My school days

The school season has begun and children are just about getting used to another term…

I remember looking forward to having new teachers at the start of each school year, and seeing friends after summer holidays to hear their news. One of the first things teachers always used to ask us to do was to report on what we’d been up to over the holidays. I can’t remember what I used to write, though I do remember at one point writing about family meals at my grandmother’s house.

It’s hard to chose a favorite year at school, especially at primary school as each year used to teach me different and enjoyable things. Like in reception we learnt about condensation, and in year three we learnt our times tables. Our residential trip in year five was most memorable for me because of it’s orienteering that I used to look forward to, and also the time that I jumped into the lake whilst canoeing with the others, to get our oar that had drifted merrily away from our boat. Inevitably I had to be rescued. At the time I would have rather been anywhere else but the misty water, but looking back I am able to see the humorous side. Then, in  high school, I remember I was one of those performers who froze right in the middle of a song I was playing on the guitar during a school concert. Inevitably I was politely clapped off the stage. I still play guitar to relax: this experience did little to stop me keep doing what I enjoyed, and still enjoy.

I see the positive side to these schooling experiences and looking back at the things I did, I can’t help but smile, as I laugh along as I tell these stories to others.

By A

For better mental health –cultivate friendship.

What keeps me well… (continued)

My true individual friend Nigel……….

ImageMy mate Nigel!

He’s a true individual who has insight about self-improvement self help and the spiritual. We talk about this range of subjects, but mostly apply our practice improving our lives, as we both believe psychological insight can be spiritual insight, applied to make us and all around us happy.

We also practice ‘ordinary’ friendship, lending and borrowing money, being reliable, mutual listening  and support, telling the truth to each other, even when its uncomfortable, not arguing destructively however; why argue when you can persuade, after all?

What I like about Nigel is he’s very bright, in terms of  language, business development –  google ”A Crazy Cure” for a possible cure for any problem physical or mental. He’s also honest and reliable, though not always right and he can admit that. He’s got more into the beauty of silence, from which we can all let emerge profound insights about the reality of our denied nay even repressed selves, and the absolute wonderful reality truth, which if we even taste it is noble, exalted, energy giving, inspiring, uplifting, wonderful yet not manic. We share food, he lets me use his fridge freezer saving me money, in return I help him via small loans, he always pays back, as a true friend should.

Our friendship, like all friendships, in reality is never perfect, but it is OK, and nourishing, because we are good guys; with a meditation-al contemplative mind, it and everything else is perfect imperfection, ‘enlightened’ in small sense, and joyful.

For  an improved mental health we all need friends, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Furthermore, friends can enhance our happiness, insight and love for ourselves, themselves, and the world. This is my definition of spiritual friendship, it also enhances joy and compassion.

For better mental health –cultivate friendship.  J Milan Ghosh. September 2013

More Blogging at Swarthmore

More Blogging at Swarthmore

We met up again at Swarthmore to discuss our blogging experiments and the Love Arts Festival and using the bloggies, small cameras that are surprisingly user friendly.  I have another poem.

Shaking Hands

Shaking hands

Grip tight

To a Big Mac

And medium fries.

Behind a large coke

Someone hides.

By Daniel Tavet

Spotting the signs

hatterMost people enjoy a cuppa and tea parties hold a special appeal for many, the ritual of making it, the paraphernalia that some insist upon, a damask tablecloth, cake stand, teapot and knitted ‘cosy’ ‘real’ china , a favourite mug….I remember a valued friend who wherever  possible preferred using loose leaf tea and a strainer for his brews,  it did seem to add some extra magic to a ceremony which universally serves as both refreshment and therapy, but imagine how it would be if we were unable, because of sight impairment to appreciate it’s  visual charm, or indeed to easily make that cuppa , I was surprised to learn, that yearly in UK approximately 23,000 people lose their vision and current cuts to services and benefits,will see many of these people lose as much as 5 hours support a week, this may have the biggest impact on their ability to engage in the simple social events most sighted people take for granted, going to a cafe or a friends home for a cuppa, the implications  to their emotional wellbeing  are obvious.

The eyes are  the only transparent part of our body, a window on our general health, having regular eye tests enables the optician to detect early signs of not only  eye problems which might lead to  significant sight loss but early indications of other potential health risks.

The Yorkshire Action for Blind People will be holding a Readathon on the 11th October, as part of  the Read for RNIB’s  national campaign, themed on the ‘mad’ tea party, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,  the aim, to raise funds to provide vital services, it will take place on the concourse of Leeds Rail station between 8am and 6pm, volunteers will be reading aloud  excerpts from Lewis Carrol’s ‘Alices Adventures in Wonderland’ to commuters, there will be an information stand, texts will be available in different size formats and for kindles, I plan to be there on the look out for the white rabbit!

The Leeds Vision Consortium is a collaboration between  Action for Blind People, The Wilberforce Trust and Leeds City Council.

Local contacts for the campaign and wellbeing promotion workers are, respectively Rachel Moore 0113 3862888 and Sherieda Joseph, 07720 946342


In researching more about what’s commonly  referred to as the mad Hatters party, I discovered  that the author of  Alice’s Adventures, Lewis Carrol, did not use that  term with sole reference to the Hatter’s character, more with reference to the  bizarre  repetition of the eternal 6pm teatime proceedings,  although the whole story and characters might be considered somewhat …zany? the party  story poses some impossible riddles, as a child I found Alice’s Adventures  too foreboding, but now as a grown up ‘kid’ I appreciate it’s nonsensical dark tale and it’s back on my to read pile.

The Abbey Dash – 17th November

Abbey Dash

There’s a great chance to keep fit, take part in an event where you’re bound to meet lots of interesting people, and also raise money for Age UK.  Now in its 29th year, the Abbey Dash is going to be on Sunday 17th November, and registration is open. Go to for info. Older people are encouraged to enter, “we are very age positive” , they say.

All proceeds from the Dash will help older people around the UK. In Leeds, Age UK run a befriending service reaching out to older people, and also the Arch Café, “the café with a social conscience“, which is a nice homely place to get a cup of tea in the middle of town, tucked into the corner of Dortmund Square, next to the St. John’s Centre and Sainsbury’s.


The Dash will be even bigger this year, hopefully going up to 12,000 participants. This is partly because it’s earned “Grand Prix status”, which worried me at first – the mixture of high performance formula one racing cars and elderly runners didn’t seem like a good idea at all. But apparently it doesn’t mean that. The organisers say:

This fantastic 10k is flat, fast and perfect for beginners and elites alike. It raises over £250,000 for older people in Leeds and around the UK. You never know when your parents or grandparents or even you yourself will need assistance from a charity like Age UK so by doing your little bit, just by entering the race, you are raising money to ensure that this great work can continue.”

 The Dash starts on Wellington Street, on 17 November at 9.30 a.m. and costs £20 (£18 UKA) to enter. You can win two FREE tickets courtesy of Age UK – click on this link to find out how. The draw runs from 9 September to 11 October 2013. Entries will be drawn at random on 11 October 2013. It’s totally optional to fundraise on top of the entry fee, but for every £5 raised Age UK can pay for the admin costs of one volunteer befriender visit.

The first Abbey Dash was run on December 14th 1984. Originally the brainchild of Abbey Runner Richard Witt, the first race had a field of 618. There’s an interesting history of the Abbey Dash written by Peter Scaife which tells the story of the places you pass en route – for instance did you know that Buffalo Bill stayed at the Cardigan Arms on Kirkstall Road in 1904 while appearing in his Wild West show on Cardigan Fields? (Having spent a wild evening in the Cardigan Arms on the night England were knocked out of a world cup, this seemed very fitting.)

Finally a quote from Aly Dixon, Brighton Marathon Winner:

“The Abbey Dash is one of my favourite races of the year. I have run it five times now and recorded a PB every time I’ve taken part”


Wildlife Photography Competition

Single Image Display

Your chance to have your photograph displayed at Leeds City Museum AND win some great prizes.

Earlier this year Sara Porter photographed our taxidermy, insect, egg and skull collections for the ‘Natural Beauty, Part 1’ display at Leeds City Museum. We now want to put your wildlife photographs on display at the museum.

Any age, any camera, any ability… everyone’s welcome.

The competition is divided into 7 categories;

  • Beautiful Yorkshire – images that show off the county
  • Leeds Wildlife – images of urban wildlife in the city
  • Wild Yorkshire – images of Yorkshire wildlife in a Yorkshire setting
  • Animal behaviour – shots of British wild animals in action – unusual or interesting behaviour especially welcome!
  • British wildlife – images of British wildlife in a British setting
  • World wildlife – images of exotic wildlife from around the world
  • Beautiful Botany – images that particularly concentrate on British plants or fungi

Apply by going to the ‘Downloads’ section on the Leeds City Council website

Each category is open to your interpretation and we ask that you submit an explanation of your images and your reason for submitting your image in this category.  There are two age categories; 15 years 11 months and under
and 16 plus.

…And win some great prizes.

Photographs from the winners and runners up will go on display from January 2014 to July 2014.  The overall winners in both age groups will receive a Canon digital SLR Camera. Winners of the 15 and under categories win a high quality canvas or print of an image of their choice. Winners of the 16 and over categories will win £200 of photographic vouchers.

The closing date is 27th September, so get snapping!

Natural Beauty is kindly sponsored by CC Imaging, Ark Display Graphics, Dale Photographic and Pictures Plus.

Brushing up Microsoft Office skills in the Library – can be empowering !

Reacquainting myself with Microsoft Word in Headingley Library.

If you are feeling a little bit rusty in the admin department, why not pop down to your local library?  Grab a book from the shelf such as  ‘Word for Dummies,’  or  ‘Teach yourself Excel, ‘ – whatever takes your fancy and work through it using one of the libraries computers.  It’s amazing how much my confidence can be boosted by learning a few practical things and by brushing up skills.

If you’ve been out of work for a while, or working in a role where you didn’t need Microsoft Office skills it may seem daunting and maybe you feel deskilled. Yet within a really short amount of time you can reacquaint yourself or even start from scratch.

Not everyone has Microsoft Office on their home computers,  and not everyone has home computers!  The libraries are a wonderful resource – especially if money is tight.

Check out Leeds Libraries – sometimes you may have to book a computer.

Increasing knowledge and skills can help people feel empowered – if anyone knows any other free and easy ways to up-skill – please share !

Cheers Vicky 🙂

Day out in Leeds

Much as I like to ‘get away from it all’, travelling from home on holiday is not with out it’s anxieties. Commitments or lack of funds often mean that days in and around Leeds are all I can manage, and it’s often all that’s needed  to recharge my batteries: meet up’s, over a brew with friends new and old, some home spun philosophizing thrown in made a perfect summer, no doubt the weather will break as I am going away this weekend!

Here are some reminders how soaked in sun Leeds has been.



Environ-Mental Gardening


The picture above shows Milan on his allotment. Within walking distance of Dewsbury Road, he grows spinach, rhubarb, potatoes, sprouts, cabbage, apples, pears, cherries, sunflower seeds (for the birds), cardoon (a Malaysian ornamental flower). I went there with him a few weeks ago, and asked him about it.

He told me about growing up on Spencer Place in the heart of Chapeltown, and being encouraged to garden by a neighbour. Now he reckons his allotment gives him the chance to get away from noisy neighbours, and in the warm weather he’s been coming here to:

‘soak up the sunset, exercise, breathe deeply and enjoy the company of generous, sharing gardening neighbours’

– who are ‘fellows in that vocational hobby’, and share their seeds and manure (well, not their manure). Milan is a practitioner of Buddhism, and it’s easy to see how this influences his gardening. He says his allotment is

‘therapeutic, good for anxiety and a good kind of contemplation or introspection. I call it environ-mental gardening. I use a fork rather than a spade so I don’t kill things. I get fresh food but it’s not just about gardening. I think you should always try something new and be unpredictable against your own habits. There is only the moment, the past is history and all barriers are bridges’.

So having an allotment will not only help feed your mind and body, but could also shave a few lifetimes off your journey to enlightenment. Could it be fun too?

Over the past year or so I’ve very much enjoyed reading the blog of the Reluctant Gardener by local writer Mandy Sutter. Mandy is well known in Leeds writing circles and she’ll be reading from her first novel Stretching It at Waterstones on 25th September. Her gardening blog is very funny and chronicles the writer trying to help her dad with his allotment. If you want a good laugh and a slightly surreal low down on the inner life of having an allotment have a look at it.

So how do you go about getting an allotment?

I spoke to Judy Turley, the Secretary of Leeds & District Allotment Gardeners Federation, ‘the voice for allotment and leisure gardeners in the greater Leeds area’. see their website at

Judy shared Milan’s enthusiasm for allotment gardening. She said:

‘having an allotment is just fabulous – it gets you away from the rat race, and it’s an oasis in the middle of a busy city’.

There are 97 allotment sites in and around Leeds, and you can find out about a site near you at or through the council’s Parks and Countryside Department by ringing 0113 3367427. The waiting times vary considerably – you might wait for several years in some areas, and get one next week in others, according to Judy. The cost for 2012/13 is £37 per annum for a full plot, or £18.50 for a half plot.

However, according to Milan, there are other options – if you know someone who can’t manage their own garden,  you could ask them could you share the produce, whether flowers, fruit or vegetables, for doing the tillage, with them, or if they are too old or disabled, for them.

Landshare is a way to share land, someone has land they can’t manage; someone needs some, and the usage and terms are negotiated between the two.”

In Leeds Urban Harvest also organises volunteers to pick fruit, give tree owners a share and distribute the rest to community groups in Leeds. This is just the right time of year to get involved. They’ve teamed up this season with All Hallows in Burley, and “now have a great kitchen for juicing, space for sharing and lots of friendly faces too.”

Finally, Milan made an offer you surely can’t refuse if you like cherries:

“If anyone wants any Cherry Trees, your standard Morello variety, with large purple black shiny fruits, then please call me 0772 2301 002, after 6pm is best, then we can arrange a visit to Parkside Allotment. All I ask in return is a donation, however small or large, to Leeds Buddhist Centre. I will pass on the cash, and get you a receipt if you leave your email address.”