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Tony Grist

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Stupid Tree [Aug. 16th, 2018|11:15 am]
Tony Grist
We have a Motability car- and tomorrow we exchange it for another. We took it to the car wash Tuesday and today we had it out on the drive so I could brush the carpets and some tree (species unknown) was dropping sticky bloody seeds all over the paintwork....
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Heartsick At Having All His World To Blame [Aug. 15th, 2018|12:50 pm]
Tony Grist
I wonder how old Peter was when he took on the job of fronting the early church. Artists show him as a middle-aged to elderly man - almost invariably bald- but Jesus was in his early 30s (we assume) when he started his work- and it's unlikely he chose men older than himself to form his inner circle. A lot was asked of them- physically and mentally- they can't have been dodderers.

A modern pope, in the nature of things- given that he's had to have had time to rise up through the hierarchy- is bound to be clocking on a bit- past his prime- with all that goes with it in terms of stamina and energy levels.

Pity Francis: he's been tasked with reforming the organisation that created him- and in which he's embedded- and he's well past the age at which people with worldly jobs retire.

Did he know what would be required of him when he was elected? Oh, he'll have realised child abuse was on the agenda- but had he any idea how vast the problem was- how systemic? Did it strike him- and does it strike him now- that it's not just a matter of a few malefactors to be weeded out but that the Church's whole business model is flawed? A priestly caste, all male, unmarried (celibate doesn't seem to be the case any more- if it ever was) and as self-protective as privileged groups always are- does he ever think, "Well we need to get rid of this for a start"?

Does he draw comfort from the knowledge that his time in the post is limited- by which I mean, of course, that he'll soon be dead?
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Such Is... [Aug. 12th, 2018|09:23 am]
Tony Grist
The cat caught a bird- and brought it into the house. He put it down on the carpet and went into a crouch a few inches away, prepared to pounce on it if it moved. I couldn't tell if it was dead or alive, but knelt down and held the cat back while Ailz made an attempt to scoop it up. That brought it back to life and it fluttered into the window embrasure and flattened itself against the wall, half hidden by the curtain.

The rest was easy. I opened the window. It saw its chance and flew away.

"Didst thou ever see a lark in a cage? Such is the soul in the body."
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An Aunt Of Interest [Aug. 11th, 2018|10:52 am]
Tony Grist
A great aunt- or someone of that sort- had died and I was sorting through her effects. A stack of photographs in colour of her dancing in a chorus line- all taken from the wings of the theatre and all very much alike- were for the bin but a series in black and white from the 40s and 50s- more documentary than pornographic- dealing with her career as a prostitute- were definitely for keeping. I remember thinking- at some level acknowledging that I was dreaming- how very much like "real photographs" they were- with their high contrast and recognisable faces. At this point the great-aunt- back from the dead- interjected some remarks that seemed cogent at the time but which I have now forgotten. There was also a piano; the Bishop of Leicester said he would take it off my hands but only if I first "had its label restored".
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Unsettled [Aug. 10th, 2018|08:04 pm]
Tony Grist
It's been raining for two days now, on and off. I've spent so much of this summer out of doors I hardly know what to do with myself when I have to stay inside.

This evening's sunset- a streak of dark pink under heavy cloud- looks like a conflagration.
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Hardham: After The Fall [Aug. 9th, 2018|04:56 pm]
Tony Grist
Adam and Eve get busy inventing agriculture. They don't look happy about it. Adam wrangles some unruly vines while Eve milks a cow.

A cow? Really? All the commentators say that's what it is, but I think it's a deer. The painter surely knew what a cow looked like- and that's never a cow. Consider the delicate skull and those elegant hind legs.

Either way, the image of Eve milking a whateveritis may well be unique in European art. I can't think of another example.

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Hardham: Adam And Eve And The Serpent [Aug. 9th, 2018|04:41 pm]
Tony Grist
The best preserved of the Hardham murals is this- of Adam and Eve and the serpent. At some point the chancel arch was enlarged and the serpent lost its tail- otherwise....

I don't have anything more to say except that it makes me think of Picasso.

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Hardham: The Annunciation and Visitation [Aug. 9th, 2018|02:09 pm]
Tony Grist
The murals at Hardham have suffered attrition. They've been covered in whitewash for much of their history, windows have been punched through them and bits shaved off them by architectural improvements, damp and decay have done their bit and early attempts at cleaning and restoration were unkindly, but they're all still there. Some of the iconography may be indecipherable (I take it on trust that the west wall represents the torments of the damned) but you can stand in the nave and turn in a circle and what you're seeing is a complete 12th century decorative scheme.

The best-preserved paintings are those on either side of the chancel arch.

Here, on the side facing towards the nave, are an angel with a censor (flanking an Agnus Dei which is out of frame), the Annunciation and the Visitation. The haloes of the Archangel Gabriel and Virgin Mary are painted in malachite green- the most expensive colour used anywhere in the scheme. The text in the band above the figures reads VIRGO SALUTAR STERILIS FECUNDA PROBATUR- which rhymes. It means "The Virgin is saluted, the barren proves fruitful."

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Hardham's St George- And The Battle Of Antioch [Aug. 9th, 2018|10:44 am]
Tony Grist

Hardham's iconic image of St George on horseback has suffered considerable damage and it's not at all clear what he's fighting. It could be a dragon, but the presence of what looks like a kite shaped shield in the top right hand corner of the composition has persuaded commentators that he's actually riding out against Saracens, as is reported to have happened at the Battle of Antioch in 1098- an event which would have been within living memory- and possibly quite recent memory- at the time the murals were painted.

The fortified city of Antioch occupied a strategic position on the supply route between Europe and the Holy Land. The forces of the First Crusade besieged it in 1097, captured it and were then besieged in their turn by the Turks. On the 28th of June, 1098, the Crusaders staged a breakout. What happened next is described by the contemporary chronicler Peter Tudebode:

"Our bishops, priests, clerks, and monks, clad in sacerdotal garments, marched out of Antioch with the army, carrying crosses in their hands, praying and begging God that He save them and guard and deliver them from all peril and evil. Others stood on the wall by the gate of Antioch, holding sacred crosses in their hands, making the sign of the Cross, and blessing the army. Thus arrayed in battle formation and protected by the sign of the Cross, the crusaders began to march out of Antioch by the gate which is before La Mahomerie.

When Kerbogha saw the Frankish army leave Antioch, one formation following another in well-executed maneuvers, he commanded: “Permit them to come out of Antioch so that we can have a better chance of capturing the main force.” The footmen of Hugh the Great and the Count of Flanders first marched out, and then each rank followed in its order. Following the emergence of the Christian army from the city, Kerbogha became very apprehensive when he saw the great size of the Frankish forces. Consequently, he instructed the emir who was commander of the field operation that if he saw a signal fire rise in the front ranks that he should immediately sound retreat and withdraw Turkish forces, because he would know that they had lost the day. Kerbogha at once little by little began to retire toward the mountain, only to be followed by our army in like moves.

Then the Turks split their forces; one marched toward the sea while the other kept its position. By this move they hoped to trap our army between the two units. Upon observing the Turkish move, our forces formed a seventh line from the troops of Duke Godfrey and the Count of Normandy and made Count Rainardus commander of it. This unit moved against the Turkish contingents coming from the sea. The Turks then engaged them in battle and inflicted heavy casualties with arrows. Our other group drew up ranks between the river and the mountain, a distance of two miles. The second Turkish force began to advance from their position and to surround our men and to wound them by hurling missiles and shooting arrows.

In addition, a vast army riding white horses and flying white banners rode from the mountains. Our forces were, very, bewildered by the sight of this army until they realized that it was Christ's aid, just as the priest, Stephen, had predicted. The leaders of this heavenly host were Saint George, the Blessed Demetrius, and the Blessed Theodore. Now this report is credible because many Christians saw it. The Turkish division flanking the sea became aware of their inability to endure more and kindled a grass fire so that the view of it would precipitate the flight of those in camp. At the sight of the signal fire, the Turks seized and fled with all of their prized possessions and booty.

Our soldiers gradually fought their way to the Turkish tents where the greatest resistance lay. Duke Godfrey, the Count of Flanders, and Hugh the Great rode along the banks of the river, where the Turkish strength was concentrated. Protected by the sign of the Cross, this force was the first to launch a coordinated assault on Kerbogha's troops. After observing this attack, our other line struck the enemy. The Turks and other pagans then yelled out; and our men, appealing to the One and True God, spurred their mounts against the foe. Thus in the name of Jesus Christ and the Holy Sepulchre they engaged in battle, and with God's help the Christians overwhelmed the infidels."
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St Botolph, Hardham [Aug. 9th, 2018|08:58 am]
Tony Grist
We followed the signpost to Hardham Church Farm and wound up in a farmyard where a man sitting in the cab of his tractor told us we'd missed the turning and if we went back down the track we'd see the church across the fields to our left. "It's worth seeing," he said.

And so it is.

St Botolph, Hardham has a nearly complete set of early medieval murals- including the earliest paintings of St George anywhere in England. The building is probably pre-Conquest (dating things in the early medieval period is largely a matter of informed guesswork) and the murals were painted around 1100 by artists known as "The Lewes School"- because they may have worked (informed guesswork again) under the direction of the Prior of Lewes. Their work survives in three other local churches- Coombes, Clayton and Plumpton.

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