We stayed in this old friary for two weeks and it was a good start of our journey. We only had to work for 30 hrs, which was a delight. In Ecolonie we had to work 40 hrs a week, mostly physical work, which was just too much for me and Enes. Here it was also physical, hence:
This barn we have entirely cleared of muck: a job they heartily left for the volunteers.
A pile of steaming muck: as you can see I'm really built for this.
But there was lots of time off, and they were quite flexible with working hours: getting the job done was more important than the clock. They were at leisure, easy-going, concerned for our free time and quite funny indeed. I fell in love with the Essex/Suffolk accent: everything would sound remarkable. I picked up the phrase 'fair enough'. And it was the first time I actually heard someone saying 'wowzers' (this guy:)
Enes and Steve, another volunteer, in front of a gate on a travelling path to Flatford.
In Old Hall they rely for there income on outside jobs: nearly everyone had a regular job, like nursing or piano teaching, from which they took in money for the community.
This nice guy, Richard, does willow weaving for a living.
They recycle a lot and have things that make it easier, moneywise: big gardens with vegetables, a dairy, lots of cattle: cows, sheep, geese, chickens, pigs. Decision is made by consensus, amongst 50 people, which gave a buzzing and trusting atmosphere: you could ask anyone for anything and it would be alright. No boss that has to know before anything could be created. This was nice for a change, although we (read: me) remained jumpy everytime someone came into the kitchen while preparing a breakfast that was somewhat different, meaning: gluten free. Old Ecolonie patterns. Now I am attracting places that allow me to be in need, which tells me that I am allowing myself to be in need as well. This motivates me to give, to involve, and I am given back a lot as well. I am glad I moved on from Ecolonie. Old Hall showed me that the things I struggled with most, could also be managed quite differently and still work. Undoing unfitting patterns and opening up to different possibilities was what this first community was all about.
We drank lots of tea.
They also made their own bread (to toast) and provided their own meat, which I ignored because I'm a vegetarian now. They didn't eat lots of meat, only once or twice a week. But at a certain point the coldstore where we kept our dairy-free cheese was suddenly inhabited by a dead goose slowly turning around and dripping blood on the ground, which I only noticed when I touched it. Horror. Since then, the dairy-free cheese tasted like death. (or maybe it was just old)
Peter kneading the dough in the early morning. On rota they made all their own bread. I learned how to knead properly and could apply this knowledge in the current community to improve on pita breads!
Spending a morning sorting out cups and saucers for a musical afternoon: those damn Englishmen...
We walked to Flatford, and apparently the famous painter Constable has lived in that area. He used this spot in his painting Willy Lot's Cottage (seen below), a fact of which everyone around was very proud.
They were not very spiritual, just down to earth British farmers. Very kind and polite, although sometimes just like a habit, which I felt created an undertow. They say 'how are you' and 'alright?' quite often as a replacement for a greeting, more than in the Netherlands. Now I can understand that it is hard to say 'I'm fine, thanks' while you are not, if it happens everytime you meet people.
One male just didn't show his face anywhere, routinely turning his back to people when walking through a room. We called him 'the neck' and always forgot what his face looked like, although we have a photo (maybe the first one in history) but I won't show it here because I'm polite.
It's not a place for me to come back too, or stay, but I'm happy I've been there and I had good fun.
On our last working day we cooked for the whole 50-people community, with only three vegetables in stock: the eternal cabbage from the garden and onions and carrots from the shop. It was a lot of fun but we were so tired we forgot to take a photo of the meal. Tania was the boss, but she hated cooking, so we took over. I made a cabbage/onion/carrot-curry, Jordi (seen right) made a canned tomato sauce and Enes fabricated four plates of potato wedges that could have fed a community of a hundred people. Tania was more a tree cutter than a cook (and had intimidated us (me) with a professional tree cutting operation the previous day), so we let her cut the vegetables and she was happy to do it.
I discovered I really really liked cooking for a group of people! A blog about Monkton Wyld Court will follow soon. To be continued...