Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Abbeys and books

You will see from the following photo that I love maps.  Maps like children books are something I keep quiet about, maps because I love following the rivers and the many varied landscapes but feel that it is a more male occupation to map read. And as for collecting children's book a certain shamed feeling for loving books as I do. So when Weaver of Grass asks about a truly excellent story about  the 'little people'  The Little Grey Men by BB,  out it comes to be read again.

I used a black Japanese teapot to hold down the book for illustrations, and of course end up with a not very good photo, but it struck me that the above has a certain Japanese style.  The book is a Folio Society one, and I have four other fairy tale books, old favourites, McDonald, Andersen etc in the Folio editions.
But the map was opened out for a different reason, I had been studying the area around Normanby, and had found that Rievaulx Abbey is not too far way, just outside Helmsley.  Abbeys are a particular favourite of mine, especially the great Northern Cistercian ones, and I have always anticipated wandering around them.  So today I took photos of the 19th century steel engravings in a book that is slowly breaking up, my idea is to print all of the Rievaulx Abbey engravings and when we visit to photo and match same......

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r

The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such, as wand'ring near her secret bow'r,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Elegy from a Churchyard Thomas Gray

Four lines that always come to mind when looking on ruins, a moping owl always makes me laugh....

Monday, March 30, 2015

Do they exist?

In Iceland Respect the Elves - or Else

I had read this piece of news last week, and smiled at the elves holding up the building of a road for eight years. Illogical actions and fairy tales meld nicely together.  Of course it is similar in Ireland, read Joyce and you will many such stories of fairies and elves, and my favourite, changeling babies.
So today I pull out my fairies book, illustrated by Brian Froud and Alan Lee, two great illustrators. My copy of the book has suffered the rigours of time and Gnomes illustrated by Rien Pooiavlier, a Norwegian, has practically fallen to pieces.
But of course it reminded me of my favourite place,  which of course has all the things fairies, elves and dwarfs need.  Fly agaric mushrooms, old trees, especially the magical rowans and a sparkling brown beck running over the rocks, what more could the fairies ask for?

One of my rather shaky videos, short and sunlight but gnarled trees, running water and the bracken enclosing magical places, and of course still photos that capture forever the moment of  'time'.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

And then there were hares

The screen at St.Melangell's church depicting the hunt and and the saint.

 I cannot let March escape without one of my favourite stories, it may be repeated each year but are not stories there to be told again and again..... And not forgetting that this church in its circular plot of ground may have once been an early Bronze Age burial site, and according to it's wikipedia entry is one of the oldest Romanesque shrines in Britain.  A must visit church!

The story of Saint Melangell and her little hare. She was the daughter of King Cufwlch and Ethni of Ireland and she fled to Wales to escape a forced marriage. She settled in Pennant at the head of a valley, and whilst one day sitting in a clearing she heard the sound of a hunt, dogs and horses galloping up the valley. This was Prince Brochwael of Powys hunting hares. As she sat a hare came into the clearing and Melangell hid it in the sleeve of her dress to protect it. When it peeped out the dogs fled, and so the Prince gave her the land on which he hunted, and she lived at Pennant for another 37 years and no animal was killed in her sanctuary. Hares were known as wyn bach Melangell or Melangell's little lambs, and to kill a hare was an act of sacrilege.

This story is taken from "The Book of Welsh Saints" T.D. Breverton, and there are other versions of the tale. But at Llanfihangel-y-Pennant near Llangynog  this is probably the site of her foundation, because on the church's medieval rood-screen are little hares.

A description of the the screen
  • First compartment. Brochwel Yscythrog, Prince of Powys, on horseback; his bridle tied on the mane of the horse; both arms extended; in his right hand a sword which he is brandishing. He wears long hair under a flat cap; a close-fitting coat and girdle, both painted red, and sits in the high saddle of the Middle Ages. He is the most distant figure of the series.
  • The second compartment is partly damaged in the branch-work, but the figure is entire. The huntsman, half-kneeling, tries in vain to remove the horn, which he was raising to his lips for the purpose of blowing it. when it remained fast and could not be sounded.
  • In the third, St. Melangell, or Monacella, is represented as an abbess; her right hand slightly raised; her left hand grasping a foliated crozier; a veil upon her head. The figure, seated on a red cushion, is larger than that of Brochwel, and smaller than that of the huntsman.
  • A hunted hare, crouching or scuttling towards the figure of the Saint. The hare is painted red.
  • A greyhound in pursuit; the legs, entangled among the branches of the running border, can hardly be distinguished from them. The dog is painted of a pale colour.
  • A nondescript animal, intended, I suppose, for a dog. In this and the 5th compartment the hounds are supposed to be further from the eye than the hare, which is the largest figure in the whole range.
  • One tracery panel lies its gouge-work painted red; the gouge-work of the next is blue; that of the next is red; and so on alternately."
The screen itself, on the rood-loft of which the above formed a cornice or frieze, still remains in its position between the chancel and the nave. It comprises four compartments on each side of 


Of course it must not be forgotten that the term easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre  and as Bede states here;

The English Months. In olden time the English people – for it did not seem fitting to me that I should speak of other nations' observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation's – calculated their months according to the course of the moon. Hence after the manner of the Hebrews and the Greeks, [the months] take their name from the moon, for the moon is called mona and the month monath. The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Sol-monath; March Hreth-monath; April, Eostur-monath; May Thrimilchi... Eostur-monath has a name which is now translated Paschal month, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. (Eostur-monath, qui nunc paschalis mensis interpretatur, quondam a dea illorum quae Eostre vocabatur et cui in illo festa celebrabant nomen habuit.) Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

So much of christianity's myths lay on the back of old gods and stories, and Easter is a prime example, this spring festival has as much to do with the dawn rising earlier each day heralding the new growing season than it has to do with Christ being hung on a cross for our sins.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

This and That

Life has been somewhat interrupted by a migraine, the 'healing' process takes quite a while but the wretched headaches are a nuisance.  Time progresses slowly on the movement of the houses, our house gets a visit from a surveyor at the beginning of April.  Church house survey has been given to the vendor and he has come forward with the necessary information.
In all this there is one more worry, that is the fate of the cottage, as we left the cottage last week LS said this is a gem of a place and so it is.  It will break my heart to get rid of, but with the family moved out of Whitby, running it as a holiday cottage goes somewhat against my principles.  Here comes a rant as well, we have had to mend taps, the loo, and plugs from heavy handed people, pay an agent and a cleaner as well.  And that is not counting the time the TV broke down, or the bed (new) or the times people turned off the heating,  But unless I long let it, selling is the only other option.
Karen the cleaner got in touch this week, she seems upset about the agents as well, I have promised her though (she is an excellent cleaner though managing to get through three vacuum cleaners) that should  family or friends want the cottage she will be the first person to call.
Not quite end of rant, there is something else that sets my blood racing;), this is VisitEngland, who hands out all those pretty stars you see adorning hotels and B&B places.  It is compulsory to have one says the agent, don't believe it says I.  But have had my three star rating the last two years, paying a £150 a year to be told that one wastepaper is unsuitable, and that maybe I should invest in black curtains triggered a moment of fury and a letter to the agent finishing the contract.
I could go back and eat humble pie, we have after all found a plumber; plumbers in Whitby, and there are a few, but they are like hen's teeth when you try to get them to do something.  This plumber is lovely, and needs to just fix the flush button in the loo, which can all be managed, as there is a 'key box' fastened to the front of the cottage, from a distance here in Chelmsford.
To happier news, my daughter is voting 'green' and now belongs to the wellington brigade, as their new dog Teddy needs walking which she does twice a day, the children doing any other walking. This turnaround from her is extraordinary, not an animal lover through her childhood, it is a joy to think of her actually walking a dog!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Such illusions, depending on how the eye is placed and used, drive home the truth that our habitual vision of things is not necessarily right; it is only one of an infinite number, and to glimpse an unfamiliar one, even for a moment, unmakes us, but steadies us again.

The living mountain -  Jan Shepherd

This of course reflects that moment when you wake up from a dream, and the brain has to race to where you are, for the dream is so much stronger, the perception of the moment locked in that dream world.  My dream world always takes me on  miserable walks through towns full of people,(something I hate)  lost and normally having a child with me  and then into the countryside. The dream continues, escaping on buses to an unknown destination, but  never arriving in the dream, Perhaps it reflects itself in my life, a need for security and the sanctity of a 'forever place'.

But then the eye often sees something, often happens when looking into the distance, the brain then makes an attempt to identify, and suddenly  we find a false image has been cast by the mind's eye, the visual eye will then rectify the mistake, that moment of reality making sense of the world.

Below are two photos, I suspect a good photographer would have grasped, the loneliness of that tree, surviving in the moor's inhospitable climate, perhaps instead of waiting for the partial eclipse I should have walked up to it.  It is on a brow of a hill, or at least a slight rise in the ground, Penny's owner, walked to the top and disappeared from view, one knows that greyhounds do not like long walks, being happy for a couple of 10 minute walks a day and choosing to sleep the rest of the day.  When Penny came back to the car ahead of her owner, she whined at LS obviously hoping he would open the car door for her.

But of course there are other things to read in the photos, the rushes silvered by the sun, it tells me what I already know, that water lies under the surface, along with a rocky base that allows this thin vegetation of heather to survive.  There is life of course, plenty of black grouse roam round, making their presence felt as they fly from one spot to another, croaking slightly.  The skylarks are already settling down to nest, and there is the hidden presence of curlews making their moor music.  No sheep on this part of the moor this time around, but if you look at the tussocky grass, this is the place you will find them grazing.  Some, poor things graze on their knees their front feet to painful to stand on, I saw a solitary sheep on its knees and I imagined its lonely death but that is the way of life in remote parts.

When we were at Church House, I saw a couple of buzzards over the fields making their slow spiralling flight on a thermal, and for that moment I took pleasure in this, my 'totem' bird, making its presence felt in my view.   Across the road, lives Nigel with a small flock of hens and a rather noisy cockerel.  A retirement to the country to raise a few sheep and hens, think he comes from Guisborough but chatty enough as a neighbour.

I took the Nan Shepherd quote from 'Landmarks' written by Robert Macfarlane.  Bought at Whitby book shop for a discounted £16 last week.  I am having certain reservations about Macfarlane, he often quotes the same story in his books. Landmarks is again quoting Nan Shepherd's book which I have read about the Cairngorms, though passed it on in a book swap. Do so hate to pay for something I have read before;) But this book is about words, those that pass out of use to describe the elements, the land and everything appertaining to it.  So Gaelic, Welsh,Cornish and Old English.  Not words one would necessarily use oneself of course, but like the snow of the Eskimos which has a hundred words, so it is with descriptive words of how water is seen or not seen but heard in a variety of tones.  It reminds us that once when people did not read, language was rich in imagery and detail.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Catch up news

As I write this, I am listening to the magical sound of the curlews (here is the link) up on the moor, it is a sound that never fails to silence all the wayward thoughts that go through my mind, as I listen to that burbling note rising.  I very rarely see them but like magic their music is a part of the moors.  So yesterday, the day of the partial eclipse, we took our coffee up to Mirk Mire Moor, it looks as grim as it sounds, the brown heather stretches for miles, black grouse occasionally fly up or scuttle across a bare patch. Sky larks spiral up and there were even lapwings flying overhead.  But though cold, the sun was out, and so we waited for the eclipse, it took a long time, but I did manage to catch one photo of it. albeit not very good.  As we waited, a lady came up to exercise her greyhound, Penny, who when I asked came from the Tia Rescue home.  The road over the moor was supposedly closed, two cars came whilst we were there, it seems at this time of year Yorkshire roads get mended, for we came upon several lane closures. It meant that we did not go down to the beck, where the rowan trees gather at its edge, and in Autumn the 'magic' red mushrooms make their show.
In these first two photographs you can see how the light changes as the eclipse starts to happen, a soft amber glow, it colours the heather a rich brown, whereas the third photograph has the tonal value of a summer purple........

the greener tones of the valley

The cross roads stone

Endless heather with grouse butts in the far distance

The moon eating the sun through the clouds

This week has been very busy two hour visits to see the surveyor and solicitor, both very friendly, problems arose from the surveyor's report, and there has been a lot of mulling over the contents of his report.  But yesterday, after the moor visit we drove to the house, sitting outside it for two hours (or so it seemed) waiting for the owner to come.  He forgot! so eventually the agent came with the key for closer inspection.  Sitting there though on a sunny day, with the bird song in the church yard, and the peace and calm did allow us to experience the house in its simplicity.

Afterwards, hungry we made our way to Lastingham and the Blacksmith Arms for a late ploughman's lunch.  I have written before of the Viking engraved stones in the crypt of this church, founded by Saint Cedd (patron saint of Chelmsford as well) for the burial at the time of King Ethelwald..... link here

There is reason to believe that the original name for Lastingham was Læstingau. Læstingau first appears in history when King Ethelwald of Deira (651-c.655) founded a monastery for his own burial. Bede attributes the initiative to Ethelwald's chaplain Caelin, a brother of CeddChad and Cynibil. Bede records that Cedd and Cynibil consecrated the site, and that Cynibil built it of wood. Cedd ruled the monastery as the first abbot until his death, combining this position with that of missionary bishop to the East Saxons.

I have been reading John Marsden book on Northumbrye, which has been put down more often than read, for it is a list of genealogy of the kings of Bernicia and Deira, and can become totally confusing! Perhaps I shall return to it when we get back.

St Mary's Church

The crypt

It looks snakelike with the spots, so could be the 'Ragnarok' snake

Earlier photos

A couple of fun photos

Ram skull at the side of the road


The vicar must love moles, I see mole hills every time we come

And then of course a Happy Spring day to everyone, don't forget the clocks go forward on the 29th March.  Bitter cold wind here in Whitby though.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Vanishing Britain - Cherhill Tithe Barn

15th century Tithe barn at Cherhill, Wiltshire  destroyed in 1952.  Watercolor by Vincent Lines 1942
You can see from this rather attractive watercolour painting that this old tithe barn was situated near the church, all that remains of it now are sketches and paintings.  It looks pretty tumbledown when it was painted and probably restoring it was not a priority, not like the great Bradford on Avon tithe barn.
Romantic England, tumbling barns and askew gravestones, times lost in history.  The painting was made during or after the second World War to capture the 'essence' of England before it was lost under hails of bombs or new infrastructure such as roads and housing.  Funnily enough this part of Cherhill, just outside Calne, still remains unrelatively changed, it is part of the landscape that runs into the great prehistoric landscape of Avebury, odd bronze age barrows testify to older inhabitants.

"The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Post script - Back from the Brink

Parts of yesterday was taken up with frustratingly trying to get a pdf uploaded into the public domain, eventually it worked in Dropbox.  It was our friends Roy's article on finding the hidden stones of Louden Stone Circle on Bodmin Moor.  He has worked tirelessly on trying to get some recognition  of the several stone circles on Bodmin that remain under the peat of the moor and then got permissions from the relevant bodies to carry out the work.  Then with a couple of friends they marked and exposed the old stones at the Louden stone circle, they later re-covered them.

So, because I am so proud of him (he has more work next week on another circle) Back From the Brink.....

King Arthur's Hall though of course is the greatest enigma on the moors

A Journey

Not much to write about, there is packing to be done, We are off to Whitby tomorrow.  The surveyor has been to the house in Normanby this week, and the report should be written up by Tuesday and then a visit to the solicitors.
Each strand unwinds, what will the surveyor say about flooding by the pub I wonder, the report on the cottage he did three years ago, was very thorough, damp was of course the first thing on the list although the leaking chimney did not help.  Central heating has bought the damp under control, but sometimes I wonder as these 18th century cottages survive for so long perhaps damp is a good idea! but not too live in of course. 

Inside Pickering Church

Paths from Pickering church


So trepidation rules at the moment,  Pickering will be our town for shopping, small and fairly quiet, it has local butcher, baker and greengrocers plus Co-op, also a great antique come secondhand place.  
The church of which I have written here has medieval paintings and is situated at the top of the town, there is also a castle which we have never visited.
So LS wants to explore Pickering, I want to go to Lastingham for a pub meal, already we make plans

Lastingham Church 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Celtic cauldrons

Recent exciting news about a Celtic burial mound uncovering a rich treasure trove in the town of Lavau, the Champagne region of France.  The Daily Mail for all its fault, normally has splendid photos of archaeological excavations. so..

Large cauldron being excavated. Courtesy Daily Mail

Lion heads on cauldron. Courtesy Daily Mail

But looking through my  photos of the 500 BC Hochdorf Celtic burial mound in Germany, and the lion's head on the three lions lying round the reproduction gold cauldron in the chamber are similar maybe.....

Sharp tongues

Bees are a calming influence...

Public Committees and Margaret Hodge; "What the committee had to understand. Fairhead continued, was that people at her level at HSBC were not paid to be actually personally responsible for anything and it was entirely unreasonable for anyone to expect her to know anything about anything.  This was too much for Hodge, "either you were naive or are incompetent" she declared, " you should consider your position as chair of  the BBC Trust"

When I went to make my first cup of tea of the day - essential, I caught a scrap of conversation on radio 4, comparing non-executives to bidets, everyone was laughing and as the whole image started to roll round in my mind as I slowly  grasped who they were talking about.  Of course non-executives are a bit like a bidet in a strange French bathroom, we are not quite sure of their function, and why do non-executives command such high salaries if they are seemingly 'non', are they the 'favours' if you have been a VIP in public life, the job lottery, high salary/no work...
Of course they were talking about Rona Fairhead, a non- executive on the HSBC bank board, who was another person who apparently like Stuart Gulliver head of HBSC did not know about the Swiss scandal of tax evasion - all the fault of the 'minions' down below.  There is as we know a certain parasitical nature of the rich and jobs for boys and in this case the girls. Fairhead also sits on the BBC Trust board, and picks up a decent salary on that as well.
Sadly the joy of Public Committees with Margaret Hodge in charge may be coming to an end,  as the forthcoming election will probably call for another person. Although there are plenty of barristers and MPs with inquisitorial tongues to continue challenging the lies and untruths, and stupidity of those in power, and are they not a wonderful spectacle to behold, Hogarthian in their challenge ;)

                           Emblematical Print on the South Sea Scheme taken from Wikipedia

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

north stoke

Whilst wandering through my photos, this photo of North Stoke church came up, I must have snapped it quickly without thinking.  But  looking at it now and the crozier seems rather significant.  It is a bishop's crozier, representing a shepherd's crook of course the bishop shepherding his flock, but why is it on this church.  Under the crozier is a book, and above a small simple cross, all balanced on a small block of stone, which seems decorated.  If you read the blurb below, you will see that this church was probably built on a Roman villa,  with Saxon overtones ,which intrigued me all those years ago and in actual fact why it became my blog's name.
It was also the time when I fell in love with the word palimpsest, the idea that something gets written over something else, history reminded me of a book, turning the pages and finding something different on the same spot.

North Stoke is a village and civil parish in the Bath and North East Somerset unitary authority within the historic county of Somerset and close to the border with South Gloucestershire. People have been visiting St Martin's Church, North Stoke for over 1,700 years. It had a Roman villa situated just below the church and in fact the church might have the foundations of a Roman building. One of the church's treasures is a very rare, rectangular font. An earlier historian noted that the church was slightly askew from the east / west angle, the church being made to fit pre-existing stones. The church has traces of reused Saxon stone in the tower and porch and it could well have been that this was a small Saxon settlement. There is a water spout that emerges beside the church, runs down by the wall of the graveyard and cascades down as a small waterfall into a pool next to the gate of the church, providing a ready source of water for both Romans and Saxons, making North Stoke an ideal place to settle. The water is so full of calcium that anything, including twigs and pieces of metal left in it for some time, will get a coating of what appears to be stone. A yew tree in the churchyard is thought to be between 800 and 1,000 years old.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

A variety of thoughts...

Under the Hills near the Morava River  By Gary Snyder

She lay there midst

Mammoth, reindeer, and wolf bones:

Diadem of fox teeth round her brow

Ocher under her hips
26,640 plus or minus 110 years before "now."
Burnt reindeer-pelvis bone bits
in her mouth,
Bones of two men lying by her,
one each side.

Gary Snyder struck by the strange burial practice of these three teenagers wrote the above poem, it came to mind when I put the little Neanderthal girl up, the practice of burial so many thousands years ago just allows us to speculate, and to be touched by what we think and see, the stories of course could all be very different.  There is a link showing the skeletons here.

Life at the moment is a bit like living in no-man's land, a limbo of waiting for things to happen, this house has been taken off the market, and so has the one in Yorkshire, both wearing those signs that say sold 'subject to contract', surveyor and solicitor appointed from Whitby for us, and LS panicking are we doing the right thing!  I return to spinning, very relaxing but cannot start sowing seeds which I find frustrating.

I meant to write about the Mayer Celtic mirror in the Isle of Man, it has an early first century BC date it had appeared as part of a museum display which ended in February of this year.

This flat bronze mirror displays a variety of sub-triangular and curvilinear forms with lobe patterns accenting the design.  For the most part, the decoration consists of three circles, or roundels,  in which three-sided voids are carefully situated.  With the placement of the three roundels, a fused design is formed.  This well planned placement of voids creates a triskele-like form in the circle on the lower right corner of the mirror.  In the lower left circle, it appears as if part of a triskele is cut in half.  Also, a roundel is visible at the tip of an appendage of this partial triskele.  Just like the Desborough Mirror, the designs on the Mayer Mirror are asymmetrical.  "The unprovenanced Mayer mirror, possibly one of the earliest, shows a simpler version of the lyre, a design executed with consummately economical craftsmanship"

This is Cyril, our squirrel having a word with Buddha, is he the culprit that is digging the soil out of my pot plants and destroying plants I wonder? or is it the doves, or maybe the magpie who knows - wretched creatures.

Friday, March 6, 2015

70.000 years old Neanderthal child

Sculpture by Elisabeth Daynes of a 70,000 year old Neanderthal child.

Just a brief few words on something that brought tears to my eyes.  A reconstruction of a young Neanderthal child born 70,000 years ago by the French sculptor Elisabeth Daynes.  There is of course much scientific debate as to whether this child was buried deliberately at Roc de Marsal in France, but there again where would we be if things are not discussed ;).
As a mother and grandmother, the heart is moved by the simplicity of the child, but also the extinction of course of the Neanderthal species, though we all carry a few genes of these people in our DNA, wiped out by us maybe?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Photos and old ents

Photos from a walk round Hyland House just outside Chelmsford.  Blue skies, trees still waiting to bud, bees which the camera as always missed on the white crocuses, and also a butterfly that is but a blur on the photo. Spring is here.....