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In praise of the messy

thekeep

I went to a lecture tonight. It revolved around a cache of hundreds of 18th Century personal letters that turned up in the back of a closet.

Think of this, O ye tidy folk — all the history we have comes from someone in the past who couldn’t bear to throw something away. However hard it is for us to believe it, everything you can see in the room where you are sitting will be interesting in a hundred years, fascinating in two hundred and a priceless antique in three.

The picture is from the About page of The Keep — the repository of the East Sussex Record Office where these letters (and thousands of other interesting documents) live. You probably don’t have any specific connection to East Sussex, but you can spend a merry hour or more plugging words into the search box and seeing where it takes you.

As promised, I shall be lame tonight, and even lamer tomorrow night. I’ve got an all-day seminar to go to, far away.

October 12, 2017 — 9:10 pm
Comments: 11

I saw the Flit!

whitgift

We went to Bateman’s today, home of Rudyard Kipling and the setting for my favorite Kipling book, Puck of Pook’s Hill (a collection of short stories about Sussex, and I loved it long before I lived here).

We’ve been to Bateman’s many times, you may remember, but this time there promised to be an exhibition of Arthur Rackham‘s illustrations for Puck of Pook’s Hill. Rackham is one of my all time favorite illustrators, this one one of my all time favorite books — perfect, yes?

Meh. They only had three original paintings and a few framed prints. The room was small and dark and the pictures were framed under shiny glass. Hard to see and underwhelming. They didn’t even have any Rackham books or cards in the gift shop.

I did get to see the original of this picture, though. It’s called the Dymchurch Flit, Dymchurch being a coastal town and “the flit” was the fairies leaving England forever. Chapter 22 of the book.

The story goes that the fairies got sick of our shit in the 1530s, during the nastiness of the Reformation. They turned up on Romney Marsh with their bags packed — Romney Marsh being a stick-out bit of coastline that is the furthest southeast you can go on the island without getting your feet wet. There they begged the Widow Whitgift to let her sons sail them away in a boat, and she did.

They came back after three days, but one son was blind and the other mute, so they never told anyone what they saw. You can read the chapter here, with some footnotes and explanation here.

Not my favorite Rackham painting and not viewed under the best conditions, but it’s always a thrill to see the original of a work that you know well from reproduction.

September 26, 2017 — 7:36 pm
Comments: 13

And then everybody lost their damn minds

bwbb

“Quite literally gobsmacked and raging to see this in Asda Huntly”

“This is so damaging and we cannot possibly still be spouting this nonsense to our children”

“In my opinion, this particular phrase perpetuates rape culture.”

Ah, don’t worry ladies. It’s not for sale any more. They sold out of them.

I’m generally pretty optimistic about human history. I believe the long arc of the species bends toward common sense, with a few unfortunate detours. But, just lately, I’ve been nagged by a disturbing thought: we are old. The people who believe this shit are young. When we are gone, they will still be alive.

Is this just cheap clickbait, or the shape of things to come? Please, if you have grandchildren, do everything in your power to corrupt them to the Old Ways. Our precious t-shirt slogans depend on it.

Good weekend, all!

May 19, 2017 — 9:15 pm
Comments: 8

Speak to me, Ozymandias!

pharoah

Another one to file in the “cool things you will never, ever find in your back yard” file. They drained some standing water in a Cairo slum and found this. They found most of the rest of it, too. They think it’s Ramses II (the Big Guy), and there’s probably more where that came from in that particular small and trash-strewn corner of the city.

You’ve probably seen this one, too — it’s all over the news tonight. But, hey — I’ve been upstairs painting chickens this evening.

By which I don’t mean applying coloring agents to Mapp. I mean painting teeny, weeny, tiny chook portraits. Rendering minute burbly wattles is fun! I’m’a spend my whole weekend doing it.

Hope your weekend is just as awesome!

March 10, 2017 — 10:44 pm
Comments: 13

Over the hills and far away

trumpatubby

I have no idea what will come, but today my friends are smiling and my enemies are glum. It beats the alternative.

Good weekend, everyone!

January 20, 2017 — 9:38 pm
Comments: 28

Come in, Lord Satan. Have a seat.

satanchair

One of our oldest local inns is closed this week for general renovation. I got a chance to walk around and take pictures today. Hoo boy, was there some beautiful furniture! Not original, except for some spectacular wall carving, but they’ve bought antiques appropriate for the period.

Hard to photograph dark brown furniture, alas. I hate using flash, but there was no other way to get sharp images.

This guy lives in an inglenook AND SOME DAY HE MUST BE MINE. I don’t know anything about him except he’s real, probably 16th or 17th C, and they call him the Unlucky Chair.

There was an article in the Mail today about how Ikea is killing the antiques trade. Probably Mail hyperbole, but it is true that so-called ‘brown furniture’ is at a very low ebb at the moment. We must start haunting the auction sites — O, how I love me some brown furniture.

But they’re talking about the 19th C stuff. Beauties like Goat Chair don’t go cheap.

January 18, 2017 — 10:20 pm
Comments: 7

Lookit this fine lady

finelady

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes.

There were three Banbury crosses, all destroyed by the Puritans. So I’ve read. Banburians put up another one in Victorian times, in honour of Princess Victoria (the old lady’s first child).

But this Fine Lady, believe it or not, is a modern commission. 2008. And she’s a very fine bit of civic sculpture, at that. It’s bronze, but I don’t know by what process makes it look whitish instead of the usual brown/green.

Yes, she has rings on her fingers and bells on her toes. If you go poking around Google, you can find closeups of several details. It’s full of pagan-y, hippie symbolism:

Spring Flowers: The Fine Lady wears a crown of thirteen (the ancient months of the year) spring flowers, alternating daffodils and wild roses. Hidden among the flowers you can spot two butterflies and a moth.

The bells on her feet are interpreted as both musical bells and by seven bluebells, (representing the days of the week) on her toes and she drops petals from her raised left hand.

The raised left arm not only balances the raised right leg of the horse, it represents the creative side of the brain while the right arm holds the reins showing motor control.

The frog represents metamorphosis, the cycle of nature and community.

The other symbol to look for is the Sun, which has been a symbol of Banbury since the sixteenth century.

But the whole thing is so beautifully modeled, I do not care. I bitch lots about ugly public sculpture; it’s nice to see something so well done.

January 4, 2017 — 9:55 pm
Comments: 14

Be part of a crowd (maybe)

map

This came across my desk today. It’s a map of the 1,100 known wrecks along the South Coast of England between 1914 and 1918.

Whoa.

It speaks to the brutal efficacy of the u-boat blockade that very nearly starved Britain in the Great War.

The Maritime Archaeology Trust has gotten a grant to work with diving clubs to crowd-research identifying some of these wrecks from the bzillions of artefacts they’ve brought up. I haven’t looked at the particulars, so I don’t know if it’s something a Yank might be permitted to join from the comfort of his favorite armchair.

The project’s main website is here (the site is well worth a browse even if you don’t want to participate).

If you just want to look at cool pictures, the Maritime Archaeology Trust’s Sketchfab site is here. Sketchfab is for 3D, so you can make their models go ’round and ’round.


RimrockR wins the dick! John Glenn dead at 95. What say ye — is there time to queue up another Dead Pool for tomorrow, or would you feel rushed?


The ‘ayes’ have it — new Dead Pool Round 92. Tomorrow. 6WBT. Be here!

December 8, 2016 — 8:50 pm
Comments: 18

I shall call him…Channy

submarine

Engineers working for Scottish Power found this submarine in the North Channel off the coast of Scotland, and they weren’t even looking for it. It’s near a place called Stranraer (Elmer Fudd couldn’t hitchhike to here if his life depended on it).

It’s either UB-85 or its sister boat UB-82 – apparently, with the paintjob worn off, it would be impossible to tell the difference. Both were WWI wrecks. Everyone’s hoping it’s UB-85, because that one was scuttled by a sea monster. Okay, scuttled by the British Navy after the German crew surrendered, but it had been unable to dive because of sea monster damage.

The German captain described it thusly: “large eyes, set in a horny sort of skull. It had a small head, but with teeth that could be seen glistening in the moonlight”.

All the officers emptied their sidearms into it and it swam away, but it had damaged the forward deck plating so they couldn’t submerge. They had to float around waiting for the inevitable. The Royal Navy scooped up the crew and sank the u-boat, apparently without examining it first. I don’t suppose there’s anything left to see now.

I had a poke around, but the story just came out today and that’s all there is to it so far.

October 19, 2016 — 8:55 pm
Comments: 6

SPOILER: Normans win

saxons

Friday was the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, which was actually in Battle. (Maybe. No artefacts have ever turned up in the field next to Battle Abbey, where It supposedly took place).

And what was Battle called before the Battle? Senlac. It was called the Battle of Senlac Hill for a while. True story.

Is it my imagination, or have the Saxons chubbed up a bit in the last 950 years? Eh.

There were, of course, all sorts of celebrations ’round our area, all of which we successfully avoided. Uncle B and I once went looking for fish and chips in Battle on October the 14th without remembering our history and wondered why the town was stuffed full of Normans and Saxons and whether we’d slipped through a time gate or some shit. Once is enough.

I noticed in some of the FaceBook pictures there were ladies in chain mail on the battle field. Weasel does not approve. This is the re-enactment equivalent of breaking the fourth wall.

First person who says Boadicea, I shall gut thee with mine trusty seax. She was a one-off and that was a thousand years earlier.

Yes, there was plenty of handwringing about whether the Conquest was a good thing. These people can sure hold a grudge. A good old Anglo-Saxon value, that.

October 17, 2016 — 7:49 pm
Comments: 18