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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Art in the Algarve

 On my recent holiday in Portugal I spent one of the weeks with a splendid group of people. We walked mostly on the coast, and what a treat that was, but also ventured inland. On the inland walk we stopped for lunch in a village renowned for it's artists. There were many wall paintings, garden sculptures and statues. Most of them quite quirky like the three depicted. There was a very laid back atmosphere and I noticed that several dogs wandering around were friendly and well cared for. This was in complete contrast to some of the ferocious dogs we encountered as we passed isolated houses on the walk. The figure in the doorway of the bus was a member of our walking group.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Dog Whisperer

This is my friend Bryan captured painting one of his unique Tee Shirts and walking some of his dogs. Bryan is an artist and also a part time dog whisperer. I recently visited him in Portugal.  Over a three week period I saw the amazing difference he made to one of the dogs he was caring for in the owners absence. In a firm but gentle way he transformed an anxious needy dog into a calm contented animal. He has helped several dog owners with troubled pooches both in the UK and now in Portugal.When not painting he is available for what he calls Dog Behaviour Correction Training. Please note only in Portugal. So if you live in Portugal and want help with your dog you can contact Bryan by email  or telephone 00351919707088

Friday, 28 October 2016

In Praise of Postmen and Postwomen

What is it about Posties? They are always cheerful as they buzz from door to door. Always ready with a smile and joke. Is it that they are outside in all weathers and getting plenty of exercise?  Years ago I lived in the Yorkshire Moors and ran a village post office. I had the privilege of working with a postman called Denis.  He was a bluff Yorkshire man, broke all the post office rules, ran errands for outlying elderly residents on the moors and was unfailingly happy. His breezy presence lifted the dourest Yorkshire spirit. He retired on my watch and when he came round the corner from his last round the entire village was waiting to salute him with cards, champagne and tributes. His wife was in on it and was there too. He was moved to tears and believe me it takes something to make a Yorkshire man cry! He was so loved. God bless you Denis and all Posties.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Feeling Blue?

Usually when someone says " I'm feeling blue " it means they are feeling down, depressed even.

What is the origin of this term? For me feeling grey would be more appropriate or feeling black! If I have been feeling down it seems the colour goes out of my life. So the title of this painting is Feeling Blue to signify the sheer joy and delight flowers evoke in me.

 How can you feel down when confronted with the miracle of a field of flowers, wild and untamed. I am not talking about flowers that have been cut and placed in a vase, lovely though they are they are separated from the life force they represent.
The painting is Acrylic Ink and Acrylic on canvas 20" x 16"

Friday, 7 October 2016

The energy in flowers

Sometimes when we look at flowers we see more than the flowers. There is a power, a life force, a certain manifestation of energy. You can call this divine, you can call this God, you can call it what you want but what is undeniable is that there is more than a flower.

Acrylic ink and acrylic paint on a small 20x20cm canvas

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Blue Dream

Dust off those dampened dreams
I've brought you Cornflowers
Extending blue
Beyond our tide.

Fragment from a poem by Eileen Carney Hulme

My painting. Acrylic Ink and Acrylic Paint on a small 20cm x 20cm canvas.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

I'd rather go for a Walk!

It's hot today and my master doesn't seem to want to leave this shady spot!

This tranquil scene photographed at the end of Rockland dyke. The launch place for our canoe trip onto Rockland Broad. See previous post.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

The Past Revisited

 Over 50 years ago as a young boy with my friend Billy Mayhew we used to cycle the eight miles from Norwich to Rockland Broad. We used to hire rowing boats from Archie the old Broadsman who lived in the tumbledown cottage at the end of Rockland dyke. We spent many happy days fishing on this wonderful broad. I always wanted to go out on this water again to see if it had changed. Only accessible by water due to surrounding reedbeds rowboats are no longer hired. So accompanied by Peter Norton we launched our canoes. After more than 50 years Archie's cottage had been gentrified but I was delighted to find the broad had changed little. Indeed there was such a proliferation of wildlife and fish stock it seemed timeless. In a world of relentless change it was truly balm for the soul.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Home on the moor

One day I left this place
It seemed right then
Beyond was calling

Now I talk to the mountain
Listen to the Curlews
Beyond was here not there

This is the third of my small paintings on canvas
20cm x 20cm.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Essence of Summer

This is the second of my small canvases for an upcoming exhibition. 20cm x 20cm Acrylic ink.

Poppies capture summer, blue skies and heat for me.

Leonard Cohen's last love letter to Marianne

Before he was famous Leonard Cohen met Marianne Ihlen on the Greek island of Hydra. She was the inspiration of songs such as So Long Marianne and Bird on the Wire. They were together for seven years. When he learnt she was dying in Oslo and only had days to live he sent her this letter.
" Well Marianne it's come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand I think you can reach mine. I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love. See you down the road".
According to a friend she was so happy to receive this beautiful letter and died two days later.
I think this is love and lovely. The painting is one of my small ones for a coming exhibition and is of wild flowers. I think their love was wild and unconditional and that this painting is therefore appropriate for my tribute to them both.

Monday, 20 June 2016

The Heart Sutra. The perfect antidote to politics

The Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra ( Heart of Perfect Understanding ) is one of, if not the most important, Buddhist Sutra.
If you are fed up with trying to score points over somebody with different political viewpoints? Why not try something higher and more challenging. Try to understand this Sutra which goes as follows:

The Bodhisattva of Compassion, When he meditated deeply, Saw the emptiness of all five skandas and sundered the bonds that caused him suffering,

 Here then, Form is no other than emptiness, Emptiness no other than form, Form is only emptiness, Emptiness only form.

 Feeling thought and choice, Consciousness itself, Are the same as this.

All things are by nature void, They are not born or destroyed, Nor are they stained or pure, Nor do they wax or wane.

So in emptiness, no form, no feeling thought, or choice, Nor is there consciousness. No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind, No colour, sound, smell, taste touch, Or what the mind takes hold of, Nor even act of sensing.

No ignorance or end of it, Nor all that comes of ignorance, No withering, no death, No end of them.

Nor is there pain, or cause of pain, Or cease in pain, or noble path to lead from pain, Not even wisdom to attain! Attainment too is emptiness.

 So know that the Bodhisattva, Holding to nothing whatever, But dwelling in Prajna wisdom, Is freed of delusive hindrance, Rid of the fear bred by it, And reaches clearest Nirvana.

All Buddhas of past and present, Buddhas of future time, Using this Pranja wisdom, Come to full and perfect vision.

Hear then the great Dharani, The radiant peerless mantra, The Pranjaparamita Whose words allay all pain, Hear and believe it's truth.

Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. 

Challenged? After years of being a Buddhist I wrestled with understanding this even though I had read explanations of the Sutra. You are probably more intelligent than me and grasp it in one go? However if not, Thich Nhat Hanh has written a commentary published as a book called simply The Heart of Understanding. One read of this brilliant short book and Eureka I understood. How this amazing man whose first language is not English can simplify this text to understandable form just shows his genius as a teacher.

So do read this and take your mind away from greed, hatred and delusion. If dear reader you already have purged these three poisons from your system then please accept my apologies.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Spontaneous Beach Art

I often walk along the beach here in Norfolk, walking from Cart Gap to Happisburgh and then returning via the cliff top.

This growing and changing collection of old net, shoes, bucket, spades and a buoy always provokes a smile. Every time I pass something has been added or taken away and now someone has turned the buoy into a bird with some bits of old iron. Everyone is having some creative fun.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Ben Nevis from Loch Lochy

My recent painting of this iconic mountain.

Many years ago when my children were small I was camping with the family near here. One morning on emerging from our tent we were greeted by this stunning sight. I had climbed the Ben before but never had a view.
We packed up and raced over to Glen Nevis, pitched camp and I climbed the Ben by the north face and was rewarded with stupendous views.

Next day it was still clear and Jo climbed it while I looked after the children.
Next day it was STILL clear so I climbed it with Edward who I think was 9 or 10 at the time, a great achievement for him.
Three clear days on the Ben is not usual so we were very lucky indeed. Wonderful memories. I will probably not sell this painting as it will always bring those memories back.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Morning Walk

Every morning after meditation I walk
Rain overnight leaves puddles 
A Blackbird showers itself with vigour
I stop, enjoying the spectacle
Both taking pleasure

On through the tranquil village
Every house named
A clue to it’s owners dreams
One is called ‘ Mole Meadow ‘
Wind in the Willows perhaps?
I think I would like the occupants 

After the houses the lane narrows
The local bus murmurs towards me
I step on the bank allowing passage
The driver waves acknowledgement
Our eyes meet, we both smile
She has a happy smiling face

Presently I reach the river at the ferry
The ferry is no more, just an old pub
The river is dark, flowing with power
I turn to return, musing on metaphor

Near the small shop is a village pond
Two shy Moorhens in peaceful residence
This winters day sunny and so, so mild
All around life is impatient to spring

My thoughts return to the river
There before me and after me
Buddhists believe in rebirth
Continuity in some form I believe
Possibly the nutrient for a new tree 
On that tree will sit a new Blackbird
I am happy with that thought  
It will be enough

This is it

In the meditation hall there is silence
Forty men silently sitting
A cough, a rustle of movement
Outside a bird sings to the dawn
This is it
Nearby a stomach anticipates breakfast
Outside a little animal scratches and scrabbles
 This is it
Someone moves a cramped limb
Outside a Dove softly speaks
This is it

Friday, 8 January 2016


I will only know her for two weeks
My time in this retreat place
I see her each morning on my walk
Falling in love with her smile
She passes me on the narrow lane
Slowly sailing her bus
I step onto the bank and she waves
We both smile making eye contact
There seems a warmth about this transfer
I hope she feels it too.

Monday, 4 January 2016

After Meditation I Notice

After meditation I notice new buds as I walk
I notice the old leaf grasped in the lower tangle
I notice that the energy of the earth has turned
The turning from contraction to expansion
I notice I follow without effort into this movement
Always somewhere there is a flower in bloom
 This penetrates me deeply and with wonder
I notice leaves are as moved by the wind as I am
Emotions joyful and tearful arise to surprise me
I notice I am pleased by this affirming surge of life
I notice a handsome Thrush tapping a snail on stone
In the bushes a small bird tests his spring voice
I notice a molehill breaking the long wet grass
It reminds me of childhood walks with my father
I notice tenderness springs up to catch my throat
I feel gratitude for being in this deep miracle
I notice too that I don’t understand it at all

At the Padmaloka retreat 23rd December 2015

Sunday, 3 January 2016

How to survive a fourteen day Buddhist retreat at Padmaloka.

I recently attended a fourteen day  Buddhist Retreat over Christmas and New year. If you are planning such a retreat here are some tips on surviving it. 
First learn to eat fast. There is a spiritual inner man and a spiritual outer man. Feed the latter to connect with the former. The food is excellent but portions are small so there is a race to clear plates in order to obtain seconds which are limited. You could miss out! 
In this retreat there were ten days of complete silence so be selective who you talk to in the preceding two days. Avoid obvious dharma bores and it is wise to avoid any stranger wearing a Kesa ( a sign of an ordained Buddhist ) because although they will be lovely they will have a funny ordained name which you will forget after ten days silence and therefore risk giving offence. These names are confusingly similar, such as Dharmayeti, Dharmadippy, Pranjapringle, pranjameetup and so on. Best stick to those still sporting a normal name like John, Paul, George etc which are easier to recall. Especially avoid anyone wearing a Kesa, a pony tail and bare feet. This is a serious statement and conversation with this individual will probably be about Siddhi powers and he will aspire to emulate Tibetan monks who can dry a wet robe with body heat while meditating in a blizzard. He will probably also have a cold. Bare feet in December!! 

Talking of colds try to spot early who has one, you can then avoid sitting next to them in the shrine room. Also as seating in the dining room is pretty random, identify and avoid a table with those so afflicted. Of course it is important to feel Karuna  ( compassion ) towards them, but at a safe distance. 

Silence is golden but TEN days! To remind yourself how golden, sneak off in your car for half an hour and turn the radio on full blast. This being Christmas you will probably hear Slade’s Merry Christmas and other such oldies. I am sure you will hear these being played at Christmas in your next life time too! Safely reminded rejoin the retreat. 

In serious retreats, each day will end with ritual and chanting. If this is the sevenfold Puja this is bearable and even quite pleasant. However this can sometimes be expanded in which case you may find your Metta  ( loving kindness ) slipping somewhat and you may even lose your Upekkha ( equanimity ) so distract yourself by speculating who won Strictly Come Dancing or how the final episode of The Bridge finished. 

Oh and for a New Years resolution resolve to spend next Christmas with your family! With apologies to my Buddhist friends for this light-hearted take on a retreat. If you didn’t smile you may be missing the point! With Metta to all.