Sunday, September 28, 2014

From Saigon to Cantley

I have to admit the title of this blog post is a bit of a cheat - because I went to see 'Miss Saigon' - I didn't go there. But even so, a trip to London now and then, for purely social purposes, is worth a mention. The production was very good and the singing most enjoyable, but I have to confess that I prefer Madame Butterfly.

However, my post this week starts with Miss Saigon on a Wednesday evening, as it was the opener
for a few days off. After trekking into London (well, getting chauffeur driven in a small mini-bus with some colleagues from work) we enjoyed a quick cider in the Three Greyhounds before seeing the show. We had good seats, and after a lovely evening managed to make it home just after midnight.

Thursday morning I headed with my friend to Norwich and to a few days rest and relaxation. We started off with a short walk round the marshes to the south of the city - and saw very little wildlife, but some really lovely trees. I like willows, and they have 'crack willows' on this little nature reserve tucked away inside the ring road, but just outside the city. I wonder - can you get addicted to this kind of tree?

This butterfly settled on me before heading into the tree
 Friday was shopping day - and we went to a low-cost store in the city to stock up on bits and pieces for our weekend. My friend lives in Norwich, but we were both surprised when in the store we bumped into a friend of mine! He lives in Diss - a few miles away - but what a small world, we were both in that shop in Norwich, as visitors, at the same time.

In the evening we went to the Norwich Folk Club and saw the highly talented Georgia Shackleton. A delightful evening - and I even got to sing a couple of songs too. I was asked back as well, but it won't be my weekly hang out for geographical reasons.

Saturday we headed into the city and went on an open top bus tour. We stopped off at the Roman Catholic cathedral (the second largest in England and large enough to be used as a reference point for pilots in the second world war).  Our first visit, though, was not to this imposing building, but to the Plantation Garden nearby. If you are a visitor to Norwich, I can thoroughly recommend this hidden delight.

Despite its Gothic appearance, the church is only 100 years old

The plantation garden.

The Italianate steps at the end lead to a small rustic summerhouse

After After our visit to the garden, we headed back to the church. There was a wedding on and, whilst two young people pledged their vows before their god, we climbed 247 steps to heaven - well, to the roof. here's some of the pictures I took:

It looks like stone, but it is brick built with a stone facade

In the roofspace

Tremendous views over Norwich

Look up!

Look down

The other cathedral

Lots and lots of steps...

Interior - looks more than its 100 years old

One of the ornate bosses

 Saturday evening we rested, but Sunday it was time for a trip on the Broads. We hired a noddy boat (a small day cruiser) with some friends who also live in Norwich, and headed out across the Yare. We chugged slowly up the river to Rockland where we stopped for a fantastic lunch at the New Inn. Dodging sail boats, scaring up kingfishers, disturbing the herons and intriguing the ducks (we didn't have any bread for them), five of us and a dog (Five go Mad in Norfolk?) had an extremely pleasant autumn day on the water.
We had to dodge the sailboats

Abandoned windpump at Cantley

After lunch we headed further along the river to Cantley, and eventually turned round and came back to the boatyard at Brundall. A thoroughly relaxing and pleasurable day.

And now I'm back at home, and enjoying this little post, and these pictures, and the lovely memories of a wonderful county, and even better friends.

All photographs by Carrie Sheppard (C)

Liked this? Try A weekend in Rome

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Mind your... mind

Many years ago, when employed at a learning and development specialist, we all had a 'team day'. We didn't build bridges across the river with a ball of string and three tin cans, but we did have fun laser-shooting each other and running around a field together. Not everyone's idea of fun, but I enjoyed it.

At one point, either on this or another away day, we had a meditation session. We all sat in a darkened room whilst a timer softly went 'bong' at regular intervals. I have to say I couldn't sit still. I wiggled, I opened my eyes (to watch everyone else with their eyes closed), and I had a desperate urge to run around the room. In other words, I wasn't much good at meditating!

And now?

Mindfulness is a real buzz word at the moment - especially in the 'self-aware' and 'self-help' arena. But it's also raising it's head in the business world, with the benefits of meditation, taking personal time out and simply learning how to relax being great tools in the battle against stress.

I recently undertook a short course on mindfulness - because I do get stressed. I have a busy job, a busy social life, and don't always take the best course of action for a stress-free life. I first heard about mindfulness at work - a free hour session on the science park where I spend my days. I attended the hour, and thought that the basic principles were pretty sound. And, goodness knows, I could surely do with some quiet time in my mind.

I dream at night in full colour, full adventures, sometimes horrific, sometimes lovely, most often busy and intriguing and quite often exhausting. My mind is a pretty busy place, even when I'm asleep. So mindfulness seemed like a good starting place.

I signed up for a short e-course, but it wasn't just on line. I received regular texts and one to one calls from the course leader, Sam, and he talked me through the techniques, and through issues I was experiencing. He didn't offer advice, he didn't tell me what I should or shouldn't do, he listened, and he explained how mindfulness could help. And it did.

I developed the mindfulness habit, and now every night (well almost, after my party in the summer I couldn't stay awake to do it) I spend just a few minutes being mindful. Learning to clear my mind has not been easy - it's still a busy place and I still dream in surroundsound and technicolour, but slowly I am learning to relax my mind. I've discovered different depths of vision when my eyes are closed (who knew!) and also how to focus better on nothing, rather than everything. Then when something barges in, it's not cluttered, and I can deal with it.  Thank you Sam!

So, I'm a mindfulness convert. My next programme is a 'tiny pause' - to help with sleeping. I'm not the greatest of sleepers, so let's hope this next adventure is as useful and practical as the last.

Meditate? No, still not something I think I could do, not for more than maybe ten deep breaths...

Liked this? Try this... (the 'away day' as mentioned above)
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Photo credit Microsoft Clipart