Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Passing time

Normanby; hardly a village more of a hamlet, you can see the curved river, which has been banked

Lunch time;  We wait for a removal firm to come and give us a quote in half-an-hour, already had one - pretty expensive moving, says she quietly.  The last two days has been the clearing of the loft of empty boxes.  LS has collected every box for the last 30 years or so it seems, he chucks them down I take them downstairs, and then they are flattened and tied up for  recycling for the.....
Recycling centre which has the most badly labelled containers, nothing is logical.  The great 2 machine, lives right at the end, in here you put everything that is completely unrecyclable, it chobbles them up mattresses, old furniture, I am intrigued about what comes out at the other end but you can't see it, our polystrene 'hundreds and thousands' go in there, several bags of them.
Good news this morning is that the Environment Agency has just emailed back to say that Church House only has 1 in a 1000 chance of flooding, and they will send us some documentation for insuring the house, though LS already has an insurer lined up.
There are moments when we both panic about this move, is it not a bit late in life to move but I come up with the 'adventure' side of the move and all those places to visit.  End of May is roughly when it will take place!!

Betwixt the church and the pub, the plot of land before it was built on

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tenuous threads

Having delved into Bladud's past history and come to the conclusion, that Stewart had taken a small acorn and from it derived an oak tree, I will leave my reading on that subject alone for the time being.  
One of the things  that happens  when musing and writing blogs, is that occasionally, you get emails on the subject you have written about.  This happened with Rievaulx Abbey, someone interested in the old 19th century illustrations.  This weekend someone wrote to ask about my first in-laws, they had stumbled on a blog of three years ago about Past Ghosts.  It appeared that my Dutch mother-in-law's family, (father and grandfather), owned  a boat building company or two in the 19th century.  It was almost like the book I had read recently called The Miniaturist, about guilds and the Hague in the 17th century. My daughter has even got a painting of the Hague with old Dutch houses that she inherited, the painting that is not the houses!  Sometimes I worry about what I write, but take care not to use the subject of the story in the title, it seems with all the search engines getting better, nothing can go unnoticed.

So I shall devote myself to a Breton Celtic saint, mostly for his name and the fact that he has, as all good Celtic saints do,  given his name to a number of churches in France, Cornwall and Wales.  I came across him because our friend in Cornwall, has joined up with 'Cornish Safari's' organisation which takes mostly American tourists round the prehistoric sites of Cornwall.  And they have both been plotting out tours and walks of Cornwall over the last two months, the industrial tin mine walk from Minions to Crows Nest looks really interesting. But first Saint Wynwallow's church.

Saint Wynwallow's church

'First comes David, then comes Chad
Then comes Winnol roaring like mad'

Old Norfolk rythm

So I shall start with Abbot Gwenole 457-532, and the several names he goes under in Wales;
Gwinwaloe, Winwaloe, Onolaus, or Wynwallow as it is written in Cornwall....

Now Breverton in  The Book of Welsh Saints says he was the Breton founder of the great monastery of Landevennec in Cornouaille in Brittany, Landewednack on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall and the nearby 'Church of the Storms at Gunwalloe, and quite a few other churches have been named after him.  There is quite a long history on him in the book, from which I will pick that which most interests me.  It is said that actually he may have come from Britain in the 5th or 6th century, after St.Patrick appeared to him in a dream and he built the monastery at Landevennec.

There are the usual legendary stories about him, at Locunole, the saint apparently built a hermitage by the turbulent River Elle, which is dominated by a mass of huge stones, The Devil's Rocks.  Satan tried to get rid of the saint from this place but was tricked by the saint to let him stay there.  So to the photos, which I have permission to post. All over Britain, there are these stylish rural churches, their history written in stone, this church is rather a lovely amalgam of styles, mostly 15th century but having a Norman arch.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday and Bladud

Creative Commons photo
This funny statue is of King Bladud, founding father of Bath, it has a date of 1699, but is thought to replace an earlier effigy of a guardian of the city.  This legendary figure gives credence to several stories, though it is not always wise to believe Geoffrey of Monmouth tales (1130 AD)!   But that does not mean that Bladud was a complete myth, there are earlier stories of this Celtic king.  Where to start, the story goes he was sent to Athens to be taught, catching leprosy there, so on his return back to Somerset he is found herding pigs thereby the story of the pigs wallowing in the hot mud of Bath which then cured his leprosy.  Or the fact that he made a pair of wings and tried to fly, as the following  photo shows, or has Icarus the Greek god somehow got into the tale?

Creative Commons

Rob Stewart argues that Bladud or Beldud within the storytelling built a temple to Minerva, also called Belisma, apparently Minerva is closely related to Brigidda, or the Celtic Irish Brigid as we know her, which leads to the term 'bright' 'light' or 'shining' and that Bladud crashed on the Temple of Apollo, the god of the sun. If we were going to go into the etymology of Sulis, it does have parallels with Sol/Solis the Latin word for sun.

Here I must add a note, for up on the downs above Bath, the gold 'sun disc' had been found in one of the Bronze Age barrows, so an old religion  still at this sanctuary of the hot springs perhaps?

Stewart goes on to argue, that Sulis is The Eye of the Gap, (the 'eye' from which the waters come) and the title of his book.  But also goes on to say that a Latin word Suillis means 'pertaining to pigs'.  So of course here we have the famous magical Celtic boars leading the king to the healing waters, which  comes from the Otherworld/underworld (or from beneath the ground).

I shall play with words further down but for the moment tell one of the tales, we have a tale of a Celtic king/hero, morphed into the Roman/Greek tradition of gods, goddesses and heroes. The Twrch Trwyth of Wales  is a good start to an understanding of the part of the Bladud tale, and of magical boars that lead you to death, warfare maybe...

Stewart says that there should be three parts to Bladud's tale, the first of course when he arrives back from Greece suffering from leprosy and is led by the pigs to an alder moor, this is placed in Swainswick, a small village outside Bath; another tale tells of him being employed as a swine herder by a local farmer, and that he enticed the pigs who were diseased by laying a trail of acorns for them to the hot waters so that they may be cured and in turn he was also cured
The second part of the story is missing according to Stewart, this is where the hero battles with the monster with aid of the goddess Sulis and wins.
The third part has our hero who now has magical powers being able to fly from the Temple of Apollo and being killed in the attempt, this can be interpreted as winter approaching and killing - the sun.

The various ways of spelling Bladud are Blaidydd, Bladud, Bladuth, Baldud, Beldud Bladus Bledus, spelling was after all during the medieval period a slightly haphazard affair.
The root of the word Bla, Bal, or Bel was an ancient word apparently for the god of light or fire.

As for the second part of the word Stewart gives the following possibilities.... Dud

DYDD: Welsh - Day
DUD: Gaelic - A word or sound/gloomy and black
DIA: Irish and Gaelic - a god

From the Welsh Dydd derives...
DYDDIO: to judge or reconcile
DYDDIWR: Mediator or arbitratot

Another possibility (and we can see where Stewart is going with this one)
DRUIDA: Gaulish
DRYW: Welsh
DRUWID or DERWYDD: a modern interpretation

So that is how theorising goes ;) are we any wiser at the end of the tale, did the translation tumble through the centuries, being re-interpreted again and again to fit into the tales of the storytellers, but are we then to believe that Bladud was a druid at this religious Iron Age sanctuary before the Roman baths, who knows. 

Information taken from The Waters of the Gap by R.J.Stewart

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Coffee time

The 10 0 clock fix of coffee, which I have needed the last few days, the mug and cup rearranges themselves nicely in a pattern of soft colours, at odds with the brash red of the old coffee pot...

So much reading to do this weekend, Resurgence magazine has arrived also Permaculture, and then there is the Saturday Guardian, with various articles on the forthcoming elections, and photos of the would be canditates looking ridiculous.  Will the young vote? I doubt it,  if you have ever read Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast, that is how Westminster looks to most of us now..

"At the centre of the earldom is the vast, largely deserted Castle, whose remaining inhabitants centre their lives on the ritual surrounding the ruling family of Groan. The castle is described as being like an immense island of stone, its every outline familiar to the inhabitants, who know: "every bay, inlet and headland of the great stone island of the Groans, of its sheer cliffs, of its crumbling outcrops, the broken line of the towers". Dominating the ivy-covered, crumbling castle is the highest tower, the Tower of Flints, which is inhabited by great numbers of owls. The castle is so huge that most of the inhabitants do not venture outside except for certain ceremonies. Outside the castle, clustered under the northern walls, is a hodge-podge of mud dwellings inhabited by the "Bright Carvers", whose only purpose is to carve elaborate objects out of wood and present them to the Earl. "

well maybe not everyone but certainly to me, politicians trying to be 'one of the people,' in their kitchens, in schools and on the shop floor, is, frankly the most embarrassing bits of news you are likely to see.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday 24th April

Hot water flowing from the Roman well at Bath

I want to get back to writing about Celtic stuff, but other things have to be done.  So, my favourite story of the Otherworld, this is taken from The Mabinogion,

'Peredur rode on towards a river valley whose edges were forested, with level meadows on both sides of the river; on one bank there was a flock of white sheep and on the other a flock of black sheep.  When a white sheep bleated a black sheep would cross the river and turn white and when a black sheep bleated a white sheep would cross the river and turn black.  On the bank of the river he saw a tall tree; from roots to crown one half was aflame, and the other green with leaves'  

This is the balance of duality in the Celtic world, you pass from a state of death to a state of life, simple really, the duality in the Christian church is of course  between heaven and hell, a much scarier prospect.  That is why the Iron Age cauldron is so important, and why it is depicted on the Gundestrup Cauldron of a man being held down in the 'cauldron of life'

For an excellent description of the Gundestrup cauldron, John Hooker in Past and Present Tensions fills in the details...

The above photo is of a Roman conversion of the hot spring, but the local inhabitants of Aqua Sulis before the Romans arrived would have seen a steaming hot spring, coming from the depths of the underworld, perhaps it is a stretch too far of the imagination to see the hot springs as a renewing force but its magic would have made this spot a religious sanctuary.

There they are the pair of them, Mark and Ephraim, thought the Mafia had arrived! First time I had seen them dressed in suits, (expensive American stuff I was told but bought in a sale) seems the meeting went quite well, and after a lot of chatter they drove back to Bristol, sad to see them go.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Catching up

The Wellow Brook

It is Earth Day today, or so I have been led to believe by Google; did their little quiz - What animal are you - ended up a Woolly Mammoth, practically extinct, but I'm happy with that!

Yesterday we both finally realised that the move is on, our buyers are perfectly happy with the survey on this house and are moving their solicitor to act fast, not too fast I hope.  Tidied up the shed, stuff to be taken down to the recycling centre, my bike to give away to 'freecycle' though it has only been ridden once but I took a cropper first time out, scarred my forehead and can't see me riding along country lanes, prefer to walk.  Also have been clearing my cupboards, photo albums stripped of photos and thrown away so not too much bulky stuff to pack.  Large files of notes from when I studied all deposited in the dustbin.  There is a feeling of lightness in my life, hopefully I won't regret chucking things.

This is Rievaulx Abbey, not my photo, but someone else who   had asked about  the 18th terraces and view points that apparently surround this abbey nestling beneath the hills, so as a record to remind me of what to look for when we go there.

My son with  Ephraim's children, Fitnat and Pearl

My son is coming with his friend tomorrow, Mark is a computer developer, or should that be a software developer.  Anyway they have developed another project, and are coming to London to discuss it with a large civil engineering firm, and then visiting us in the evening for a meal, have not seen him for ages. So excited about his visit, moving up to Yorkshire means he will be able to travel by train from Bristol to York fairly easily, that he will do so remains to be seen.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Seeing Bovey Belles photos of her trip to St.David's Head and envying her, on Facebook last week Jackie Morris and her photos of a walk above the same place struck me as a perfect Sunday morning photograpic record for cat lovers.... and does it not remind you of Derek Tangye books down in Cornwall..

But what I loved yesterday was this photo of my two young grandchildren at Hardcastle Cragg, Lillie seems to have forgotten her love of purple clothes and appears tiny at 8 years against her taller sister Matilda, age 13 years and as the printer will not  print in proper colours for a keepsake it will appear in the diary form that is my blog - their standoff made me laugh.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


It dropped through the post this morning, I had been anticipating the book the last few days - The Waters of the Gap by R.J.Stewart.  Coffee stained, costing 1p plus postage, not the most expensive book, last time I had read it was a Bath library copy  published by Bath City Council in 1981.  The cover says Magic, Mythology and the Celtic Heritage, yet its tales are far more distinguished and erudite than a lot of the nonsense that is written round the gods and goddesses of Celtic realms. 

Also shuffled through my books for another book of Irish mythology that I had sent off for recently, I have had to renew several books.  It was published in 1970, and I can never spell Irish names, so its cover...

Each tell their tales of mythology, wrapped round the artifacts of the past, little ducks on Iron Age jugs being menaced by creatures,  stories wrapped round every day things, and scary altars of 'heads', when ever you hear people argue about the usage of Celtic, just look at the jewellery featured throughout this blog recently and question why such a word cannot be used.....
And then this book caught my eye as I sat on the floor hunting other books,( so much reading to do), and I came across the poet Basil Bunting, who had written a book called Briggflat, set up North...

But what really prompted me was a Youtube video of  'Roman Bath' clever, but it has not even acknowledged Celtic Bath with its typically Roman clad figures in the video forgetting the Romano-British people who also wandered in and out of the portico of the temple, their gods blending, seamlessly? perhaps not, but at least they would have remembered the old pagan gods and goddess Sulis who became the equivalent of the goddess Minerva.  So I tidied up my Aqua Sulis blog last week, which has had a couple of thousand visits, for the rich decoration to be found in the excavation of the baths is not all Roman.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A walk

Blake's Wood has started its annual show, the trees still somewhat bare of leaves, have carpets of wood anemones at their feet, giving a slightly perfumed air.  The strappy leaves of bluebells can be seen with the occasional bud of blue flower, but their act is yet to come.  The area of woodland that has been left untouched since 1987 looks very similar to the woodland around it.  I remember at the time when the 'great storm' came through, and large trees were thrown to the ground that the policy was to leave them fallen as a natural event.  No cuckoos, see I marked them last year as 5th May when we heard them, though I always expect them round the middle of April, it also says on the notice board that there are also nightingales to be heard.  Flora is consistent in this wood, but fauna is rather thin on the ground, grey squirrels occasionally and of course the birds.
Think I saw swallows at Paper Mill Lock, they nest under the bridge in summer.

Wood anemones

Bluebells starting to show their colour amongst the wood anemones


Primroses going over now

Wood violets

I wonder if Michael Fish still dines out on this story almost 28 years ago.   To be honest there does not seem to be much of change in the wood from the surrounding area.

Warning sign - do not enter


Wood Spurge

One day I shall video properly! but it is a record.............

Wood anemones

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Capturing the Day

Bright blue sky, white blossoms visited by honey bees and bumble bees, the pink blossom still to come out.  Long proboscis bees in the aubretia and Bowles wallflowers and also in the flowers of the red maple, yellow, deep pollen, contrasted against the dark red of the buds

Sparrows are nesting somewhere, fighting they invade the white blossoms, marriage trysts, territorial disputes, who knows?  The starlings are also finding nesting material, and are tame as a result, chatted to one this morning as he/she rummaged for suitable stuff, they nest up under the eaves round here.

So life is busy in the natural world, a queen bee hunting for home inspected the bird nesting box, the butterflies have flown the garage, and flutter happily round the large bay window at the front.  Hedgehogs are already out, wonder if they will stop or the young find new sheds around here to raise their young, LS says our hedgehogs have been here for 20 years.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hogback graves

Studying the Anglo-Saxon Art by Leslie Webster last night, the end chapter illustrated the late Scandinavian, from the 9th to the 11th century, stone work near to Pickering.

Brompton Church, North Yorks; Viking Hogback Graves;  10th to 12th century Anglo-Scandinavian  Grid Reference: SE37379635

© Copyright Bob Embleton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Beautiful clear images of these 'Berseckers' graves.  The bears at either end allude to the Viking habit of going mad in battle some put it down to the amanita muscaria, that lovely red mushroom, with white spots,  of course a halluncinogen.  Or maybe the wearing of bearskins  But what cannot be denied is the beautiful interlaced carving, and the 'roof tiles' of the house.  Six were found in the 19th century, some going to Durham Cathedral at the time, three seem to be whole the rest in fragments.

The Dragon Stone Levisham Church  Just two broken halves of stone, difficult to see the 'dragon', but I realise that I should start drawing again, just like Wiltshire Wanderings.  Levisham is a village between Pickering and Whitby, Levisham is the village before you take a sudden nose dive down the ravine into the village of Lockton, which also has a ruined church at the end.

Which brings me to St.Oswald at Lythe, just outside Sandsend.  This church has of course many stones, again playing round my photos which were not too good, the first shows a reconstruction of a typical 10th century Anglo-Scandinavian cemetery.  Though the illustrator has only shown the 'house' types and no ' gripping bears' at the end, though there seems to be two lions eating a man.

This looks like a badly eroded hogback , with maybe a clutching bear...


Nothing need be said, it is the time of asparagus.  A pool of butter for dipping, a runny poached  egg, this was how my grandfather cooked it.  The portobello mushrooms are an added treat..

Saturday, April 11, 2015

'Right Action'

Dragging up Ruth Fuller Sasaki from an old blog, made me go back to the books I had bought at the time.  And it unleashed in LS, the following mantra this morning,(deeply intoned because it should come from the stomach) and a spate of memories.  So first the prayer....

This is the first prayer in the meditation hall, you sit on a large cushion and meditate for 25 minutes, and then you get up and take some exercise outside, about the same length of time as you meditate. During the meditation there are two monks monitoring your behaviour, should you fall asleep for instance.
When LS as a young man did this at Ryosen-an, the two guardian monks were his teacher Dana Fraser and Gary Snyder on occasions, their role was to walk the circuit of the hall around the devotees.  For instance if you started to nod, they would stand in front of you with a flat sided cane, bow to you, you would bow in return and then they tap your shoulders lightly, before administering a sharp whack on each shoulder.  It did not hurt only woke you up.
I am fascinated by the exchange of cultures that went on in this temple, the ever greedy West wanting to take up a new cult religion, for I think that is how they saw it,  Ruth.F.Sasaki with her wealth making it possible with her translations, slightly autocratic this lady, Snyder says of her....

"Ruth Fuller did not become interested in Zen Buddhism because she was a bohemian, an artist, or any sort of cultural revolutionary.  She entered on this path because she was more than very smart; she was smart enough to realise that her own power and drive and capacity were a little too much.. from her teenage years she set herself against the assumptions of theistic religions and their language of heaven and hell, evil and sin......

Ruth Fuller Sasaki was a Lady, a Zen Lady, a title she would never shrink from.  She was to become an ordained Zen priest with her own temple in Kyoto"

LS a young English art student, fresh from Swindon Art College, having to meld into a new way of life, a life that he still feels strongly today, an outside mind would say this is because of a young person yet to mature. The strong traditions of the temple complex, the gardens and the people creating a different world, and perhaps strangely enough different foods.

LS's old prayer book - The Wooden Fish. basic Sutras and Gathas of Rinzai Zen.
Prepared by Kanetsuki Gutetsu & Gary Snyder
The First Zen Institute of America in Japan 1961

Snyder has always been a favourite poet of mine, he has the same simple framing of the world that I have, a direct relationship I suppose you would call it. Addressing the creatures around, giving them form and language in your own mind and perhaps above all acknowledging that we are all equal, superiority is just a word we humans use.  When I was about 18, decided that I needed a religious background, so read round the subject but never came up with the answer, the old bible's words, which I read from beginning to end shocked me.  I must have read round Buddhism at the time as well, but only came out with two words 'Right Action', it seemed a good enough simple model, walk away from anger, do not hurt deliberately......
Curiosity leads me along certain paths, I know Snyder's words at the beginning of Mountains and Rivers Without End, conjures up endless images and thoughts, a winding river especially, floating one's thoughts to an ever greater sea of speculation or perhaps nonsense who knows....

Clearing the mind and sliding in
to that created space,
a web of waters streaming over rocks,
air misty but not raining,
seeing this land from a boat on a lake
or a broad slow river,
coasting by.

The new Header; Is a photograph taken from a favourite spot, the mist lies in the valley over Bath, the deer chase across the field, the cows feeding in the background, and to the right would have been Kelston Round Hill, and the landscape flowing out to the great Severn estuary and the sea.

And if you want to follow the old hippies of the 60s there is Alan Watt on You Tube..

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Snail crawls

Painting by Francis Nicholson - ' The Father of water-colour painting'

I start with a painter who was born and painted in  North Yorkshire, but who later moved to London, and was much admired by J.W.M.Turner or so it says in the blurb.  Our lives are somewhat dominated by 'up there' as I shall now call it.  An email came though last evening from someone we had not heard from for a couple of years, C.C. had organised a revival of Nicholson, both in Pickering and elsewhere, if I remember correctly the Pannett Museum in Whitby and had just written another article about Nicholson's association with Stourhead in Wiltshire.......

Also an 'answer' phone call from another agent yesterday evening, which has not been replied to, about High Street Farm, which no doubt is being offered at a better price to us, but they are too late we are too far gone with  the Normanby transaction.

One of the things LS says, gosh the people are so friendly 'up there', he has long telephone conversations on various subjects.  Yesterday it was about the drainage system, and lo and behold, the manager of the company who makes them lives in the village, and will just check it for us this morning! That is not counting the lady in the church yard also, who has three relatives in the village, two of which are carpenters and the third a plumber.

We need bedroom furniture for the new house, this house has fitted cupboards and wardrobes throughout the bedrooms,  so there is nothing to take in that department except the beds and desks.  We will need a carpenter to build in some fitted stuff.  There is also fencing and gates for the front to be thought about as well.

I have been hesitant about the move, still expecting something to happen that will stop it, the surveyor for this house comes tomorrow and then that is the end and  the formalised legal stuff takes over.

And just to add to this spring like world, the hedgehogs are out from under the shed, the butterflies who hibernated in the garage are out as well, and there are bees in the garden....

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Started drinking coffee again

Writing something every now and then. Sometimes the mind goes a complete blank, especially after a week of headaches, for some weird reason a headache will often start after the coffee break. Sometimes I wonder if the bruising pain just wipes all thought from the head, note I did not say intelligent thought....  When my mind is in 'free roam' mode I study things of 'interest', only to me of course, my latest has been a very long (500 metre) barrow cairn just under Rough Tor on Bodmin Moor.  Someone said it could have been a walk way, here I must introduce the words ritual and sacred, (the act of procession) walking to the cheesewring of Rough Tor, or maybe even it could be a boundary line, a demarcation of territory and space.  I cease to ponder and move on.
Life is quiet, spring is just outside the window the birds hopping importantly around the lawn, magpies and crows cruising the roof tops looking for eggs.  The sky this morning, the soft peach of the sun overlies grey clouds giving that unusual colour to the vegetation.  Primroses are bold in the beds, Bowles purple wallflower is beginning its flowering period.  
Returned to my patchwork, why am I so untidy?? pinned the three pieces together with pins, almost ruined my sewing machine, so have decided to hand quilt.
Today is of course Easter Sunday, cannot escape it on  radio 4, to be quite honest being a non-believer it infuriates me, Sunday has always been a peaceful day for me, it stands out as quiet, even Asda does not open till 10 ;)

Pound shop frog who used to croak at one stage

cuttings will be coming with me to Yorkshire

The first sign of the perennial geranium, summer is definitely on its way