The Listening Project

The Listening Project is a BBC radio project between local BBC radio stations, BBC Radio 4 and the British Library. It’s aim is to record conversations between two people, up and down the country, which helps keep alive a record of peoples’ lives today (although it’s not necessarily a given that Radio 4 will play every conversation). Why am I talking about this? Because DD and I were invited to be part of this project.

One of the presenters from Radio Devon is some-one that DD and I are acquainted with through SADS. Well, DD has known her a lot longer than I have of course. I met her last spring/summer when her mother was directing a play that we were both in. She contacted us around September time, asking if we would be interested in talking about re-enactment which she knew we both did. At our initial meeting to discuss the project, I wanted to clarify whether she meant the re-enactment or the larping. The upshot being that she thought it would be good if we could talk about both.

So on the 26th October we went to the Radio Devon studio in Plymouth to have our conversation recorded. We talked for a good hour and a half, often a rambling conversation that went off on tangents. But she seemed happy with it. An excerpt was aired on various shows last week and apparently Radio 4 are interested in it as well. As far as I can recall, the excerpt has been edited from various different parts of the conversation and can be reached via this link: – http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/the-listening-project. Our little bit has the title ‘Warriors or Wizards’.

I guess I wanted to talk about here because DD and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves talking about our hobbies. And some of the points that we were asked to consider helped us look at some of our reasons for doing the things that we do. It isn’t just about wanting to play with swords ( or guns), or play a hero or bring alive a historical period. Though all that comes into it. For us at least, it’s about exploring different aspects and potential aspects of our characters. Both positive and negative.  It’s about getting away from the rush of the modern world – and then feeling relieved to get back to hot running water and central heating! And it’s about self-confidence because when you spend time walking around in costume you learn not to care about what people may saying and thinking about the way you look. It’s a lot of fun too. Games for adults.

I haven’t been able to do so much this year – DD has done more – for several reasons. Being in North Devon, the timings of events and pregnancy induced backache and size increase. And I am really, really missing it all. Hopefully I can be more involved next year though. Because one other point to consider with it all, is that running around with weapons, or spells, and killing people is very good therapy. Which means of course, that with meditation and larping, I am an incredibly well-adjusted person.

Probably.

Isabella

Ok – so I know I talked a little about this in my last post, but now that the play is over I thought I would take the opportunity to talk even more about it.

I feel…a little sad that it has finished. Although I am also glad that I am not doing quite so much as the last couple of weeks in particular had been quite exhausting. And fun too, of course.

It is quite a strange thing directing people that one is close to. Not only was I directing DD and mama, but also Suzie who is one of my best friends. Suzie and I spoke about after the play had finished. I found it – certainly for the weeks between the initial start and the last week and a bit – to be a strangely isolating experience. I don’t know if other directors have the same experience or not. It is not a question one normaly thinks to ask. Perhaps they do. Or perhaps it is simply a question of getting your head around between being ‘in charge’ of friends and family to being just one of the group. But I think I did finally get my head around it and feel I could manage a lot better next time.

And I would like there to be a next time. Overall it was such a positive experience that I am eager to try my hand at directing again. I was surrounded by people who all worked really on the production. Not just the cast – that they were all fantastic goes goes without saying. The three ladies of the props and wardrobe department worked really hard making many of the costumes from scratch. The lady who painted the set spent a lot of time building up multi layered colour on the walls that gave the impression of the Devon red stone that is found in parts of the county as well as bringing the castle alive. And the lighting and sound crew took my initial ideas and improved on them by making suggestions on creating the illusion of looking into a castle room.

The audience feedback was good too. Not just what was said to me personally, but what was said to others – both reported and overheard. It’s not necessarily that easy as an audience member to go to a play where the writer is completely unknown, and the director is completely unknown and the play itself is set in the Middle Ages, which is unusual. I don’t think the majority of the audience knew what to expect. But they tittered, chuckled and laughed, and that reaction alone tells me that they – most of them at least – enjoyed the experience.

Now before I sign off, I must apologise that this blog is a lot later than I intended. This is mainly due to computer connection problems and the challenge of finding everything when one has moved. So, it is finally time to say ‘goodbye’ to ‘Isabella‘ and ‘hello’ to ‘The Brass Bed Society’.

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Crazy

Of course life is always crazy, but in this particular instant I am referring to myself. I think I might possibly be crazy.

You see, last year I had a go at directing a short play I had written called ‘The Wooing of Isabella’. For those of you who might be interested, the play is – or intended to be at least – a mediaeval farce. A light-hearted drama set in the thirteenth century involving a mixture of historical and fictional characters. This was performed by the South Devon Players. I was persuaded to submit this play to SADS, which with varying degrees of enthusiasm I did. The committee was happy to accept it and asked me to make it longer. Which I did. So the extended version of ‘The Wooing of Isabella’ is set to be performed in October – next week.

Now I have spent a lot of time wondering if I have done the right thing. After the auditions in August, I did not have a full cast. Finding some-one to play Simon took nearly two weeks until the bloke who played him last year took pity on us and stepped in to fill the breach. The relief I felt when we finally had a Simon was practically tangible! And of course there have been other challenges to overcome, as there always is.

I have to say at this point that the cast and backstage crew are good. Everybody has been working hard to get the look and feel of a thirteenth century castle – even if not everything is 100% accurate! I have not really had much to do except tell  people where to stand and grumble at them if they don’t say things the way that I want them to.

So is it doing this play, again, that makes me crazy? Possibly. I think the commute might also have a bearing on the matter. DD is still working in Torbay, and spending the week there, and I am currently working in a small town just outside of Exeter. It takes me a few hours by bus to make it to Torquay for the two rehearsal nights that are required. The Monday night we both have to come back home straight after on order for me to get to work on the Tuesday morning. The Thursday night we spend the night in Brixham, so that DD does not have too many late nights with an early morning drive. Long days, but not necessarily a problem.

Maybe the thing that makes me crazy is that a few months ago I came down with a case of pregnancy. I probably should have withdrawn the play, but, not having been pregnant before, I did not know how it was going to affect me. Not that I have been ill or anything. But I do find that I get tired very quickly. In addition to which, I am finding it increasingly difficult to move about.

Oh yes – and we are moving the week after the play finishes! Crazy? Probably! But then, life is for living!

Tonglen

Tonglen, which to me always sounds like ton lin is a form of meditation. One that I am not quite sure that I’ve got my head around.

Essentially what you have to do is think of something that has made you feel sad or angry or hurt. Something along those lines. Remember the emotion and dwell on it. Know that other people feel the same way that you do – feel the emotion for them too. Our group leader explains it by saying that all emotions are just energy, and it is the stories that we attach to them that make them negative or positive. The idea with tonglen is that we then use that energy and that we feel the pain for other people so that they don’t have to. It becomes an exercise in reducing attachment and becoming altruistic. Something like that. Which I think I sort of understand on an objective basis.

I guess my problem is that I find it difficult. Not with the essential ideas but with the practice itself. I have spent a lot of my life in dealing with my negative side – experiencing it, trying to understand it. And ultimately coming to terms with it. This year I found myself being able to switch to a more positive, optimistic out look on life. Far more consistently than before. I have had moments of stress, worry, even something close to depression. But, compared to what I used to be like, they have been moments only. And I have been a lot, lot happier as a result. So then, deliberately taking on ‘negative’ emotions seems to me to be counter-productive. In terms of my own personal story.

That’s not to say that I won’t persist with it. If something is worth trying once, then it is worth trying a few times. And of course, it may just ‘click’ one day. Our group leader says that he finds it a very powerful meditation. It’s just that, so far anyway, I find it difficult to deliberately place myself in the path of those emotions which I have spent this year removing myself from.

Does anyone else have any experience with tonglen?

 

Coombe Martin

So, over the last week and a bit the weather has been a little more unsettled – more showers and a fresher, cooler feel to the air much of the time. But the sun is still very hot and some of the greyer days that we have had have been quite muggy.

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Exmoor Zoo

Like last week when DD and I went to Coombe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur park. Despite the clouds, it was very warm. The week before we had been to Exmoor Zoo when it was still very hot and sunny. Although at the zoo itself it was often quite shady with a lovely strong breeze blowing. We finished that day off with a barbecue at Grandma’s – my aunt and uncle were staying with their granddaughter so we all ended up having a wonderful family meal. Like I said in an earlier post, summer evenings can be pretty special.

Anyway I digress. I wanted to say that despite the warmth and lack of strong breeze, I found Coombe Martin easier to walk around which I can only put down to the cloudier weather. And it was much steeper in places! Not that I’ve changed my mind about loving the sunshine either. Having spent a lot of my life in the Torbay area, the zoo I would go to most often would be Paignton Zoo, which is one of the biggest zoos I have been to. Both Exmoor Zoo and Coombe Martin Wildlife life park are much smaller, but just as beautiful and interesting to explore and both surrounded by the glorious North Devon hills.

Both the North Devon places offer a variety of interesting talks about the animals. Coombe Martin also has a ‘Tomb of the Pharaohs’ which serves as an introduction, or reminder, to Egyptology. And did I mention dinosaurs? There are two areas of dinosaurs – one which contains straightforward models placed among the foliage. 119Another is a more eye-catching display of animatronic dinosaurs which ‘come to life’ every hour on the hour. One of them spits water which has quite a range on it. I got wet feet as a result!

DD has a thing about otters and was quite charmed by them ( Asian Short-Claw), as was I, I must admit.  140I liked the wolves though. Paignton Zoo doesn’t have wolves. Although I do think of myself as a cat lover, I’m pretty fond of the dog family too. Well, all animals really. There are two areas of wolves at Coombe Martin, the Grey Wolves and two Hudson Bay white wolves – a subspecies of the Grey. White wolves are very rare, having been hunted quite extensively for their fur in the past. These two females had only been recently relocated to Coombe Martin after having been expelled from their pack in Germany. And I have always though it sad that wolves have such a bad press. Not that I would want to live near wolves if I was raising livestock, but they don’t deserve such a bad reputation either. 146

How do people feel about zoos? Many today, including the three that I’ve mentioned, emphasize conservation concerns and the hope of eventually returning them to the wild – providing we don’t completely destroy their habitat first. And can eradicate poachers. I love to see the animals and zoos can also be – should also be – educational. But I always feel a little sad too, at seeing the animals  in a cage, no matter how well cared for.

Would any of you care to leave your thoughts on the matter?

 

Summer Sun

I admit it – I have been seduced by the summer sunshine!

Summer here in Britain can be somewhat of an intermittent affair, tending towards the grey and damp (last year was particularly bad for rain). Well, I say in Britain but I can only really talk about England. Although I should imagine Welsh summers are similar to English ones whilst I would have though that Scottish summers are a little cooler. I do remember good summers, and good days in the bad summers. But now summer is back with a vengeance with sub-tropical temperatures. People are saying it as hot as ’76, which I don’t remember being only a babe of two at the time. summer sunshine2

And yes, we the English are complaining about it. I do have friends that genuinely prefer the cooler, damper weather and therefore they have every right to not enjoy themselves. The heat can be draining for us that are not used to it and of course it can cause sunstroke, dehydration and various other problems which I can’t think of offhand; even if one does take all the sensible precautions and advice that it is possible to take. So perhaps the English have some reason to complain.

Personally I am happy that we are – finally – having a good summer. It’s supposed to last right through August as well, which I think would be simple fantastic. It is good news for all the fetes and fairs that abound at this time of year, and I would hope that it is good news for the farmers as well. And summer evenings are simply wonderful – sometimes the evening is the best part of a hot summer’s day.

And of course it is an Ashes summer as well – which makes it doubly wonderful. I have been able to listen to some of it on the radio when lounging out in our little back yard, or in the car when we have been driving to various places. Even DD got excited last Sunday when we drove to Stover Country Park to meet up with Suzie and Shorter (who had to put up with me ignoring them for the first half hour as they play for an extra half hour at lunch – and still no resolution until after the lunch break!).

So – my blogging will be somewhat infrequent whilst I, in-between work commitments, enjoy the sunshine. And the cricket. Summer – I love you!!

Meta Meditation

I regularly enjoy a spot of meditation on a Tuesday evening. I’m not yet an angel – I still don’t practise on a daily basis. But when I do, I get a lot out of it. A lot of what we do is what the group leader calls ‘Mindfulness of the Breath’. This is a simple technique which concentrates on counting either the in-breaths or the out-breaths. It’s actually quite calming and I do use it sometimes to help me relax at nights.

However, we do do other forms of meditation, one of which is what our group leader calls ‘meta-meditation’. I’m not entirely sure if that spelling is the one he has in mind, but it is one that the OED uses for that particular prefix. The OED gives several meanings for ‘meta’ which nonetheless seem to me to be inter-related. ‘Meta’ donates a ‘change of position or condition’, it donates ‘position behind, after, or beyond’, it donates ‘something of a higher or second-order kind’ and it also has a couple of chemical meanings. I tend to think of the word as in ‘meta-population’ (not in the OED, but in several of my old text books that I still have) meaning several populations of a particular animal species that can link in together thus creating a ‘meta-population’. So along the lines of the third meaning as given by the OED.

I mention this because I have been musing on what our group leader means when he says ‘meta-meditation’. I mean, I know what he means because we sit and do it, but how it fits in with a dictionary definition. Now this is what we do: we think of four people, the first is always ourselves, the second is some-one we love but have no conflict with, the third is a neutral person (i.e. a shop assistant) and the fourth is some-one that has caused us problems and/or negative feelings. Then with these four we send out thoughts and feelings of kindness and well wishes. The general consensus seems to be that the hardest is the neutral person. One member of the group has said that she finds it easier to send out loving thoughts to groups of people ( such as people from a particular region, or country or just simply the whole population of the planet) rather than singling out one person. The fourth, the difficult person, can be surprisingly easy. Often because if a person has caused us conflict, then we have already been trying to gain some sense of calmness from the turmoil that occasion has stirred up. Though that’s not necessarily true in every case.

So I suppose that ‘meta-meditation’ is something like a change in condition into a higher kind? Does it actually matter? Well, of course not. Just an exercise in curiosity. That, and I wanted to talk a little about the meditation that we do. What sort of meditation do you do?