Sunday, 28 January 2018

A Country Church

As ever, visiting churches and looking at ancient monuments is a great form of solace.

This Tower at Barnack Church, near Stamford dates back to pre-Conquest times.  There is a Saxon sundial over the window, and a Saxon carving under the clock.  Saxon long and short work can be seen on the left.

Inside the church are some tombs, and a Victorian replacement rood screen.

There is also a carving of Christ in his Majesty.  Debate as to the age of this carving is found in the Church Guide Book.
Some think it is of the same date as the Tower, others that it dates to the 13th century with Saxon influence.

The symbolic gesture of blessing is very similar to that in the Saxon Angel carving at Breedon on the Hill, in the Church of St Mary and St Hardulph, Leicestershire.

I visited last week, having just been to the dentist, and had to explain that I'd rather not have an X-Ray right now, as I will be experiencing a nuclear (in the sense of radio-active) lymph node probe the week after next, and prefer to limit radiation exposure.  Also that the toothache I had been experiencing was in fact due to me clenching and clamping my teeth together so fiercely, whilst asleep, that even my plastic mouthguard could not protect them from the undue pressure.

Just going inside the church at Barnack gave me an instant dopamine shot of feelings of peace and release of tension.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Boxing Day Review.

One of the good things about keeping a blog is that it is quite literally a form of diary.  No-one I know keeps a diary any more, and nor do I.  It is therefore helpful to be able to look back over my records of my feelings on previous Christmases, and compare how I have managed this year.

Last year I had already upset lots of people, and all by Boxing Day morning.  Looking back over yesterday, I am proud to record that I only upset one person, my elder daughter.

 Last year, it was the younger one who appeared to behave selfishly.  This year the older.

 I kept stoom all through the afternoon when she sat reading a book in the sitting room surrounded by the other eight people present, all of whom were amicably keeping conversations going.  She also yawned conspicuously several times, including during the big meal. It wasn't until the last three guests had finally departed, at 9.30 pm, that I lost it.  I was desperate for some peace and quiet and to switch off.  She started wrapping presents and writing cards at 9.45 pm on Christmas Day.  I think and hope we will get over me snapping at her and in any case, when I look back on last year, I have done well.

So now we have just one more big meal to get through, and then farewells tomorrow, and it will all be over for another year. 

Saturday, 16 December 2017

100 Good Things About Growing Old - Number 24 - I FIRMLY don't want any tat. Rather have nothing than tat.

I've written before about the trials and tribulations of Christmas.

The tat, in particular, such as this item received a couple of years back.

I've asked my daughter to buy me something from a charity shop this year.  This simple action has made me feel so much better.

This morning we bought some items in Oxfam, for the tree.  Feels like a step in the right direction.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Books - My Go-To Therapy

As ever, thinking about books and reading has provided the instant solace and comfort I require.   Not chocolate, not a hot bath or a chat with one of my daughters.  Just to sink back into the world of words, and find a like-minded person.

Here's what I found while trawling the internet in search of diversion. Over and under-rated authors, a list the Times Literary Supplement published in 1977.

I enjoyed this a lot - even though I have never heard of one of the commenters listed (Mary Douglas).  Another, Anthony Powell, would himself appear on my own list of totally over-rated authors.

To summarise what I found most satisfying, here are some extracts from the complete article. The pictures are added by me.

Philip Larkin 
(geeky university librarian)

the six novels of Barbara Pym published between 1950 and 1961 which give an unrivalled picture of a small section of middle-class post-war England. She has a unique eye and ear for the small poignancies and comedies of everyday life.
D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love. This is not intended to mean that I think Miss Pym a better novelist than Mr Lawrence, but Women in Love has always seemed to me the least read­able of his novels: boring, turgid, mechanical, ugly, and dominated by the kind of deathly will-power that elsewhere Lawrence always attacked. I seem to remember that Middleton Murry felt the same way about it.

Yupp - totally agree with just about every word of both these paragraphs. 

Bob Dylan
Overrated and underrated: the Bible.
Dylan, so off the wall as ever ....  Picture, just because I love Bob Dylan 
Hugh Trevor-Roper (historian)
Leaving aside the great charlatans, like AndrĂ© Malraux and Teilhard de Chardin, who are hors concours, I consider the whole Bloomsbury group—excepting only J. M. Keynes—to be the most overrated literary phenomenon of our times. Above all, Lytton Strachey: Strachey who has recently been accorded a two-volume biography, and whose only achievement was to trivialize history, to empty it of its real content and meaning, in order to raise a few complacent titters from the radical chic of his time.

Picture - Lytton Strachey and Virginia Woolf

This one is more complex...
I love the analysis, sharply incisive, well-written, and I agree that generally the Bloomsbury Group are over-rated.  I do, however, make an exception for Virginia Woolf.  She was a radical feminist, a wonderful sister, a thoughtful and insecure person  .... And could put it all down in words, so effortlessly articulate.... Yes, I can always find something to interest me when I pick up a book by or about Virgina Woolf.

So, now, having cheered myself up, I am ready to return to normal cheerful and active state of mind.

Feeling Spiky and a Little Frosty

Just returned from the hospital, where skin consultant informed me that removal of my mole was "Urgent" and he would schedule an operation ASAP.

On the bright side, looking at a table of incidence of cancer worldwide, published yesterday in The Times, skin cancer statistically is the lowest-appearing form of cancer for men.  In women, incidence is so statistically insignificant, it does not appear at all on the graph.

Just got to keep plugging on, and counting my blessings.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

100 Good Things About Growing Old - Number 23

Suddenly, looking at Mother-of-the Bride dresses seems so much more interesting than worrying about the state of the world.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A People's History of England by A.L.Morton

I mentioned this book in my last post, in connection with The Left Book Club.  I dug out my previous review of the book, reproduced below.

A find from the Salvation Army bookshop.   It cost 10p, but I had difficulty buying it even at that price, because the volunteer behind the counter showed a preference for putting it into the rubbish bin.  I expressed horror, and he tried to placate me by saying that actually it would be recycled.  I continued to declaim against pulping books.  Was it perhaps a literal interpretation of the wording on the cover: “Not For Sale to the General Public” – that caused his attempt to prevent me buying the book?

I persisted, and ultimately, giving me the impression that he was doing me a great favour, he let me pay 10p for it, so I shut up about the sin of pulping books in case he changed his mind.

It is true that, on the cover, the words "NOT FOR SALE TO THE PUBLIC" appear in bold capitals.  However, the book was published in 1938, and has passed through at least one second-hand store, as there is a price of 50p pencilled on the flyleaf.  I doubt whether such scruples were the cause of the problem, more the ancient and run-down condition of the tome, perhaps lowering the tone of the “Sally Ann”.

Anyway, I finished it.  Oh, how glad I was to come to the end.  I had to force myself to persevere to the last page.

The book, from which I had high hopes of learning what it was like to be a peasant or a woman throughout history, (under-represented, I agree, in conventional histories)  disappointed me hugely on this score.

It presents English history entirely in terms of class struggle.  This interpretation was muted in the first eighteen centuries of the Christian era, since the classes then struggling against their persecutors were, in turn, the upper middle, then the merchant and then the bourgeois class.

For none of these will a true leftie will have the slightest sympathy. In fact the author can barely disguise the disgust with which he is forced to acknowledge their role in paving the way for the only people worth anything, the industrial working class.

By the time we got to the industrial revolution, I was considering suicide.  I realised that I was suffering from survivor guilt.  It was hard, in fact, to understand quite how the human race has survived at all, given the poverty, exploitation and general misery described. One begged for mercy, as one traced the steps by which the ruling class tramped on, starved and extracted wealth from the rest of mankind.

The increasingly frequent cycles of bust, following increasingly short and fragile periods of boom, present a further cause for ongoing anxiety. It was only huge wars, World War One in particular, (the book was completed in 1937), which interrupted this process of terminal decline.  The economic theory underpinning the book insists that capitalism really does not have any future. But wait, isn't that what the left is really all about? The book is propaganda, after all, not history.   And only members of the “oppressed working classes” count as the “People” of the title.  Anyone who is not oppressed by a minority elite is not a person at all.   This is a book written in a single key – the tone-deaf propaganda of the hard left.