September 2006


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Was on another long odyssey through the West Country, visiting remaining members of my mother’s extraordinary family. Great Auntie Betty and Rosemary mean I’ve now met 5 of the 13 siblings – and my research into the Cooper Clan deepens. And darkens. But on the way back I stopped off in beautiful Sidmouth to have another peek at Boswell Farm.

I’m so relieved to have found somewhere that can compare to the beatitude of Holy Island. And the course in November has some big shoes to fill. The five days on Holy Island last month were the best I’ve ever experienced. That group of students were so amazing – so inspiring and inspired. The Island does most of the work – but I also felt that it was the best teaching I ever did. Somehow, I didn’t feel like my normal worrying self was getting in the way, instead I just let go into the billows of the moment, surfing my way from person to person, responding not reacting. What joy.

There was a mountain climbed, a pot poured, Karma played and a tower built. I felt i was walking on sea-breezes for 10 days. But the warm, earth energies of Devon have started to work their magic on me now.
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Sidmouth, the Regency resort a couple of miles from the Farm, is all seaside breeziness. I walked down the long, dappled parkway called the Byes that fringes the River Sid as it flows through the Devon countryside to the sea. And the the seafront is magical. A long promenade with deckchairs and real Devon Ice cream. I paddled in the ocean and toyed with the idea of skinny-dipping in the lulling, crystal clear water. Despite summer running to an end it was a hot day.

In the end I dozed in my deckchair and fed a gull my ice cream cone. Then walked back along the river to the farm cottages.
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Boswell is run by a wonderful Pilates teacher who has lovingly restored these 16th century barns and stables into a courtyard of cottages, sequestered in a fold of the Devon countryside. Wisteria curls up into the blue sky and pears ripen against the brickwork. I can’t think of a more restful spot. Where Holy Island is all gusty gulls and wind, Boswell Farm seems to fold in onitself. It’s perfect for mediation – and (since the next course is going to be in November) it’s snuggly warm. All the cottages are insulated and heated and well equipped.

But it’s the countryside that really makes it. To get to the Old Kennels where the mediation will take place you have to walk up away from the cottages, winding up a hill, through a field. That sense of elevating yourself is a nice physical analogue of what happens in meditation. I can so imagine heading up there on a crisp November morning with ice-blue skies and chalky white fields.

I’m busy organising a local organic supplier so the food is all from the area and nutritious and Linda is bringing a magical-handed masseuse who will be tending to my meditators if it all gets too much. I can’t wait. I’m almost relishing the evenings curling in and the leaves going rusty. Roll on November.

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For whatever reason I found myself having tea in Carnaby Street in the drizzle at 8.30 on a Saturday morning. Huddled under a cafe umbrella and wrote my morning pages and then thought – hell yeah! i’m a’goin shopping.

I can’t remember the last time I went clothes shopping. Though I am acutely aware that I only have 2 pairs of trousers that I like wearing and one of them has big hole in the groin (not good) and the other is stained with seaside tar (also not great). So shopping for trousers didn’t seem such a bad plan.

Oxford Street early on a Saturday morning is wild. All the smart shop assistant, wincing in the bright neon from their hangovers, but glittering still from the fun and dizzyness they enjoyed out the night before. The shops all palatial and smart, swept and polished by a team of midnight cleaners – another secret world – and empty of all the normal Saturday shoppers who are still at home in bed.

I strolled around. Bought a couple of pairs of jeans just like that. (Sometimes I can mooch for months deciding whether to buy one – but this morning I nailed two within an hour). And then drifted into Urban Outfitters.

My friend Mac in New York tells me we should boycott Urban Outfitters because it’s boss supports ultra-conservative, gay-bashing Congressmen. That’s a shame because it’s the nicest place to clothes shop in London. It also has a groovy record shop seeded into the tailored fabric of it’s menswear section. So still accessing ‘things I haven’t done for ages’ I went and listened to a few CDs.

ITunes Shop has pretty much killed those visits to music emporia for me. Is that bad or good? I don’t really know. I remember the almost panic-inducing trance I would get into in HMV. ‘Must find new music. Must find new tunes.’ And then after half an hours euphoria – ‘I am cool. This is cool. I am young and plugged in’ – I would crumple inwards into a stew of over-consumption and leave the shop an hour later with a bagfull of CDs I would never listen to again.

But this morning – all was well with the world. I stood stock still by the listening post and listened to 4 tracks from Regina Spektor’s new album. Those listening posts always have incredibly good headphones. The music never sounds as crystal clear at home. But i was entranced. I listened past the obvious Fiona-Applely-ness of her voice and fell in love with the line:

“His daughter is twenty years of falling snow.”

How perfect is that.

My morning was complete.