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Tony Grist

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Needs Must [May. 19th, 2019|09:15 am]
Tony Grist
The new (to us) cat has been living in the spare bedroom but we're going to need it for humans soon so I've moved her downstairs to the living room- which now has a door on it so we can shut her in. She is not best pleased...
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Bindweed Memories [May. 18th, 2019|10:33 am]
Tony Grist
Whenever I see bindweed I'm reminded of the time when I was living- actually more like camping out- in the old rectory of All Saints, Cambridge. The garden was full of it and my wife was trying to grow vegetables and so I devoted myself to getting rid- and in the process discovered just how mighty its root system is and how deep it goes.

All Saints Cambridge is one of the great tractarian churches. It was built by G.F. Bodley and decorated very thoroughly by William Morris and his crew. When we moved in it had been redundant for a year or two- and left to decay- and for a while I received a small stipend from the relevant archdeacon to keep the little garden in order and the aisles free of flakes of Morris-stencilled plaster. I can't say I particularly liked the building but it seemed to me it was a great pity it was being allowed to fall apart. It was historically important and imposing- and its 175 foot spire- full of dead pigeons- was one of the ornaments of the city skyline. After our time there was talk of pulling it down- which we'd now be very sorry about if it had been allowed to happen. Eventually it fell into the hands of the Churches Conservation Trust (of which I am a member) and they have restored it and lavished it with the love it once lacked. During term time my old College- Westcott House- use it as their chapel. One of these days- if I ever have reason to visit Cambridge- I must go and take a look.

So, we have bindweed- not as much as we had at All Saints but quite enough to be going on with. Wherever and whenever I notice it I take action- but I only pull, I don't dig. I know from that earlier experience that you can't hope to expunge it, only discourage it from showing its face.
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Country Air [May. 17th, 2019|09:51 am]
Tony Grist
The world smells faintly of lavatories. To begin with I blamed the cats- but the air outside is as tainted as the air inside so one of the neighbours must be spreading silage on his fields.

I'm glad it's silage not chemicals.
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Victorian Buildings [May. 16th, 2019|12:45 pm]
Tony Grist
Simon Knott (see earlier post) likes Victorian art and architecture a lot more than I do- and will commend as "really very good" a window I would do my best to overlook. Each to his own- and it must enhance the experience of church visiting if you can find it in you to appreciate the Victorian elements of a building- because they often predominate.

He makes the point that the Victorian enthusiasm for all things medieval had as much to do with spirituality as with aesthetics. They inherited buildings that had been converted into protestant preaching houses and- fired up by the Oxford Movement- did what they could to take them back to their catholic origins. They wanted to restore mystery and sensuality to their worship- but where Knott applauds the achievement I'm only willing to award marks for effort.

But nothing is ever simple and straightforward. There are Victorian churches I love- only mostly they're Victorian through and through- new builds rather than restoration jobs. I adore the Watts Memorial Chapel at Compton and St Peter's at Hascombe, both in Surrey, because these are visionary buildings, respectful of tradition but unconstrained by it- not adding to and deferring to or competing with pre-existing medieval work- but joyously doing their own thing from scratch. In both cases a single presiding intelligence- or genius- was at work. The Victorians were the first people in history to think of eccentricity and nonconformity as things to be valued- and their very best buildings are their maddest.
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St Laurence, Telscombe [May. 16th, 2019|09:14 am]
Tony Grist
St Laurence, Telscombe is another of Kipling's "little, lost Down churches". Like Southease it's to be found at the end of a road that goes nowhere else. On our first passage through the village we missed it because it's (a) partly screened by trees and (b) set close to the road but so high above it that it's out of a driver's eyeline.



Unlike Southease it's off the South Downs Way- so no sandwich eaters- and the door is kept locked. Telscombe village is tiny. There's the church and a stud farm and that's about all. If you carry on driving beyond the village you end up on the grazing land of Telscombe Tye. Saltdean is just over the rise- but if you want to get there (but why should you?) you have to park up and walk.

Correction: I was misinformed- or careless in my research- when I said that Southease and St Michael's Lewes were the only churches in Sussex with round towers. In fact there's a third- at St John's, Piddinghoe- which I haven't visited yet.....
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In Praise Of Simon Knott [May. 15th, 2019|01:21 pm]
Tony Grist
In my last post I tipped my hat to Simon Knott- the creator of a number of monumental websites dealing with the churches of East Anglia. He knows his history, his architecture and ecclesiology (it adds spice that he's a believing Roman Catholic) and is very good on the accidentals of church-visiting- like weather and atmosphere (which can change from visit to visit) and encounters with churchwardens and other random folk. (He was once threatened with a libel action for publishing a frank account of his dealings with a hostile rector). His energy is astonishing; on a good day he says he can take in 15 churches if he's driving and 12 if he's on his bike. He has done the whole of Suffolk and Norfolk and is coming to terms with Essex and Cambridgeshire. He posts lots of pictures.

He makes me feel like a dilettante.

Someone should do what he has done for the churches of South East England. There are existing sites, but they tend to be heavy on the sofits and light on the anecdotes. It won't be me (alas) because I've left it too late...
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St Andrew, Southease [May. 15th, 2019|08:45 am]
Tony Grist
"Little lost Down churches praise
The God who made the hills..."

Southease is about as lost as it gets. It's off the main road- to the South of Lewes- on a loop of very narrow road that goes nowhere else- and yet it gets more visitors than any rural church I've ever been in.

Because it's on the South Downs Way.

And most of the visitors are very visibly hikers and cyclists. They sit on the benches by the gate and eat their sandwiches. They take pictures- and we all do our best not to get in one another's line of sight.



The building is Saxon and Norman and a bit of this and a bit of that. It has ghostly smudges of 12th century wall paintings- which I puzzled over and failed to interpret except that I think the least faded image represents St Luke's winged bull. It is wonderfully rustic. And it has a round tower- one of only two in Sussex- the other belonging to St Michael's Church on Lewes High Street. Simon Knott, who writes about East Anglia where there are lots of round towers, says they're easier to build than square ones. I'll take his word for it because I've never tried. Where they survive it's a sign of rural poverty- because patrons and rectors with a little money to flash liked to replace their round towers with square ones because square was grander and smarter.



I like the roof. I like the patterns it makes. Some of the timbers look new and some look very old. I stood in the chancel and pointed the camera upwards and this is what I got.

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Hawthorn [May. 14th, 2019|06:12 pm]
Tony Grist
The hawthorn is in bloom all over Sussex- in lanes, by roads, in gardens, on the hills- and there's just so much of it. Here's a particularly windswept tree above the village of Telscombe in the heart of the South Downs.



The name of the hill is Telscombe Tye. Turn round, climb a few paces to the brow of it, and there's the sea.
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Boombah, Boombah, Boombah [May. 13th, 2019|10:41 am]
Tony Grist
A car goes past on the Maidstone Road with its in-car entertainment system going at full blast. The road is about three stone's throws away from the house and all I can hear is the thumping of the bass- which sounds so exactly like the big drum of a marching band that for a moment I'm fooled and the part of my mind that works in pictures conjures up a march past of bandsmen in scarlet jackets and shakos. A split second later the part of my mind that does logic chimes in and says, "Don't be silly, they'd not last five minutes on the Maidstone Road with the traffic the way it is."
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Silver [May. 12th, 2019|09:09 am]
Tony Grist
If you put silverware and stainless steel in the dishwasher together there's a chemical reaction that stains the silver or so I've just read. I reckon it's true because we've been washing everything together indiscriminately and our silver has been coming out in spots and stripes. The discolouring polishes off but it would save labour if we retired the silver and just used the cheap stuff- of which we have plenty- so that's what we're going to do.
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