The Gesualdo Six is a vocal consort formed in March 2014 . I first saw them on Facebook, actually I’ve only seen them on Facebook, but when they pop up it’s a lovely peaceful interlude amongst the other Facebook rubbish or the Christmas hype, or this year an escape from Covid and Brexit. Visit them on Facebook to see them singing a German Christmas Carol. The picture is of one of my favourite cathedrals, Lincoln, where one of the group was a choirboy. At the top of the city it looks wonderful illuminated for Christmas.
Christmas always has a touch of winter melancholy, especially this year and one of my favourite carols for enjoying a touch of melancholy is Bethlehem Down, made more interesting and poignant by the story behind it
Peter Warlock was the pseudonymn of Philip Heseltine (1894–1930), his choice of Warlock reflected his interest in occult practices! Bethlehem Down was created in a mood of flippancy due to the impecunious state of Warlock and his poet friend Bruce Blunt – both notorious for their Bohemian behaviour. They hoped to earn enough money to get suitably drunk at Christmas; the carol was completed in a few days and published (words and music) in The Daily Telegraph on Christmas Eve. Their plan had worked and they had ‘an immortal carouse on the proceeds’.
But Warlock’s career as a composer, music scholar and critic was cut short; towards the end of his life he became depressed by a loss of creative inspiration and died in his London flat of coal gas poisoning in 1930, probably suicide.
But elves do not bring melancholy with them – though don’t you hate them hanging around in the kitchen when you are trying to cook?
A Pictorial Guide to Social Distancing
A day out is even more enjoyable if everyone is having a day out and everybody was out in Salisbury on Sunny Saturday. Our day started at the free Park and Ride; the drive north from Bournemouth is slow but pleasantly rural. The walk from the bus stop to our brunch destination took us through the busy market in the square. Then towards River Walk where we bumped straight into a cheerful ‘Salisbury for Europe’ march by our fellow Remainers. Every town and county seems to have a ‘For Europe’ group, I’m thinking of collecting all the blue badges.
After brunch we strolled to the cathedral, time was limited because we were going to a matinee at the theatre, but the cathedral is timeless. We jostled with tourists and locals through the narrow arch to the swards of green that surround Salisbury Cathedral. Cathedral greens and closes are usually delightful, with all the interesting old buildings and houses that have clustered round the great cathedrals over the centuries. On a sunny day, flowers blooming in window boxes and gardens, to live in such places seems perfect, though perhaps not with all the modern tourists.
We paused at a red telephone box, peering in to see if it was still active or turned into a safe place for a defibrillator; we had hardly had a chance to see if it still took coins when an irate voice said ‘Excuse me’ in an accent that suggested she was not local. We were standing in the way of a lady trying to take an iconic photo of her husband with a red telephone box in the background. That was the only grumpy note we heard all day, for the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral on a sunny day are a happy place to be. People of all ages, language students, tourists and families; running, picnicking, painting, taking photographs, playing badminton. Even if you are on a whistle stop tour you can still treasure a few moments looking up at the spire soaring into the blue sky.
The cloisters were also packed, I wonder what monks strolling along quietly contemplating would have made of modern visitors. There was a free grab a canvas event; children and adults busy painting on two sides while opposite, people sat with their refreshments.
While in the cloisters you can pop into the restaurant and shop with glass roofs to gaze up at the cathedral. There are also recently improved free toilets. Just wandering around is enjoyable. If you do get a chance to visit there is a voluntary donation to look around inside the cathedral. Surrounding the cathedral are museums, a lovely National Trust House and the home of the late Edward Heath, one of Britain’s Prime Ministers.
Our first visit to the Salisbury Playhouse was to see Alan Ayckbourn’s first successful play, Relatively Speaking, which we had seen a long time ago. It’s a comedy so the audience were in a good mood and it was hilarious. The theatre is a pleasant light place which we hope to visit again.
What is your favourite day out and does the weather make a difference to your enjoyment?
Salisbury features in Three Ages of Man, a stand alone novel from my Brief Encounters trilogy.
Times and Tides of a Beachwriter is brought to you today by the colour peacock blue, thanks to Kevin Parish who started the ball rolling last week by choosing one of the most exotic colours. You can visit Kevin’s blog here.
Other birds may have streaks or patches of the iridescent blue, in tropical waters we might find fish showing off that colour, I don’t think any flower could quite match it. So the male peafowl gets to have a colour named after him. His home was originally India, he may have arrived in Britain with the Romans, but most of us think of peacocks strolling proudly around the grounds of stately homes. I like to imagine the lord of the manor bringing some home as a gift for the lady of the manor, but would she be so enamoured after constantly hearing their mournful cry? Perhaps she would suggest a banquet; their beauty did not prevent them being eaten, a dish to impress at mediaeval feasts.
Would any creatures from the past have worn peacock blue? I have never been to New Zealand, but it fascinates me because it was blissfully devoid of human beings until a thousand years ago or less. Reminding us that other creatures are there because they are there, not for us to go on holiday to look at or have documentaries made about them. Did the various species of giant moas have wonderfully exotic plumage, with no predators to worry about? But they did…
‘The Haast’s eagle (Hieraaetus moorei) is an extinct species of eagle that once lived in the South Island of New Zealand, commonly accepted to be the Pouakai of Maori legend. The species was the largest eagle known to have existed. Its massive size is explained as an evolutionary response to the size of its prey, the flightless moa, the largest of which could weigh 230 kg (510 lb). Haast’s eagle became extinct around 1400, after the moa were hunted to extinction by the first Maori.’
I wonder what sights greeted the first Polynesian arrivals on these remote islands. How sad moas are no longer with us.
Further back are the species that humans can’t be blamed for making extinct. What colour were pterodactyls? It is now theorised that dinosaurs were not the shades of greens and greys they are given in pictures. Imagine a peacock blue diplodicus or could you take an irridescent blue Tyranosaurus Rex seriously?
Can artists recreate peacock blue? Artists have always sought ways to make blue pigment.
‘ Lapis first appeared as a “true blue” pigment in the 6th century, gracing Buddhist frescoes in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Around 700 years later, the pigment traveled to Venice and soon became the most sought-after colour in mediaeval Europe. For centuries, the cost of lapis rivalled the price of gold, so the colour was reserved for only the most important figures, such as the Virgin Mary and the most lucrative commissions, the church.’
The Winchester flower festival in the cathedral last year had as its theme the Winchester Bible, the bright red and blue flowers refelecting the colours used for illuminated text.
Or perhaps stained glass best recreates nature’s blue.
Next week’s colour, purple, was chosen by Sandra. If you have a favourite colour you would like to see, tell me in the comments.
Can you remember what any of these pictures from previous blogs are? No, nor can I…
Did you get ten out of ten? The answers might be, in no particular order…
London South Bank – street entertainers.
Angel of The North
Wonder sheep at the New Forest Show
Odeon cinema Bournemouth
World’s oldest clock
Font, Salisbury Cathedral
Antony Gormley – Another Time, Margate
Lego model of Durham Cathedral
Valentine Night Storm damage
We stopped in Chichester for lunch on the way back from our little break in Kent; as the clocks had just gone back this meant the afternoon was short. The roof is being restored and much of the cathedral was covered so just one outside shot. You do not need to pay entry, but it will help pay for the roof if you make a donation; if you don’t carry cash you can pay a fiver by contactless card.
Chichester was the first cathedral I visited when I was eight. We were staying for a fortnight’s seaside holiday, not far away in a converted railway carriage at Wittering. We went to the beach when it was low tide and had sand. When it was high tide and only shingle with a greater risk of drowning ( Mum and Dad never went in the sea themselves) we visited historical sights.
It was a very long time before I visited again and nothing evoked any memories except the general cathedralness, but I do know my lifelong collecting of picture post cards started that year and I acquired black and white cards of the cathedral which featured quite a few stone tombs. I recall I was most fascinated with the stone effigies, what a strange child I must have been!
As well as preserving ancient beauty such as stained glass windows and the stonework that holds them in place, cathedrals also acquire new art and music. The first thing you may spot if you are following the leaflet will be a gleaming font made of Cornish polyphant stone (easy to carve and burnish ) with a copper bowl, designed by John Skelton in 1983.
At the high altar is the wonderfully bright Piper Tapestry designed by John Piper and woven in France in 1966. It depicts the Holy Trinity. In contrast is the simple altar in the Mary Magdalene chapel with the 1961 Graham Sutherland painting depicting Christ appearing to Mary Magdalene on the first Easter morning.
Another colourful creation is the1978 Marc Chagall window based on Psalm 150 ...let everything that hath breath praise the Lord..
I completely missed a statue …mounted high over the entrance to the Lady chapel, there is a model at floor level… I only saw the model, no wonder I wasn’t that impressed. One should always look up in cathedrals.
The cathedral is also celebrating the centenary of the birth of composer Leonard Bernstein. He isn’t one of my favourite composers, but there is one work of his I love which is the Chichester Psalms. While reading the exhibition I saw you could buy in the cathedral shop a CD recorded by Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra with their previous conductor the American Marin Alsop. But when we got to the shop it had already closed at four o’clock, so I came away with no souvenirs.
When I was four years old my parents got their first television; I thought the people on the screen lived in the cabinet underneath and I was too scared to open the doors. For all I know about computers, it could still be the case that the people who spring to life on Facebook or utube live under my desk, in the black magic box that is called a desk top computer, though it is sitting on the floor.
Even those exalted friends and colleagues who are in computers, do programming or the person who turns up in your office when you call ‘IT’ probably don’t know how the magic really works.
Until it stops working, writers don’t need to know how their computer works; they only need to know how to type and how to use the internet. Indie Authors come via many routes to arrive in the same virtual meeting room, but we have all been told along our journey that we need a media platform.
Ideally this is supposed to be in place before you start your novel, let alone finish it, but many of us would never have got our books written if we had jumped in at the deep end. Instead we learn by osmosis and help from fellow writers; probably once a month discovering some technical short cut that is second nature to everybody else.
My guide to computer technology should not be followed… Never click on any strange symbol in case you wipe out everything you are doing. If something goes wrong, switch off every piece of equipment and announce loudly that you are going downstairs to cook dinner. Then sneak back in when the computer least expects it, turn on and hope for the best.
Anything I have created that appears on line is more by luck than judgment, perhaps even a miracle. When I joined Goodreads my picture insisted on being sideways, it was a long time before I figured out how people put pictures on Facebook and it was only a few weeks ago that I managed to change from a snowflake to a human representation in those little boxes next to LIKE at the foot of Worpress blogs…
But as fast as we establish one base it changes, or our superiors tell us nobody is using that anymore. Hopefully WordPress will be around for a while. I was a latecomer, realising nearly everyone except me was on it. Domains, websites, Amazon Author pages, Facebook pages; whatever you use needs to be fed, nurtured and updated. Nothing looks worse than a website that even the owner has not visited since October 2016. Of course there is no guarantee that anyone will visit your website or blog among the millions out there in the ether. Every day, in cathedrals all round the country, choirs will be singing evensong; even if not a single member of the public turns up the service will go ahead. That is the cathedral’s main purpose. And if a single soul does turn up seeking God, they will be ready for him.
Our websites are unlikely to have such a high calling, but just in case someone finds themselves in our own special domain we want it to look good and grab their interest. My website does not have moving pictures, falling snowflakes or firework displays, but there are topical pictures and enough to read for your coffee break.
Not only is it a miracle that I am on the internet, the internet is a miracle.