St Nicholas, Sevenoaks

We drove to Sevenoaks for lunch- and before we went to the restaurant we took a walk through the town centre- and into the enclave of older buildings at the southern end, where Sevenoaks school is, the drive to Knole House begins and....

"Oh look," said Ailz sardonically, "A steeple house."

And I acted surprised and said, "Well, since it's there I might as well take a look..."

Last time I visited St Nicholas, Sevenoaks it was locked. This time the parish office was open and the nice man behind the desk waved me through into the body of the church...

"Is there anything you're particularly interested in?" he asked

And I said, "Well, those wall monuments are really rather splendid..."

And they are. But we'll come back to them tomorrow, when I've had time to edit my photographs.

In the meantime here's a particularly charming headstone. I love the way the two cherubs seem to be kissing.

The inscription reads...

To the memory of Grace, daughter of John and Sarah Nash, died May the 8th 1757, aged 25 years

In my God I hope to rest
And with my Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The pains of death I have gone through
And so I bid all friends adieu.

You will notice that the middle two lines of the verse epitaph were too long to fit on the stone and the mason has had to cram the final letters of "Christ" and the whole of "through" into the spaces between the lines. I wonder what John and Sarah thought about this rather untidy expedient...

Three Fairly Disparate Things

It rained a lot yesterday- on, off, on, off- with occasional distant thunder- and when it wasn't raining the sun came out and we sat on the patio. Ailz used the word "tropical". Now, I've never lived in the tropics so I wouldn't know if this was accurate or not, but it certainly felt unEnglish.

One of the side effects of all the swapping about of furniture I did at the weekend is that my "work station" now faces the window and I can watch what's going on at the bird feeder without turning round. It's a change I should and could have effected ages ago. New to the feeder this summer are a couple of jays. (There may be more than two but that's the most I've seen at any one time.) Jays are shy birds- generally only visible as a flash of electric blue in the middle distance- and I feel honoured by their confidence.

I've been switched on to the work of Paul Anthony Wallis- who thinks the God of the Old Testament- was an ET- or, rather, a bunch of ETs. This isn't exactly a new idea, but he's telling a cogent, well-evidenced story- and one that irons out a lot of inconsistencies and oddities in the Biblical texts. Anyway, I've gone ahead and ordered his books- Escaping From Eden and The Scars of Eden. An interesting fact about him is that he's a former Anglican archdeacon. Another interesting fact is that he's deeply into Russian Orthodox spiritualty.


I've moved my mother's armchair out of the TV room and put it in the dining room- which is where Ailz and I mostly hang out. Now that she no longer sees or hears what's on screen it seems neglectful to leave her in there by herself...

You move one piece of furniture and you find you have to move a whole lot more.

We have so many chairs we could seat a symphony orchestra- though the percussionists might have to make do with foot stools and poufs. There's a dining room set I'd love to get rid of: it consists of two chairs with wings and seven without (number eight having been mislaid). It purports to be Regency- and probably is- though that doesn't mean it's worth anything. It's too late to get it in September's Wokingham sale, but perhaps we can manage the one after that.


My sister and her husband took a car load of heirlooms to the auction house in Wokingham and we now have the auctioneers' receipt, along with guideline valuations. There's only one object in the batch that they think will reach three figures, but one never knows...

It's all good fun.

And to add to the jollity we've been told there may be something dodgy about the exceptionally high price reached by the knocked-about tortoiseshell tea caddy we sold earlier. I haven't got the details entirely straight but it's something to do with the buyer not having paid up yet and a suspicion of money-laundering. If the deal falls through the caddy will be recycled into a future sale.

There's no auction in August because no-one wants to work too hard in high summer- and the next will take place in early September.

The Nicolson Diaries Come To An End

I have finished the Nicolson Diaries. As he gets older so the entries get shorter and the company glitters less. Health concerns begin to nag- and then to dominate. He has mini-strokes, fears that his intellectual powers are failing- and his last book (a commission his son the publisher pushes his way in an act of reverse nepotism) proves that this is indeed the case. Vita is ill too- more seriously ill than she lets on- and is treated at Pembury Hospital- which is where we go too when we absolutely must. She dies- and though he keeps his diary for a couple more years the content is apparently too painful to be published. He dies in 1968, by which time he is far advanced in senility...


I'm wary of "experts". Some of them are owned by the universities, corporations and politicians who pay their wages. Some of them are self-appointed. Some of them have read a lot of old books and not that many new ones- or, indeed, vice versa. Some of them are opinionated and stubborn and set in their ways.  Some of them are dogmatists- and trying to sell you a line. All of them carry baggage.

Knowing a lot about a subject isn't the same as knowing the truth about it.

Nothing Lasts Forever

We did the circuit we often do- driving from Matfield where we live to Brenchley where the doctor's surgery is to Paddock Wood where we visit the charity shops- and then back home again- and on the way passed five sites where this is happening...

Small villages are swelling into large villages and large villages are swelling into towns- and the in-between places are ceasing to be lanes and becoming streets- and none of it thrills me greatly. I ask myself whether anyone apart from the construction firms and the politicians they fund really benefits from this- and note that none of the sites look like they feature the kind of homes the nation actually needs- by which I mean small, modest homes that people who aren't bankers or hedge-funders can afford.

And then I wonder what will happen to these new houses when the population begins to shrink- as I'm fairly sure it will- and this conjures up a cheery vision of the roofs collapsing and the walls being robbed out- as happened in Dark Age Britain when the Roman soldiers left- and the trees and grasses moving back in until only archaeologists can read the signs that show they were ever there at all...

A Manchester Of The Mind

There's a city I visit in my dreams; it's a northern city, based, very loosely, on Manchester. It feels like Manchester but has many more cathedrals and monastic ruins. Last night I arrived at the very edge of the city and looked out into a crystalline landscape I knew to be Yorkshire. I wanted to visit those sunlit hills and take photographs, but, unfortunately...


A few days ago I was thinking, "I'm seeing a lot of small heaths right now, but hardly any other kinds of butterfly" when a red admiral flew past my elbow and plonked itself down on a nearby leaf.

And this morning I was thinking, "I'm seeing a lot of red admirals now, but I don't think I've seen a peacock yet" when... well, you know the rest.