Category: Travel


YES to Inverness

IMAG3011I stayed in Forres to visit the Findhorn Community which has three centres in the area. Inverness is only a 35 minute train ride away and I had two opporunities to visit.  Juliette, a friend is house sitting in Beauly on the river 15 minutes further west.  A great excuse to be tourists for the day. We started Leakeys second handbook shop, overspilling in a vaulted church with the heart of a gigantic wood burning stove and coffee and cakes in the eaves. Over the Ness river on the Greig Street footbridge and on to some quiet contemplation in the oddly spireless St Andrew’s cathedral. Kicking golden leaves along the bank of the rushing Ness, climbing arches of wrought iron bridges over its burbling, gurgling waters to wander on the delightful Ness Islands replete with cleverly shaped logs and a painted monster in the fallen trees.  Sedate residential houses line the river walk back to the city and muffle the transition from river gurgle to traffic cacophony and the purple seated train ride back to Forres.

My second visit is drawn by my curiosity about the YES Group, an international community inspired by the teachings of Tony Robbins. Despite best intentions over many years I had yet to make it to a meeting in London. Recently I noted that Diane & Andrew Nicholson had launched a satellite group in the Highlands. A Facebook message to Andy and a call out to the YES community assured me of transport to the event and sitting beside a neighbour in Forres meant a lift back to the door. I love the practicality and verve of by Ann Wilson, the Wealth Chef http://thewealthchef.com/ who made her subject engaging, entertaining, interesting and understandable. The Inverness YES group is in its 7 month, about to have its first Christmas celebration and adds a little fizz & vis once a month to the Craigmonie Hotel. Check it out if you are in the area.

Finding Findhorn

IMAG3055
Now is the whole enchilada ~ ABRAHAM HICKS

November 8th 2013: From Glasgow we meander through the snow dusted Caingorms and along the Moray Firth where I can sense the seam where the sky meets the land at the North Pole. I swear I could see a little pom pom on the top of the world knitted by grandmas in the sky.  I change at Inverness to catch the Aberdeen connection to Forres where I am met by Fabien who has the spirit of a magical king.  We rattle off on our 5 mile trip in the first car in the community car pool, a trusty servant, it is about to be replaced by an eco friendly electric upstart.  Along the flat backroad skirting the Findhorn river estuary, we stop off at a local farm and shift through th produce at the unmanned vegetable shop.  It is bright but bitter cold .  The bamboo tea when we arrive in Fabiens cosy Finnish eco home in The Park is very welcome.  The Park, the heart of this interesting community which is celebrating its 51st birthday this month, has been Fabiens home for 25 years.  On the way to dinner we stop off in the community Sanctuary for 20 mins of silence, held in the clasp of the solemn reverberation of a singing bowl. Friday night dinner in the Community Centre and it seems like there are a 100 of us holding hands in a meandering circle to potentise our food with blessings.

The Park in Findhorn is like pixieland. Wood cabins and caravans, eco houses, round houses, houses built out of whiskey barrels, the Trees For Life office (or should that be cabin?), Findhorn Pottery, Craig’s place with his ceramics alcove and honesty box. Freewheeling through the Magic Triangle and The Field of Dreams to arrive at the Moray Art Centre – a hive of exhibition, art classes, creative studios, Steiner schooling. As the days grow shorter it seems we are always chasing the shimmering light as it slides down behind slippery stones of clouds back to Fabiens home, Meadow house; wood wombed, peat and woody fire, and apple straight from the tree.

It is a ten minute walk from The Park into Findhorn Village; sturdy stone cottages scattered tentatively along a sandy bar reaching into the Moray Firth. This village has been swallowed up by sands in the 1600s and was lost again to floods in 1701 but with some strategic help to stabilise the dunes it has found its feet weaving its blend of history to create an appealing haven from the rush of modernity. As the etheral light if the day slips over the horizon one of my favourite places to be is The Bakehouse http://bakehousecafe.co.uk/

The Buddha sits peacefully on the bench, bracketted by regimental red petunias, a splash of colour on this grey day. The rain gently insists its presence trickling and the Tornando jets play tag under the mizzling clouds. Scotland.  There are quiet days cold days holed up in Forres when I do not love being in Scotland, I hate being pushed to face my limitations, admitting that I am not tough enough, finding that I need a hot bath to start my day, needing to do physio to warm my bones and dedicating myself to layers of lycra – any lycra; let me tell you it is a motley look! I am a pussy cat who wants to luxuriate in warmth and heat, to stretch my limbs into the day, to purr in the honeyed sun. The cold tightens my body, twists my mind and strangles my spirit.

And then there is Findhorn, a hive of activity. I cant keep up with the social events and the potential for lovely distractions in the warmth of the Community Centre or the magic of The Universal Hall, the olde world of The Kimberly or the decadence of the aforementined  Bakehouse. There is the scalding of the hot tub or the gentle glow of tea and conversation.  During my visit I was privileged to be involved in serving at the sherry reception for the 51st Birthday of the community; a sibling of mine, an entity of my generation that has to ride the wave of time, face change and build legacy.  What a wonderful inspiration it is moving beyond the half century mark http://www.findhorn.org/

Going To Glasgow

IMAG2914
On the 5th November 2013 I left London on my journey north to find the Findhorn Community in Morayshire. My first stop Glasgow, to visit my goddaughter Hana, on her overseas from New Zealand. Hana warned me of her student abode. To my delight I discover that student digs arent what they use to be in my day.  Far superior indeed, lots of space, a guest room with a double bed and art work on the walls! I was less delighted to discover than in November Glasgow is ‘two pairs of tights and three sweater’ country.  It was 11 degrees C leaving London, four hours later a frosty -1 degrees C.  I was grateful for my hat with earflaps and two pairs of gloves to brave the chill of wildly punchy firework display from the slopes of the West Brewery on Glasgow Green with Hana, Krishna from Trivandrum & Alison from Minnesota.

Despite my struggle with the cold, damp and darkness I had a heart warming visit; haggis & chips at Old Saltys on Argyll Street, at the Kelvingrove an unexpected organ recital, a taste of the Glasgow boys, the famous stuffed Mr Jones (with eyelashes, leg and ear hair intact), memories of great coffee at Kember & Jones on Byres Rd, infusions of student life and ginger & lavender tea at Tchai Ovna http://tchaiovna.com/ where we are served a twist of Mongolian caravan, a large spoonful of centuries of student life and a dash of conversation all stirred with dreams.  A night of Black Russians at the Lebowski and the acoustic tones of balladeers and rough edged voices of new youth at the No 78 Open Mike night. A second day of chocolate at No 1 The Chocolate Factory, Sauchiehall street and some Mackintosh indulgence rounded off with cinema and wine at The Grosvenor where Alan Partridge gave Judi Dench a run for her money in carefully crafted Philomena.

A flying visit that took me over the threshold of Scotland, rekindling the magic of Picts and Celts. Next stop Inverness!

Leavings

IMAG2493
The soft silence of night’s starry blanket falls gently on the verdant slopes of Mount Pelion. There is the subtle coolness of Autumn’s breathe to usher us inside to laugh and joke and Facebook joust.   A raucous noise of separate voices.  Then out of nowhere harmony emerges and angelic tones emerge to soothe us and guide us to our beds.  I have been living in community at Kalikalos in the village of Kissos on the Pelion Peninsula in Greece since the 15 August, almost a month.  There is so much to write about living in community but that is a post for another day.  Right now I am in the poignancy of leaving.  This is a transient holiday community.  From the 1 September there is a gentle falling away of Summer’s sunny cloak and Autumn’s chilly finger prises it’s way into our consciousness.  The weather changes heralds the time to mothball this place for another year.

Online satellite tells there is a weather system moving in, the sky outside is gloomy and lethargic, sluggish and impotent. There is a rush to take down the tents and the yurts as boisterous brother Autumn pitter patters raindrops into town.  September the 15th is my last full day.  A time for contemplation, reflection and gratitude.  A time to savour another superb lunch creation shared with twelve fellow hearts.  The regular beach run is a non starter today but in a blanketed alcove there will be an afternoon of The Transformation Game and in the evening between that and dinner I am faciliatating a completion session using imagination to reveal learning and transformation and to till the sub conscious soil for future creations.  It is a process I use to integrate and leverage from my experiences and being in this community I have an opportunity to share what works for me with others who curiously live and learn together.  It is an occasion to honour the dying embers of this year’s Summer camp.

On the road again – and the decadence of sticky buns for breakfast. My digestive system doesn’t know what hit it after a month of Greek yoghurt, wild foraged fruit, freshly picked salad and healthy vegetarian fare.  The good news is that the policemen in Volos, my first stop to civilisation, are cute.  Very cute.

The itinerary for the journey back to the London is bus from Kissos to Volos on to Larissa where I catch the train to Thessaloniki to connect with a coach to Skopje in Macedonia where I intend to WizzAir it back to London Luton.   The weakest link in this trip is the shuttle connection to Alexander The Great International airport 21km out of town.  I do at least know that it starts at the Hotel Aleksander Palace.

I enjoy the warmth of technology in Greece; every bus and train station it seems offers free wifi – no complicated sign up procedures either, logon and password details have been the same at each of my stops.  I am out of community now, unbounded by the structure of our regular days.  I can hoon around online checking out my stops along the way, staying connected and not feeling so alone.  I forego lunch at Goodys Burger Bar, Thessaloniki Station for the more authentic experience of chicken and potatoes with Greek salad at a grubby sidewalk cafe suffuse with the dusty air of roadworks.  When I am on the move I sleep, like a baby I am soothed into somnolence by the rhythm of wheels on the move and our transition over the border into Macedonia is but a gentle disruption as the curtain of evening drops.

It is raining in Skopje but not wet, that just adds to my disorientation. Not knowing that there is an hours time difference with Greece I am not prepared for the trip to terminate an hour earlier than expected.  I assume that I must be in the wrong place. It scares me shitless to be disorientated; strange language, money, alphabet and the darkness in the glistening of this strange dry rain. My default reaction is to go on the defensive; great attention is paid to looking assertive, self sufficient and knowing. I swing my back pack on feigning effortless ease and certainty.  It is a good job I know that my perception of the world is not real. I catch myself just in time to receive guidance from my bus driver and his English speaking colleague.  Then in spite of my beating heart I head off into the unknown looking for a metered taxi and the Hotel Aleksander Palace.  My panic rises again committing to get into a car in this unfamilar city with a strange man.  I search to find a thread of familarity and it is there in the straining tones of country music on Fortuna FM, I catch sight of the hominess of Gywneth Paltrow beaming down at me from the advertising hoardings and my driver proudly attempts to point out all the ‘good’ sights of Skopje from the garish Parliament buildings  to the Sports Stadium to the Botantical Gardens and the Zoo.  I take in the incongruity of the red double decker buses and the city’s passion for statues and bright lights.  The taxi meter ticks away dinari and I remember this is a just a normal taxi ride in a new city.