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Tony Grist

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St Margaret Of Scotland, Buxted [Jan. 23rd, 2019|08:58 am]
Tony Grist

Every month of the year has its own light- or range of lights. January sunlight- when it shows up, which isn't all that often- is arctic, crystalline.

The light lasted for a morning and faded out while we ate a supremely good lunch at the White Hart in Buxted. By afternoon the sky had clouded over to the extent that our sat-nav thought it was nightime.

The object on which the light is falling is the tower of St Margaret of Scotland, Buxted. St Margaret is an unusual dedicatee- at least for England. She was an 11th century Saxon princess, born in Hungary- who married the King of Scotland and had sons who were kings in their turn. I gather from Wikipedia that she was very, very pious and- having grown up on the continent- favoured Roman practices over those of the native Scottish church. She was canonised in 1250- which is around the time Buxted church was going up.

The church stands in the grounds of Buxted Park- an 18th century mansion, titivated by the architect Basil Ionides in the mid 20th century, which is now a hotel. There was once a village round the church but it was moved to an adjoining hill because Lord Liverpool (what was Lord Liverpool doing in East Sussex?) didn't want nasty peasants living so close to his swanky new mansion.
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Beginning Of The End [Jan. 22nd, 2019|08:55 am]
Tony Grist
I dreamed I was starting my last term at school and sitting in a huge classroom with hundreds if not thousands of people. I really didn't want to be there.
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The Vanishing Man: Laura Cumming [Jan. 21st, 2019|01:00 pm]
Tony Grist
In 1623 the young Diego Velasquez is reported to have painted a portrait of the young Prince Charles- later Charles I of England. The portrait- if it ever existed- then disappeared from the record.

In 1845 a Reading bookseller called John Snare bought a picture in a local auction that he came to believe was the lost Velasquez. He devoted the rest of his life to trying to prove his case.

The portrait travelled with him wherever he went. It was exhibited in London, Edinburgh and New York and cost him no end of trouble along the way. Some connoiseurs agreed with Snare, some disagreed. It was never copied, never photographed and was last heard of in 1903. It has since disappeared without trace.

So there are three vanishing men-

Velasquez- about whom we know about as much as we know about Shakespeare.

John Snare- in his own way as elusive as Velasquez.

And, of course, the man in the portrait.

Along the way we learn about Velasquez's art (Cumming believes him to the greatest painter ever), about 19th century snobbery and connoiseurship- and we follow poor John Snare in his ever more bedraggled quest for validation- a story with all the twists and turns of a fictional mystery.


And the painting? It may still be out there somewhere. Was it a Velasquez? Quien sabe?
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Another Year Notched Up [Jan. 21st, 2019|09:16 am]
Tony Grist
Ailz bought fleece lined trousers for my mother but they were too long in the leg and rather than return them to the seller (which would involve taking them to a collection point in Wadhurst or Marden) I claimed them. Normally I wear jeans but I thought if I didn't choose to wear the fleeces on a frosty day like today I never would- so I did.

At my age you get up several times in the night as a matter of course so it was no hardship- or nothing out of the ordinary- to be up at 4.30 to take a look at the super blood wolf moon. The sky was clear over Kent but a little hazy- and the moon was high in the sky and small and brown and blotchy with silvering to the side. It looked unwell.

My mother didn't want to get up this morning. "Oh, go away!" she said. I told her to stop behaving like a 5 year old and I hadn't wanted to get up either but I'd made myself. Then, once she was on her feet, I lightened the mood by telling her it was my birthday and how old I was. "You're never 68," she said.

"Oh yes, I am!"
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Misdiagnosis [Jan. 20th, 2019|11:14 am]
Tony Grist
Ailz found some carpet cleaner in the kitchen cupboard she was Kondoing.

"I'll use it to clean the mud stains from the carpet," I said.

"That's not mud," she said. "It's Christmas pudding. I was hoping Matthew would bring his dog round and she'd hoover it up."
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Moving Along [Jan. 20th, 2019|09:19 am]
Tony Grist
The snowdrops have been out for a few days- a week even- and the flowers of the winter aconite are in tight little yellow balls and on the point of opening.

The horse owners removed one of their horses yesterday and one of the two that remain has been shouting for her.

Ailz has absorbed the Kondo thing by osmosis and is being radical with the kitchen cupboards. She dug out several packets of very much out of date oatcakes and I took them to the compost heap and found myself feeding them to a grieving horse.
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A Mass Decluttering [Jan. 19th, 2019|11:44 am]
Tony Grist
We took a carload of bags to the charity shop in Pembury and added them to a long trail of bags and boxes that stretched from the stockroom at the back out into the store and halfway to the street door. The manager in the stockroom was making a call to a colleague (presumably in another shop) asking them to please come and scoop up some of the donations and take them away because they had been overwhelmed.

Why this orgy of giving? Perhaps people are getting rid of unwanted Christmas presents, suggested Ailz, or of things that had been replaced by Christmas presents. Well, possibly- though none of our donations fell into either of those categories. Or- and this has only just occurred to me- perhaps they've been energised by Marie Kondo, the suddenly famous guru of tidying up, whose Netflix series began airing on New Year's Day.
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Zen Story [Jan. 18th, 2019|07:40 pm]
Tony Grist
The old abbot was handing over control of the monastery to his successor. "Take this book," he said. "Generations of masters have written in it."

"Keep it," said his pupil. "You taught me without words, so what do I want with a book?"

"Take it as a symbol of all you have learned," said the master and pressed it into his hands.

His pupil threw it straight into the fire.

The abbot lost his temper for the first time anyone could remember."What are you doing?" he yelled.

And the new abbot replied calmly, "What are you saying?"
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Cold But Sunny [Jan. 18th, 2019|03:56 pm]
Tony Grist
The temperature fell below freezing last night and it's been cold all day. On the other hand the sun has been shining. I was out this morning sweeping leaves- a job I've been putting off- which must mean I'd rather be out on cold bright days than on mild, damp, cloudy ones.

There's something to be said too for the ground being frozen- and one's footfalls crunching rather than squelching.
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Done For The Time Being [Jan. 18th, 2019|09:58 am]
Tony Grist
My rearrangement of "the library" hasn't been as thoroughgoing as I'd have liked but at least all the Chestertons are together and all the de la Mares and all the Kiplings. Also I found the Collected Poems of Sidney Keyes- the absence of which got me going in the first place. It will continue to be a work in progress, because- unless its one of those petrified collections you find in National Trust houses- a library is a living thing.
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