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Byline: LynneAllbutt

More learnings I spent an interesting weekend at a Malobe Camp near Bath recently.

Described as "a playful night-time celebration from the African Rainforest", the rainforest culture camp promised that participants would "experience and be part of the magic of the forest, awakened by song in a unique, joyful ritual held during the darkness before the new moon".

Attended by shamans, medicine women and seers, the camp was led by Jerome Lewis, a lecturer in social anthropology, and his wife, Ingrid.

The couple have lived for three years with the Mbendjele Pygmies in the rainforests of the Congo and are keen to share their personal interpretation of the ancient traditions they have experienced.

Martin Cradick and Su Hart, of Baka Beyond, also have a 20-year musical friendship with a group of Baka Pygmies in the Cameroon rainforest and led the most amazing singing, chanting and drumming workshops which were fundamental to the night-time 'entertainment'.

It was a revealing weekend.

I believe everything that we encounter, good or bad, is a gift of some sort, although not always obviously so.

We expect gifts to come beautifully wrapped and to be a joy to receive.

In my experience, that is not always the case; but nonetheless, life will always give you the gift you need. My gift last weekend was a reminder to keep questioning what I see and hear, to make my own decisions and follow my intuition.

Intuition is simply that - tuition from within. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche taught that the problem with deception is not the deception itself but the fact that you can no longer believe the deceiver.

And I have learned that no matter how passionate you may be, just wanting something to be a certain way doesn't necessarily make it so.

Happily, my quest continues after reprogramming my internal sat nav!

Of course it's a good idea About this time of year I start to looking for things to do and learn in the long, dark winter evenings.

So you can imagine my delight at finding the site: Coursera is an education company that partners with the top universities and organisations in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take - for free.

They offer 435 courses in a wide range of topics, spanning the humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, computer science, as well as many others.

It's a great idea and although I haven't chosen my course (or maybe courses) yet I'm sure I'll find something to capture my attention.

I will also pursue learning to play the didgeridoo.

I can play a bit but now have to master the rather tricky circular breathing technique.

Any advice gratefully received as I couldn't find that on the Coursera website!

A better bit of (apple) butter It's proving to be a bumper year for soft fruit, mushrooms and nuts and I'm sure foragers will be putting on a couple of pounds this autumn.

I am also hearing a lot about the old adage of bumper autumn food crops preceding a harsh winter.

As a gardener I tend to think they are a result of a preferable spring when the fruit was set but of course it could be both!

For many of us, a bounty of autumn fruit will mean lots of jam and chutney-making and I am always keen to try out new recipes myself (or pass them on to Mum, depending on how busy I am). This one, for apple butter, sounds delicious and well worth the 'slow cook'.

You'll need: | 51/2lb apples - peeled, cored and finely chopped | 11/2lb white sugar | 2 tsp ground cinnamon | 1/4 tsp ground cloves | 1/4 tsp salt Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt.

Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook on high for an hour.

Reduce heat to low and cook for six more hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.

Uncover and continue cooking on low for one more hour.

Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.

It's excellent as an accompaniment to bacon, ham and pork, great on toast, bagels, pancakes and scones and even on yoghurt or porridge.

You can also freeze a batch.

Powys happy I live in Powys and I am very happy. And it seems I am, for once, in the majority.

Research presented at the annual conference of the Royal Geographical Society recently shared this uplifting fact as a conclusion of a survey by the highly respected British Household Panel Survey.

The BHPS measured happiness across the country, not by focusing on income, health and quality of life in a given area as other surveys have done, but by seeking a direct measure from individuals of "subjective well-being", or how people actually feel about their lives.

The results were based on answers to a dozen questions ranging from, "Have you recently been able to concentrate on what you are doing?" and, "Have you recently lost much sleep over worry?" to, "Have you been thinking of yourself as a worthless person?" People in Powys, Wales' largest county, were found to have the greatest sense of "subjective well-being" out of 273 areas covering the whole of Britain and therefore have been considered the happiest.

Autumn Joy I have been astounded by the amount of bees and butterflies that are gorging themselves on my sedums, pictured, in the late summer sunshine.

The variety in my garden is the popular sedum spectabile Autumn Joy though most sedums will provide a feast for insects at this time of year.

The name sedum comes from the Latin 'sedare' which means to soothe or calm and which is due to the plant's soothing and calming properties.

Roman soldiers also believed the plant would heal wounds.

The nectar-rich plants are also a favourite with ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies, are easy to grow, will tolerate poor conditions and are great in containers.

Available from all good garden centres, I can't recommend them highly enough for attracting wildlife into your garden.


Nectar-rich sedums are also a favourite with ladybirds, lacewings and hoverflies, are easy to grow, will tolerate poor conditions and are great in containers
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Travel narrative
Date:Sep 7, 2013
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