Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Harewood House, home to the Lascelles

Front view of Harewood House
       This may come as a shock to some of you, but on a recent trip out, GG and I decided to forego our usual walks around the Peak in favour of a whole new world….well, county, anyway….somewhere our precious Green Book would not be required.
       As part of a planned agenda for her week’s holiday, GG wanted to revisit one of her favourite stately homes. Harewood House near Leeds, Yorkshire.

Rear view of Harewood House
       Harewood House (pronounced Harwood) was commissioned in 1759 and completed in 1771 by Barbadian-born landowner Edwin Lascelles, whose father, Henry, had amassed a great fortune…not, as you might suppose, from the slave trade, but from other unscrupulous means – by exploiting his position as a customs collector and by supplying provisions for troops during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, which continued between Spain and France from 1739 to 1748, and throughout the Austrian Succession.
       His son, Edwin, put these apparently ill-gotten gains to good use, hiring only the best craftsmen to create the home of his dreams.  

Rocking chair in leather

            Designed by architect John Carr and with lavish interiors by Robert Adam, Harewood was furnished by Chippendale and boasted the finest china money could buy. Edwin certainly pulled out all the stops – even the gardens were spectacular and remain today just as jaw-dropping as their landscaper, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown intended.

One of the intricate ceilings by Robert Adam
       Fabulous paintings litter this palace; landscapes and portraits by the most distinguished artists of the day – such as Reynolds and, Gainsborough - hang beside works from old masters such as El Greco and my own favourite, Titian.

Flower themed Coalport China
       In the 20th century, Harewood came to prominence once more when the 6th Earl married Princess Mary, daughter of George V, bringing genuine blue-blood into the house.

A selection of Princess Mary's hats from the 1920s
       My pictures in no way do justice to the fabulous treasures which Harewood contains, but I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did!

Wonderful 4-Poster bed in State Bedroom
       If you want to know more, please visit harewood.org

Section of Harewood from the garden terrace

State Bedroom

View of terrace from rear window

Terrace garden designed by Capability Brown

Stunning Hydrangea bush in Hymalayan garden

A Walk in the Peak - Over Haddon, Bakewell

       Arriving ‘oop north’ for a week of Mum’s cooking and general 5-star service, my London-based daughter had already produced her bucket list:
       A trip to a stately home (see my post on Harewood House); the new Jason Bourne movie; and, of course, another mammoth walk from the now very well-thumbed Green Book.*
       My Gorgeous Girl (GG) had already pinpointed the most suitable place for our walk, one we considered during her last visit but rejected in favour of our Wormhill workout.~ Well, I’m only human - one marathon per visit is all I can manage!
       Over Haddon is a tiny, picturesque village in the White Peak, a couple of miles from Haddon Hall, Bakewell where "Elizabeth”, "Pride & Prejudice”, “The Other Boleyn Girl”, “The Princess Bride” and no less than THREE versions of Jane Eyre were filmed in recent years. 

       The village itself has also had its drama. In the 17th century, for instance, a young lass called Martha Taylor starved herself to death. It took a while, mind: The “fasting Damsel” or “‘Mirabile Pecci” (whatever that means), swallowed nothing but a few drops of water with a little sugar and the occasional raisin for nearly two years, dying as a national celebrity at barely 20 years old.+  
       Centuries later, Over Haddon was again put on the map, being the birthplace of Sir Maurice Oldfield, a former head of MI6, who is now buried in the local churchyard. Another reason to spy out the land!  
       According to the Green Book, the walk is roughly 3 miles, although in our case it proved to be twice as long due to a (ahem!) little error of judgement!
       To start with, however, the omens were good. We managed to find somewhere to park, a public toilet block and - oh joy! - sunshine! So it was with high expectations we set off down a hill from the village car park for the first leg of our journey.
       “’At the bottom of the hill turn left along the riverside path,’” reads GG from the Green Book. She has obviously assumed the role of navigator and no one, least of all her Mum, can wrest the book from her grasp.
       We stride gamely along the narrow path. Looking down on Lathkill River to our right. An unusual river, it has a habit of disappearing underground when the weather is dry, a process that seems to turn the deepest part of the river a brilliant shade of blue, but whether this is due to the clarity of these ‘Blue Waters’, or to the limestone through which it passes is anyone’s guess.

       Strangely, for the school holidays the walk is really quiet. Except for two young families splashing about by the river edge, and a couple of solitary passers-by - gentlemen with back packs and spring-loaded walking sticks – we meet no one. I put it down to the weather forecast; the Beeb had given rain, a prediction backed up by threatening clouds as we left that morning. But now, the sun was out, the birds were singing their hearts out, and the scent of hedgerows and recent hay mowing lifted our spirits.

       Suddenly, the peace was shattered! Further along the river, we heard a dog yelping frantically! Either it was injured or barking to alert someone to its owner’s distress….just like Lassie!
       GG and I ran along the river and saw a collie in the corner of an inlet, jumping and yelping as though his life depended on it.

       “Maybe he’s stuck!” I said and was just about to paddle to the rescue when a lady called: “Don’t worry! He’s not hurt or anything! Hush now, Willow!”
       The lady owner and her companion had been following Willow from a distance when the dog raced ahead to dive in the river.
       “He’s always doing that,” the owner explained.            “Wherever there’s water, he just goes bananas! Here Willow! Fetch!” She threw in a stick for her pet to chase, no doubt hoping he’d stop once the object reached his mouth.

       After a short chat, we parted company: Willow and the ladies vanishing up the fields; Madam and I crossing the river “by a humped-back bridge and continuing uphill on a narrow path through a wood.”
       This was where it all went pear-shaped. Instead of “bearing left at the top of the path along a wide track”, GG decided to turn right. As I would never dare accuse my daughter of ‘erring’ in any way, there can only be one explanation: Whereas most of us have a dominant side, my daughter is totally ambidextrous, which means the concept of ‘right’ and ‘left’ has always been alien to her.

       Blissfully unaware of this false step, we continued across open fields to witness the most spectacular views I ca remember – and we’ve see many in the Peak. They were breath-taking!
       “I think this is my second most favourite walk,” declared GG.
       “Well, I think it’s my first most favourite walk.” I replied. It was downhill too, which is always a plus when you get to my age!

       We crossed a wide hayfield under a million acres of sky, now peppered with clusters of cloud, and followed a wall past a ploughed field and another where the hay had already been cut.

       As we descended, we could see the turrets of Haddon Hall, looking as magnificent as ever.

       “Strange,” I mused, “I never expected to come out here,” then stopped to take a photograph, much to GG’s displeasure.
       It was only when we reached the A6 that our problem came into view. We’d gone miles out of our way.
       “So which way from here?” said GG.
       “Let’s google for directions,” I suggested and took out my phone, only for GG to snatch it from my hand.
       “You’re too slow!” she said and began to pound the screen with her finger. Ten minutes later, she was still pounding, waiting and pounding, but help was at hand. A young man was running toward us, obviously in training. I leapt in front of him and, to my relief, he removed his earphones as I asked the way to Over Haddon.
       “It’s miles away!” he replied. “Best bet is to walk to Bakewell.”
       “But that’s along the main road!” moaned GG.       Then the awful truth hit us. We just had to go back the way we came.....and it was all uphill!
       ......and it started raining!
       BUT, we were rewarded by this beautiful sight!

*Short Walks in the Peak Park by William and Vera Parker



Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Mindfulness and meditation.

        An app that can calm children, soothe them to sleep and help them concentrate? Most parents I know would give their eye-teeth for such help. So why does this new ‘Mindfulness’ app, along with the trend that inspired it, worry me so much?
       For me, the problem is that mindfulness techniques are based on meditation, a form of self-hypnosis currently embraced by several high profile figures and mooted as a wonderful new route to mental health. Now, there are special apps for children, including one for under-5s.
       “No harm in that,” I hear you say. But meditation has various types, some of which are not beneficial and may in fact be dangerous. With this in view, let’s be mindful of what meditation actually is and which forms should be avoided.

What is meditation?

       Meditation is more than mere daydreaming. It involves deep, concentrated thinking; a means of reviewing the past, pondering the present and considering the future – not just our own but that of others and the world in general. Successful meditation requires complete solitude with no distractions – no mobile devices or online games to interrupt the process.
       True meditation should be purposeful and focused, even resulting in amazing Eureka moments such as celebrated thinkers such as Stephen Hawking must enjoy while contemplating the universe!

Good meditation

       To get the best from this practice, we need to look to the best possible examples, such as wise and spiritually-minded people mentioned in scripture. In fact, the Bible encourages meditation - not the sort that involves emptying the mind or muttering mindless mantras and empty repetition, but meditation that helps us to dwell on wholesome and upbuilding topics. 
       King David, for instance, often lay awake ‘in the watches of the night’ meditating on deep spiritual matters which provided him with inner depth and moral strength. (Psalm 63:6 Psalm 1:3) 

Harmful meditation

       Many forms of meditation have roots in ancient Eastern religions. “The mind has to be empty to see clearly,” said one writer on the subject. His words reflect the view that emptying the mind while focusing on certain words or images promotes inner peace, mental clarity, and spiritual enlightenment.
       According to another source, “A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, to let go of struggling with them”
       Although it may seem harmless, this technique which encourages you to let go and ‘empty the mind’ is not only employed by yoga practitioners but also by spiritualist mediums as they seek to contact their guides in the spirit world.  And you don’t need to be a practicing psychic to invoke the demons! Even though we may initially feel we benefit, emptying our mind leaves us open to some very nasty squatters! (Matthew 12:43-45)

       Whether you believe meditation can help, or may be a fast-track to demon possession, the road you choose to follow is entirely up to you.  But, before you buy a meditation app for your toddler, please take time to research the subject carefully.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Imagination can enrich your life

       Hotel’s booked, passport’s in order, cases are packed and you’ve checked in for the flight. Surely there’s nothing more exciting than the run-up to a holiday - unless you’re a worrier like me!
        Not for me the thrilled anticipation of sun, sea and sangria. I’m one of those unfortunate glass-half-empty sort of folk who lie awake at night imagining every conceivable disaster - from lost tickets and forgotten toothbrushes to terrorist attacks and plane crashes! ‘What if? What if? What if?’
       Which goes to show that while imagination is a wonderful gift it does have a downside. We all have one, of course - even the most practical people need to think ahead if only to plan their trek to the bus stop – so maybe it’s worth considering how to avoid the pitfalls of overthinking and make the best possible use of our minds.

What is imagination?

       According to one dictionary, it is “the ability to form pictures or ideas in your mind of things that are new and exciting, or things that you have not experienced.” You don’t have to be an artist or writer to possess this ability; we use imagination every day.

Negative uses of imagination

       Living in a dream world. There’s nothing wrong with daydreaming.* It can be both pleasant and beneficial, as well as an excellent way to pass the time when waiting for that bus. But there are times when you need to remain firmly in the here and now. Attending vital lecture or work briefings, driving a car and caring for children are all activities that demand one’s full attention. And what we imagine can also be harmful - romantic fantasies, for example, will eventually cause heartache if you or the person concerned is already spoken for. Dreaming of a future with someone else’s spouse may eventually lead to immoral realities.
       Believing wealth or fame bring happiness. Money and material possessions are necessary, of course, but imagining they’re the be-all-and-end-all would be a big mistake. ‘Things’ simply cannot bring happiness or security, however much you acquire. Just ask someone who’s lost everything in wars or natural disasters; survivors are only too glad to escape with their lives! As for fame, many well-known people have come to regret their loss of privacy and often face real problems as a result.  Seeing yourself as a celebrity may seem attractive, yet the reality is very different.+
       Imagining the worst. I’m certainly not alone in worrying about things which may never happen. Not only is it a complete waste of time, but it uses far too much energy, leads to anxiety, stress and discouragement, and can cause illness such as heart disease or depression. By overthinking negative scenarios, you effectively become your own jailer, afraid to do anything, go anywhere, meet anyone or enjoy new experiences. So stop it!

Positive uses of imagination

       Foreseeing problems and avoiding them. Travel, social events, sports, work, entertainment…..whatever your plans, it’s always wise to think about potential snags or dangers and take steps to avoid them. Going on holiday is an obvious example. I tend to worry about losing documents, so make it a habit to keep passport, insurance and driving licence details somewhere safe, just in case. If going out for the evening, it’s wise to organise transport well in advance in order to get home safely. Okay, axe-wielding maniacs may not be roaming the streets every night, but it pays to be cautious! Use your imagination, do whatever it takes to protect yourself and you’ve less need to worry.+
       Planning how to resolve disputes. It could be a friend or relative with a grievance, a difficult work colleague or a dispute with your boss. At various points in your life you have to deal with awkward situations. The worst way to handle them would be to dive in, all guns blazing, on the spur of the moment. The best way would be to think about the situation, try to see the other person’s point of view and list your arguments accordingly. Write down what you need to say. Then edit it, removing any slights, slurs, curses, lame excuses, accusations and over-emotional outbursts. Rehearse your speech and sound down the main points, try to imagine any objections your protagonist may come up with and how you will answer them. In this way, you’ll be calm, cool and well-prepared.
       Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. One of the wisest rules ever written was: “All things that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.” If everyone in the world followed this advice, we’d have far fewer problems – but it requires a very special quality: Empathy, the ability to feel another person’s pain in our heart. How can we cultivate this wonderful virtue? Simply by using our imagination, putting ourselves in someone else’s place and asking ourselves how we would feel. Doing so will help us know how to treat others in the most compassionate way, developing good relationships with everyone around us. 
       Yes indeed, imagination is a wonderful gift. Use it wisely and it will enrich your life!




Monday, 13 June 2016

Will there ever be a meat-free world?

       I must confess, I do like bacon - and the odd chicken dinner. Not as enthusiastically, as some, I might add, and I’m rapidly fancying that rack of spare ribs a lot less than I used to, but I've certainly eaten my share.
So the following statement is not a pious, self-righteous attack on carnivores but an honest presentation of the facts:
       Humans are not designed to eat meat.  
       If, like me, you believe in creation you also have to believe God's words to Adam in Genesis chapter 1:29*. "Here I have given to you every seed-bearing plant that is on the earth and every tree with seed-bearing fruit. Let them serve as food for you."
       It doesn't end there. According to Genesis 1:30, even animals were vegetarian: "And to every wild animal of the earth and to every flying creature of the heavens and to everything moving on the earth in which there is life, I have given all green vegetation for food."
       Of course, we all know this idyll didn't last. Adam and Eve turned away from God and were turfed out of Eden to eat bread in the sweat of their faces until they returned to the ground (Genesis 3:19). The treacherous twosome lost their wonderful privilege of filling the earth with their perfect children, caring for the animals and turning the rest of the earth into a paradise.
       Even so, meat was not on the menu until after the flood^ when God gave Noah and his descendants permission to eat flesh. (Genesis 9:3,4) No doubt in consideration of the animals, he instilled in them a fear of humans instead of the trust they had enjoyed originally. (Genesis 9:2)
      The good news for animal lovers is that meat eating will one day be abolished. When the catastrophic results of Adam's rebellion are reversed, all living things will return to their original diet of seed-bearing fruit and vegetables. Isaiah chapter 11 promises: "The cow and the bear will feed together, and their young will lie down together. The lion will eat straw like the bull." (Isaiah 11:6-9)

* New World Translation
^ "Was there really a global flood?" http://jacybrean.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/noahs-ark-was-there-really-global-flood.html

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Does Bio-Resonance really work?

       A few years ago, a friend of mine - let’s call her Stella* – had severe digestive problems and was diagnosed with Candida, which causes the naturally occurring yeast in the intestinal tract to proliferate. It then leeches into the bloodstream and attacks other organs, emitting more than 70 toxins at the same time. Symptoms include joint pain, headaches, migraines, dizziness, extreme tiredness and an insatiable craving for carbohydrates and anything sweet (For more details see web-link below)
       Despite a drastic change of diet and assorted natural remedies, including colonic irrigation, Stella’s health continued to worsen as her weight dropped, her energy levels plummeted and her self-esteem virtually disappeared. Eventually, a friend put her in touch with David*, a specialist in Bio-Resonance who, after one 2-hour session, identified her problems.
       She did not, as previously thought, have Candida at all. All her symptoms were apparently down to flukes (worms or parasites) which had been feeding off her gut for several years. Using a machine that locates bacteria through electro-magnetic impulses, David sent her home with the order to “eat and drink whatever she liked.” Within a couple of weeks, her eyes were bright and she’d put on a much needed couple of stone. She was cured.
       Faced with that result, it’s no wonder then, that, when beset by inexplicable joint pain, tiredness, persistent headaches and a little nudge from my friend Stella, I decided to visit David and try this ‘miracle’ treatment for myself.
       This is where I need to explain something about the history of bio-resonance. It first came to light some 80 years ago when pioneering practitioner Dr Royal Rife discovered that magnetic and electrical waves could effectively treat many kinds of disease. In 1934, 16 terminal cancer patients were sent by the USC Medical Centre to receive bio-resonance from Rife. All 16 were cured. After USC doctors verified these results, the therapy continued to achieve astonishing success, featuring in many books, papers and articles of the time.  Unfortunately, much of Rife’s original research has since disappeared; whether it’s just been forgotten or maliciously destroyed and suppressed is open to debate. It’s worth noting, however, that Dr Rife and several of his team died under mysterious circumstances while in the process of curing thousands of terminal illnesses. (See website link below). Small wonder David and other practitioners try to stay beneath the radar, as attempts have already been made by certain organisations to ban the rapidly growing use of bio-resonance.  
       Another issue for bona fide practitioners is its adoption by New Age healers, leading prospective clients to believe - mistakenly - that bio-resonance is due to mystic powers rather than proven, easily explained and, according to David, entirely natural science.  
       David is a handsome, well-built man in his late forties who, on the day I met him, had a hint of tiredness around his eyes. He'd just got back from Dusseldorf after attending a conference for private health practitioners from all over the world. Apparently, bio-resonance is widely accepted by Germany’s medical profession, although it's not yet available mainstream.
       David sits on one side of a table on which rests the bio-resonance machine, a device that looks similar to a medium-sized office printer. On the other side is a comfortable chair where the client sits, holding a steel rod in each hand. These rods conduct information from the body’s electrical frequency to the machine.
       For the first visit, a client is given a full diagnosis followed by treatment over a 2-hour session. Once the machine is operative, David holds a wooden handle with a light steel whip-like attachment which begins to swing languidly from side to side. David is surprised by its lack of oomph and wonders why this ‘wand’ is not rotating rapidly as it normally does. He puts its lacklustre performance down to my non-existent energy levels, an indication that my blood pressure is extremely low.
       The procedure takes time, so David explains the latest advances in bio-resonance. Apparently, there’s a new, high-tech machine being introduced that’s a lot more complex than the one he is using for my first visit. Stella, who has come to hold my hand, is thinking of setting up a similar practice herself, but for basic treatment rather than the diagnostic side of things. I think she’d be excellent, as she’s really well up on nutrition and various conditions such as....
       “Candida!” says David. “It’s very wide-spread - gone right through your body.” I gasp. Surely not. What does that mean?” I ask tremulously. Actually, I already have a pretty good idea because of what Stella went through. “No sugar, no flour, no dairy products, no wine and definitely no yeast for 5 weeks,” says David. “That should get it under control. Then we’ll zap it during your next treatment session.” Why not now? “Because there’s so much of it," David replies. "There are roughly 20 different types of candida and you have them all. Zapping the lot in one go would make you feel very, very ill, so do your best to starve it beforehand and it’ll be a lot easier to get rid of.”
       “Five whole weeks!” I exclaim.
       “You’ve got off lightly there,” says Stella. “I was struggling for two years when I thought I had it.”
       “No sugar!” I wail. “For five whole weeks!” What about wine?
       “Oh, no wine,” says David. “Besides, when there’s as much yeast in the system as you have, it ferments and makes you feel drunk anyway.” Somehow, getting merry on a yeast infection doesn’t have quite the same allure as a nice soft Merlot! Stella is as sympathetic as is possible to be with someone as wimpish as me. And hey...there are worse things in life.
       In my case, following the recommended diet did the trick but usually, once a diagnosis has been made, treatment is through electro-magnetic waves set at precise frequencies according to the nature and extent of the disease. Both diagnosis and treatment are entirely painless.
       Bio-resonance has been claimed to cure many illnesses – even cancer, as mentioned above. In fact, according to David, it was the remarkable results of bio-resonance in treating his own cancer which convinced him of this therapy’s amazing powers and made him determined to help others.

After my first bio-resonance session, I managed to bring my candida under control with remarkable effects on my energy levels and general well-being. I now visit David about once a year for a check-up and a welcome boost to the system.

*Not their real names


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Royal flight of fancy puts republicans in a spin

       So Prince William and his wife Kate hired an £8m helicopter. This story - featured large in a national paper - took a dim view of this flight of fancy, quoting the cost (£5,000) and tutting puritanically at Will and Kate's apparent laziness in choosing 45-minutes by air over a much longer but cheaper journey by land.

       And, in an attempt to get its readers on side, the article stresses that such extravagance comes from the pockets of ordinary hard-working people who are expected to bow, scrape and touch their forelocks for the privilege.

       But will the proletariat be stirred to action by such princely goings-on? Will blue- and white-collar workers unite behind the republican flag? Should members of the monarchy be tumbrelled along the mall lined by peasants baying for blood?

       Hardly. Let's not forget that kings, queens and princes are put on high only because lesser mortals actually want someone to look up to. Although - or even because - many once-trusted institutions are falling by the wayside along with our belief in God, humans still feel the need for figureheads, the reassuring presence of a well-known face. And, because celebrities come and go or - unforgivably - grow old, monarchs and their offspring will do nicely. 

       Of course, monarchy* comes at a price.  When the nation of Israel was formed under the Mosaic law, rulership was by Almighty God through His judges and prophets. This worked well as long as the people kept to the commandments, but when the prophet Samuel grew old and his sons proved unworthy of taking on their father's role, the people demanded a king. They wanted a majestic icon, just like the kings of the surrounding nations - someone they could see. "Give us a king to judge us."

       Samuel was devastated at what was, in effect, a rejection of Israel's God. Under inspiration, he warned Israel not to appoint an earthly ruler, listing everything a king would have the right to demand. "He will take your sons and put them in his chariots and make them his horsemen.....and he will appoint for himself chiefs....and some will do his plowing, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war.....He will take the best of your fields, your vineyards and your olive groves, and he will give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grainfields and your vineyards, and he will give it to his court officials and his servants. And he will take your male and female servants, your best herds and your donkeys.....he will take the tenth of your flocks, and you will become his servants." (1 Samuel 8:1-18)

       Did the people listen? No, they were determined to have a king "like all the other nations....to judge us and lead us and fight our battles." Anyone who has ever studied the history of Israel will know how few kings succeeded in bringing peace, security and happiness to the people. On the contrary, most of Israel's rulers caused untold misery.

       Fortunately, modern-day royals have comparatively few powers, existing almost solely to be seen and admired. And if they bring gaiety (along with a thriving tourist industry) to the nation, who would begrudge them the occasional helicopter ride?

*Monarchy (the Greek word mon’os meaning ‘alone,’ and ar-khe’ meaning ‘rule’) is the oldest form of human government, a system which has long been viewed as a unifying force. One eminent teacher of medieval history, John H Mundy, explains,   “Because it transcended particular parties, the institution of monarchy was suited for large areas with diverse and conflicting regional interests.” (See my post http://jacybrean.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/why-human-governments-can-never-succeed.html)