It’s a breathe of fresh air staying with some of bestest friends in Oxfordshire – space from travelling to simply be with friends who effortlessly connect. It feels like home and a nice break to recharge batteries before heading off the unknown and mysteriously compelling Morocco. Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild have been friends for 2o years – we met when they left the Franciscan Convent and became firm friends even though we are separated by half the world. Our interests connect over church/feminism/womens issues, but more than that they are family. Off for a walk around the Lake at Blenheim Palace – H&J knew how to get in without paying 7 pounds each – in at the Combe gate. Lovely public access ways even in the Palace grounds – just follow the paths.
There were THOUSANDS of pheasants – all ready for the next shoot I guess, and beautiful open spaces, and wooded areas, with the occasional peep of the Palace and all the cars and buses up there paying a fortune to walk through. Nearby Woodstock proudly waiting at the Palace gates waiting to serve… In nearby Oxford a NZ friend of mine is living – Jenny Mcintosh who runs a programme called Spirited Exchanges for people who have left/are leaving churches but still want to continue their faith journey in some way and are looking for markers along the way. Hannah and Jennifer’s book Guard the Chaos is one of the resources Jenny uses, and I knew Jenny and Hannah and Jennifer would hit it off. And they did – after a long coffee, they swapped phone numbers and emails with the intention of staying in touch.
On the way home we were off to weed and mow the Parsonage Garden at the Convent at Freeland. H&J once belonged to this convent and still keep in touch, including looking after the retreat house garden. It is only one village away and this morning we were at church there, and afterwards I showed them how to prune a NZ flax. Friday we had a big excursion into Wales (my first time).We were headed through the Forest of Dean, over the Servern River and into the Black Mountains. We stopped off at Abergavenny for a pint, which was a treat as my father’s mother had come from there. Shame on me, I could not even recall her unmarried name. Our goal was to visit the visit the old abbey ruins at Llantony. After the fog lifted t was a beautiful sunny autumn day – not a cloud in the sky.
The ruins were magnificent – falling down, but somehow still reaching for the sky. I wondered what made the men come and settle here and build this monument to God. Apparently it began with two hermits, who where then joined by others (that must have been annoying for them I would think). Anyhow the abbey grew and flourished and then overtime outgrew its usefulness and fell in on itself. Just a ruin left. There is a story or two in that I am sure. Next day off to the Malvern Autumn Show – a HUGE event – gardeners galore. The night before we had watched a show on people who grew giant vegetables, so were all prepared to see the giant vegetable display – very impressive. I know we all need a hobby but…. giant vegetables??
Back home to back the bags and prepare for Morocco!