Friday, 28 March 2008

An unexpected phone call

The morning round complete, I check emails and start work. The phone rings and an unfamiliar chatty, chilled Totnes voice says she hopes I don't mind, but she's just been googling "cob barns", seen the farm website and wonders if I can help.
She has a friend, a Buddhist monk, who is looking for a cob barn to buy for hosting educational children's workshops. I'm so stunned by this that I don't hear that much of the rest.
Just last week I gave short shrift to a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses who thought they might convert me on my doorstep, but not even I can be rude to a Buddhist monk or their putative friend, even though I was beginning to think "scam". Perhaps I jump to negative conclusions too quickly - actually there is no perhaps about it - but when she mentioned that her monk had charitable funding to buy said barns, the tone was set. Ivana, she said her name was. And yes, the STD she left was indeed a Totnes code.

16 comments:

paula said...

Interesting, verrry, verrry interesting.
Gob-smacked too...

KAZ said...

'If you can snatch the pebble from my hand.'

colouritgreen said...

very Totnes...

mountainear said...

I'm going to ask a dumb question...are cob barns a particularly Buddhist thing? Am I missing something?

Mopsa said...

Yes, Paula - I was more than a little taken by surprise!

Very on message Kaz!

CIG - so I'm learning!

M'ear - I have absolutely no idea, although the fact that they are made from entirely natural materials might make them particularly attractive to a Buddhist, or indeed to anyone with a dislike of concrete.

Flowerpot said...

As someone who knows Totnes well I'm havign a good laugh too!!

Anonymous said...

possibly less to do with 'ejucation' and more to do with circumventing the planning laws.. but then I'm being an old cynic now...

littleffarmdairy said...

Hiya Mopsa -

It's such a shame that because Buddhists are a relative minority in the UK they are treated with suspicion & often even unsubstantiated fear; perhaps, ironically, more so than Muslims or other 'minority religions' (& incidentally Buddhism isn't a religion, it's a discipline) as with Buddhism's saffron robes & shaved heads they look so different; ergo few people bother to try to understand them & treat them with, at best, a casual prejudice.

I'm a native British Theravadin (Forest) Buddhist layperson & have followed the tradition for over 23 years after meeting a Bikkhu (Buddhist monk) walking his little rescue dog through the leafy Warwickshire countryside - the (English) monk was a fascinating, insightful gentleman who radiated such an aura of peace & tranquility, it was inspirational. As I was already attending curricular Yoga classes at VIth Form College (& was chucked out of the Church choir as a result, can you believe?!) I opted to study meditation at the local monastery at a weekly (free) evening class which transformed me from difficult teenager to (hopefully) more thoughtful, caring adult.

I think 'Anonymous' is being a tad cynical reference circumventing planning laws....Buddhists uphold the principle of not causing harm - whether to the environment or to fellow living beings - so a cob build would naturally be appealing; not only to the Buddhist philosphy, but also to those who care for the world in which they live. And in answer to Mountainear's question I wouldn't necessarily say cob barns are a particularly 'Buddhist' thing but I can understand & appreciate why it would make a great build for such a project - especially for educating children, promoting environmental awareness in the young - after all, it's their future; & not to be thoughtlessly wasted.

Here at LittleFfarm Dairy, we're in the process of constructing our own Goat Dairy complex: built entirely from wood from sustainably-managed forests, it's a carbon-neutral build & the goats will be housed on a natural earth-&-slate floor rather than on concrete; to promote natual drainage & warmth. Also, less concrete has been required in the overall build as the supports aren't as heavy as steel. And we'll even have a compostable loo & a recycled, low-power digital radio for the goats to listen to whilst they're being milked - the ultimate in relaxation! We're trying to fund renewable energy systems but at present we don't qualify for a loan from the Carbon Trust so cannot afford to do everything we'd like just yet - but we WILL get there.

And we'd like to construct some natural cob-build field shelters for our livestock - including sloping turf rooves, as goats love to climb & this would provide a great area of natural 'play+feed' - we'd be grateful for any helpful info (the goats are, incidentally, religion-neutral).

But please don't feel intimidated that said Buddhists might be trying to convert you! Just because the monks look a little odd to Western eyes with their shaved heads & orange robes, doesn't mean they're anything to do with Hare Krishna or Jehova's Witnesses: the Buddha wasn't a 'God' (whatever/whoever that may be), just an insightful, gentle man who lived - taught - & died; & whose words, for many, are still considered to be uplifting & wise.

The old Abbot who taught me used to joke about the fleet of gold Rolls Royces tucked behind the modest monastery provided by the donations of those who had benefited from the sterling work of the monks therein (Luang Por Khemmadhammo has since been awarded the OBE for his charitable works in schools, & rehabilitating prisoners) - in fact, if he couldn't get about on foot, for longer journeys he chose a rickety old bicycle.

So yes, Buddhist organisations are often Registered Charities - but that's because of the recognised support they give to local communities; none of the monies fund 'fancy' lifestyles as Forest Monks live the most austere lives imaginable - even when based in the 'comfortable' West). And even in Totnes, there must be Buddhists too....

....so I'd be grateful if you'd provide the lady in question with the information she's looking for; if not, please point her in my direction as I'd be only too happy to help.

Incidentally, a few years ago I once got rid of some persistent Jehova's Witnesses with a swift-but-effective, one-liner: they came to the door & were insisting on coming in to chat to me about the 'error of my Christian ways'. At the time I'd just stepped out of the bath, & was in my dressing gown having heard the doorbell...I went to answer it, not initially appreciating the 'Bic' razor I had in my hand, to shave my legs. When they started getting 'heavy' I said that as a Buddhist I welcomed their visit & relished a discussion regarding the existence of God....but could they come back in ten minutes please, as they could see I was just about to shave my head....? They scuttled back down the path, never to be seen in the vicinity, again. And whilst my hair (at the time) was short, it's never been THAT short...!

Best (not-even-wanting-to-convert-to, errr, what exactly....?) wishes,

Jo + Menagerie @ LittleFfarm Dairy.

Mopsa said...

Fpot - pleased it resonates.

I just don't know, Anon, and I doubt I'll ever find out!

Hi there littleffarmdairy - how did you find me? Had a quick look at your blog and am terribly envious of your pond and especially the diary...I wasn't suspicious or fearful of the potential monk, btw, just amazed by the tale that unfolded on the phone, and the wonderful Totnessiness of it all - my first thought had been Totnes, and I was quite helpless with giggles when my assumption (prejudice if you will) was on target.

Mopsa said...

Oops - DAIRY!

littleffarmdairy said...

Hi Mopsa -

Jo @ LittleFfarm Dairy here - found your gret Blog via the lovely Paula at Locks Park Farm (she's been buoying me up throughout the seemingly endless vigil of lambing & kidding - only another 3 months to go, ho-hum).

No, I wasn't suggesting you had any prejudice; it's just that for some people (& especially after 9/11) fear of the 'unknown' can snowball into causing unnecessary suffering for those who are just quietly trying to get on with life whilst not harming others. Sadly even innocent comments can enhance the negative stereotype & escalate into hatred (whilst I was an Officer in the RAF - yes you did read that correctly - one of my duties was as an Equal Opportunities Trainer - can't you tell?! - hee hee!!).

The Buddhist Monastery in Warwickshire where I do charity work when possible, was targeted in some terrifying attacks by local yobs who assumed that as Buddhism is 'foreign' the monks must be Muslims & intending to bomb the local community!

It didn't matter that the Monks were all caucasian British males & nothing whatsoever to do with Islam; they were assumed dangerous by those without the wit or wisdom to bother to look further & find out the truth (regardless that the vast majority of Muslims are also peaceable people; but as ever the odd 'bad apple' tarnishes the image of the entire barrel).

So the Abbot (brave chap, by no means a youong man any more) actively put himself in the face of the danger & invited them in to discuss why they were using violence against the monks. In a bizarre fit of shyness the lads refused the offer; however the girls - who'd been egging them on - did go in. After a tour of the Monastery they sat & had a cup of tea & a chat; after which all the youths left, & never troubled the Monastery again.

So a little learning goes a long way....I therefore wish the Totnes Buddhists the very best of luck with their cob build as if it helps make this Global Village a little more harmonious - both ecologically & educationally - the world will be on its' way to being a better, more peaceful place for all of us to enjoy.

Glad you like the Ffarm, if ever you're in the area do feel free to pop in for a cuppa, & to let me know what you think of our dairy delights....a slice of cake & ice cream is obligatory although the Buddhism is strictly optional!

And keep giggling - happiness is the best infection, after all!!

Swearing Mother said...

If you were going to get enquiries from a Buddhist monk from anywhere other than Tibet, I guess it would be Totnes.

I've met quite a few Buddhist monks because Lichfield Cathedral hosted them for a week or so a couple of years ago and we went to watch them build (and subsequently destroy) a wonderful coloured sand Mandala (think that's how you spell it). It was the most spellbinding thing I've ever seen, and they were lovely people, smiling and serene.

Lovely people.

lady thinker said...

Oh Mopsa - how lovely - I've just done the same too and found your web site - nice to see what you look like..... but how you have the time for all these activites and blogging too well my mind boggles...

Buddhist would be 'very Totnes' ... the town always reminds me of an 'upper class' version of Stroud, Glos where they regularly had visiting buddhist monks..

Eurodog said...

Sorry but the Totnes joke means nothing to me. Remember I am not English and not a resident in England. Is it the accent? Perhaps you could explain.
Congratulations on receiving the longest comment entry ever. Very interesting.

Mopsa said...

Eurowoof - it's just (as I had hoped the links explained) that Totnes is the alternative lifestyle capital, even though it's also just a small Devon town...

Eurodog said...

OK, got it.
I followed the link and the Wikipedia article had me in stitches. I especially liked: "There are a number of facilities for artists, ...."
Somehow I feel Buddhism is best talked about outside Totnes!