From the dear old days when upon marriage you lost not only your surname, but first name as well:
Round about 1902 Mrs Aeneas Gunn went, with Mr Aeneas Gunn, to a cattle station in the Northern Territory of Australia. This was not a destination for wimps.
Her two books have been condensed for a more modern audience, probably a good thing as even in this form the narrative is diffuse. Mrs Gunn’s authorial voice is both permanently arch and continually patronising – towards the indigenous people, naturally, but also to the Chinese, the rustic stockmen and pretty much anyone else she happened to meet (except Mr Aeneas Gunn). It has to be said that they all seem to have patronised her first (including Mr Gunn), for being a townie, and, of course, for being a woman, so perhaps one should not be too indignant about her attitude on this occasion.
That might not sound promising, but I read every page with attention. Here we have a voice from a tiny, transient foundational community that has disappeared from all knowledge. And the story, beneath the archness, is one of great pathos.
In another corner of the nest:
Having all the pieces is a surprising and gratifying outcome.
Found on a second-hand bookstall for a modest 50p:
This autobiographical account of Christabel Bielenberg’s experiences during World War II in Germany, as the Irish/English wife of a German lawyer, depicts a slow awakening: from youthful preoccupation with their own careers, family life and friends to the conviction that the developing Nazi regime was monstrous, and eventually to the belief that it must be opposed.
No doubt memories must have been subject to the rewritings of time, as the book was not published until 1968, but the mélange of trivial and terrifying, ludicrous and horrific incidents, along with Bielenberg’s refusal to take sides along national lines, creates an unusual voice. Towards the end of the book Bielenberg describes what it was like to summon up enough courage deliberately to walk into the Gestapo HQ in Berlin, and try to lie her husband out of Ravensbruck after his arrest for complicity in an attempt to kill Hitler (of which he was indeed guilty – if that is the right word).
At the time of reading I was entirely absorbed in this extraordinary scenario. It was only later that I realised the serendipity of finding a commentary upon the Book of Judith in this improbable source, just at the moment I need it.
The rivers are well up with the continuing rainy weather, and my attention paused as I crossed this rushing water. It’s the first time I’ve seen one of these bridges with declarations by padlock all over them. As a symbol of personal love, I could only find it depressing, and it didn’t do anything for the line of the footbridge either.
Elsewhere, I watched a fairly senior cleric hit a two feet tall chocolate egg with a claw hammer. Hmm.
I am gradually becoming acquainted with Salisbury walls. Here is one whose ugly rendering rests upon a base of properly-old bricks:
and another which includes properly-old bricks, and an unusual tiled apex. Note to self: don’t walk under this one, especially in bad weather.
Time to retire to a quiet bay in pursuit of all the Judiths:
The pleasure of the day was some generous typography:
I’ve been walking past this one at intervals for twenty years, and never registered it before. Perhaps because this time the gate was open, I suddenly noticed that it was indeed an old posting house, with the high entrance to accommodate the horses and vehicles, the cobbled stable yard still visible behind, and iron s-plates still holding it all together. The windows look enormously tall compared with the standard sized door below.
One could scarcely call it preservation of a traditional building, more a case of survival through neglect. Well, we can’t all live in cherished cathedral cities, I suppose.
mine tiptoed through the ice and slush, while I cursed my civil duty. In the event, it went off like a damp squib – in other words, scarcely at all. It was, however, interesting to see a dozen arbiters of justice shaking down socially.
A shallow fall and a slow thaw through the morning. The car consented to be scraped without undue fuss, and we ventured out.
Inland lay mostly black and white:
Outfacing, the sea red with clay.
I wimped out of walking. The air was raw.
This was a curious thing to find in the sitting room:
Our unfortunate local spy did not visit this location (so far as anyone knows) and the cordon stops short at the front door. I was thus able to proceed librarily towards the station.
Salisbury Museum is small but dense; I find something new on every visit. This is the head of a 9th century aestel (reading pointer), and it shines.
The cathedral has glassed in and glassed out various small and large cavities in its structure. One of them is big enough for the refectory; this morsel of space is by the loos.
It is about life size. I failed to find a label, and my iconography is not good enough to pick up the hints. Chalices and books, anyone? Glass and anonymity isolated the figure like an anchorite walled up alive.