Getting Started

Moored Up For the Night

So we’re up at 6:30 and under the illusion that we packed everything in preparation for the trip up to Ellesmere. The plan was to leave at 7:30 in good time to drive the 2.75 hours up the M5/6 and M54 towards Telford and on to the marina.

In fact it took us until 8:00 to get going, and Mrs Satnav told us we weren’t going to arrive till past 11:00, so the SAS would be sitting there waiting, Steve drumming his fingers on the steering wheel and muttering about Bridget always being late.

Now I’ve driven to mid/north Wales more times than I’ve had welsh rarebit (cheese on toast) so I knew she was exagerating and her diversion through Worcester, though picturesque, was not the quickest route. So we ignored her insistances to turn round, take the next exit etc.

And after a couple of minutes she gave in, capitulated and recalculated the journey time, which just kept coming down and down. By the time we hit the M54, we were doing to be 10 minutes early, then the phone went. It was the SAS to ask where we were. Thinking that they had been sitting at the marina since 9:00, I was greatly relieved to hear that they were still on the M6 and we were going to be there first.

In the end, we were seconds apart on the same road, and turned into the marina together. Bumble sorted out the paperwork, as it’s her timeshare, and we then set off to the town to get the provisions. While we were in the Co-op the heavens opened and it was a sign of the weather to come.

We left the marina after a short induction, how the engine worked, how the water and the toilet should be used, and we were off on our adventure. Cruising at 4mph or less gives you lots of time to view the scenery and we headed off towards Chirk and our first overnight mooring.

Well before 7:00pm we had found a nice spot, outside the Poachers Pocket pub. A nice establishment, with a pub garden, Marston’s ales and friendly, if rather inept staff. A couple of Guinness’s later we were ready for a game of Scrabble and then it was time for bed, a great first day had by all.


LotusAs you may have gathered from a couple of my recent posts, I’m getting excited about the prospect of spending the next week on a narrow boat in the middle of nowhere. Although I doubt that there is too much chance of anyone getting sunstroke, it does promise to be reasonably good weather and it will be much quieter than it is in the office.

Whilst it is a holiday away from work, it’s important to remember that there is no such thing as a holiday from Buddhist practice, and although I can’t take my Gohonzon aboard with me, I will still be chanting as usual.

It will be interesting to see how the other ship mates react to that. Bumble quite often joins me for gongyo, but I have no idea what Sue and Steve make of the practice. B’s mum is also a Nichiren Buddhist, so they are not completely unaware of what it entails. But I will have to find myself a quite corner and try to keep the impact on them to a minimum.

I do try to spread the word about the benefits that Buddhism have brought me, but I’m no evangelist and try to keep my enthusiasm under control when it comes to talking about it. If, on the other hand, the boat comes back painted maroon and gold, everyone will know what has happened.

Excited Anticipation

Canal LockIt’s funny isn’t it, how something you have been planning, thinking and talking about for ages suddenly appears just round the corner. Our much anticipated canal holiday, which was booked way back in the spring, starts tomorrow. Well ok, Saturday officially, but I’ll be wending my way up the A36 to Bristol tomorrow evening, ready to leave bright and early on Saturday morning, so that means our holiday starts tomorrow in my book.

Not that there’s that much to plan actually. We have to be up in Shropshire around noon to pick up the boat, then a trip to the supermarket for provisions. Some sort of induction follows, so we all know which end of the narrow boat is which and how to start, stop and steer it and then we’re off up the cut for seven days of fun.

I know that anticipation can lead to disappointment, but I think I’m fairly safe in this case, having three experienced ship-mates aboard. It’s the first holiday I’ve had in some little while and the first away with Bumble, so it will be a good test of where we are in the relationship.

Naturally, I’m chanting for a good outcome, good times, even for good weather, and I’m confident that things will go swimmingly. I just hope that none of us do too much of the swimming. So the packing is almost done, all ready to make a swift start after work tomorrow.

There’s an old saying that ‘there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip’ meaning that until something is complete, there’s still room for trouble. But in this case I think I have put all the causes in place to encourage a fortunate and pleasing outcome. Now where did I leave my captain’s cap?


Determination_BoulderThe people who are closest to us are the people we can hurt the most. With the best will in the world and with the very best intentions, a wrong word or deed can sometimes cause them a whole world of pain.

Being in the position of being responsible for supporting someone is a full time role, there’s no time off, no period during which one can let things slide. So when a conversation suddenly goes awry because of a thoughtless comment or reaction, the disappointment can be felt by both sides.

The result is like someone who is distracted whilst trying to push a boulder uphill. They have worked tirelessly to get it higher and higher up the hill. But the instant they relax their effort, or take their eye off the ball, the boulder starts back down to the bottom again.

In the same way, the trust and relationship you have worked so hard to nurture can suddenly takes a U turn and you can find yourself back where you were. Not only is that disappointing, but it’s quite possible that the damage caused could change things forever.

So be mindful. If you are putting yourself in a position where your support is important, be aware of the responsibility it entails. Be self-aware, show determination, compassion and resilience and be prepared to keep on giving, no matter what the circumstances.

Day And Night, Night And Day

Recharge The BatteriesBeing responsible for the smooth running of our websites is a barrel load of laughs at times. In the last few days, we have been getting service outage alerts about every fifteen minutes from the company that monitors the sites for us. Whilst it is good to know that something is amiss, once you know about it, and know that there is rather little that can be done internally, it all gets a little ‘old news’.

Challenges are put before us to test us. To allow us to take up that challenge and work with it to make ourselves stronger. When, however, that challenge goes on day and night for days on end, your spirits start to flag as you begin to feel the lack of decent sleep taking hold.

This is where the Nichiren secret weapon of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo comes in handy. Chanting really does boost the energy levels and puts a spring back in your step. By my reckoning, half an hours chanting, at lunchtime, on the way to or from work, or in the short periods of stillness in the evening, is as good as a couple of hours decent sleep.

So, as you might imagine, I have been finding a quiet corner in my lunch hour and ignoring the strange looks I get in the car, so I can recharge my batteries with copious amounts of chanting. Though I can’t actually say that the accompanying prayers have an instant effect in an IT environment, boosting my practice at such times certainly does invigorate and rejuvenate my spirits. That has to be a good thing for all concerned.

The Power Of Prayer

During morning Gongyo we say four Prayers, the first out loud, the last three silently to ourselves. During evening Gongyo, the first prayer is omitted.

The First Prayer – Appreciation for Life’s Protective Forces (spoken – morning Gongyo)

lotusI offer appreciation to the Shoten Zenjin, the functions in life and in the environment that serve to protect us, and prey that these protective powers may be further strengthened and enhanced through my practice of the Law.

The Second Prayer – Appreciation for the Gohonzon (silent)

lotusI offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha  of the Latter Day of the Law.

I offer my deepest praise and most sincere gratitude to Nikko Shonin.

I offer sincere gratitude to Nichimoku Shonin.

The Third Prayer – For the attainment of kosen-rufu (silent)

lotusI pray that the great desire for kosen-rufu is fulfilled, and that the Soka Gakkai International develops eternally in this endeavour.

I offer my most sincere gratitude to the three founding presidents – Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda – for their eternal example of selfless dedication to the propagation of the Law.

The Fourth Prayer – Personal prayers and prayer for the deceased (silent)

lotusI pray to bring forth Buddhahood from within my life, change my karma and to fulfil my wishes in the present and the future.

(we may offer additional prayers here)

I pray for my deceased relatives and for all those who have passed away, particularly for these individuals:

(we name our relatives and friends here)

I pray for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Croissants and Canal Boats

The Canal In The SkySunday morning, and the SAS arrive. No not that Army lot with their blacked-out faces and rubber dinghies, but Sue and Steve in their black Passat, all ready for a croissant laden breakfast and a canal holiday planning meeting. We’re off to Shropshire in a few days, to take charge of a narrow boat and cruise the Llangollen canal, come hell and high water.

Now Bumble, Sue and Steve are old hands at this sort of thing. To them a lock is a way of changing level along a canal, not two users trying to access the same data or the thing I put my front door key in, as it is in my world. Despite the water being only a few feet deep, I sense I’m out of my depth already.

Actually, I’m really looking forward to the challenge. Not the challenge of learning about locks and boats, knots and navigation and the like. The challenge of getting around a narrow boat with Steve around, who was never designed with narrow boats in mind. He’s a proper, old fashioned, jolly giant, so I’m sure we will get to know each other all too intimately during the seven days afloat.

I have to say, that I have been having a few reservations about the trip. For one, we will be going over the Pontcysyllte aqueduct at Trevor. When Thomas Telford and William Jessop opened the aqueduct a month after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, it was the tallest canal boat crossing in the world and at 126ft (over 38 metres) high it is still an impressive and buttock clenching structure.

I’m also going to be thrown in at the deep end, figuratively I hope, in terms of being out of my comfort zone, with no experience of canal navigation whatsoever. But as they say (whoever they are), feel the fear and do it anyway. We are hoping for at least a day or two of good weather, though North Wales is better know for its lush green valleys than its sun-soaked beaches, so a fair deal of chanting is required before we cast off.

Naturally, being immersed in the Welsh countryside, blogging may prove to be another challenge. But be assured that I will post as often as connectivity allows, and fill in any missing bits when we return to ‘civilisation’. With a maximum speed of 4mph, it going to be a great excuse to chill out and take things nice and slow.

Time will tell whether the natives, and my fellow crew members take kindly to me chanting from the bow (the pointy end apparently) first thing in the morning. So if you hear a loud splash and the blogging stops abruptly, you’ll know what’s happened. Please tell my kith and kin I loved them all dearly.

Cuddles, Cakes and Choo Choos

Avon Steam RailwayDespite the mixed weather, today has been a really nice mix of family and fun. It all started with a visit to The Chiefs Trading Post in Oldland Common for a birthday breakfast with Charlotte. Sadly she couldn’t bring the boys with her because Jake and Zach are both suffering from the Slap Cheek virus, so it was a fairly quiet affair.

Following copious amounts of Tea Cake and coffee, we took a stroll around the place, which is ostensibly a garden centre, but punctuated with huge numbers of an eclectic mix of statues. We managed to avoid buying anything on a whim, though we did procure a couple of nice plants, including a particularly beautiful pelargonium for Bumble.

Leaving with a plethora of kisses and cuddles, B and I decided to take a diversion through Bitton, with a visit to the Avon Steam Railway. The visit was well worth the trip, and as the rain held off, we were treated to the sight, sounds and smells of a nice tank engine in full steam. That smell is so evocative, bringing back memories of past times spent with my paternal grandfather, down at the shunting yards in Margate.

Memories are such sweet things when they conjure up images of pleasant times past. I always find it strange that the passage of time deprives us of our most recent recollections whilst enhancing and enriching our older memories. Whilst not all memories are of pleasant times, it is wonderful that we can relive times gone by through the simple experience of a long forgotten scent or smell.

Friday Night And All That Jazz

Cool JazzWorking from home can be really productive, no phone calls, no interruptions and a nice environment of peace and quiet. So today I have been camped in Bumble’s kitchen,  accessing my works PC from my laptop and apart from Bob the Builder, who came to install an extractor fan, I hadn’t seen a soul all day.

Don’t tell the lads at work, but I really missed the banter and the company. So even though I got a ton of work done, it’s been a funny day really. I’ve had an eclectic mix of really nice clients and really not so nice clients, but i can say hand on heart, that I treat them all with respect, though it’s not always easy.

So having made it through the working day, I’m looking forward to an evening of Trad Jazz with Bumble and her parents over at their place. It will round off the week nicely and set us all up for another fandabbydozey weekend, including Charlotte’s birthday. I hope you have a great one too.

No Room For Complacency

DeterminationWhen we work hard at something, be it a task, a goal or personal trait that we wish to change or improve, we get satisfaction when we see results. Making the causes to see effects is not a one off action. Generally we need to keep the pressure on until the goal is met.

It is easy to let the feelings of euphoria, when we reach a target or goal, get the better of us. We may feel that the effort needed to complete a task can now be eased. This may be true in certain circumstances, where a material goal has been met, but that is not the case where we are striving to maintain an objective, such as compassion or courage.

Being compassionate in one instance, being courageous in a certain circumstance does not make us suddenly compassionate or courageous. We must continue to monitor ourselves, to be mindful, self-aware and to continue the effort that brought us to this point. Reaching a goal can be difficult, but maintaining that status can be just as difficult.

So next time you find yourself bathing in a self-congratulatory glow of satisfaction, take stock. It is the determination to continue the effort, to stop ourselves from back-sliding and to maintain the newly found goal that keeps us on the path to enlightenment and to greater happiness.

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