Since my arrival in Southampton I had been uncertain if I would spend all my rest days between stages 1 and 2 there, or whether I needed to move on – the planning of the next few days was a little sketchy, I had neither places to stay nor a route firmed up, and I knew there were some hard miles between me and Arundel on Saturday.
I have noticed on this journey that when that happens it is for a reason, and I have never been disappointed with the outcome. Today was to be no exception. From a morning spent doing last minute errands including acquiring 3 new maps so that I could work out exactly where I was in relation to the landscape to my current late evening peace I had no clear idea if I should accompany Jane on her trip to the Krishnamurti Centre, at Brockwood, near the village of Bramdean, and then return to Southampton to walk the Solent Way to Fareham on Thursday, along the south coast, or whether I would be better staying put at Brockwood and walking the high road, the South Downs Way, instead.
I had, since my arrival in the Gateway to the World, confirmed my stay in Chichester on the Friday, which would affect my decision somewhat, it was further north than my original plan, but they wanted me to join their St George’s Day event and to do storytelling on the green the next morning from where they would walk with me. I left for the Krishnamurti centre with Jane still undecided, I had been told of a woman in Portchester, slightly east of my original coastal route first stop off, who wanted to start up a transition initiative, but I hadn’t been able to contact her.
Getting to Brockwood was extremely unpleasant; I had forgotten just what a disagreeable experience being in a tin box on wheels with lots of other tin boxes all speeding their way along a rat run is. I began to doubt that spending my rest day this way could possibly be worth it, resting my feet or not. I began to feel quite agitated; this was not how life was supposed to be!
Jane began to regale me with tales of her life as a young girl growing up in the countryside here. She pointed things out, talked about them, but they were gone before I could see them. I recalled how my ex husband had had a similar experience in the Lake District when I and a friend had attempted to take him sightseeing by car. The boot was certainly on the other foot now! I began to wish I had insisted on walking, rest day or not.
We were not very long in the car, it might have taken the whole day on foot. The landscape had changed beyond belief; from the suburbs of Southampton to deep in the heart of the countryside it couldn’t have been more different. As we left Jane pointed out the Common as we sped though Southampton. I was horrified to hear that Southampton used to have beaches, like Bournemouth, but they had been taken from the people to make the port, and the 1 mile expanse of common given as recompense. I shuddered at the idea that people could have thought trade to this degree so important as to be prepared to lose their access to the sea. Walking barefoot on sand is one of the most therapeutic things one can do; footfall releases positive ions from the surface of the grains.
Jane recalls watching her neighbour, an elderly lady, cooking her meals with great care and attention to detail, and thinks now it is what influenced her later career as nutritionist and food stylist. How important our early experiences, how aware we need to be of our behaviours around children; we are their role models, part of the work of being an adult, for all of us. They have learnt all they know from us.
We arrive at Brockwood -first port of call; the school. We have not announced our arrival so we cannot visit but we see the children, on the lawn, shoes and socks off in a huddle, sitting in small groups in the sunshine, occasional adults scattered amongst them. Krishnamurti founded this school; his belief “It is the Educator who needs educating” is amongst my favourite quotes.
We come to the Krishnamurti Centre (www.brockwood.org.uk ). We are greeted by wild rabbits who have no fear of us at all, even when Jane’s dog chases them, they are so accustomed to being treated well. We go inside and are met by Antonio. We tell him of my walk and he finds me a room to stay the night. It is so simple. We have a cup of tea and marvel at the room we are in, in fact the whole building. It has been built according to sacred geometry, purpose built to Krishnamurti’s specifications. He was brought from India by theosophists believing him to be a Master, he rejected this, but nonetheless became a great thinker and believed people should have the opportunity to study life in peace, uninterrupted by the creed of any religion.
The centre is pervaded by the sort of calm you can feel deep in a forest, the sort of calm you might be able to feel in a church or cathedral if it weren’t overlaid by deeply ingrained patriarchal paternal overtones of events that have taken place within its walls that impinge upon its true quality.
The whole centre feels like this, and when you go outside it is to grounds full of ancient trees that have never had their limbs chopped off by unaware humans thinking they have the right. The trees look like I have always imagined they would – in perfect symmetry both sides. How rare it is that we come across trees such as these, used as we are to the misshapen ones created by our cruel hand.
I am in awe. Not by anyone, nor the founder; he had money enough to make this happen, but of the very palpable sense of peace itself, it is impossible not to have a sense of perfect well being when in a perfectly balanced place. The rooms are all exactly the size they should be, ceiling height is perfect, amount of natural light coming in from large French windows perfect. And I think, if we had spent public money on making every single home and public building like this we would have no war, no violence, no unhappy tortured souls, we would have responsible happy people living their lives according to the visions they see.
Instead, we have invented aeroplanes for going elsewhere to bring what they have to us, weapons to take by force the things that they have that we want, and meantime, pleading lack of money, shoved our people into sub standard housing and school buildings, and then stood back and wondered why our children are troubled, unhappy, frustrated and “hyper”. Were we to rethink our actions I believe we would see a very different youth.
I am pleased I came to this place. The experience will stay with me as I walk, along the South Downs Way, virtually unpopulated, as all the inhabitants of this eastern part of Hampshire are crammed into their sub standard housing south of the motorway and north of the ports. Stuff for reflection indeed.