page filled with Heinrich Heine quotations and beautiful pictures and messages:


I love all the loveliness in this site, by Tom:


And I truly love the beauty of the brilliant photography of André Hilliard, whose orchids photograph appears above:


So, we think the collapse of banks is so important? Maybe it is on one level. At the same time, there is more to life, and when we stop listening to the fluster and control-stuff, and think for ourselves, we can see that there are brilliant people all around us and there is far more to life than what goes on in 'The City'. We don't have to live in boxes. We don't have to be protected or told what is beautiful. We need only open our eyes and see that there are geniuses everywhere, and I, for one, am honoured to have seen some of their work.