Wednesday 29 July 2015

Two Summer Fruits

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
A.E. Housman 1859-1936 - A Shropshire Lad
Late July and the cherries are ripe
Cherry Ripe by John Everett Millais - 1879

Penelope Boothby
Millais's Cherry Ripe was loosely based on Joshua Reynolds's portrait of Penelope Boothby whose sad little tale and exquisite marble tombstone I showed here
  Cherry Ripe written by Robert Herrick in the C16 was put to music by Charles Edward Horn during the C18
The refrain Cherry Ripe is thought to have originated as a street trader's cry

Cicely Mary Barker - Cherry Tree Fairy
Cherries are loaded with antioxidants which help to fight disease, very rich in vitamin C, and high in iron
Similarly peaches too are rich in antioxidants along with vitamin C and contain the minerals potassium, fluoride, and iron 
William Mason Brown C1880
Cherries and Peaches are featured frequently on paintings. On this link there are 91 paintings of peaches covering more than five centuries.

 Both fruits are used as idioms in the English language to express how wonderful everything is - life is 'a bowl of cherries or a peach' - however, when spoken satirically the meaning is the opposite
Peach Conserve
I simply want to enjoy them whilst they are here and once again that easy French recipe comes in so handy

Friday 24 July 2015

St Mary's Stow-in-Lindsey

Big skies, wide rolling landscapes crisscrossed by ancient watery dykes, willow tree fringed; views as far as the eye can see; these for me define the Lincolnshire Wolds and Fens
There is something very appealing about the vernacular architecture of
long low slung cottages sitting beneath pretty terracotta pan-tiled roofs 
However, some of the oldest surviving buildings still in use in Lincolnshire are churches, many of which were built before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Fragments of these buildings still survive today, in some cases more than fragments, and one of those churches is St Mary's Stow-in-Lindsey. It is one of the oldest parish churches in England; founded in the C7 and considered to have originally served as the Cathedral Church to the ancient diocese of Lindsey, that is, until Lincoln Cathedral was constructed in the C11. 
 Lincoln Cathedral - Norman at its heart but a triumphal tribute to C12 - C14 Early English Gothic style 

The Worlds Monuments Fund lists St. Mary's as being one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world. It is in desperate need of weatherproofing and then for the internal decoration work to be addressed. The good news is that this major work and restoration is now underway.

A pleasing example of window history summarising the story that is St. Mary's.
The slit window is Saxon, the round window late Norman, whilst the Decorated Gothic window dates from the C13
Viewed from the outside the Saxon window has a simple 'palmette' decoration to the hood; there are Saxon long and short stone quoins at the corners similar to those seen at Odda's Chapel, Deerhurst. 

Mighty original Saxon arches in the central crossing remain
Once supporters of a Saxon tower now replaced by a C15 tower. The Saxon arches are sadly rather diminished and overpowered by the later Gothic arches erected to support the new tower
Quote by Simon Jenkins
"The Gothic arches have worked their way into the old structure like four sturdy youths sent to help their elders bear the burden"
The Chancel is a magnificent piece of Norman architecture for a parish church. I find Norman round arches aesthetically pleasing with their crisply incised geometric and chevron patterns.
Exquisitely carved crenellations around some of the windows and crisp zigzag carving to the rib vaults in the Chancel
Fragments only of an early wall painting survive
An illustration shows how it would have looked. On the right sits Archbishop Thomas à Becket at dinner in his chamber. A dish and plate on the table with two attendants. On the left can be seen part of the interior of Canterbury Cathedral - the chapel of St. Benedict. A chalice and book with Greek letters A and Ω; alpha and omega - first and last. The Archbishop is shown dressed in cloak and hood with his hands extended in prayer. Two threatening swords can be seen: one held by Reginald FitzUrse and the other by Richard le Breton, the two knights who delivered the first blows to Becket. The wallpainting is showing the murder of Thomas à Becket and is a rare survivor

C10 graffiti can be seen at the base of the Chancel wall - it is the earliest known representation of a Viking ship in England - thought to be the work of a Scandinavian trader. The Vikings were a powerful force locally during that period. The shallow graffiti in the stone did not show up well so I have imposed a drawing on top of it.
A nice little group of carved faces showing traces of early paintwork are thought to have been used to support a statue
Two musicians supporting a stone shelve

From the exterior the lofty stone walls and steep pitched roof, once thatched, reveal the saxon building. I have seen an illustration showing that the Saxon tower would have been shorter, topped with a pyramidal style roof, also thatched. There was so much that I could not photograph in this church - the early Gothic octagon font showing pagan images on its eight faces amongst them a Green Man, a Pentagram, and an imagined grotesque fish, the Norman carved surround to the entrance door, and in fact a view of the whole outside of the church. The side to the left of this photo, the nave, was completely hidden by scaffolding and covered in wraps both inside and out whilst the major restoration work is carried out.

Visited end of May 2015

Tuesday 21 July 2015


Over the years I have been lured by kitchen gadgets which supposedly make life quicker and easier, but have arrived at the conclusion that the good old fashioned inexpensive originals that our mothers used take some beating.
The Juicy Salif lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck - designed for Alessi
Several lemon squeezers have past through my hands including Philippe Starck's Juicy Salif. I love it, the lemon juicer appeals to my sense of design, and importantly, I have used it. However, it doesn't separate the pith and the seeds, it requires a little bowl, not included, to fit snugly between its rocket style legs requiring you to hold on to them, with some difficulty, whilst squeezing the lemons. Juicy Salif now compliments my stainless steel kitchen shelf, where I admire it as an object d'art, but not a lemon squeezer.  My mother used a cheap pressed glass juicer all her life which worked a treat.
Over the years many tin openers have also been purchased, hands free, soft handle, easy open, electric.  My mother's little manual tin opener was used week in and week out and as far as I remember it lasted her all her life. Graters too, I have one on an electric machine which is such a hassle to drag out of the cupboard, assemble, and then there's the cleaning of all the bits and pieces after use.  I have fancy Parmesan graters that are difficult to clean and reassemble, others that scratch your skin and break your nails whilst cleaning. 
When in France I decided to stock up on some good old fashioned kitchen gadgets, I suspected that French households would not put up with the rubbish tin openers we get here in the UK. I am thinking  about the ones that emulate my mother's little tin opener which today either don't open the tin cleanly and efficiently or come apart within days.
Armed with a few euros I entered my son's local supermarché in Paris and headed towards the kitchen section. Joy of joys all the old fashioned stuff was available piled high on the shelves and it was so cheap. They all appear to be very well made and work perfectly. With the strong pound against the euro I paid only €6 = £4.50 for all three items. 

Thursday 16 July 2015

Notre-Dame de Paris et plus

Notre-Dame at the end of the C19
Notre-Dame - one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture
Before entering, ponder and observe, the intricately carved Gothic stonework sculptured around 1220 which surrounds each of the three western portal doors. The first portal depicts scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary and the third shows scenes from the life of St. Anne (the Virgin Mary's mother). It is the central portal showing 'The Last Judgment' that is my favourite. 
On the lower lintel, the dead are being resuscitated and awakened from their tombs by angels blowing trumpets. Above the archangel Michael is weighing their souls according to the lives they led on earth and the love they showed to God and to man. The chosen people are led to the left towards Heaven (on Christ's right) and the condemned are lead to the right, to hell, by evil looking devils. In the tympanum, Christ is seated in majesty on his throne of glory, reminding the observer that he came to earth to save humankind through his sacrifice on the cross. He is showing the wounds on his hands and side whilst the two angels next to him bear the instruments of Passion: the angel on the left is holding the spear and the nails of the Cross, and the angel on the right is holding the Cross itself. Mary and John the Baptist, kneel behind the angels in support of Christ as they did at his crucifixion. At the top can be seen the Heavenly Court showing angels, patriarchs, prophets, martyrs and virgins
A medieval stone carvers idea of heaven and
hell - lots of lively antics going on here!!!
In closeup note the anxious and distressed faces of the condemned and the wicked expressions of the devils. Amongst the condemned are bishops, monks, kings and queens. Beneath the lintel the resurrected, their eyes still sealed in death, are pushing up their tomb lids. One has to marvel at the exquisite artistry and vivid imaginations of these medieval stone carvers
The South Rose Window
The three rosettes Notre-Dame de Paris are some of the greatest glass masterpieces in Christianity. The South Rose Window was donated by King St. Louis designed by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil. The rosette is dedicated to the New Testament and has 84 panes divided into four circles. The first one has 12 medallions and the second has 24. A third circle is made up of quadrilobes, and the fourth circles has 24 trilobes. This window features the religious symbolic number 4, along with its multiples, 12 and 24
A 1000 years of hand stroking has polished the base of these pillars
Diagonally across the River Seine from Notre-Dame is one of our son's favourite places in Paris
Shakespeare and Co is a mecca for all bibliophiles. During the 1920s it was a gathering place for writers such as Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford. 
Taking a walk up the steep hill to eglise Saint-Étienne-du-Mont with a pause at this boutique filled with intriguing objet d'art - here our son saw a French 'automata' - an elephant juggling balls, which travelled back home with him
A rest and an ice cold drink at this highest point in Paris was welcome

In the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is the shrine of Sainte-Genevieve. She became known as the "Patron Saint of Paris" after she supposedly helped avert an attack by Attila the Hun and prevented famine by penetrating a military blockade with boatloads of grain. There are many heroic accounts of her life which are a mixture of both fact and legend 
The church possesses a remarkable early French Renaissance C16th rood screen which dramatically crosses the original Gothic nave like a bridge with a high walkway along the length of the nave and accessed by spiral staircases on either side. It is totally unique and conjures up strong feelings  - admired and loved by most Parisians but disliked by others - however, there is no doubt that it is a tour de force in carved stonework
The upper level walkway
The organ and case dating from 1633 is an acknowledged masterpiece considered to be the most beautiful in Paris. Renowned organist, composer, and improviser Maurice Duruflé held the post of Titular Organist here from 1929 until his death in 1986.
Another treasure is the wooden pulpit dating from 1651. It is on a monumental scale, beautifully carved and has at its base, whilst holding the pulpit on his shoulders, a sculpture of Sampson. Around the pulpit are carvings of 7 women symbolising the virtues: Prudence, holding a book; Justice, a sword; Faith, a cross; Hope, an anchor; Temperance, pouring wine from a jug; Fortitude, holding a club and Charity, surrounded by children