Lisa Byrne - why I love the tranquillity of Fountains Abbey
PUBLISHED: 18:00 09 May 2017 | UPDATED: 18:32 09 May 2017
Hallelujah! No phone signal. What bliss it was to spend a few hours without the sound of ring tones or text beeps
I’m well aware that in York it’s still legal to kill a Scotsman within the city walls with a bow and arrow, but I’m rather fond of the Scots so can we amend the law to people carrying selfie sticks instead? I would happily embark on an archery course to ensure I was the perfect bowman because I’ve really had enough of selfie sticks clogging up my beautiful city. Be gone with you and the eejit holding you up to the sky to take a photo to share on social media, to be liked by the masses of so called friends who actually don’t care.
I’ll calm down, but I just feel this self obsession is a scourge on our society. I’m sure there are good points to modern technology, but it seems to suck on people’s souls. A few days ago, I was walking around stunning Fountains Abbey near Ripon and felt a strange sensation: I realised I was envious of the monks who lived there before that ghastly big lump Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. It must have been such a simple, peaceful existence living as a community in the wilds of Yorkshire. Okay, I may not have suited the pudding bowl haircut and the woollen habits would have been hideously itchy, but how pure life would have been, spending the days praying, working on the land just living in the moment rather than immersed in the flaming worldwide web. The abbey lies in a beautiful wooded valley and was initially created after a group of 13 disaffected monks stormed out of York’s St Mary’s Abbey, fed up with the rather debauched behaviour of their fellow monks who preferred drinking and carousing to a life dedication to God and prayer. What this small band of brothers managed to create was a miracle. And just over a century after its foundation, the abbey became one of the largest and most powerful religious houses in the country until that greedy numpty Henry VIII grabbed its riches. I can’t imagine what the poor monks must have felt when they were forced to leave their beautiful home.
I was puzzled as I wandered the ruins by the fact that the many people like me, out for a walk on such a beautiful sunny day, were not taking part in the modern day addiction of looking at their phones. I checked my own phone and discovered there was zero phone coverage. Hallelujah! What bliss it was to spend a few hours without the sound of irritating ring tones or text beeps - best of all everyone was immersed in the experience rather than being tech obsessed zombies.
A few days later, I took my daughter Brontë to Little Bettys for tea. After ordering a feast of sandwiches and cakes we sat chatting but I couldn’t relax as I couldn’t help noticing the couple sitting next to us didn’t say a word to each other but spent the entire time on their phones. They were not communicating verbally over a delicious tea, but just with their little small beeping screens. It took all my patience not to inform them that Bettys is a phone-free zone.
The Cistercian monks might have left Fountains Abbey way back in 1539 but I think there’s much we can learn from them today, especially about spirituality and living in the moment. Life is brief and our legacy shouldn’t be masses of narcissistic images floating about in the ether of the internet. You’ll have to pardon me now, I need to log onto the worldwide web to find the nearest archery course!