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Tony Grist

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Part Way Through A Bank Holiday Heatwave [Aug. 24th, 2019|04:17 pm]
Tony Grist
We thought our summer was over- and we were wrong. Today, for the first time this year I decided that socks were inappropriate and ran a pair of sandals to earth. The heatwave is expected to continue through the long, bank holiday weekend.

On Tuesday we're booked to go to Colchester. I've been consulting Simon Knott's extraordinary East Anglian Churches website to see if there were any unmissable churches along our projected line of travel. There aren't. But then Knott and I aren't always looking for the same things- and a church he loves might leave me untouched and vice versa. For instance he loves Victorian glass and knows tons of stuff about its designers and makers while I mostly avert my eyes. And what do I look for? I asked myself. And myself replied, "Anything Romanesque, anything grotesque, any tomb earlier than 1700, and whatever still exists of medieval glass or painting."
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The Culpepper Chapel, Hollingbourne [Aug. 24th, 2019|08:18 am]
Tony Grist
The Culpepper chapel is tacked onto the north side of the chancel of Hollingbourne church. It was built in 1638 by Sir Thomas Culpeper, not only as a monument to his wife Elizabeth- "best of women, best of wives, best of mothers"- but as a family cenotaph. Elizabeth's tomb- the work of the distinguished sculptor Edward Marshall, later to be appointed master mason to the crown- occupies the centre of the building, while round the walls are stone shields designed to be filled with the coats of arms of the succeeding generations of Culpeppers. As it was, the family quit the area shortly after the chapel was built and most the shields are blank.

Elizabeth was a Cheney- and her sturdy, square-toed shoes rest against the flank of her family's heraldic animal- a very rare spotty beast called a theow- which- with its canine head and body, hooves and long, tasselled tail- is as close as the medieval mind came to realising a hyena.

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A 17th Century NDE [Aug. 23rd, 2019|09:48 am]
Tony Grist
Grace Gethin who died in 1697 at the age of 21 is buried in All Saints church, Hollingbourne. As a member of the locally powerful Culpepper family she rates an eye-catching monument- an overcrowded, rustic thing- William III in date, Jacobean in sensibility. You wouldn't call it beautiful. Charming, perhaps...

The epitaph begins, as is customary, by telling us all about Grace's distinguished male relations, then becomes rather more interesting...

We don't know what she died of but whatever it was allowed her to remain conscious right up to the end- and during those final hours she had what we now call a near death experience- and was able to relay what she was seeing to the watchers round her bed.

Anyway, here's what we're told (spelling modernised)

Having ye day before her death most devoutly received ye holy communion (which she said she would not have omitted for ten thousand worlds) she was vouchsafed in a miraculous manner an immediate prospect of her future bliss for ye space of two hours to ye astonishment of all about her, and being (like St Paul) in an unexpressible transport of joy (thereby fully evidencing her foresight of the heavenly glory) in unconceivable raptures triumphing over death and continuing sensible to ye last, she resigned her pious soul and victoriously entered into rest.

Under the main text it says...

Her dear and afflicted mother whom God in mercy supported by seeing her glorious end
erected this monument. She being the last of her surviving issue.
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Butterfly On Buddleia [Aug. 22nd, 2019|10:53 am]
Tony Grist
I went out yesterday evening to shoot butterflies- if you see what I mean- and I was just getting the focal length right when the camera ran out of power and I had to give up and take it inside and recharge it.

I went out again this morning and the butterflies had obligingly hung around and I was able to get this....

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Old Dog, New Tricks [Aug. 21st, 2019|12:39 pm]
Tony Grist
It's all new:

First the experience of hosting a barbeque (the event), then the experience of  putting a barbecue (the cooking device) together.

The one Mike left with us was very basic and we reckoned we could do with something bigger and better if we were going to make a habit of cooking outdoors-  so Ailz bought a Spear and Jackson. It arrived in pieces, accompanied by a leaflet outlining the history of the Sheffield steel industry which we read with profit.

I pride myself on my ability to follow diagrammatic instructions; I've been following them most of the morning.

The new barbecue has a hood and trays. Ailz also bought a set of long-handled tools to go with it; they come in a very manly aluminium case- which looks like it might hold one of those sniper's rifles you have to screw together. 

We have another family do lined up for this coming weekend.- and this time we're going to look as if we know what we're doing....
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A Missed Opportunity [Aug. 21st, 2019|08:55 am]
Tony Grist
It was a fairly routine dream. I had skipped out of a conference I was supposed to be attending in order to explore the town where it was being held- which I understood to be Blackburn. What was unusual was that I came to realise I was dreaming. The thing that tipped me off was the light; it looked like normal daylight- with shadows and all- but it just wasn't bright enough.

At this point- knowing I was in control- I should have taken advantage of the situation to go off and have adventures. As it was I just kept wandering around, looking into rooms, until the corridor I was walking down opened up into waking life.
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Strange Growths Of A Secret Garden [Aug. 20th, 2019|11:33 am]
Tony Grist
We have longstanding permission to go wandering around our neighbours' garden- which was created for the socially aspirant son of a Victorian railway millionaire. Yesterday I took my daughter and great nephew on a tour. Alice said she felt like she should have shown her NT membership card at the gate.

There's a walled garden. Last time I looked round it was all neat and orderly but it's been neglected over the summer so now looks like a place where statues might come alive or time slips happen. There was a chap digging in there- mitigating the ghostliness and beginning the process of setting it up to look smart for the new year. We filched a few raspberries. My great nephew retained a couple to give to his younger brother and sister.

I was drawn to these great monarchical, spiky things...

...and had a conversation with myself that went a bit like this.

"They look like artichokes, but they can't be...

Why not?

Because artichokes grow close to the ground- like cabbages- or so I've always assumed...

That's because you've only seen them in shops- being marketed as a food-stuff.

So are they artichokes?

Why don't you look it up?"

So I did. And they are artichokes- and artichokes turn out to be a kind of thistle.
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Smoky [Aug. 20th, 2019|09:16 am]
Tony Grist
We acquired a BBQ earlier this summer- but not deliberately. Mike bought one for his mother's birthday party (which he ran here because of all the space we have) and left it with us afterwards. I never thought we'd use it again, but we have done- twice. It turns out to be an excellent way of catering for large groups of people. I think we may be the last people in the British Isles to find this out.

On the first two occasions we got Mike to preside. Yesterday we volunteered my nephew Tom. It's a young man's game. We had it set up in the garage- with the doors open- because of the occasional downpours- and I lit it using my weed-killing flame gun.

The garage still smells of charcoal smoke.
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Helter-Skelter [Aug. 19th, 2019|08:13 am]
Tony Grist
My mother's newspaper has a picture of a bishop on its front page. Hmm, bishops interest me. I read his name and- well I never- it's the Bishop of Lynn, Jonathan Meyrick- my old school chum. He was a little younger than me but we palled around a bit because we both had the acting bug. Theatrical experience is useful if you're going to be a priest. For instance I always knew from being on stage- by the reverb, by instinct- I'm not sure which- how to pitch my voice to the furthest corners of any given building.

Oh, I could tell you stories...

Actually, I couldn't, Jon Meyrick was one of the nicest, sweetest people you could hope to meet. If he had a fault- and not really a fault but only annoying if you weren't in the mood- it was bounciness.

Becoming a bishop hasn't sobered him any. Search the archives and you'll find pictures of him singing rock and roll with a 60s tribute band, riding a bicycle while wearing a mitre and sat in a dodgems car in full canonicals.

In the Telegraph's picture he's preaching in front of the helter-skelter they've had installed in Norwich cathedral over the summer. His sermon included the lyrics of a Bee Gees song.

The kill-joys hated the helter-skelter because their god is a touchy old cove and has absolutely no sense of humour- but it seems to have drawn in the punters.

I wonder if the helter-skelter was Jon's idea. It would have been in character.

What a trouper.
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The Uses Of Literacy [Aug. 18th, 2019|12:47 pm]
Tony Grist
Patrick Melrose hides his fear of almost everything behind a mask of contempt for almost everything. In "real life" I'd avoid spending time in his company (because apart from everything else he'd be horribly if wittily rude to me) but as a character in a novel I find him fascinating.

This is one of the uses of fiction: it introduces us to people we would never otherwise encounter- and even takes us inside their heads. It's no substitute for direct, living experience but serves as a valuable supplement.
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