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Published: August 27th 2009
Pete playing us a tune in the lounge
It has been a while since we have done a blog as Fiona and I have been enjoying spending time at home.
As you may recall we enjoyed our times at the intentional communities we visited in the States and we wanted to try one closer to home. So last week we headed off to Bradwell in Essex. Noted for being by the sea and by a nuclear power station! This has meant that although there is some lovely scenery there is not much development, as for some reason people don't want to live nearby?
So off we went last Saturday, our bikes strapped to the car, and readied ourselves for a relaxing week. Some of you may not know that Fiona has got the cooking bug and will soon head to Duxford for a trial as a Trainee Chef in a hotel restaurant there. So this week was a chance to help cook for over 50 people at a time. Whilst I was on hand to do any odd jobs that needed doing.
The place is called Othona and it was set up after the Second World War to encourage people from different classes and countries to mix.
Complete with stoep to sit and watch the world go by
It certainly did have an international feel to the place. Though there were some usual Essex types there, there were also a great number of Germans, Spanish and young volunteers who came from as far afield as Poland, the Czech Republic, France, South Korea and Japan. I'm not quite sure if visiting this wild part of Essex was what they signed up for but many seemed to enjoy the quiet and relaxation. Unlike the communities we visited in North America there are only a few permanent residents here. Most people were families on holiday, who stay for a few weeks and help out with chores. Chores are listed daily and usually include some form of washing up (we'll never complain at home again). One day I had the pleasure of cleaning the men's showers and toilets, a task Fiona skillfully avoided. On the board we were down as Mrs and Mr Hazelton, which didn't look too bad, for a week anyway!
It took a few days to get used to the pace of life here, the chapel services in the morning and evening, as well as the three meals a day. We stayed in a little caravan behind the main
Follow the path
Leading to St Cedd's or St Peters on the Wall chapel
dining hall, which was cosy and the nights weren't too cold. In fact the weather was fantastic the whole week, with only a short shower on the Friday. We made the best use of our bikes on the first weekend and cycled along the sea wall into Bradwell and enjoyed a cool drink at the Green Man, one of three pubs in town.
Life in the community revolves around The Bell, it called us to eat and to chapel. Now the chapel itself is said to be one of(if not the) oldest in England. Called 'St Peter on the Wall' it was built from part of an old Roman fort and dates back to around 654 AD. It is a lovely, quiet chapel. Sitting alone in a farmer's field and facing the sea. At night it was lit by candles and by day we even marched around it singing.
In the kitchen Fiona helped cook up all kinds of marvels, from soups to chilli, from bread to banoffee pie. I helped weed the small garden, (they're not self-sufficient yet), clear a reed bed for their sewer system and even fixed a door handle.
The site produces its own electricity, with
solar power and a newly installed wind turbine, though they still rely on a generator as back up. The people were really nice there, though many of the interesting characters were not full time residents. Many a night was spent getting to know people, over a game of Scrabble (which I won, though it was a poor game), an international quiz (which we won), or just simply taking a star-lit stroll to the nearest pub. The pub was run by a landlord with a lot of character, though it got slightly freaky when he kept producing these (supposedly) funny hats. It was good to speak to people from all over the world, though trying to explain Borat's Mankini to some of them was quite a task! Still, the stroll home was great, as we turned our torches off. Letting the stars guide us home and keeping a look out for the odd shooting one.
We settled in well here and were even asked to consider if we would stay for longer. It is a place with nice people, though there is a lot of transition, which would be hard to get used to. Still it was sad when we said
goodbye at the end of the week, bringing back memories of when we had left these places on our travels. It is amazing how much you learn about others, how close a connection you can make in a short space of time, just by standing outside in the evening sunshine and talking to one another. It is a feeling that still makes us want to explore this kind of life further. I wasn't able to finish my book on Barack Obama that I brought as I was enjoying speaking to others more. Though I was able to talk about our time in the US when I was asked to give the evening chapel service on Friday.
Soon my Fiona will be off to Duxford and perhaps I will soon follow. So here's to new adventures.
List of injuries acquired at Othona:
Me: Bashed knee on wheel barrow and chopped half my nail off peeling potatoes.
Fiona: Slightly burning both arms on the side of the oven.
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