Buddha’s Lockdown Birthday

Social Distancing Project 229

The Monday Photo

You may not have seen this room before. It’s the main shrine room of the Buddhist temple at Willen in Milton Keynes. The monks and nuns of the temple look after the Peace Pagoda and hold their ceremonies there.

Yesterday I was there for a celebration of the birth of the Buddha. The legend tells us that he was born in a park, when all the trees were in bloom, so the day is marked by the Flower Festival.

‘Buddha’ means ‘Enlightened One’. Underneath that mass of flowers close to the camera is a statue of the Buddha as a baby. Four slender columns support the flowers. Of course, this year lockdown restrictions meant only a few worshippers could attend this very minimal event, all carefully spaced apart.

The ceremony began at three o'clock with two minutes silence in honour of Prince Phillip. Then the drum was beaten and chanting began. You can see the great temple drum on the far left of the picture.

As part of the ceremony, everyone present is invited to bathe the Buddha. The statue stands in water and there is a small ceremonial ladle. When it was my turn I knew what to do. I bowed to the Buddhist nun, then to the statue, three times. I filled the ladle and poured the water over the baby Buddha’s head three times. One last bow, and I was done.

Usually this part of the ceremony takes a long time. The shrine room is full to bursting and nearly everyone wants to bathe the Buddha. If I’m their official photographer as I was yesterday, it’s a challenge to try and take photos of scores of people bathing the Buddha that aren’t all exactly the same.

But this year’s ceremony was extremely minimal and just a few invited people attended; instead of  lasting well over two hours, the ceremony ended just forty minutes after it began. I could hardly believe it was over so soon.

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Lockdown Easter

Social Distancing Project 222Groups walk, play, or just stand and talk. But each group stays away from the next one.

The Distance Project 30

Easter Sunday afternoon was sunny and fairly warm, so I went back to the Ouzel Valley Park to see what was going on. There were plenty of people there, some in quite large groups; the atmosphere lighter, more relaxed. Happier.

I’ve come full circle from the first days of the Distance Project, close to a year ago when nobody knew where this was all heading. There was doubt, and worry, and hope. I’m photographing people in my local park again just as I did at the start, but now the end is in sight.

I had no idea then how the project would expand to cover many different aspects of lockdown life; there’s been a few surprises. I didn’t think I’d still be taking photos for it now.

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Border Post

Bucks and Beds boundary marker

The Monday Photo

(Also, a Tale From the Edge)

I’m just outside Buckinghamshire here, but only just. I’m close enough to reach out and lay my hand on the edge of the county, and I know this because this cast iron sign tells me so.

It’s a county boundary post, probably erected in the 1930s. South of this spot, the border between North Bucks and Bedfordshire zigzags away along hedgerows until it meets a stream.

It follows the course of the stream for a while, then turns off along the line of what used to be the edge of a field but is now the back fence of several houses.

When the boundary hits Station road in Woburn Sands, it turns ninety degrees and runs right across the front face of the Weathercock Inn.

You can see here that the boundary runs right across the bottom of the photo. What you can’t see is that at the base of the post, the border also turns sharp right and goes past the camera and my right elbow; I’m in a corner of Bedfordshire.

The boundary crosses the junction and goes along the edge of the road. This means that the houses here (this is Lower End) are in Bucks, and the road is in Beds.

From Lower End, the boundary follows the Cranfield Road and crosses the A421 and the M1. The A421 is being dualed now and last time I was there, a new bridge was being built to take the Cranfield Road over the new dual carriageway.

There are 18 boundary markers still known to exist around North Bucks, and most of them are in this ‘lollipop’ style.

I think I’ll see if I can find a few more; it’ll be somewhere to go on the motorcycle now that’s allowed again. A journey with a destination, no matter how insignificant, is always better for you than just going out and travelling randomly.

By the way, there's a few more Tales From the Edge in the sidebar.

 

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Park Life

Social Distancing Project 217This young group sat and chatted and played with their puppy. In the background is the very full car park.

Park Life

The Distance Project 29

It's been nice weather and the lockdown has been relaxed, so lots of people have been driving further afield, some of them to visit the Ouzel Valley park in Milton Keynes.

It’s become a popular place to go; the car park has often been so full recently that visitors have resorted to parking on the road outside.

It’s all rather different from the early days of lockdown a year ago. Back then, I was photographing people on their officially allowed one trip out for exercise. It tended then to be individuals, or maybe three people together at the most.

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Church Aligned

Holy Trinity  Drayton Parslow
The Monday Photo

As soon as I turned off the B4032, I saw Drayton Parslow church, up on the hill in front of me. Have ever noticed how often it is this happens, that as you approach a village the first thing you see is the church?

Two more examples that occur to me, because of the roads I use, are Great Horwood church, from the Winslow road, and Hardwick church, when coming from Aylesbury on the A413. I don’t think this is by accident, but why does it happen? The only reason I can think of is for navigation, probably from well before the Norman conquest.

Many churches are not the first one to be built on a particular site. At Great Horwood an earlier church was already in place there in (we think) 1066. It’s believed that an earlier church was at Hardwick, too. And many churches were, or still are, on pre-Christian sites.

The 14th Century Holy Trinity church at Drayton Parslow was not the first to be built there, and there’s an ancient preaching cross in the churchyard that I think must be older than the church.

Either of these would have made a fine landmark. They are up on the hill top so would be visible from the B4032, once a Roman road and a route that’s been in use for two thousand years or more.

In Line

But there’s another reason I think they were used for navigation; Leys.

Alfred Watkins believed that a network of straight tracks (the leys) covered the British Isles, aligned for navigation with beacon hills, mounds, moats, and old pagan sites that now have churches on them. Some of these routes were 4,000 years old, he believed. He called these routes leys because ‘ley’ as part of a place name seemed to occur remarkably often on them.

Some call these ley lines, and believe they are lines of force in the ground. I don’t believe this and neither did Alfred Watkins; it’s a belief that only came about in the 1960s.

Watkins published his book The Old Straight Track in 1925. By then he had been developing his theory about the leys for four years.

I have a much later reprint. The most interesting part for me as the North Bucks Wanderer is Appendix B, titled ‘Buckinghamshire Leys’. There he lists 15 leys, and many of the alignment points are churches. Quite a few of those leys have major Roman roads running along them. What do you think the truth is about leys?

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A Year of Lockdown

Social Distancing Project 211

A notice on this shrine says:
“Dedicated to the victims of coronavirus and the healthcare professionals who are risking their lives while supporting other people”.

The Distance Project 27

A year since the lockdown started, the Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda held two very minimal ceremonies on Tuesday to mark the date.

The ceremonies were part of a National Day of Reflection that took place all over the UK.

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