Thursday 28 November 2019

Festive preparations

Last Christmas was particularly relaxed and easy, and very much appreciated by me. All of the main tasks towards the day were undertaken by one of my DiL's, but this year the job has fallen to me. In order to try and reduce my never ending Christmas list, I decided that now would a good time to make a start 
The cake is made - it just requires a layer of marzipan, then icing, and decorating. The pudding is ready, and all of the cards and gifts have been bought. Because the grandchildren are no longer young we give them money in order to buy themselves whatever they prefer together with just a small gift. A few days of attention, and I now feel so much more in control than I did at this time last week.
My computer woes continue, it keeps crashing on a regular basis. I know that I need a new one as it is 10 years old, but I do require help from one of my sons when he can spare me some time to help with the transfer. 
I recall that years ago our printer was playing up, and a chap doing replacement windows for us at our home, suggested to me that I unplug it for a while, which I did, and it has worked ever since. My almost new washing machine suddenly stopped operating, and the telephone advice was to unplug the machine for at least half an hour, and curiously it too has worked perfectly ever since. I have now tried the same trick with this computer, all of the plug attachments were removed for an hour, and then reattached. Surprisingly, for the past three days the computer has not crashed again - I am now touching wood, and tightly crossing my fingers!!!

Thursday 21 November 2019

Tintagel, Cornwall

King Arthur, Merlin and the sword of Excalibur via wiki
Centuries of debate have surrounded the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table as to whether or not they actually existed. On the adjacent island to coastal Tintagel, the remains of an ancient castle can be seen, and this has always been considered to be the prime candidate for his elusive home. 
However, apart from a strong presence of his folklore in and around Cornwall there are also several other areas too that claim a history of tales surrounding King Arthur, all of which also happen to have strong Celtic links, two of which include Wales and Brittany in France.  
The photo from the previous post shows the Cornish island, known as Castle Island, and the cave sitting at the base of it is supposedly where Merlin lived.  
Recently English Heritage have built and opened a brand new bridge making crossing over on to Castle Island from mainland Tintagel far easier. This has, however, resulted in a large influx of visitors, and even though we visited at the end of October, it was far busier than we anticipated. 
Walking the old route to explore the remains of 'King Arthur's castle' on the island is via a steep climb of over 100 zigzag steps to reach the summit, but now you can nip across on the new bridge quick and easily.
We, however, decided to simply view it from afar on the mainland, and then climbed back down to Tintagel via the ancient cliff top church of St. Materiana. 
Do you know why the entrance pathway to the church has a seat either side with a small dividing central wall? It is what is known as a coffin rest;  there are not many church entrances like this, but in my experience they appear to be a feature seen more in this south western corner of the country. Where I live we have a local church with a lych gate that has a coffin rest. These too are rarely seen but if interested you can see the post I did showing it here. 

St. Materiana was built almost entirely as it appears today, in its cruciform shape of nave, chancel and transepts, between 1080 and 1150, in the time of the first Norman earls of Cornwall. The church was built on the site of an oratory served during Celtic days by the monks of Minster and later replaced by a Saxon-style building. 
A Bronze-age Monolith sits amongst the grave stones revealing a long history of human habitation in and around this area.
Inside the church is a very large fine Norman font with four grotesque heads at each corner; having been carved more than 900 years ago, the lost details in the faces have now taken on a more benign appearance. Each head is linked by a serpent with their heads and tails curved upwards representing evil spirits expelled by grace. 

This is a lonely, and remote clifftop spot, but can you picture how it might look on a wild, stormy, mid-winter day, with the ancient church and tomb stones swathed in a swirling fret blown in from the Atlantic! It would be very easy to imagine the presence of those mythological knights who are said to have walked this land during ancient times. 
Now, however, it is time for us to depart and walk back down to Tintagel and view our final destination. 

We have come to see this medieval stone building which is a rare survival of a Cornish hall-house dating back to 1380. For most of its life it was used as a domestic property for a yeoman, but during the Victorian era it was used for a number of different businesses, finally ending its days as a 'letter receiving station'; an early fore-runner to a post office.               
The buildings very distinctive undulating roof of slate tiles has a profile resembling the waves seen on the nearby ocean.  Having stood the test of time for almost 800 years, I imagine that it is likely that it will still be standing here for many more years to come.  

Wednesday 13 November 2019

Autumn Magic

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; 
John Keats
Keat's poem 'To Autumn' was written exactly 200 years ago: Whilst writing it he knew that he was suffering from tuberculosis, a disease with no known cure. It became his final poem and was included in a collection of his work known as Keats's 1819 odes. He travelled to Italy for the winter seeking warmer weather, along with hopes of finding a cure, but sadly died just over a year later at the age of 25. 
We have taken several short breaks this Autumn, especially down to Devon/Cornwall - it's a very easy, quick journey for us. Whilst we have been absent several Roe deer have claimed ownership of the garden. They have nibbled all the remaining flowers on the begonias and geraniums, and are now happily dining out on the hedges. However, ultimately this will mean less work for the hedge cutting men when they arrive. It is the end of the gardening season so I am happy for them to eat whatever they fancy, they need all of the nourishment they can get to sustain themselves throughout the winter months. Usually two or sometimes three seniors turn up, but recently we have had a group of five very young ones visiting. Fortunately they appear to be well nourished and healthy, but are far more timorous than the older ones. When I watch the adults through the window, and they spot me, they neither flinch nor move away, but stare straight back as if to say "what do you think you're doing here?"
We visited this lovely Cornish location at the end of October, an area steeped in history and legend, but do any of you know who lived in this cave?
Not sure when I will be able to post again - the wretched computer keeps crashing!

Thursday 7 November 2019

King's Lynn continued.....

In 1101, Bishop Herbert de Losinga began constructing medieval King's Lynn. He commissioned St. Margaret's Church, now called the Minster, and in that same year he granted the people of Lynn the right to hold a Saturday market oposite the church which became a major attraction to European traders seeking wool and cloth. At this stage the town was known as Bishop's Lynn, but the name changed to King's Lynn following the Reformation. However, to the local people it has always been known as 'Lynn'. 
On the south tower of the Minster is a tide clock, sometimes called a moon clock, presented to the church in 1683. The lettering reads Lynn High Tide, and a green dragon's tongue shows the time of the next high tide. It was easily visible from both the port and the river and a useful aid to the sailors and merchants.
This 14th century misericord depicts Edward the Black Prince and shows his shield mounted with three ostrich feathers, an emblem used by all subsequent Prince of Wales, including Prince Charles. The Black Prince never became king as he died before his father Edward lll. His son, Richard ll, was only 10 years old when he succeeded to the throne. 
Adam Walsoken died 1349 and Robert Braunche died 1364. Both were King's Lynn mayors and major figures in the Great Guild whose chapel was in St. Margaret's.
Their two memorial brasses are amongst the largest and most elaborate to be found in this country. As a result of the towns strong German links, they have been attributed to Flemish artists working in Bruges. It is known that the visiting German merchants also commissioned similar high status Flemish memorials for themselves.  
  These two large brasses are set into the church floor making them notoriously hard to photograph. The angles are difficult as are the reflections caste down on the brasses from the large windows. The image above reveals just one very small detail of a celebrated peacock feast that Robert Braunche staged for King Edward lll in 1349. 
Across the road from the Minster several of the town's important civic buildings line the area known as Saturday Market. The Old Goal House is now a museum but for 400 years it is where Lynn's most notorious citizens were imprisoned.

Stone was a scarce commodity in East Anglia, whilst flint was easily found in the ground and on the beaches. The chequered board solution used here was an inspired outcome, and also aesthetically pleasing.
This a close up to show just how the medieval builders achieved it. 
This series of magnificent Trinity Guildhall buildings date back to the 1420s, they have impressive windows and all have a distinctive stone and flint chequer board patterned, plus a Jacobean porch added in 1624. Lynn merchants were men of considerable wealth generated by their overseas trade, they dominated both the Town Council and the Holy Trinity Guild. 
St Nicholas' Chapel is now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, but is still consecrated, and has occasional services. It was built as a 'chapel-of-ease' to the Minster, and is the largest chapel of its kind in England. Light floods in from its windows highlighting 900 years worth of treasures. 
The spire is a replacement designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1871 as the original spire was blown down in a storm in 1781.
This exquisite medieval south porch with several empty niches originally held painted stone figures. Now a shadow of its original self, it is a reminder of how impressive and colourful it would have been prior to the Reformation. 
The west door has wooden panels dating back to 1400, and is a little treasure. It has recently been restored and painted in it's original green and terracotta colour scheme.  
There are now just four stained glass windows in the Chapel, and this one in particular caught my eye. It resembles the work of the pre Rapaelite Brotherhood, but I have been unable to find out who designed and made it.
This beautifully carved marble urn monument is the work of famous Scottish architect Robert Adam.
The craftsmanship of the woodwork in the chapel was of such high quality that some of its most famous medieval bench ends are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London - unusually two of them show sailing ships in full rig. 
However, the carved wooden angel roof still has it's 24 angels keeping a keen eye on everything taking place below, as they have done since 1415. 
With outstretched wings they either play an instrument or sing, just one angel holds a hammer and four nails being the symbol of 'Christ's Passion'.

Angel playing a recorder - this is the earliest portrayal of this instrument in a church carving. 
Because the angels are so high up it is impossible to see all their details with the naked eye, so when I saw this angel on the computer, I enjoyed the fact that the craftsman had given it some cute little toes. 
  It is clear to see that each angel has been worked on by different carvers; some are more refined than others.
An angel playing what appears to be a very small pipe instrument.
This is the oldest church angel roof in the country, the only other older angel roof is the one in Westminster Hall, London, which was carved 20 years earlier.