October 10th, 2015


Another Cobham Tomb

The Cobhams were mighty tomb builders. The tomb of Reginald the third baron (featured yesterday) is high art. That of his grandfather- the first baron- who was one of Edward III's commanders and fought with distinction at Crecy and Poitiers - is cruder, but still very fine. He powns two Saracens- one (bodiless) on his helmet and the second reclining at his feet, looking cheesed-off  but with his body still attached to his head.



I do the Telegraph cryptic crossword most days- and sometimes I learn something.

Today, for instance, I had to solve the clue, "Plant starts to ruin everything in border"- and the answer had to be "skirret". Only what's skirret?

I looked it up and found two meanings.

1. Skirret is a root vegetable, rather like parsnip only more peppery. It comes from China, was a favourite of the Emperor Tiberius and popular with the Tudors- but then fell out of favour because it's hard to grow commercially.  They're currently cultivating  it in the kitchen gardens at Hampton Court.

2. Skirret is the proper name for the peg and string tool used by builders to make sure their foundations and courses are running true. Freemasons use it as a symbol of straight dealing.