It’s a time indeed since being on a bus. This one ground and clanked its way through the villages, past the sea, up the Shute, down the chalk, wound beneath the hills, and at last to town. I shopped: bought only some minute wooden butterflies. After business, there was welcome tea of reprieve. I’ve been reprieved in this place before. And the social event of the day.
Then the bus: out of town through the clogged traffic (glad to see the driver knew his bus width to the inch), below the hills where sheep did picturesque things on the skyline, up the chalk, down the Shute, past the sea, now glowing like tarnished silver in the twilight (a radiance perhaps exaggerated in my eyes), and through the villages.
on the way through the pale trees, although I am naturally gratified to use a recently-acquired word.
The mind of this strange man is worth a visit, however, and demonstrates the truism that images and narratives are diminished by their exegesis; even Jung could only make his stories smaller when he enlarged upon them.
lxx : Have an argument
No, not the kind taking place in Room 12A. In the darkness before today’s sodden dawn the pen scrawled reluctantly across sheet after sheet of file paper (can’t produce a good argument using a word processor, however ten-fingered I may be).
Looking at the result is like looking at holiday packing: gloom at the shabby aspect of one’s possessions, grave doubts that the right things have been selected, wondering what is the essential item you have certainly forgotten, and a growing conviction that this monstrous heap will never all go in.
The storm has not stripped out the sand, though I think the landslides have been on the move again. Today was benign but perhaps not quite paddleable – at least, we did not paddle.
Later, what is possibly the cutest instrument in the western world made a reappearance:
the curved soprano sax. This one has been having a little rest in its case for most of the last eighteen years, but there was its voice again, parping occasionally from lack of practice, contending with the piano and giggles. While listening, I compounded apple cake in the kitchen, and (enjoying the ironies) thought, Thank God we are a musical nation.
I steadied myself to drive along the exposed coast road, while the car rocked and bucketed around me. At least, I thought, if a freak gust hits the car, it will blow me inland rather than outboard. Where we dipped down to sea level, the waves were making sudden white walls of their own above the sea wall, and running down to fill the road. The car obediently paddled.
Back on the clifftops, we sightseers staggered about incapably, breathless and unable to hold our ground in the gale, wrestling for a few moments to pay our respects to the turmoil below. When this is over, it will be interesting to visit the newly-sculpted beach.
Once home, another book to complete:
Eagleton writes with gusto; he has axes to grind, and the edges are not merely ornamental. Over an extended period this became a little tiresome, especially when you reach the heading Conclusion and it proves to be far (far!) from the end, but even so there were moments when he managed to crack me up.
The wind is still thumping and booming in the chimney, and all hope of seeing Orionids is pretty much gone.
Today I went looking for a quiet place on the stairs in which to find a teasing line. Instead I found an image, obscure at first but clarifying into black comedy.
I don’t think he or she made it.
So goodbye to the lectures and a brief hello to some nearestsanddearests; full of apple crumble we admired the Close and the cathedral lit by what looked like about seven million lux, killing the stars.
I have swapped my austere hall-of-residence style bed for something even more austere, having no bedstead at all; but the ambience is friendly, and I am cooched up on the sofa with the Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament:
In this boke that cald is Genesis
ther may men see the soth unsoght
How God, that beldes in endlese blyse,
all only with Hys Word hath wroght
Hevyn on heght for Hym and Hys,
this erth and all that ever is oght.
This erth was wyde and wast
and no gud on yt grovyd;
On the heght the Holi Gast
abown the waters movyd.
Milton, eat your heart out.
No problem about turning to notes and references in this one, because there aren’t any. It feels as if the book’s origin lies in a collection of slowly accumulated notes, in which the courtesy of accurate referencing was unconsidered until it was far too late to reconstruct the author’s sources. On the plus side, this gives it a personal and slightly fugitive air. And at least he can spell mediaeval.
The absence of a glossary presents a challenge to the reader, especially as the collaged quality of the text includes the use of specialist terms many pages before the author indicates their meaning (or occasionally never defines them at all). This is quite a good deduction game for word-fanciers. Even more tricky is visualising the complicated manoeuvres of, say, whipping and looping bow strings, although diagrams are added to verbal descriptions.
The moments of personal reminiscence were engaging:
I well recall the months of strain and struggle to master the [replica Mary Rose] bow and eventually, at the very limit of my strength, managed to draw some 95lbs at around 28 inches … I was definitely overbowed and doubtless set my shooting form back several years … drawing and loosing this bow gave the feeling of being caught in an earthquake … (p 73)
It’s also interesting to learn of the work done by modern archers to repeat the reported performances of mediaeval archers, using replica bows; the modern archers are at a disadvantage as they have not been physically developed since childhood to use a heavy bow. Some archers have reproduced remarkable feats of shooting distance and accuracy. Roth notes drily that some of these shots may be lucky – lucky shots do occur, although mostly for excellent archers. (p 158)
I am, of course, entirely ignorant of practical archery, but it did remind me of another wood-and-missile-related discipline: the mysteries of knocking in and splices and sweet spots; Chinamen and the back of the hand; giving air and seaming; offs, ons, legs and squares; and the rest of cricket’s paraphernalia. Ah, these rituals!
Yesterday the garden fair was all ice cream and summer dresses. Today was the sort of day when the hills disappear, when the rain streams down your face into your mouth in spite of the storm hood, when water runs into your sleeves as you take a bite of damp cake, when you snap no photos and send no texts in case the phone drowns, the kind of day when the legs of your jeans are so heavy with water that they start to pull themselves down off your bottom as you walk. A few keen gardeners traipsed around, bought a plant or two, and went home for early lunch, no doubt consoling themselves that their £7 entry was going to a Good Cause. The show was officially declared rained off at three, and we packed up as the angrily-flapping canvas tried to take off in the gusts, and just as the ground paused on the verge of becoming an un-driveable quag.
It was, indeed, the sort of day when you strip off your horrible trousers as you walk into the house, indifferent to the privacy of a bathroom or bedroom (or even a closed front door); and when you utter thanks to those trusty old soldiers in your service –
– feet being the only parts of the anatomy which were still both warm, and perfectly dry.
There’s a gracious backdrop to the confusion of cars, vans, marquees, gazebos, trestles and tables, residue from about a hundred geese, and other impedimenta. Crucially, we found the tap.
We were slightly concerned by the number of people attaching storm straps or extra guys to their canvas. We don’t have any for ours. The forecast is fair overnight, but I find my ear is cocked for a change in the wind.