the other side of colour (2 of 2)

In part one, we travelled through a world of autumn’s dying colours to consider the continuing life beneath the earth – the world of the root. There is an inevitable sense of loss as the warm months fade away, leaving us with memories of pale blue skies and the perfume of the summer days… and the fullness of life.

We are presented with a ‘bare’ world, where only evergreens break up the grey and ochre of the wet and frozen world of winter. But we know that life continues beneath the damp earth, indeed, we can say that the very foundation of upper (or outer) life is approaching a subterranean frenzy. The beneath is also the world of the ‘blind creatures’ such as worms, whose role is essential to the quality of the soil and hence the continuation of life on earth.

We are not present to this world, though it supports our life. Even if we could see into it, our normal range of bright and varied colours would not be present. It’s a good illustration of how fundamental colour is to our sensory existence. We associate colour with life and health; we say ‘you’re looking’ pale. And mean that someone is ‘off-colour’.

(Above: refraction of ‘white light’ through a prism. Wikkipedia)

Much of our existence is based on seeing the colour of things; so, let’s have a closer look at colour. We all remember the school experiment where a beam of light is separated into the colours of the rainbow as in the image, above.

We can probably name the colours if this rainbow, and in right order, but, if asked to name the single colour from which they came, we would reply, ‘white light’. If, at night, we employ a domestic torch and point it at an object, we would see its features and colours highlighted in the circular beam. But we may not stop to consider what colour that beam is before it reaches the objects.

If we stand back, holding out our torch arm, what we see is a beam of light made slightly visible by tiny dust particles in the air. In all other respects, the beam is colourless and invisible. It is not white light, it is bright light. Light is visible to our eyes as brightness, but only visible as colour when it reflects off something else.

The property of colour is a puzzle for science. It can be described, mathematically, as a vibration – a wavelength and frequency; and even a particle – but its experience in consciousness cannot be described in scientific terms. To our minds, the idea of a warming red is the simplest of experiences but our consciousness of it remains outside of the descriptive powers of science. It is as though its realm existed before science… and has never been subject to the powers of number as quantity.

The fact that light has no colour except ‘bright’ might make us think that nature has set a trail for us to follow? When bright light strikes an object, its ‘rays’ are reflected. Used to our scientific thinking, we assume this reflection is to ‘everywhere’ within range of the object; but the experience of colour is present only in ‘your’ eyes – and each human has a unique experience of their own colours.

The meanings of the word ‘reflection’ are many. The mechanism for colour’s perception is only one of them. Psychologists have long detailed the mechanism of ‘projection’, which externalises powerful aspects of our conscious and unconscious natures onto other people. The implications of this are seldom discussed as part of everyday life, and yet they are as important as the fact that the traffic-light ahead has just changed to red.

Everywhere, there is reflection. In the summer, we drink the colours, yet we are the source of their meaning and effect, the sea in which they generate their emotive results. In the winter, we are robbed of this brightness… perhaps to make us look harder?

The winter takes away much of nature’s outer colours. The solar brightness fades and we are left to explore the life that is ‘dormant’ yet busily unseen beneath the earth. It was no accident that many of the ancient religions and mystical schools had their most potent rituals in association with this period approaching the shortest day and longest night. Sunrise on the winter solstice was considered one of the most powerful times of the year. Its effects were on the natural world, most certainly, but also on the inner person, the one from whom the ‘colour of life’ originated. Infused, he or she would be filled with power seeded in the deepest winter. Thus, the priest earned his influence and his respect.

Just as the summer solstice celebrated and enjoined the powers of the full visible outer cycle of nature, so too did the winter solstice celebrate the height of the invisible powers of nature at work in that which is fundamental to – and the basis of – the inner life.

It’s not obvious, but we have the deep, ancestral and unforgotten ability to attune with this profound time in the spiritual calendar. All we need to do is open different eyes to the Sun behind the Sun.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

the watery curve of acceptance

I walk a lot. it’s a necessity when you have a collie. Fortunately, we live in the country and the scenic walks begin through the gate in the bottom of the garden…

There are lots of variations, but the standard walk, when we’ve only got an hour or so, is to follow the line of the old canal for about twenty minutes, then take a sharp left, which then turns sharp-left down across farmland and into a ‘tunnel of a path’ that leads to the meadows beside the River Kent.

(Above: one of the old ‘bridges to nowhere’. The canal between here and Kendal is completely filled in – but the towpath and the old bridges remain)

The walk begins by crossing two fields which usually house local sheep. Here we encounter the first of the ‘bridges to nowhere’, as we have named them. It seems to be a popular nickname, as we have noticed others using it… The original land has been bought by householders or farmers. It can be incorporated into agricultural land or landscaped as part of a garden, but may not be built on, as it retains the full rights of a a ‘navigation’: and basis of public transport which is protected by old parliamentary laws.

(Above: the section of the path through the forest is now blocked in three places by large fallen trees, following the weekend’s Storm Arwen)

The walk then enters a small forest, again following the line of the old canal. Here the old towpath is currently blocked by three large fallen trees which will probably take months to chainsaw into pieces and clear.

(Above: in the distance, Bridge No. 180 marks the place where we turn off the old canal towpath and head for the river)

The stile, above, marks the end of the forest. Still on the old canal towpath, we approach the last of the ‘bridges to nowhere’.

(Above: Bridge 180 is a well-known local landmark and still serves one of the local farms and a riding stables and school)
(Above: the path assumes a tunnel-like appearance as it turns towards the river)

Here, we leave the canal path and descend into the adjacent sheep-meadow. At a gate, this narrows into a track that skirts a second forest before turning sharp left and descending to the meadows that borders the River Kent.

(Above: the final leg of the ‘hedged-tunnel’ that leads down to the river)

At the end of this descent is a final gate. Through this we reach the edge of the River Kent, one of Cumbria’s rivers that flow out into the northern side of the vast Morecambe Bay.

I decided, long ago and in one of those philosophical yet anarchic moments, that certain sections of a walk tend towards a ‘particular kind of emotional feeling’. It’s a bit like ‘strange attractors’ in Chaos Theory – a comment I will explain further in a coming blog, but, for now, let me illustrate the idea by saying that every time I have passed this beautiful section of the river, I have had a peaceful feeling, but one that has a deeper component.

(Above: the long curve of the River Kent that I associate with ‘acceptance’)

At first this was a vague feeling, but in the past two years it has resolved itself into an warm and peaceful feeling of ‘acceptance’. The idea of acceptance will be familiar to those whose life-journeys have taken them into anything mystical. The ‘doctrine’ of acceptance says that to resist what ‘already is’ is futile. We can spend years resisting something that we despise, but we cannot refute that ‘it is’. By the time we have accumulated enough energy to truly resist, the ‘battle’ has moved on to something else; which in turn we may view as good versus bad.

As the years pass, I have realised that much, if not all, of this is in the head of the individual. The real battles are those that take place in our consciousness… and heart.

(Above: with a heart full of gentle contemplations, we return home from the river)

More of this in posts to come. Hopefully, these images have illustrated the walk to the River Kent’s ‘watery curve of acceptance’, allowing me to further discuss this at another time.

Perhaps you, too, have a favourite place that has, over a period of time, introduced a deeper understanding of a characteristic of reality that has become precious to you?

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

the other side of colour (1 of 2)

It’s a poignant time of year…

I love colour. I’m sure we all do. It’s difficult to say farewell to the mellow flashes of autumn; to know that it will be four months – one third of a year – before renewed colour returns in full to this beautiful land.

It’s important to make the best of the last; to have the camera always ready for those few instances of brightness holding out against the rising trails of mud.

I’m a bit sentimental about this. I always say a silent thank you to the traces of colour that retain their brightness against the brown and grey. Sometimes, I find a single object worthy of more detailed study and bend or kneel to take a close-up shot of it. My favourites are ‘lines of things’ that draw the eye into the distance.

There are compensations… The blue skies of the winter are more intense than the summer’s softness and pastels. Best in the early morning, as below, when the sun’s capture of the leafless and bare branches of a tree contrasts in a deeply poetic way with the frosted darkness below it.

Buildings, too, respond to the stark contracts between winter’s light and shadow. The days are short, but the energy in the sky often makes up for this with intensity.

(Above: the old cobbled Market Street in Kendal invites the eye down to the River Kent)

It’s important that we find a way to react to the darkness, loss of colour, and short days in a positive way. That seems a tall order… but perhaps the winter has a story of parallel life to that of the spring and summer: one that is the key to our own psychological well-being… and one that may even have significant signposts to our spiritual development.

(Above: Sedgwick – the line of cottages behind an old stone wall highlights the frosty early light and shadow)

The ancient world had a different perspective on the ending of colour and the decay of ‘life’s bodies’. In this view, the processes had not stopped, but had removed themselves to the space beneath the ground, where, protected deep in soil, their activity intensified. The roots of organic forms are, literally, the foundations of life. In this view, life does not begin in the spring; it begins at the winter solstice deep in the warm and nurturing earth where there is protection from the bare, saturated and freezing surface of the earth that bears the full force of the winter… As do we.

(Above: the line of the old canal (long drained but still intact) passes under many bridges which now have no use

We live on that bare and freezing surface, but we have been gifted intelligence to mitigate the hardship. We also have eyes to see the whole process of the four seasons, each with its own definite purpose and ‘essence’. Such a quaternity features strongly at the heart of many of the ancient myths and religions.

(Above: deep autumn produces some of the most beautiful colours of the year)

I cannot follow the underground life with my camera. And even if I could that life would look quite alien and colourless, just as our organs would if we saw them outside the body. Their beauty is in the function they perform for the whole rather than the dance of colour in the visible world.

One day, our own physical organs will falter, then fail. Whether we see this as death or an embrace of unity depends on whether we can find a parallel in ourselves.

Perhaps our task is to see the cycle of four seasons as a whole, taking rest when we can in the darker months and letting a different, more contemplative part of us delve into the mysteries of life and possibly-not-death. The seasons are very present to us – they directly affect our lives and can be a threat to our survival. But to the globe of the planet, what is happening in the northern hemisphere is mirrored and reversed in the south. It is always summer, somewhere, as it is always winter, somewhere else.

Everything is in balance, providing we see the whole of the cycle. As long as we raise our eyes to see.

To the ancients, the turning points were the four dates of solstice and equinox. The equinox gives us equal night and day, but travelling in different directions with respect to maximum light or darkness. The solistice gives us those maxima. Their significance was so great that the Christian church layered its own religious festivals over them, rather than trying to replace their historical and cultural presence. Its seldom remarked on that Jesus the Christ was born in mid-winter, at the time of the deepest darkness, rather than in the spring.

How we relate our lives and selves to nature’s entire cycle of life and death may be one of the key questions of our lives.

Our individual lives, like the beautiful leaves, dance in the sun until their term ends. We have been gifted the use of our intelligence to combat the cold and dark so that we may remain fully conscious during the winter. Our struggle – our challenge – is to locate that part of us that develops as invisible light in the darkness, and thus reconcile life and death to something far more embracing in the long life of this beautiful planet… and beyond to the Sun, which sacrifices all its life to the support of its children in all their forms.

With energy, everything else happens. With gravity and the radiation of light, the Sun provides stability and the basis of life within the Earth as well as just on its surface. Beyond the ‘big bang’ everything depended on the blue giant suns, whose dying nuclear furnaces gave us the very chemistry of life, itself.

Could we ask for a clearer lesson, or a more noble purpose, than to mirror this in our own way?

In part two, we will examine and, challenge some of the accepted ideas about colour; with the possibility that this familiar quality of life, most poignant in the autumn, will enable us to find a deeper understanding of life and death.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

potential of tomorrow

Who knows which way-less-taken lies beyond the stile

The openings of now, unnumbered, mapped in dew

Unfamiliar potentials – whispers in the icy wind,

Cry ‘untrod, unheard’ alone in wandering air

Yet one of them, clear with rising light, will claim the right

To be tomorrow…

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

the size of life

What size is our life?

It’s an odd question, but the kind of challenge that gets us thinking… Does our life have a ‘size’? We can measure it in years elapsed, of course, and that may have a lot to do with how we think we got ‘here’. But that continuity is entirely in our head, and, has little to do with the real world of now, out there. It’s curious that we allocate more reality to the solid stuff beyond our eyes than we do to the supposed ‘supercomputer’ that is busy assembling all this into reality.

Eyes, it is always said, are the ‘gateway to the soul’. But they are also the gateway to what we are taught is the world. The eyes detect a vast part of what we assemble into that world – which exists only in the mind. And yet, when we look out with those eyes, we see a world with which we are totally involved, with no sense of distance or division, and no real distinction between the in-here and the out-there – that is only added when someone invites us to consider that there may be a duality at work. Even then, the duality may be false.

There are eyes, and then there is seeing. How big is our seeing? There’s another odd question. I know that science says that what sees is in my head, but how much of my head does it take up? Is it, symbolically, like a vast cinema screen that I watch all the time, except when I’m sleeping, and maybe even then – in the form of dreams; which may explain why they make so little sense. Perhaps the part of the supercomputer that makes things make sense sleeps, leaving the connected feed to the outside world intact… But that seems not to be the case. The senses shut down the second we fall asleep, which is why we drop that teacup onto the carpet when we fall asleep in our armchair. The dream, then, seems to deal only with what we already have inside us.

The ‘me’ seems to return with wakefulness, which shows how interlinked with ‘the world’ it is. It makes us wonder what the other, dreaming self, really is? Perhaps that dream awareness is more machine-like than we think? Or maybe it’s just connected to the universe in a different way…

Back to size. In my waking ‘self’, I don’t feel any size at all. I have been taught by the world that I’m a certain size, so I behave according to that and perhaps look to bolster my medium height with other strategies that make me important, which makes my-self feel good.

But really the ‘point’ of me has no size at all. It’s simply the act of watching. When my mind is not watching the world, it is usually in that dream state, because the constant change of sensual stimuli is not present. If there are changing things out-there, my mind is busy watching and interpreting them. There is even a kind of voice that narrates the watching, giving each thing its name, like in the Bible book of Genesis. We are not only close-coupled with the world, we are also habituated to narrating its stream of existence.

Why is our existence so complicated? Mystically speaking we have two answers: It may not really be so complicated at all; and, secondly, finding the answer is what makes the whole journey so worthwhile.

In order to get out of our habitual way of being locked into the world and give our deeper ‘self’ its rightful place, we need techniques that ‘shake’ the questionable foundations of our perception. One of these, handed down from the spiritual wisdom of old, is related our opening focus on size.

Place a candle in front of you. Lean forward to light it. Be conscious of the distance. Sit back in your chair and focus only on the very centre of the flame. Notice its twin nature, with intense brightness forming a ring around a sometimes black centre where the flame begins.

Now imagine that your world is the bright ring. See its constantly changing nature and watch how it commands your attention. Then gaze into the middle – the point of origination of the flame – and let your whole attention be drawn into the central dark area within the light. Feel the unity of both aspects of the flame but know that your own ‘point’ of true self is at the centre, and that the rest is a process of reflection. Imagine you are nothing (no-thing) in that central point, yet completely present to everything.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

lancashire art deco

(Above: The Art Deco Midland Hotel, Morecambe)

It’s a building I’ve always loved – along with the period from which it came. It looks modern but it was opened in July 1933, at the height of the Art Deco movement in architecture and design. Morecambe, along with most of the classic ‘railway seaside resorts’ has had its fair share of economic challenges since, but the ‘mighty Midland’ remains classy, elegant and, above all, popular.

(Above: taken in the summer, this photo shows the full curved design of this 1930s masterpiece, a shape that allowed guests unrivalled views across Morecambe Bay)

The hotel was designed by Oliver Hill with interior decoration by Eric Gill. It lies across the main promenade from the station building of the old London, Midland and Scottish Railway, which, at its height, was one of the largest railway companies in Britain.

All the railways hotels owned by the group were named ‘Midland Hotel’. There were also close ties with the nearby ferry port of Heysham, from which ships travelled to Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man.

(Above: an arty shot taken through the ornamental grasses of Morecambe’s promenade)

The Midland has always been a favourite of celebrities. These have included Coco Chanel, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Noel Coward. The hotel was the centre of a swathe of Art Deco buildings that made 1930’s Morecambe world famous. Among these were the ‘Super Swimming Stadium’, one of the largest Lidos in the world, with a main dimension of over 400 ft. and the ability to accommodate 1200 bathers and a further 3000 spectators.

(Above: the Super Swimming Stadium, opened in 1933. Image Pinterest)

Sadly, the rising costs of running this old pool resulted in it being demolished in the 1970s, but there may be good news for the town and the region in the shape of the Eden Project North – a vast marine centre, reflecting the bio-diversity of Morecambe Bay. The plan (below) to build a four-dome marine centre on the site of the old Super Swimming Stadium is in its final planning stages.

(Above: the Eden Project North, to be built on the site of the old Super Swimming Stadium, is hopefully in the final stages of planning and funding)

The designer of the Art Deco Midland Oliver Hill was a visionary who believed that such buildings, backed by the ‘spirit of the new’ that so typified the 1930s. He realised that the new hotel would give him a chance to put into practice his vision and took personal control of its creation and construction.

Hill observed that “You have here a unique opportunity of building the first really modern hotel in the country.” Hill also took a keen interest in furniture, décor, upholstery and costumes and had gained a reputation for his extravagant interiors, using such materials as glass, chromium, vitrolite, marble and exotic woods.

Hill believed that the exterior design should be intimately linked to the interior decor, and followed the details right down to the colour of the hand towels and the shape of the door handles. He saw these as counterpoints to the austerity of (1930s) modern architecture, providing harmony and balance in an age that was considered quite shocking… and often ‘cold’.

(Above: “Old Triton’ one of the best of the Eric Gill murals – set at the top of the Deco spiral stairway)

The Midland Hotel is also famous for its sculptures and murals. Oliver Hill commissioned the renowned sculptor and engraver Eric Gill to carve two seahorses for the outside of the building. Inside the building he carved a circular medallion in the ceiling overlooking the staircase. It shows a sea god being attended by mermaids and is edged with the words “And hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn”. Gill also designed an incised relief map of the Lake District and the Lancashire coast for a wall of the South Room, which is today the Eric Gill Suite.

(Above: tea on the terrace, anyone?)

Sadly, the hotel fell into disrepair from the 1970s onwards, like much of the rest of the town. The Midland Hotel was forced to close its doors in 1998, and stood derelict and at the mercy of the sea for nearly ten years.

In 2006 the Manchester-based property developer, Urban Splash, finally began restoring and refurbishing the building. Without Urban Splash this beloved hotel would have been demolished.

The success of what Urban Splash achieve was totemic for Morecambe; and galvanised the old town into seeing that things could change. The council began to redevelop the entire promenade – all three miles of it! Today, Morecambe is talked about as an example of a Victorian resort climbing out of the ashes of its past – whilst retained the best parts of its history.

The Midland re-opened its doors on the 1st June 2008, with beautifully restored existing features, such as the grand cantilevered staircase and a number of artworks by Eric Gill.

It’s easy and reasonably priced to dine at the Midland. The Rotunda bar admits dogs, and the Murder Mystery evenings are really well done, and lots of fun. We took our French relatives for one of these evenings three years ago. The murder theme was based on the TV series ‘Allo, allo.’ The leading actor was playing a Frenchman and came round to our table to introduce himself. I explained that we actually had two French people with us… he stared at me in horror before saying, “Zut, alors, what could possibly go wrong!)

I’ve written quite enough for one blog, but hope to do more on this subject in the future. Time to let the timeless and beautiful lights of the mighty Midland’s front doors say night night…


©Stephen Tanham 2021

Photographs by the author unless otherwise stated.

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

a lighthouse of man

(Above: the lighthouse at Maughold Head)

We have friends who live on the Isle of Man, a once-Viking stronghold which lies in the Irish Sea between England and Northern Ireland. Once or twice a year we exchange visits. I’ve always been fascinated by the presence and the symbolic importance of lighthouses, and this trip offered the opportunity to discover a new one, in a wild and wonderful setting.

(Above: the north-east corner of the Isle of Man. Our walk took in the right-most headland, as far as Mooar Bay and then back to the edge of Ramsey, as above. Image by Apple Maps)
Above: details of the Maughold coast, Isle of Man. Image: Apple Maps

Our friends live close to the sea in the area just east of Ramsey. Mark is a keen walker and has explored most of the local paths. We had a morning to spare while the ladies visited the town. Mark proposed a walk to Mooar Bay whose return leg would take in the Maughold Head Lighthouse.

(Above: the view of the Maughold Coast from the edge of Ramsey)

To me, a lighthouse is more than just its physical presence. These are quite ‘ancient’ monuments to mankind’s ingenuity and our desire to protect and guide those brave enough to sail on the unpredictable sea. I find in that a parallel to the mystical path, and those who have gone ahead to explore what appears to be a mysterious world where solid land gives way to the more shifting realms of our shared sea of underlying consciousness…

(Above: Mooar Bay – all to ourselves)

November is an enjoyable time to visit the island. The TT Motorcycle races are in the summer, when, for two weeks, the place is packed with tourists. In contrast, the pre-Christmas months are quiet, and you can often have an entire cove to yourself, as we did when we reached the farthest outward point at Mooar Bay: photos above and below.

(Above: Mooar Bay, pronounced ‘more’)

Until Mooar Bay, we had been following the county lanes. Now, it was time to leave the security of the paved tracks and pick our way across the rocky shores and onto the coastal path – which rises steeply towards the distant Maughold headland and its lighthouse. The gentle walk soon became a lung-stretching climb, as we got our first glimpse of the lighthouse.

(Above: the rocky coastal path and the first sight of the Maughold Point Lighthouse)

A lighthouse is a fixed object, yet it guides those who are travelling. Its light rotates – each one a unique number of seconds to complete a rotation. This warns the mariner to avoid the deadly rocks, but also shows them where they are, with reference to their nautical charts. A sighting of two such ‘blinking’ lights leads to a process of triangulation, whereby a ship can locate its precise position. Take two of these over an interval and you have a line of travel – the course you are on.

In the days before satellite-based location systems, this (and the stars, if you can see them) were all the sea traveller had to locate themselves, often in perilous and stormy conditions. After that, survival was down to good maps and even better seamanship.

(Above: the sign warned us that we were approaching ‘rough walking’ along the Brooghs (pronounced ‘brews’). This is a local name for the bumpy landscape of the high path across this coast. I can confirm that parts of the Brooghs are demanding territory, but nothing that can’t be tackled if you have good boots on)
(Above: leaving behind the gentle landscape of Mooar Bay, we climbed towards the lighthouse)

It’s interesting and symbolic that the lighthouse helps mariners to locate themselves. We can compare this with the great works of spiritual writers whose power of description of the progressive experiences on the inner sea enables us to locate where we are in that great quest to arrive at an inner ‘us’. Guided by these lights, we leave behind the ordinary life of ‘the world and me’ and begin to take a different voyage – one where the shifting sea is very much a friend.

The climb was arduous, but, soon the lighthouse was not only ahead of us, but below… We stood in silence for a while. No words were necessary to augment the enduring edifice.

(Above: the lighthouse at Maughold Head. This is as close as you can approach. Those are dangerous cliffs! But what a feat of engineering and intent…

Beyond the lighthouse, the path continues to climb, until a new view is revealed. To our left and further south arose the spine of the North Barrule range of mountains, second only in height to the famous Snafell – the highest point on island, and one of the most fascinating challenges of the TT races, as the bikes climb the mountain switchbacks at over 150 mph.

Extending my lighthouse analogy, the darting and nimble motorbikes could be likened to our thoughts: useful in the moment, but unable to give us a secure path without the deeper aid of the road. The well-travelled road becomes our personality; but its routes are not the only way from A to B. Looked at from an ‘aerial’ view, we might come to some startling conclusions.

(Above: North Barrule, one of two mountain ranges that form the spine of the island)

There was one more uphill section before we reached the highest point on the coastal path. From there we could see several miles along the coast to the sunlit buildings on Ramsey’s seafront.

(Above: the first sighting of Ramsay, still several miles away)

It was at this point that Mark said that we were headed for what is known locally as the ‘Bus Shelter’. The reference being to a concrete building dominating the headland at the path’s highest point. The building was built and gifted to the walking community by the original owners of this section of the Brooghs at the same time as the land was gifted to the Manx National Trust.

(Above: the ‘Bus Shelter’ – the bus service is not good)
(Above: The ‘Bus Shelter’ has two rooms, one facing the sea, the other, inland. In the seaward one we found this memorial board)

The inscription is not clear, due to decades of weathering. It reads:

‘Part of these Brooghs were presented the Manx National Trust by Mrs E.M. Halahan and family in memory of Mrs A.E. Groves of the Varrey, Maughold.’

From here, the path is much easier, gently winding up and down so that height is maintained. Ramsey is a busy working port, and several ships were moored off the coast, awaiting clearance to enter and dock.

Finally, the path turned back inland, and we knew we were descending and returning to the road on which we had begun, two hours prior. But the adventure was not over…

(Above: there’s a beach down there, beneath the waves; and you can walk it all the way into Ramsey… at low tide, of course)

There are many grand houses, here, and several directly overlook the sea. But the ancient paths and tracks that have direct access to the beaches and sea have been maintained. You can walk down what looks like someone’s drive and find yourself overlooking the beach – with stone steps down. When I took the photos, it was high tide; the beach was under several metres of water, but it’s there and accessible whenever the tide permits.

A popular pastime is to walk, a low tide, into Ramsey, which has an excellent social life. There are no worries about having a drink or two, and you can get the bus or the famous tourist tram home. The local stop is just up the road…

Soon, we were back home, with an hour to relax before setting off for a well-deserved Manx kipper lunch at the fishing port of Peel…. But that’s for another day.

Mind you, there’s a lighthouse in Peel, too…

(Above: the pleasant fishing port of Peel, on the west coast. The place where our Manx Kipper lunch awaited…)

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

the croissant and me

It’s one of those love-hate things…

Apart from a bacon sandwich – crispy, of course – it’s my favourite breakfast… assuming Manx kippers aren’t on the menu…

The humble French croissant, bought frozen from M&S, baked for twenty minutes in the oven then served alongside a fresh latté made in our Nespresso machine.

We’re ‘dunkers’ my wife and I. The croissant reaches new heights of perfection when ‘dunked’ into a creamy latté and slid, skilfully, into the expectant mouth.

We’re moving pretty quickly at this point in the day. The collie needs her walk and we have to get going. But not before consuming this small feast, whose goodness will set us up for the day.

But there’s a battle ahead..

Anyone who’s ever eaten a croissant, fresh from the oven, knows that, just as your goal is to consume it while all the flavours are fresh, its ambition is to remove as much of the skin from your fingers, lips and mouth as possible; and, failing that, or possibly alongside it, spread its flakes across most of your immediate furniture, then on the floor.

Round 1: you reach for the ‘horns’ of the beast, sure that the nuclear furnace lurking in the middle is suffering from a low coefficient of heat transmission inherent in the pastry. It works for a second, until a mixture of gravity and over-confidence causes the beast to deform in your fingers and bringing the still-molten core a half-inch nearer to your flesh. The escalation of pain is so rapid that you decide to stage a tactical withdrawal.

You drop the croissant… It lies, battered and snarling, on the edge of your small plate, defying you to try again.

Round 2: You use the white serviette to create a handle around one horn of the beast. Trying it out for ‘asbestmosis’, as veterans of such encounters have named it, you manage to get it halfway to your mouth before it folds itself back over your defenceless fingers…

You look down at the leering object, freshly landed on your plate, and consider your options. The dilemma is an exquisite one that makes you admire the mind of the inventor, and wonder if he was related to a senior figure in the Spanish Inquisition.

To create such a masterpiece of taste; and know that the partaker would seldom be able to get at it in time, speaks of sadistic genius.

You wait one minute – measured by the second hand of your watch, and strike again, this time boldly. Your combined action of raising the horns and, at the same time, pulling away from the centre results in a very thin croissant ten inches long, steaming with frustration and out to get you. You’ve been here before and know that there’s still enough heat in the middle third to take the skin off your nose… So you drop it back down onto the small plate and reach for the silver butter knife that’s been there all along, winking at you… and slice through the stretched and vulnerable edges of the core; then pick up both of the now-severed horns and, laughing manically, dunk them in the still-hot latté.

They are delicious. Apart from a slight dribble of coffee from one side of your lips to the mysteriously inaccessible crease in your chin, you are unscathed and part fed. But the croissant core glares at you across the battlefield, secure in the knowledge that the small butter knife won’t be able to help you now…

Round 3: Surprise is nine-tenths of victory… with a move worthy of Bruce Lee (sorry millennials, you’ll have to look it up) you grasp first the crumpled serviette, then the small plate containing the limbless trunk of the simmering opponent. In a single pull, you stretch the serviette so that it forms a pliable extension to the plate. The elegant move, perfectly executed, slides the croissant rump onto the paper, where friction brings it to a halt, partly hanging in space, and opposite your bared teeth.

Risking a finger-tip to steady the beast, you bite a small piece off, and before the heat can fry your tongue, put down the plate and take a swig of the rapidly cooling coffee, obliterating the last of the threat from the piece of croissant.

Feeling smug, you repeat the procedure four more times. Soon, there are only flakes on the plate and a smile on your face. Not ready to face the mess, yet, you shake the serviette over the plate then tip the combine residue into the last of the coffee.

Reaching for the teaspoon, you complete your victory by creating the perfect ‘cool coffee aux flakes de croissant’ and rise to collect the dog’s lead from the rack near the front door.

It’s been a straight run of victories so far this week. But tomorrow’s another day…

The flaky remains can wait. The portable Dyson will make quick work of them when you return with a happy dog and tenacious smile.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and

tender is the night

It’s a song by Blur and an iconic book by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The latter is autobiographical, and tells of the steady decline of his beloved wife, Zelda, as she descends into madness…

I don’t often write about dementia. But my mother’s own final years are proving to be a similar descent. She’s in a care home in Morecambe, on the seafront with beautiful views across to the Lake District where I can visit her with a short journey from Kendal… in normal times, that is…

The home is now in its third lockdown, following a mysterious and recurring outbreak on one of the upper floors; something that no-one, including the local health authority, seem to be able to get to the bottom of. People in care homes are subjected to far more screening that anyone else in the population, and yet they are the most mentally vulnerable.

The effects on the residents’ mental health have been devastating. My mother’s mental and physical wellbeing revolves around walks along the promenade into the centre of Morecambe. When Covid is not locking her up, she does this every morning, rain or shine. She’s nearly ninety-two and magnificent in her resolve to keep active; both mentally and physically. But the vascular dementia, diagnosed over fifteen years ago, is now approaching an advanced stage.

Because I have spent half my life teaching mysticism, I can see what is happening to her mind in a way that is easier to compartmentalise. From birth to the age of around seven years, we build our sense of ‘self’. Many people can remember the moment when they realised they had a self… and they stood on the edge of a changed and empowered world, full of a consolidated ‘me’ with all its hungers, fears and preferences.

This self strengthens until we mature into adults, then forms a stable layer of interaction with the world. All the ‘voluntary’ aspects of our nervous system are at its disposal. It’s truly captain of the ship, and has control of ‘the life’. It’s not the whole story, as mystical work reveals that there is a ‘higher self’ waiting to guide our lives… but that is for another post and speaks of a realm that requires the lower self to be fully functioning, too.

Part of that self-mechanism is responsible for checking itself. When we are young, we develop a tuned awareness of others’ opinion of what we do, achieve and when we disappoint. This is a conditioning that moulds our lives, and it’s central to how we feel about ourselves.

If mystical training is to be of use, this is the first thing that we need to learn to examine, checking that its values really represent the new and higher life we sense deep within us. Often they don’t; they were kindly imposed by a parental need for us to ‘fit in’ and have now become a prison. But the mechanism survives, albeit in diminished form.

The statistics tell us we are living longer, though given the levels of poverty one wonders why. On this basis, we will all face the slowing of memory and the mind’s logical workings. Are we able to equip our-selves to deal with this, not just for the care of others but also, in some small measure, for us? It’s a radical thought, and not one that psychology makes readily accessible.

Much of this is illustrated by some of my mother’s recent ‘behaviour’ – I hate that word, it makes you think she’s been ‘naughty’ in some way. It’s typical of how society shoves the elderly into a cupboard…

Typical dementia-related behaviour involves loss. Not just loss of memory, but loss of things – usually precious things, though the condition increases the sensitivity of the sufferer to the loss of anything. We’ll look at the reasons for this in a moment.

In Mum’s case, she has been losing things for years. When she was still independent, she would phone me in the middle of the night in a panic to say that ‘the thief’ had been in her house, again, and stolen her stoma supplies. She has a ‘bag’ following a near-death encounter with ulcerative colitis sixteen years ago. She rallied and has lived each day, fully, since then. But the importance of the stoma kit is deeply embedded, and often features in her panic.

Finding the stolen things was usually quite easy for me, my wife or my brother, but Mum’s mind was losing its ability to focus on problems. This is common with dementia, and shows how ‘problem solving’ is layered on top of ordinary thinking, and does not correspond with verbal logic, which usually remains high till near the end of life.

Following a fractured spine, when she fell out of bed while staying with us for a period of rest, we arranged, at her insistence, for her to go into a nearby home in Morecambe. It would take all her savings, but that was money well spent, and we weren’t worried about inheriting anything.

The first few months went well. She settled in, made a few good friends, and looked really healthy. Once Covid restrictions had lessened, the home was happy to let her walk along the prom each day, and she always came back, safely and on time. Her sense of direction – operating at a deeper level than the ability to find things, was (and is) intact.

But then the ‘thefts’ returned. And her fading mind told her that it was because none of the residents’ doors had locks… Item after item disappeared, until one day at the close of the latest partial lockdown, I was able to go in and find them hidden – by her – in her room; and action she had subsequently forgotten.

You could watch her mind working at that point – and what it was protecting was her self. She didn’t want to be ‘mad’. She wanted there to be a reason that she hadn’t been able to find the ‘stolen’ goods. The reason was that the thief was also sadistic and was putting the missing items into places where she wouldn’t be able to find them.

It’s part of the agony of having a loved parent with this condition that, no matter what you do, dementia will find a way of thwarting it. We discussed Mum’s fears with the home, who offered to install a lock in her door. For two weeks, she was gleefully happy, displaying the key on a string around her neck… until the thief returned, and something important went missing.

I walked with her along the seafront, and we discussed her new depression. She told me that she had worked out what was happening. There was a ‘skeleton key’ kept by the staff for safety, and the thief had somehow gained access to it… and continued to do so. At the time of writing, she is a depressed about this as before the introduction of the life-changing key. We are back where we started.

The sadness in watching each new thing we come up with fail is difficult to counter. Professional advice is simply to agree with them when they say something has been stolen. There is no way you can take them out of this perceived zone of peril and insecurity, because its the last thing protecting their sense of self…

When my time comes to face this decline – and I’m sure I will, given the genetics of both mother and grandfather, I want the night to be tender and for that night to know why I need to protect that most precious of possessions – my right to be the ‘me’ I’ve always known. I know that what I’ve been in this life – my personality – will die with the body. But the deeper Self will come to harvest the good of that lifetime, and learn the imbalance of the not so good. Then, we will move on, as the Cosmos constantly does… to new adventures, new learning, new development.

©Stephen Tanham 2021

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye, a journey through the forest of personality to the dawn of Being. and