Tuesday 25 September 2012

Three Hares in Devon churches: a map

get a copy of this map here
(edit, added June 2020: I have updated my map, and you can see the newer version here)

The image of three hares sharing three ears can be found all the way from here to China, where the earliest examples are found. But Devon, and especially Dartmoor, is particularly rich in them.

I've been visiting the churches where the hares can be found; the search has taken me to some beautiful places. Deborah Harvey has written a poem about them, which you can read here. Some of her poem features on the map...

Here are places where you can find the hares in the churches, but do take a torch!

Cheriton Bishop
Newton St Cyres
North Bovey
Sampford Courtenay
South Tawton

Here is photographer Chris Chapman's Three Hares Project, with lots of excellent pictures.

The map is available as an A5 print, over on my Etsy shop.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Uffington crabs

On our way to Buscot the other day, we went looking for The Best Place To See The Uffington Horse. We found a couple of likely contenders.

..a Hercules flew by as we gazed admiringly at the ridge across the wheat stubble. I recalled my ATC annual camp at RAF Brize Norton, back in the 70s, and tried to remember the names of the big aircraft they had there then. It's getting harder.... hmm, Argosy; Belfast; Andover; great big things, long gone now ... we did a march on the North Downs (military people apparently don't ramble, saunter or bimble; they march. Which is like rambling but in serge). It was my first visit to this area; I'd got a vague notion of the South of England being a vast amorphous suburban sprawl, and it was a pleasant surprise to see the wide open spaces of Oxfordshire. We sat in the sun, gratefully eating our RAF packed lunches, and a middle-aged couple who were Serious Ramblers (you can tell by the sticks and hats and stuff) paused so that the woman could aim her nose at us and say "Ay HOPE you're going to take your litter haym with yew".

Ah, different times.

We stopped at the foot of the Down and picked up a pile of crab apples, as I first did at the same place  two years ago. Most of the crabs were out of reach, but there were loads of windfalls. "Shall we just pile them in and share them out at home?" I asked. "It's OK, you take them," said Deb. "I'd like a jar of jelly though, if you can spare it." 


I thought I might be able to manage that.

Nice things to do on an equinoctal day: boil up crab apple jelly with cloves, mace and ginger, while listening to Hatfield and the North. Some things don't change very much... Share It!

Friday 21 September 2012

excessive sensibility

As we left town by the Abingdon Bridge,  Jules pointed out the old gaol, now being converted into flats; and, on the other side of the road, the Broad Face Inn, apparently so called to describe the appearance of someone who's been hanged. "They once hung an eight year old boy there," said Julie. "It might be the record for youngest person hanged."

 We were soon in Dorchester on Thames, a village which enjoyed the lack of through traffic that comes from being in a loop of the river. The abbey was huge, spacious and uncluttered. "I used to sing here," said Jules., "The acoustics are lovely."

She told us about this tomb. The young woman had killed herself, and unusually for that time was granted a Christian burial. Here's the inscription:

If thou hast a Heart fam’d for
Tenderness and Pity, Contemplate
this Spot
In which are deposited the Remains

of a Young Lady, whose artless Beauty,
 innocence of Mind, and gentle Manners,
once obtained her the Love and
Esteem of all who knew her, But when
Nerves were too delicately spun to
bear the rude Shakes and Jostlings
which we meet with in this transitory
World, Nature gave way.
She sunk and died a Martyr to Excessive Sensibility.
Wife of Captain FLETCHER,
departed this Life at the Village
of Clifton, on the of June 1799,
in the
29 year of her Age.
May her Soul meet that Peace in
Heaven, which this Earth denied her.

I recalled this tomb being described by Robert Gibbings, the engraver, publisher and author, in his book 'Till I End My Song'. He lived just across the river by Wittenham at the time of writing. Here's what he says.

Sarah Fletcher committed suicide, and according to the custom of that period she should have been buried at a cross-roads with a stake through her heart; but instead her body was given a place of honour in the abbey church. Her husband had not only been faithless to her but had proposed matrimony to a wealthy heiress, living at a distance, and had been accepted. Only at the last moment did Sarah hear of this; only just in time to stop the marriage ceremony did she arrive at the church. Then she returned to the big seventeenth-century house at Clifton Hampden where she had spent her married life and with her handkerchief and a piece of 'small-cord' hanged herself from a curtain rod in her bathroom."

The inscription on the abbey floor might reasonably have been the end of this unhappy episode, but that was not to be. As time went on the big house where Sarah had lived and died acquired the reputation of being haunted. Tenants stayed but a short time: the garden became a wilderness, the outbuildings fell to ruin. After some years, because of the low rental that was asked, the place became a school, and though the headmaster had heard rumours of eerie happenings he said nothing of them to his pupils. ‘There are always noises in old houses,’ was his answer to his own questionings. Then in the early hours of a morning the son of that headmaster, a seventeen-year-old boy who later became the Rev. Edward Crake, heard footsteps in the passage, his door was opened and he could hear the footsteps in his room; but though it was moonlight he could see nothing. The unseen walker went from the room and the door closed.

The boy said nothing to his parents of what had happened nor of similar occurrences during the night that followed; but on the third night he determined to leave his door open in order if possible to see the originator of the sounds. And, as he told the story in later years, ‘I had not long to wait; the footsteps of someone wearing high-heeled shoes came into my room; they approached the bed and then retreated. I sprang up and ran into the corridor, fully lighted by the moon, and there the figure of a young woman was made manifest to me. She was standing by one of the long windows and she was wearing a black silk cloak; her hair was bound with a purple-red ribbon. There was nothing dead about her; she seemed tremendously alive but her eyes were full of tears.

‘The next day,’ continued Mr Crake, ‘I mentioned what I had seen to one of the assistant masters and found that I had stumbled on what was common knowledge to the staff, though any hint of it had been withheld from the pupils. At a quarter to three every morning restless footsteps wander from the room in which Sarah Fletcher hanged herself.’

The speaker of these words died in 1915, but others of equal integrity, before and since his death, have told of the footsteps they have heard in that house in the early hours of the morning, and of the woman in a black cloak with tangled auburn hair who had looked out at them from noonday shadows or been seen in the half-shades of moontime.

Wednesday 12 September 2012

careful, now


I popped over to IKEA to get some more picture frames, as the nice folk at the Oxfam Bookshop in Cotham have just sold another of the pictures I have on display there (the starlings, since you ask).

While I was over at Eastgate retail park, I went into ASDA's 'Living' store to see if they had anything useful. Riding up the escalator, I was surprised to hear warning announcements at both the bottom and the top. Obviously, you can't be too careful.

So I stopped and listened again, and made a note of the wording. The announcements sandwich these two verses. The rest is by me.
Please stand still and hold the handrail while travelling”;
You’ll see the promise of so many objects of desire
As you ascend, it’s safest to hold back;
Don’t worry, you’re already on the track
And deeper in as you go higher.
In-store security will stop you from unravelling.

You have the credit, so we’ll welcome you, direct you to the trough;
There are no windows, no uncomfortable views intrude.
The goods that we display here are the goods that you deserve
For being a good citizen, and we are here to serve.
Please form an orderly queue and don’t be rude;
Caution; you are approaching the end of the escalator- please step off.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

The World According To My Radio

Swimming to the surface out of sleep
I hear my radio through rippling water.

News that Iran is making
enriched geranium
promises a world where war
brings nothing deadlier
than the rain of scarlet petals
showering from Kalashnikovs,
purple and pink blossoms
settling on the balconies
of houses standing whole
after mortar fire, shells
bursting with the velvet leaves
of verbena scented foliage.

Stealth bombers load their bays
with trailing pelargoniums
and nuclear bunkers beneath
the apple orchards of Glen Clova
are generously packed with seeds
of pansies and forget-me-nots.

When the warring nations tire
and begin to treat for peace,
platoons of gardeners
with brooms and rakes
clear the debris from unharmed streets
and carry it to giant silos
where it magically makes compost
in which regiments of nurserymen
will grow enriched geraniums.

Pameli Benham

Pameli kindly suggested this poem as lending itself to an illustration. So here they are together.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Secret Underground Bristol

This Saturday sees Bristol's Doors Open Day. So the Bristol Books and Publishers folk will be down at the Benjamin Perry Boathouse, with our bookstall. As well as being worth a look for its own sake, the Boathouse is a good place for a cup of tea and a bacon butty. And a book at a discount price! (As we're selling dreckly to the public, we can knock lots off the retail price).

 Perhaps of particular interest to visitors to the adjacent Redcliffe Caves will be Sally Watson's classic Secret Underground Bristol. Usually priced at £14.95, you'll be able to get it for £10 on Saturday. It's a really good book with lots of pictures. There really is a lot of underground Bristol, you know -like, f'rinstance, did you know about this cave? -thought not. Come and get the book! And bring your torch.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

stormy weather

A chilly September morning here, and only three weeks ago I was waking to this peaceful dawn in East Prawle, Devon.  Breakfast of tea with condensed milk, and Trangia toast. Happy days. 

The weather got very wet and blowy, though, and a few people cut and run, some abandoning their tents by the rubbish bins. So they missed the fun when the sun came out and the wind freshened even more... here we are wrestling a tent to the ground to prevent it relocating to Dartmoor, all rather like those chaps you used to get up the masts on windjammers, fighting the sails as they rounded Cape Horn...

The wind didn't stop us swimming, in Bob's Creek, where the swell caused the water to rise and fall quite impressively but the worst of the waves stayed outside.

Katie engaged in some Extreme Reading, having got to an exciting bit in Clockwork Orange

Back at the field we found that our tent had blown down; the end pieces had broken off the ridge pole, and it had collaped, ripping the flysheet as it went. Fortunately, I had my Phoenix Phreak 'serious weather' tent in the car, so we were OK.

(Some more Prawle pics here )

I've now finished the tent repairs, and put it away in the attic for the next time. 25 years old and still going strong!

Monday 3 September 2012

pictures at the Oxfam Bookshop

There has been much framing of pictures round here at Schloss Marland. On Saturday I loaded up the bicycle, and hurtled down to Cotham Hill, and the Oxfam Book Shop, where I hung them up.

...and forthwith got chatting with a customer who was interested in the three hares design, and bought one. Thank you! 

Oxfam get 50% of the proceeds from sales of the pictures, and I get enough to cover my costs and have the occasional coffee. And you, gentle reader (and possibly prospective purchaser), get a picture! 
OK, that's the sales pitch done. Back to work. Here's one I just finished for Katy-Louise down in Devon.

Sunday 2 September 2012

not so proud

"The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."
                                                                                George Orwell, Animal Farm 
Pride events are increasingly becoming more complacent than proud. The LGBTQI spectrum is still wide enough for some of us to feel like outsiders when we see the Gays In Ties phenomenon in action: those privileged and entitled chaps who forget that there are other letters than G, hobnobbing with the Establishment, speaking for us without a mandate, ignoring us. Getting it wrong.

Thus we had Toiletgate at London Pride 2008, when trans women were refused access to the womens' loos, and one was assaulted in the mens' toilets in consequence.

And then Priscillagate at London Pride in 2009, when prospective trans participants were told that they would be allocated a float -at the back of the march -with the theme of Priscilla Queen of the Desert....

And yesterday, Brighton Pride attempted to remove the Queers Against Cuts group from the march. After intervention by Caroline Lucas, the group were 'permitted' to march at the back, in what was effectively a police kettle. While Conservative politicians marched ahead with LGBTorys, accompanied by police LAGLOs. 

Funny old world. Glad I wasn't there. Though if I had been, I'd have been at the back. In solidarity. Meh.