Monthly Archives: September 2015

Ah, England …

Ah, England …

England with its full-crowned green trees, furrowed fields, green meadows that would have rabbits in them if the train wasn’t going by, church steeples, country houses with cars parked in front, thereby designating them of historical interest and probably owned by the National Trust.

This is the England of the English – not the England that the refugees are looking for but the England that the English want to protect and keep English. They don’t care so much about the cities.

Council houses – built after the second world war to house the population after so much had been bombed; some built by my father’s company and definitely lacking in any architectural merit, but with a roof over people’s heads and plumbing and electricity – who cared?

Low gray clouds threatening rain, cows lying in the fields as they do when it’s going to rain. What are they trying to keep dry – their tummies?

(I’m just grateful for cooler temperatures, getting my brain back again and not having to peel my clothes off each night.)

This is the England of my childhood, without the bomb sites filled with crumbling walls and rose bay willow herb (fireweed).

I’m on the train to Glasgow, Scotland after a restful overnight stay at the Lodge of The Christian Community in London. This is a long train journey but it will constitute a day of rest for me.

(Just passed a canal with colourful holiday barges lined up against the bank. There must be a good pub nearby.)

The first stop will be Warrington where I was born, then on through the Lake District which is unbelievably beautiful. Do I sound nostalgic? I probably am.

We flew in last night over London, the first time I have seen it from the air.

I stayed at the Lodge of The Christian Community which is a haven of peace in London although not inexpensive – but worth it.

It’s funny going back to pulling the chain to flush the toilet and needing to remember to switch on the electric outlet before the juice will flow. I could make my own cup of tea in my room and was served poached eggs on toast for breakfast – ah – my morning bliss 🙂

I’m on a Virgin train, a company that has the same sense of humour as Southwest Airlines and West Jet. See photo. I’m in a Quiet Carriage i.e. no cell phones and the sign says Do Not Create Any Unnecessary Noise. The conductor announced over the system – Carriage A is a Quiet Carriage therefore Be Quiet! But it was said humorously 🙂

I’m impressed with The Shop on the train where you can buy food and a really hot cup of tea and someone comes through every half hour or so asking if anyone has any rubbish.

The big news in England is the startling election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the opposition Labour Party. No one expected this result and neither, it would seem, did he.

From what I can tell from the newspapers he has some radical ideas/intentions that, in my opinion, are exactly where society needs to go. His own party is in a state of shock.

Imagine – he chose women for his shadow cabinet to head education, health, families and children etc and when criticized for not choosing women to head finance, foreign affairs etc he maintained that the health, education and welfare of the British population was even more important! Radical! 🙂

Now we are coming up to the Lake District, one of my favourite areas of England, the land of Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit, and I want to watch out the window.

Scotland next … 🙂


Beautiful and fascinating, Lanzarote is very different from any of the other islands. It has all developed out of volcanic lava which sounds like a moonscape but it isn’t.

Development has been very restrained thanks to the influence of Cesar Manrique, an extraordinary artist of the 1900s, probably unknown outside of Spain. All buildings are white and none more than three stories high and even they are few. This looks very dramatic against the dark grey crumbles of lava which cover the soil.

Yes, there is soil which has developed, since the islands rose out of the sea, from lava and sand. There are almost constant trade winds so the plants are protected by hand built curved walls of lava rock. The winds are usually gentle and dispel the heat and humidity so the climate is comfortable year round. I loved it.

The Centro Antroposofica where I stayed is gorgeous. This is where we will have the eurythmy retreat. I spent the time with Roberto Schmid, who is in charge of the place, and his daughter and her boyfriend who had just arrived for a holiday from Germany. We all enjoyed each other’s company with much laughter and Roberto took me to all the places we might find interesting for excursions – including the home of Cesar Manrique.

When I left I flew back to Santa Cruz, Tenerife, ready to catch my flight to Madrid and then on to London next day. I didn’t see anything in Santa Cruz that I’d go back for either …

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria was a delight. I stayed with a lovely, well-travelled and educated woman of my own age and we became firm friends in a short time.

Although I was only here for a day and half, Juan Luis and Paulette took me to a recommended place for accommodation in the evening and then for a dramatic day’s drive into the mountains next day to see a volcanic crater and some lovely villages. We had lunch in a cave restaurant with an incredible view. We achieved a lot and have accommodation settled and activities for the first 3 days. I now wait to see what Lanzarote has to offer. The pictures of the anthroposophical therapeutic & vacation centre on their website are gorgeous – we shall see…

This airport in Gran Canaria is huge and almost empty. It’s very new and, I suspect, built with anticipation of a big increase in tourism in the future.

I much preferred Gran Canaria to Tenerife, which is more industrial-commercial and had little charm from what I saw. Perhaps I just missed the good parts?

Lanzarote next…

Volcanic Mountains and an Ancient Forest

Today, I went out with others to more incredibly dramatic volcanic mountains and walked in an ancient forest which was rather disappointing – so dry. By the time they dropped me off at the parking lot where I had left my car it was 3:00pm and I was done. Another 2 hour drive to visit another place was beyond me. I phoned and left an apologetic message.

Tomorrow morning I fly to Gran Canaria, to be hosted and whisked around by more anthroposophical people.

I am more than ready for the impersonality of a hotel!!!

The Island of La Gomera

Today I drove to the south of the island to get the ferry boat to the island of La Gomera. BC Ferries do it much, much better!

Fred Olsen ferries are much bigger but have only a small outside deck. It had no cafeteria – only snack bars full of junk food. The gift shop had almost nothing in it, and the real clincher was watching the loading of vehicles. Cars drove on and had to turn around inside the ferry to be facing the right direction for disembarking. Trucks of all kinds, including articulated ones, had to back on!

As a walk-on passenger it cost me about $65 return and the trip was only 10 minutes longer than our own. I may not mutter about BC ferries quite so much in future.

I wandered around the town, found a tourist information office and got what I needed and then took a local bus to a village in the interior. The drive was stunning! Up steep hills, around hairpin bends with drops at the side of the road that were definitely not for sissies. It was gorgeous – pictures say so much more than words even though they were taken from inside the bus.

On to the Canary Islands

After 3 days in Bulgaria I flew to London and then on to the Canary Islands. It was a long day and I arrived in Tenerife, Canary Islands, late – and 2 hours later for me.

I’d been told to rent a car to get to my host but I hadn’t thought that through very well. Driving a strange car in the dark on highways with Spanish signage was very challenging at midnight.

That was the point when I really did wonder if I could do this – but I did. That was my biggest stretch.

This time my host lives in a very old, traditional collection of rooms accessed through gardens.

She had to meet me at the local gas station to lead me to their home, up and up and up tiny narrow streets, barely wide enough for a car to get through. A donkey would have been more appropriate.

Meeting people in Sofia

Meeting people…

So many of them! I hope I don’t muddle them up later.

I was mixing with people from the White Brotherhood, followers of Peter Deunov, a contemporary of Rudolf Steiner. They have much in common with anthroposophists and I think we have things we could learn from them – and they from us.

I spent 2 days with one Maria and then went up into the rarified air of the mountains with another Maria. Therein lies a story of confusion but it got sorted out. One evening my host took me out for dinner at a lovely outdoor restaurant in a park that was just magical.

Belgrade to Sofia

The station in Belgrade was the worst I’ve ever seen and everything was in cyrillic so I couldn’t read anything. I spotted a group of young backpackers beside a train and joined them, hoping someone spoke English and that might be the right one. It was – with a tiny sign saying Sofia on the first carriage. I struggled to climb on board past refugees with no tickets, found my compartment and couchette (berth). However, it wasn’t what I had booked – a four berth, women only – and instead was 6 berths that I was to share with 5 smelly young men.

The conductor was a classic example of what I had been warned about. He angrily told me there was no such thing as women only compartments anywhere in Europe. Since I had been on one just a few nights ago I knew it wasn’t true but there’s no point in arguing.

Then I discovered the next compartment was set up for 4 and was only occupied by a single woman from India who, wisely, was not very comfortable about being on her own. So I gathered up my bedding and joined her.

The conductor was furious – told me that was 1st class and I needed to pay him 5 euros. Of course it wasn’t and I said no. We argued a bit, he threatened me that I wouldn’t get off the train without paying him and stood behind me as I firmly looked out the window with my back to him. I knew he was there because of the strong smell of alcohol. I also knew the young people around me wouldn’t let him harm me. He eventually gave up.

The train had been closed up, it was unbelievably hot, we opened every possible window, stuffing things into them to stop them automatically closing.

The bunks were very uncomfortable and mine wasn’t level so whenever the train brakes were applied I nearly rolled off etc, etc.

Needless to say I didn’t sleep much but I survived. We were only a half hour late getting into Sofia – not bad for this part of the world.

I am now staying in a beautiful apartment of a friend of a friend. It’s still very, very hot which is wearing, but I did get a good night’s sleep which is always welcome.

It has become apparent that this research trip is about meeting people and making connections more than seeing sights and searching for accommodation. I’ve learnt to go with what is, rather than pushing for what isn’t.

I’ll be out today exploring Sofia with a lovely lady I met yesterday.


It has been very hot here in Eastern Europe which has flattened my energy. I’m therefore thinking of doing this tour in April 2017 rather than in the summer. I’m told that wouldn’t be a problem.

The big news here is migrash catastrof (sp?) migrants-refugees catastrophe (Hungarian from the taxi driver who was furious about it.) When I passed through the main station in Budapest earlier this morning it was apparent the number of refugees had doubled. There were serious demonstrations yesterday that closed train stations and delayed trains. I was lucky to have Nora to advise me so that I have had no problems.

There are police everywhere at the stations with their riot helmets hanging from their belts but they don’t seem tense. It’s hard for me to tell if it’s the Hungarians rioting or the refugees. What I saw last week was the refugees but they seemed to be cheering on their new-found leaders rather then being angry. I don’t think it was the same yesterday.

Hungarians are very angry that the refugees are stuck in their country and they have to provide for them. They are given free train tickets to Germany but the surrounding countries won’t let them pass through. I just passed through a minor station with yet another bunch of refugees surrounded in even greater numbers by police. Yet I got the impression the police were there to protect the refugees as much as to prevent them just taking off into the fields. Some Muslim women and their children were quite heavily escorted to toilets that had been set up for them.

Of course the press is here in force, interviewing – probably politicians or talking heads.

Nora believes the government is making more of it than they need to, to distract people from the economic and social problems in the country.

Funny – when my taxi driver heard I was from Canada his immediate response was “Ah, Trudeau!” And he didn’t mean Justin 🙂

His father made a huge impact: No one has heard of Stephen Harper.

Back in Miskolc, the European Union has paid for a new and beautiful tram system, restoring the opera house and rebuilding a castle. They are all impressive and while I do wonder at such expenditures it is evident that it is restoring cultural pride which is so necessary after communism. Who am I to judge? But I’m constantly seeing the refugees …

Budapest to Sofia: Well, Budapest to Belgrade was a lovely train trip – except that it was an hour and half late. Nothing unusual about that, but a bit worrisome when I had an overnight train connection, but it all worked out.