Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The British countryside is like a desktop wallpaper

A planned journey. An unexpected turn. Hell breaks loose. Does this scenario sound familiar? There are countless stories written on this theme. It is the successful premise for a thriller. Is there a better way to jolt the ordinary person out of his daily existential routine? The change in pattern and the horror associated with the change is the best way to frighten anyone. After highlighting the mistakes related to taking a different step to discourage anyone and everyone to do so, we complain about man's resistance to change. Doesn't this statement show that we are all hypocrites? This Good Friday, I made an unscheduled stop which was a change in our original plans. But I ended up discovering something pleasant. To tell you the truth, a re-discovery or even a re-affirmation could also be an apt term.

After visiting the ruins of Tintern Abbey, we started off to the Brecon Beacons National Park. The plan was to visit some of the waterfalls. The Brecon Beacons has many waterfalls in all sizes - small, medium and large. We were using the non-motorways otherwise known as the A road from the ruins of Tintern Abbey. On the way to the waterfall center at the Brecon Beacons, we noticed a castle also known as castell in Welsh. The name of the castle was Raglan Castle or Castell Raglan in Welsh. The words are inverted in Welsh when compared to English.  I have been noticing this fact from the road signs. The road signs are both in English and Welsh. Any novice could decipher the sentences like "go slow" in English written as "slow go" in Welsh. 

My companion interrupted me. Why don't we take a look at the castle? I obliged. If you are looking for a single cause for my subsequent discovery, then the above decision is not the only one contributing factor. Similar to Michael A Roberto's analysis of 1996 Mount Everest disaster, there are multiple factors which lead to the event. Unlike the example I used, mine did not end up in a catastrophe. But it produced a beautiful picture for my collection. I took a U-turn and followed the directions to the castle. When we reached the castle, our interest vanished as our memories were still fresh with the images of Tintern Abbey. So we decided to continue our journey. At this point, Garmin navigator kicked in. As the navigator was already configured to avoid u-turns, it showed me a new route to travel to my original destination. Little did I know then that the navigator was taking me to circle the castle through village roads, emerging at the first U-turn I took for the castle.

I would have consumed more fuel than what I would have if I had made a U-turn. But the bright, warm day presented a clear sky. So the horizon was displaying blue. Below the horizon was green pastures for sheep.  We were not very far from the nearest city, but we were in the countryside. Sheep were grazing the pastures. Cows were resting inside the designated sheds. The road was empty. The view looked perfect for a desktop wallpaper. Would I have obtained this view if I had embraced the change the quirk of fate threw against my best-laid plans? Britain is blessed with abundant greenery and a sky, when not plagued by rains, displaying handiworks of a graffiti artist. I knew this fact before. But the country surprises me always and catches me unawares.

Tags: Travel,Raglan Castle,Change,Garmin


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Tintern Abbey

A holiday with abundant sunshine. This simple thing is a great thing to ask for in this part of the world. When the sun decided to shine brightly on Good Friday, we decided to make the most out of the day. So we decided to go to Cymru. Don't worry. I have no idea to pronounce that word. So I go for the simpler name which we can understand. Wales. Cymru is how Wales is written in Welsh. We had packed a lot of activities in this short, blessed day. The first stop was Tintern Abbey. Before you ask, the answer is yes. I noticed the likeliness to Tintin.

I am not a Christian. But I lived near a monastery for a few years in Ernakulam. The road was named Monastery Road. I remember the friends talking about buying milk directly from the monastery because it was much tastier and healthier than what was available in the shops. Eventually, I equated a monastery to abundantfood. While reading Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose," the association of a monastery to food deepened. Even though I was not able to finish the book, Umberto Eco describes a monastery which is self-sufficient and situated in the folds of a mountain. I was attracted to the quiet, peaceful life in the skies.

My mind wondered and wandered around the monastery. But I was in Wales a few miles off Chepstow to visit an abbey. The train of thought finally rested a question. What is the difference between an abbey and a monastery? I found the simplest answer to this issue with the help of internet. A monastery is a more premature version of an abbey because the latter needs to have more religious dwellers or worshippers than in a monastery.

A visitor to Tintern Abbey sees the ruins of the former abbey. The abbey was active during the years 1131 AD and 1536 AD. It has been nearly 500 years since the way of life ended in the abbey. What was the way of life? Even on a warm spring day, it was cold inside the ruins. In one of the may information boards sprinkled all across the ruins, it was stated that there was only one room where the monks could get heat. As a result, they used it for drying their clothes. Before we ruminate on that point, it is comparatively easier to reach the abbey. Imagine 500 years back. How did man enter this part of the world? What would drive men to travel all this way and live such hard life? Who does the recruitment for God?

While we search for the answers, it is the same man who has preserved this ruins. But why do they want to preserve the ruins? Do they want to show these were the hardships encountered by man? Even for a novice like me, the architecture is beautiful and breathtaking. I may be ignorant about the usage of science in creating the abbey. The visual aspects are what it captures my attention. For a bright day, the light falling on the ruins painted a nice picture.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pappettan goes to a club

On a Saturday evening, a bunch of friends invited Pappettan for clubbing. The goal of the evening was to listening to music in the crowded smoke-filled room while consuming copious amounts of alcohol in one of the highly rated clubs in the downtown. Being a Saturday evening, everybody in the world was out on the streets. When there is a crowd, it becomes difficult to get into sought after venues. Hence, the group found their way into the club blocked by a giant which belongs to the species named bouncer.

When the most dynamic in the group failed to secure passage into the club, the rest of the group grew despondent. As the enthusiasm levels dropped like an object in freefall, Pappettan emerged out of the shadows and approached the giant. Pappettan made eye contact and emitted a warm, friendly smile. To everyone's surprise, the giant not only returned the smile but also lifted the barrier to let the entire group into the club.

When I heard the story, I was intrigued and also determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. So, I confronted Pappettan.

Me: *astonished* How did you manage to get into the club?

Pappettan: *calmly* I have advised you many times to enroll in a gym.

Me: *irritated at the diversion* Join the gym. Never visit. Get payment deducted from the bank.

Pappettan: *smiling* You are thinking negatively. You go to the gym regularly. There is a lower chance of diseases, increased likelihood of longevity and your youthful looks are preserved. You are agile both mentally and physically.

Me: *cutting abruptly* Yeah, yeah, yeah. What has regular attendance to gym got to do with gaining access to a club? Let us not digress.

Pappettan: *like a sage* Gym was the key. I go to the gym.

Me: *puzzled* So? Was the bouncer afraid of you?

Pappettan: *smiling* No, but the bouncer also goes to the same gym. You see, these are the social benefits of going to a gym.

Photo Courtesy: Nikos Koutoulas

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