zondag 16 juni 2013

The Boghill Centre

I don't really want to go back into this experience, but it keeps bugging me, until I write it down. The Bughill - sorry, Boghill Centre was not a nice place and a disappointment.

From Monkton, we travelled for 3 days to get to County Clare, Ireland. First we went up to Liverpool, which we both liked. We spent a night in a easy-going hostel, got a 8 persons room for only the two of us and lay two matresses on the ground. Then we went to Dublin and had a great vegan dinner in a Hare Krishna restaurant and saw this guy:

ha ha

Which probably has been the expression we wore most of the time we spent in Boghill.

The Bughill Centre (I know I shouldn't repeat my puns but it's just so UGLY!)

When we arrived, we were hastily pointed to our room, a 8 persons hostel room, with bunk beds. They knew we were a couple. Couples don't spend one month sleeping separated in a bunk bed in a room they share with other people. When we asked if there were other rooms, they showed us a room with one bunk bed and no windows, called 'The Potato Room'. When we asked leadenly if there wasn't something with double beds, we were taken to the edge of the grounds, to a log cabin that functioned as a dump for unwanted furnishings. After a while, a van came to take them away and we were being told that someone would help us with the mattresses. We had to clean out the whole place, if we wanted to stay there. We had to ask again for the mattresses. By that time the owners were nowhere to be found, and we met some other volunteers, who helped us.

Our rather nice shed, and Jack the dog who came to comfort us

There was also a caravan with a bad case of mold, in which the volunteers could watch movies and get a headache

When we saw the owners again (there were three of them, the rudest a Dutch hag) we still hadn't gotten a proper tour of the place. Again, we depended on the other volunteers, to show us everything. We had to clean the first morning, and had to ask, ask, ask. We thought, well, maybe this afternoon we will get an explanation.
'Is there work for the afternoon?' we asked. 
'Well, there's always something to do, but no, if you want, you are free this afternoon. We expect you to be self-motivated here.' 
Confusing. Before they had really given us something from themselves (a tour, a proper explanation), we were already expected to be self-motivated. That's not how it works and it's certainly not how it has to be. I think they wanted us to take the work from their hands, so that they could hide in their house up the road. They literally said this thing about hiding. 

By then, we knew we wouldn't spend one month there. We soon discovered 'bog' means 'swamp', and there were many flies, called midge's. We were so fed up that afternoon that we wanted to leave immediately. But there was a problem. We didn't have a car. We were dependable on those people to get us to the station AND to book a train ticket for us online (there wasn't a public computer and with our cards, we couldn't book). And then what? Go someplace else? No, we didn't want to start something new again - we had decided to stay for a month here for a reason. It was confusing, because the Irish centre we wanted to go to first, cancelled last minute, and when we emailed Boghill, the also got a last minute cancellation and we were very welcome to come, so it seemed to fit perfectly, but didn't turn out well! 

We decided to stay for one more week, to rest from the journey and let things settle in, and then tell them we would leave after another week. After two days, I spoke to the Dutch hag, and said I found it difficult that I didn't know what was expected of me. She said they usually let the volunteers freewheel for a few days, but that apparently I needed more guidance. In practice, 'guidance' meant that when she incidentally bumped into me (two times), she asked if I was alright and gave me work. After one week, we said to them this was not what we were looking for and made it clear that we wanted to leave. 

Weeding in midge hats

The polytunnel, full of shot lettuce and cabbage

Apparently, the weather had been terrible. Only now they could prepare the heavily neglected garden, in June! 

Group picture of the volunteers: me, Enes, Raul (a nice, rather factual Estonian who would answer the question 'do you want water with your dinner?' with 'no, I only drink water before or after a meal. Or both.), Gemma and Albert (two Catalan friends)

All the pictures were made on sunny days, but it also rained a lot. Enes, with his Moroccan blood, was having trouble handling the ongoing wind and the chilliness. The smell reminded me of my happy childhood vacations on Terschelling, so that was comforting and unsettling at once. Sigh. Irish weather. Don't underestimate. 

Truth to be told, after the first two days we weren't putting much effort in it anymore. We complained, judged, were lazy. We also hid in our shed most of the time (think we were inspired by certain someones). Soon we found an unused tv, dvd-player and cd-player. I have spent a lot of afternoons sleeping, even though I wasn't tired. We didn't go somewhere, because the surroundings were barren and uninviting, and we were rather passive about it as well. We were missing Monkton a lot, this felt like a punch in the stomach. We were bored, bored, bored.

BUT. The last weekend, the sweat lodgers arrived. They took over the place, as the owners announced, adding 'we will hide in our house'. We were told that we could help with the work (building up, kitchen work) and could join in with the ceremony for free. And when those people arrived, suddenly the whole tension was relieved, our hearts were opened again, and we let the flow of healing excitement take us along. We worked with pleasure and we worked hard. 

Sweat lodge

All the intentions I had this winter, the dream of learning about healing, have been focussed on the Irish healing centre. To learn from a mentor, to encounter shamanism, to speak with many healers, to learn yoga and 5 rhythm dance and meditate with a group, to be guided and all that stuff. And a big part of that dream came true: learning more about shamanism, undergoing a ritual. The universe gave me a present and a lesson in humility and self-guidance that I took to heart. Carl Big Heart, the shaman, also talked about this. I was reminded that the lesson you get is not always the lesson you want, but always the lesson you need. My whole being was touched and cleansed. 

And after one last day (also the first) of garden work, we were relieved and could finally fly away. 

The last picture: punching the scarecrow

On a final note, a comparison with Ecolonie (of course). Just as Boghill, Ecolonie had a core that didn't feel good. The difference was that Ecolonie rather strict, orderly, patriarchal and gave almost no room for initiative and creativity. The work load was big (40 hours a week, filled in by the manager) and there was a lot of male energy and activity. Here, the energy was mostly female and passive. The work load was low (25 hours a week, filled in mostly by yourself), the cohesion lacking, the organisation matriarchal and you had to use all your initiative and creativity. Order versus chaos - I prefer none. 

Old Hall and Monkton maintained a good - although different - balance, which I came to respect highly. Now I can recognize this balance better, and appreciate it. Thanks.

So that was the end of our journey, and it was a good one. Old Hall was about opening up and relaxing, Monkton was about actively and creatively taking part and Boghill was about getting more confidence. I'm often struggling with speaking up for myself and being independent, and I've grown a little bit stronger now.

zaterdag 8 juni 2013

Monkton Wyld Court

On my journey, I didn't get the chance to continue my blog. But still I want to write about the remaining two places of our journey. This one is the wrapping up of Monkton. It was without doubt the best community-typed place I've ever visited. The goodbye at Old Hall was only a little teary, and the train journey was short. We paid way too much money because we didn't know about the commercial train companies and that you really should book tickets in advance to avoid high prices, just so you know. 

Monkton: a neo-Gothic building from 1848 that was a boarding school once and still focuses on education

How can I begin describing that it turned out even better than expected? And high expectations we had! Tale-telling is that I didn't have a special hiding place, like I had in Old Hall (the apple orchard) and Boghill (the Stone Circle). I felt comfortable everywhere.

It began when we met up again with Nora, our German friend from Ecolonie. In the four months we stayed there last fall, she visited Ecolonie two times. After that, we saw each other two times this long and dreary winter. Most Ecolonie people have disappeared from my life, but with her, the bond stayed strong. Meetings with Nora always open me up to speak about anything spiritual that has happened to me. 

The first evening, still in my traveling clothes, sniffing a delicious gluten free dessert, with Nora behind me at the door

The photo that was taken the morning after we arrived: we were digging in the garden while Nora read to us about gnomes and other nature spirits

And then Nora left us and we were caught up in a quickly-moving stream of events, interesting trips and lessons. We learned about biodynamic agriculture and how it works with cosmic influences. Some days are better for dealing with fruit, some days are root days, it's all influenced by astrologic constellations. One evening, we were busy stirring water in buckets for an hour. 


There was a bit of horn manure in the water: manure that had stayed in a cow's horn in the ground for 6 months. We had to stir spirals in the water so that the cosmic energy could enter the water, and then turn the other way around to make chaos. After a while the water acquired a 'muscular viscosity'. Michael, the gardener with the brown curls, compared it anything that you beat air into. 

Rowena was applying for the Housekeeping function, a busy bee that was often mumbling to herself but showed to have a surprisingly clear spiritual vision

Chloe and Amandine spraying the potato beds

After the stirring, the liquid was distributed over the grounds with a brush. This way, the dug-in and damaged earth would heal and be susceptible again to cosmic energy.

A tipi 

The pub

They also gave courses in natural building, led by a broad-shouldered Walesman who built a beautiful house for his family on the grounds, seen below. In a week the course attendants built this 'pub', where you could drink a pint after a hard day's work.

It looked out over the valley, had a leaded/stained glass window and a curious little pair of blinds, maybe in the bedroom of the little boy

Down below, there was the farm with some cattle: two (after a week, one) pigs, some chickens and two cows that looked very thin. 


Simon, the farmer, lived and ate in a Monkton building, in exchange for milk, cheese and butter. 

The farm

Every Thursday, the volunteers would work for Simon. It was hard work that often included digging, digging and digging, whether it was muck, a to-be-made potato bed or dock, a very insisting weed that you could use to ease nettle stings, but is not being eaten by cows. 

On a day off, we went out to Bridport, a small nearby town with an alternative feel to it: on the market was a local organic stand, and there were three shops with organic products. Also, there was the Red Brick Cafe, where you could eat gluten free brownies and listen to street artists. 

In front of the Red Brick Cafe with the group

And then there was Lyme Regis. This has been the most beautiful coast place I've ever visited!

On our way to Lyme Regis

 The famous cobb on which the end scene of The French Lieutenants' Woman was shot (never heard of it but rented the movie as soon as I got home)

Enes and Chloe

Lyme Regis

More Lyme Regis

We went there three times, a 3 miles' walk away (beautiful! through the valley), and we only had three days off, so go figure. We didn't take a camera, because the walk was heavy enough. But one evening we went by car, to watch the sea. It filled me with longing. It might be a universal thing, the sea filling us with longing. It think the sea is full of undines, elementals that change shape constantly in a dreaming state.

Also, in Lyme Regis we met up again with Richard and Sarah. They are a couple we met in Ecolonie too, two of the people I thought parted ways with me. They happened to live close-by. They reacted on my facebook status that they were in Lyme Regis that day, and we were having a day off and intending to go there anyway, and so we posted. Didn't hear anything, but we felt no worry. We just went to the beach and sat there, thinking: if we are meeting, it will be here. And after a while they walked by, sunglassed (both) and pregnant (Sarah) so we didn't recognise them at first, but then there was a lot of hugging and beaming and exchanging stories.

They were going away from Ecolonie to set up a community of their own in Spain. This we knew. But working on a farm nearby the plot of land they had an eye on, turned out a bit of a flop, Richard told us. After that, they went back to England, and now they miss community life. I don't know what happened, and how about their dream for living in a community, there was no time to get into that because they had to catch a bus. They always were sort of a archetypical presence for me, when I left Ecolonie to be with Enes. "The couple that would start a community." Like, if they would build something I would be there. Enes and me are looking for a place to live, and not really seriously considering setting up something of ourselves - we are way too inexperienced for that - but if there are friends, like-minded and like-goaled people we meet on our journey, we would be really committed to gather and create, somewhere in the future.

This was a really inspiring meeting. Enes and me talked a lot about our dreams and our future afterwards, you know, the stuff that matters. Creating our own story, just as we heard some of theirs again, and staying connected.

(Pregnant! Imagine that! Sarah wore dungarees (tuinbroek). In Ecolonie I had dungarees, and she told me she wanted one as well. I was so happy for her! Her pregnancy, I mean.)

And then there was the cooking. It was done by two inspired, creative cooks that used a lot of non-soaked legumes (and you know what that means!) and were kind enough to put a genuine effort in making gluten and dairy free alternatives for me. The cooks were Catherine and Chloe. The food was lovely. And after I had been in the kitchen a couple of days, they asked for someone to cook for a dinner without guests (so it didn't have to be perfect) and me and Enes volunteered. 

Taking a break on the heated and rushing but very enthusiastic cooking afternoon

Enes making rice pudding for dessert


And of the food itself I didn't make pictures because I couldn't think anymore. But it was lovely. I made exotic purple-brown aduki bean-cashew burgers with a lovely fennel and five spices seasoning, Enes made a white stir-fry of cauliflower, onion and white cabbage, and then there was the carbohydrates department: a green-yellow potato-leek-barley leftover from lunch that I warmed up and managed to throw on the ground just before serving. Ten points for that. Luckily, a lot of it was saved but I felt very bad about it. Mostly about not telling. 

The result of cooking on another day, when I assisted Chloe and made savory quinoa with garlic and roasted nuts (which of course was called 'misery sand again' by Rocky, who hated couscous and the like)


I learnt a lot about cooking in those two weeks, like matching colors. I've been loving cooking for over a year, when I discovered vegan and gluten free cooking. Surprisingly, for me this seemed to have more tasty possibilities than cooking with meat, dairy and wheat. Now, I got the chance to put this into practice. I've had so much space for my own creativity and initiative in this kitchen that I feel a smily mellow gratitude every time I think about it, and a desire to go back and give and learn even more. On my last day I made a strawberry almond cake, although it was my day off and I had to plan the travelling. But my heart refused to let go. It was the extra day that wasn't planned but we decided to take because we needed to book the next step in our journey, and rest, and enjoy. I ate lots and lots of strawberry cake to cope. 

A goodbye shot in front of the breakfast view

It was so, so, so hard to leave. The evening before, in a cafe in Lyme Regis with our friends Liana, Chloe and Amandine, I just couldn't stop sobbing. I felt like I had to go to the healing centre in Ireland to be true to my dream, but it was like my heart already knew what was coming, and was right to be frightened for it. I still feel a piece of my heart stayed in Monkton. I have to go back to get it.

A group photo in the garden: Catherine (cook and household), Rocky (maintenance), Enes, me, Liana (garden assistant), Chloe (cook) and Michael (gardener)

Only one disadvantage of Monkton Wyld Court was that physically I cannot do it for long. I learnt that in Ecolonie, where I worked 4 months for 40 hours a week and had never time to fully recover, because I have eczema and need more rest than the average person. Here, we worked for 35 hours and just as hard, phsyical farmers' work. But just like in Ecolonie, I was so enthusiastic and motivated that I managed. And on top of that, the choking regime in Ecolonie* wasn't present here, so it was better altogether. Decision was made by consensus and educating people in the work in a respectful manner was high in standard. But the search goes on. The more I experience, the more detailed my intention gets, and the more fitting the places I visit. 

In the next place, Enes and me talk about that image exhaustingly, because we didn't have much else to focus on. Soon to follow... 

*Yes, still dealing with Ecolonie-trauma, which was why meeting Nora, Sarah and Richard has been so healing to me