Though I have not planted a single tree at the Grange (yet), when I think of the Grange and my relationship to it, in many ways I see it as a relationship between a tree and a human. It is something that needs nurturing, something that welcomes sunshine and rain, laughter and tears. And in return it continues to grow and spread its branches so that more and more people can come and seek shelter and respite in its arms.
During my last year of university at the UEA, the 'workday Wednesdays' that happen at the Grange were a such a breath of fresh air (literally as well) from the endless hours of library studying. Almost every Wednesday when I wasn't doing something else, I would escape with a group from New Routes and spend the day making a spiral garden bed, taking weeds out of the pond, collecting apples, planting kale...whatever the season there was always something to do that had you finishing the day with rosy cheeks and a smile on your face.
This September (2017) I started an internship with the Grange that will last for 3 months. During this time I will try and help grow what they can offer to those looking for workshops and new learning experiences, and hopefully help open up the Grange as a place where more people can reconnect with the world around them through engaging in activities such as crafts, gardening, cooking...
Though this is a paid internship (partly funded by the UEA), I still see it as being a time also of giving something back, of feeding the tree in order to thank it for the support and rest it offered me during my last year of studies.
Thank you to all who help make this place so special,
At our recent Open Day and AGM we invited a friend of The Grange to be poet in residence for the day. He has produced the following poem which captures the images he took away from the day.
Thank you Richard.
when our doors are open
there is no 'them
in bustle and chatter
clunk of loom
rasp of saw
and whack of hammer
in bubble of food pot
play of craft
and strum of tune
there's only 'us'
when the doors are open
in the cup of clay on rolling wheels
and between us and ourselves
there is water
there are green shoots
celandines and gosling scrotch
in scruffs of lush grass
each fractal part of this picture
an aspect of home
when these doors are open
the act of choice
can be re-learnt
no less nor more than hands offered
without a single question
you'd fear to answer
here amongst the sheep and the speedwell
and all those prominent moths
the craft connects
the joinery continues
This following is a remarkable guest post from a young Egyptian refugee who visited The Grange for one of our regular Workday Wednesdays. All comments and views are his own.
This article is part of a book to be published in the near future, its name is This is What I Saw; The Adventures of a Refugee.
As usual New Routes surprised me with two different and wonderful trips outside the city of Norwich. This time was a second trip for me with the New Routes to The Grange, about an hour's drive from the city of Norwich.
Amelie, who organized and prepared the trip, set off with myself and another individual in the morning. When we arrived we found Ben, who is the director of The Grange, waiting for us. He greeted us and welcomed us, and then we went to the yard where we found some people who worked hard at different activities, who also welcomed us. I asked them about where I could change my clothes. Ben told me I would work with Lucy in the garden, planting seeds. I welcomed the very idea because I have missed the clay earth and because I have experience of agriculture, having inherited this experience and knowledge from my father who was a farmer. Lucy took me to the seed store to take seeds to be cultivated. She asked me “do you want gloves?” I told her I did not want gloves because I missed the touch and smell of the mud, which would bring back sweet memories of digging as a child. Life is full of sweet and bitter memories and I wanted to keep hold of the sweet ones. I wanted my hands to be embraced by the mud, hoping that my greeting of seeds and water would one day be reciprocated with flowers, fruits and plants.
During the work I remembered my childhood when I played and had fun in the fields, and also what I have seen and read about agriculture in ancient Egypt and the walls of the ancient pharaonic temples and tombs. Rest time came after two hours of work and we sat down to drink tea with biscuits.
There was a discussion between me and Pat, a member of the team, who asked me “are you happy with the work?” I told her “yes with my pleasure” she asked “Where are you from?” I told her “I am from Egypt”. She was surprised and asked me “do you know Pharaoh Tutankhamun and the story of the discovery of his tomb?” I told her “yes, Tutankhamun was a pharaoh of Ancient Egypt from 1334 to 1325 BC. Tutankhamun is the most famous pharaoh for reasons not related to achievements made or wars triumphed as is the case with a lot of the Pharaohs; but for the reason that his tomb was discovered undamaged with all treasures in full. On the 4th November 1922 British archaeologist and Ancient Egyptian Scholar, Howard Carter, chipped away a hole in the wall. He held a candle to the hole and when asked by his assistant if he could see anything, said “Yes I see wonderful and amazing things!”
Pat asked me “do you know where Howard Carter lived in England?” I told her “I do not know”. She told me that he lived in Swaffham, Norfolk, just a 30-minute drive from the city of Norwich. Carter’s house has been converted into a museum, filled with artefacts of Tutankhamum’s tomb. I looked at her with amazement and joy to hear this new information that I did not know before. Traveling to new places in the area of East Anglia in which I live has given me what I want, and this day gave me the fruits and flowers of information I could pick to feed my spirit of the researcher within me.
I completed my work again with Lucy who was cooperative and patient with me as I asked many questions about what the name of the tools and seeds were in English. We worked in three teams like bees, planting seeds, arranging and chopping wood. We did not work for any queen bee, we only worked for love and respect.
We sat down to eat dinner and I meditated on the plant life of the countryside and the joy. The countryside is the most beautiful place in my view. The simplicity, beauty, tranquility, fresh air, clear skies, smell of the grass and beautiful aromatic flowers. The sound of trickling running water merged with the sound of birds and the rays of the sun kissed our skin.
We went back to work again and Ben told me the work in agriculture was finished and that had a new job for me. He was shy about asking as the work is hard but I smiled and said “my friend, work is work”. Work is in an essential part of human life, which gives man and woman status and the feeling of being part of society, interacting with our fellow humans. The ancient civilizations undoubtedly did not come out of nowhere, but it were the result of hard work. As Saint Paul, Jesus’s assistant said "the hand which does not work does not eat."
My final job at The Grange was to smash huge bricks. As I took the big hammer in my hand I imagined that the brick was the authority of army and religions who have destroyed my country and extinguished the candle of civilization. Now it was my turn to destroy them, as I smashed the bricks without breath or rest, until someone called me for tea. I went to drink my tea and talked to people as much as possible in order to forget the bad emotions that had been stirred in me.
After tea I changed my clothes and as we prepared to leave I dreamt that my homeland of Egypt would get better without the fascist authority of the army and religion.
I am very happy having gone to The Grange as I have met new people who I have learnt from and gained experience of different cultures. I hope to go again and again and again. Thank you so much to New Routes, the team at the Grange and congratulation for myself being able to sleep without insomnia on Wednesdays!
We are a bit over-excited at the moment about offering the first internships at The Grange – especially since applications have started coming in (there is still time to apply – go here for more information - http://thegrangenorfolk.org.uk/index.php/get-involved/internships).
Over the last few days I have been speaking to people who have applied, or are thinking of applying for the internship, and I have also been preparing a welcome pack for interns which includes details of how we will support them during their time here.
Our conversations – and a conversation with Beverley from the wonderful Mothertongue last week – have got me thinking a lot about burnout. Burnout is a phrase that I think is often misused by people feeling a bit tired or run down – but when people are really burned out it is completely debilitating and even life-threatening. Sophie and I both have personal experience of burnout and it is something we take really seriously for ourselves, for anyone else visiting The Grange, and also through courses that happen here including the upcoming Mindfulness and Social Change course and the Permaculture Design Course (see the events listings page for more details).
We are very fortunate to have support from some fantastic psychotherapists, including those on our Elders group and also from a clinical supervisor who me meet with once a month. We are now shocked at how little support there is for people working in highly stressful situations such as in hospitals and humanitarian emergencies where the attitude of many organisations seems to be that people should just get on with it.
After four years living at The Grange, Sophie and I realise that we need to do more to take care of our own resilience as living with so many different people who visit The Grange, whilst hugely rewarding and a real privilege, has also presented a lot of challenges to each of us personally, and to us as a family unit. We have therefore taken the huge decision to apply to build a house for our family to live in on site. Welcoming interns, volunteers and others is therefore going to be an even more important part of maintaining the feel of a family and a community at The Grange and we are committed to ensuring that everyone who stays here is given all the support they need to flourish and grow, and to avoid burnout.
We will keep you posted on how it goes!