Architecture, Art, British history

Looking Back

Sometimes an image will transport you to another time.

The carved bench ends of St Winnow’s Church in Cornwall take you straight back to 1520!

The same place, the Fowey estuary, but 500 years ago. A Tudor boat, like the ones they saw from the church yard, but in a heavy sea, blown by the wind god.

Local craftsmen will have been carving what they knew. Images and icons of the time, emblems, armorial bearings, monograms or, maybe an allusion to a sponsor, perhaps a guild. They were artists so there is more to the work than Christian symbolism — they capture the essence of the time.

According to Todd Gray, A Gazetteer of Ancient Bench Ends in Cornwall’s Parish Churches, these carvings of tools are images of the Passion (above is a hammer and pincers, pillar with cord and 2 whips). With my artisan’s hat on I wonder if they represent carpenters and the ceremonial truncheons — the marks of authority of maybe the constable and the two keepers of the poor-house.

You will note that some of these bench ends are better preserved than others — the church was renovated in 1874 and care was taken to preserve the ancient bench ends at that time.

This is supposed to be the symbol of the martyr Saint Catherine but her wheel should have impaling spikes to inflict her horrible death and be broken by the power of her holy spirit. Could it actually be a nod to the wheelwright who financed this particular bench end? Did he sit here?

As I get older I realise how short is a lifespan. How near we are to 1520 — how nothing changes. Here is the bench end that confirms this. Have you noticed how the archaeologists on TV are obsessed with ritual — I always look for practical explanations — is this chap a sinner or just marking the brewer’s bench?

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British history, Psychology, Thoughtful

Is this a train, a bridge or a river?

In response to my last blog — on rivers, my friend Steve sent me a copy of his favourite river scene…

It set me thinking… As we look out at the world, what we see depends not so much on where we are standing but who we are.

When the children of our reconstituted family were young, I noticed that if they witnessed an event, an altercation in the street, for instance, when they each told me about it they often interpreted it quite differently. It was startling.

My 15 year old step-son came back from town one day and reported, ‘We were going down the Headlands and this hoity-toity lady had a go at a man who was trying to park his car but he wasn’t going to be bossed about by her, he told her where to get off and no mistake!’

Later my daughter described the same incident, ‘We saw this lady, she was a bit like Gran, and when she asked a man to move his car because it was blocking her drive, he went bananas! He was really rude.

Both perfectly nice kids with eyes and ears that worked, heard the same words but what differed was the way they each saw the world — different genders, different characters, different formative experiences, different viewpoint — they saw it from a different angle.

I think we all have an idea of the world and as we look about we mould what we see and hear to fit this view — it is our nature to want to confirm our preconceptions.

So, is this a river, a train, somewhere to fish or a health and safety issue? Steve says it’s 92 Squadron, a Battle of Britain Class locomotive, built in 1948 to a Southern Railway design at Brighton works. Now at the Nene Valley Railway where it is lovingly tended and where you can visit it.

The name commemorates 92 Squadron which flew Spitfires very successfully in the WW2 Battle of Britain, financed from the East India Spitfire Fund.

Card sold in aid of East India Spitfire Fund and salvaged from wreck of SS Gairsoppa which was torpedoed off Galway on a voyage from India to Britain in Feb 1941 — Salvaged because it went down with £150 million in silver bullion!
Spitfire overhead!

Thanks Steve!

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adventure, British history, Communication, Cornwall, Entertaining

Running the Helston Branch Line

Film by Bill Carr featuring his dad, my daughter’s partner, Pete. The project is part of Bill’s university course and takes ‘helping with the homework’ to a whole new level!

Seven minutes and well worth watching!

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Architecture, Birds, British history, History

We get more than we bargained for!

Stonehenge 10.04.2022

On our way to Cornwall we stopped off at Stonehenge — free for National Trust members so we thought we ought to get our money’s worth! Both of us had last visited more than half a century ago and were sure we would hate the modernisations.

You park miles away and take a shuttle bus — very quick and restful — especially as you can see all the walkers striding out on the horizon — forging their way across Salisbury Plain to the ancient monument.

Bill was slightly appeased for the loss of birding time by the receptionist at the monument:

Large rook meeting and greeting the shuttle bus.

But what is this — marching to meet us?

Is it a goose? ‘It’s a wild turkey’, an American lad informs me. Oh no it isn’t — it’s only one of the rarest bird in Britain!

Recently re-introduced to a secret location on Salisbury Plain nearly 200 years after the last British bird was shot in 1832. This one has been named Gertrude by Stonehenge staff and has been making personal appearances since 2016. Nobody had told us so we were surprised and delighted, no one more than Bill who travelled to Hungary in 2019 to see their bustards who were very shy and only to be viewed though high powered lenses!

And the 4-5 thousand year monument… Since we last visited you can no longer touch the stones and some of the stones have been re-erected giving a better idea of how it might once have been. The circulation of visitors has been changed so that you can get the full visual impact without people getting in your way.

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