Farmhouse strip
Memorial corner
Washing line
Pumpkin holes

Illuminated by a strong sun in a clear blue sky, the same paths I walked yesterday looked very different.  The dripping pegs now held a line of washing.  The pumpkins had been harvested; the windfalls seemed more palatable; and butterflies flitted among the vines.

John moving in at Bourlens

Today Moreen drove us to the marvellous house, built by Paul and his father-in-law from lessons taken from the internet, in which they are to spend their next six months.  Perched on a hilltop on the outskirts of Bourlens in Lot it offers wonderful views across sloping fields and woods.  The Bastide town of Tournon stands on neighbouring heights.

Haze from N21

Views either side of the winding route from Sigoules were shrowded in haze.

After carrying in some of my friends’ belongings in preparation for their move tomorrow, we lunched in the superb Le Beffrois restaurant in Tournon.  Our meal was an excellent salad followed by well grilled chicken kebabs and beautifully presented profiteroles.  We shared a full-bodied bottle of choice Cahors.

Le Beffrois bar

The bill was presented in a delightful manner.  A small hand stretched out from the side of the waitresses left lower limb.  Shyly sheltering behind her mother was a little girl of about four years old who could count in English.  This was Leona, who was soon to enter into an arrangement with John.  She is to teach him French and he will teach her English.  John and Mo will go there again.

Landscape from Tournon

After the meal we walked around the town, and looked down over the valley below.

I did, of course, fall asleep on the return journey, to awake as Mo drew up outside an antiques shop.  There my friends bought me a mirror of admirable quality to replace the bathroom one which has collapsed.  Unlike Michael Palin in ‘The Life of Brian’, John demonstrated admirable haggling qualities. This being their last night, we visited Le Code Bar.

That Champagne Moment

Mist over Sigoules

The mist that enshrowded a recently slumbering Sigoules rousing, stretching, and rubbing its eyes this morning augured as well as yesterday’s clear sky.  We were not disappointed.  We had a gloriously sunny day when Mo, John and I later ambled around Bergerac and did some shopping.

House in mist

Pegs and web in mistAs I walked up past Les Caves, from which, on our return from Bergerac, my friends chose some wine for a December wedding, I turned left along a simple road leading to rustic lanes I had not explored before. Yard with artefacts Shed with tractorThere I saw yards and sheds full of materials Pumpkinfor various farming activities, Windfallsallotments with, among others, some fine pumpkins, and windfall apples beneath a gnarled old fruit tree. Somewhat surprisingly I emerged from these, to me, ‘untrodden ways’ opposite the cemetery.  I spent most of the rest of the morning discussing the work with Saufiene, after which I and my two friends lunched at Le Code Bar on vegetable soup; stuffed eggs and pastrami; roast chicken complete with heart and liver; and pear flan, all prepared to perfection.  We shared a half carafe of red wine.

Then came that champagne moment.  When we returned to No 6, Saufiene greeted us with a puzzling question.  On my arrival two days ago, we had all shared a bottle of Metz champage.  Saufiene had immediately extracted the bottle from the fridge and placed it on the table.  John grabbed it and proceeded to open it.  We all enjoyed a couple of glasses.  Alex, who speaks no English sat in a corner rubbing his eye (into which he had scraped some grit) in discomfort and smiling when Saufiene or I translated.  Neither he nor Saufiene questioned John’s action.  Today, as we entered the house, Saufiene asked John: ‘Did you buy the last bottle of champagne?’.  The question puzzled us both.  I had to translate for John.  I knew the words, but I couldn’t understand the question.  ‘What last bottle?’  I asked. ‘The one we drank on Monday’, was the reply.  ‘Yes’, said John. By now, I hadn’t a clue what was going on.  Saufiene burst out laughing.

Champagne bottleThis lunchtime, Alex had found an identical bottle in the boot of Saufiene’s car.  He had been delegated to put it in the fridge on Monday.  Saufiene thought he had. John hadn’t realised Saufiene was supplying the champagne.  One Frenchman and one Englishman had had the same thoughts and the same taste in champagne.

Jackie and I, it seems, are soon to have our own champagne moment.  Yesterday she had told me that ‘The Old School House’ was a goner.  The owner had not replied to the agent’s e-mails and the father was insisting it be taken off the market.  She had therefore made an offer on The Old Post House.  Today the offer was accepted.  The Amity Grove House sale should be completed by Christmas.

As I wrote up this post in the bar this evening I managed to fall over backwards and do the chair ireparable damage.  Two young frienchmen hauled me to my feet.  I was unscathed.


Dawn over Sigoules

Filigreed leavesThe pastel shades of the marbled paper that was the dawn sky over Sigoules looked promising this morning.  I walked the La Briaude loop.  Filigreed leaves along the Eymet Road confronted the rising sun whose light gradually crept across the fields.

Birds sang, cocks crew, and hens cackled.  The enraged bellowing of a man seeming to occupy a house in the middle distance ceased as an anxious-looking woman drove up the winding road leading to it.

Field at dawnCabbages grown by the gardener I have often seen toiling away coolly glistened.  We exchanged greetings as I stepped into the now otherwise empty maize field to photograph his produce. Cabbages He had, as usual, nicked the edge of this land to sow his seeds.  Slugs were doing their utmost to produce filigreed greens.

Saufiene has said he likes to approach No 6 as if it were his own house.  I have told him to feel free.  The consequence is that I am receiving ‘presents’ over and above the contracted work.  Benoit is in the process of redesigning the garden to accommodate plants that can survive in the prevailing conditions with limited maintenance.  A long wooden table, chairs, and a parasol have appeared there.  CurtainHeaterAn extremely efficient and unobtrusive electric heater now stands in the fireplace of the sitting room which has new curtains.  Light in back passageTable coverMo just happened to bring a cover for the table that matches these and the bergere suite.  She has also donated a couple of attractive bowls.  A light has been fitted in the back passage.

SarlatLunch at Le Code Bar consisted of superb onion soup; avocado with a prawn dressing, coarse pate and cornichon; pork cheeks and rice; and profiteroles.  Mo, John, and I shared a half carafe of red wine.

This afternoon John drove Mo and me to Sarlat and back.  This is a most attractive town full of history and fascinating shops. Its church, although building commenced in the thirteenth century contains artefacts from its first conception in the eleventh.  It was a pleasant trip.

Getting There

Another glorious morning followed a stormy night.  We had a powercut and left early for the airport for my trip to Sigoules.  At least we would be able to get a coffee there.  This was just as well, for arnoreal obstacles made it difficult to leave Minstead.  A nuber of smaller branches littered the lanes.  As we passed Hazel Hill car park we were greeted by the sight of a van backing towards us, followed by by two cars facing forwards.Fallen tree in Seamans Lane  A large tree blocked the road ahead.  Jackie turned the car and tried the Bull Lane route.  This road is steep, narrow, and winding. Fallen tree in Bull Lane Near the bottom of the hill another tree stretched out its limbs as if to grasp us in its clutches.  There was no room for a three of even multiple point turn.  My chauffeuse had to reverse up the slope and round the bends.  Apart from anything else this was a painful process requiring her neck to be screwed backwards whilst gripping the steering wheel.  There was a fearful smell of burning coming from somewhere in or on the vehicle.  Jackie wound the windows down and sat and waited for a bit.  It cleared.

I had been unable to check in on line last night.  At the airport I was directed to the self service check in machines.  Naturally I had to ask the attendant to do it for me.  The macine could not read my passport.  I was told I had entered my name incorrectly when making the reservation.  Then I had to attend the check in desk.  The person told me there was no-one of my name booked in.  ‘Who made this reservation?’, I was asked in a disparaging tone.  ‘I did’, I replied.  Several times I pointed to my name, Derrick John Knight, on the print-out of my confirmation document.  The woman, puzzled, made several adjustments to her computer and eventually hande me my boarding pass.  She tore my print-out in half and threw it in the bin.  So far I had kept my cool.  It was when she told me that I should be more careful when making my booking on line that I became a wee bit shirty.  I insisted that she took my form out of the waste receptacle, as it contained the details of my return flight, and said I didn’t take it kindly to be told to be more careful.  She said I should have entered Knight first.  I was listed as Johnknight Derrick.  Clutching my boarding pass, I repaired to the bar where Jackie was waiting with coffee.  It was our first of the morning because we are all electric at home.

The passage through security was uneventful.  The Departure Lounge was packed.  Announcements were being made at regular intervals; children frolicked at high decibels; babies screamed; a disabled young man grunted incoherently; newspapers rustled; voices cried into mobile phones; young ladies applied make-up; a woman walked along rows of captive passengers proferring duty free brochures; WH Smith and food outlets profited from an unexpected increase in custom.  With all these distractions I was rather relieved that Nietzsche proved to be rather easier to read than I had anticipated.

Mitchell's big breakfastI partook of a Mitchell’s big breakfast which was rather good.  I was interrupted from enjoying this by a call from the compulsory property insurers reminding me of my obligation.  I had renewed this, with payment, on the phone last week.  On checking her computer the caller confirmed what I said and apologised.

I arrived at Bergerac an hour and a half late.  Getting there had presented certain difficulties. Saufiene accompanied John to come and collect me, and travelled back with us to show me the work done on the house. Alex, Moreen, John & Saufiene He treated us all to champagne.  There are so many surprises in No 6 that I am still noticing them late at night.  I will make a thorough report tomorrow.

John accompanied me to Le Code Bar for an aperitif and to meet David again.  We soon returned to a marvellous meal cooked by Mo.  This consisted of her succulent chicken dish with potatoes and aubergines.  We shared a bottle of Chateau de Monturon Sain-Emileon Grand cru 2011.

My friend Jessie coined today’s title many years ago.  Thanks, Jessie.

Michael Fish

I’m having a bit of fun looking back over the last eighteen months of blogging, and adding where appropriate some older photographs to the posts.  Today I went back thirty years in my archives add added three to ‘Reminiscing With Don’ of last August.

Albeit extremely blustery, it was a beautiful autumn day as we set out on a journey the Met Office had warned everyone against.  Leaves scampered across the sky like swifts riding thermals.  Indeed, as we drove to Mat and Tess’s we saw a number of birds seemingly doing just that.  When reading BBC News Jackie came across advice to ‘keep away from trees’.  She thought that given where we live that might be rather difficult.  Michael Fish was interviewed yesterday predicting that the current gales would not be as devastating as those of 1987.  Someone in charge was having a laugh. Mr. Fish, you see, is probably the best, indeed, for most people the only, known weather announcer of all time.  He famously broadcast a reassurance, in 1987, that the rumoured storm would not happen.  It did.  So if anything was likely to confirm fears of tonight’s tempest it would be putting Michael Fish on air to refute it.

Trees were already bending beside the A27, their foliage tapping on our windscreen seeking shelter within.  As the leaves rushed towards us they reminded me of the one scene in the 3D version of James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ that made me flinch.  Boulders came flying out of the screen straight at the audience’s heads.

We were not to be deterred from our trip which was a belated birthday celebration for our daughter in law.  Jackie took a delicious apple and apricot crumble to follow Tess’s superb roast pork; roast potatoes, carrots, and parsnips; Dauphinoise potatoes; leek and cabbage compote; apple sauce; and dark red wine gravy.  Red wines by Tess and me and various beers by Jackie and Matthew were consumed.  Tess liked the presents we had bought yesterday.

Tess in The Village Shop

After the meal we had coffee in The Village Shop so that we could see the new counter layout. The Village Shop Counter Every time we go the establishment seems even more inviting and attractive than the last.

The clocks were turned back an hour at two o’clock this morning, the end of British Summer Time.  This meant that it was already dark at 6 pm. when we set off back home.  Wet windscreenDark, wet, and windy.  At times the windscreen wipers could barely cope with the water that was thrown at it. Rain hammered down directly into it, splashed up on impact with the roads, and formed a fine spray spinning from the wheels of other cars.Wet windscreen 3 Wet windscreen 2 I don’t know how Jackie managed in the driving seat, but I found the wipers mesmerising as I seemed to be peering through a Jackson Pollock painting on glass.  The halo effect around traffic lights and car headlamps and taillights, coupled with the sparkling bits of twig cracking on the car gave the impression that November 5th was already upon us.

In fairness to Michael Fish, the gales, as I write have not reached the force of that October night 26 years ago.


Maple, The Old Post House garden

We went on a driveabout today.  First stop was Sway Road, Bashley, to view Pemberton House.  This is beautifully built, individually well-designed, and spacious, with high ceilings.  There is good quality parquet flooring throughout.  The decorations and the gardens were just right for us.  But it is a 1950s building and, as such doesn’t appeal to our souls.  Diane, the very pleasant woman who owns the property, taught Richard, the agent, English at school.  Her profession caused her to have a very well integrated extension built for a study.  Housing my books would not be a problem.

By the time we moved on to Margery and Paul’s home near West End, rain had set in. This was a flying visit.  I handed Paul ‘The Bridesmaid’ framed picture and we left immediately for The Old Post House at Downton, pausing en route at the Cadnam Garden Centre for a birthday present.

Whilst waiting at the till we witnessed what for us was a new scam.  A man behind us with a strong Scouse accent thrust two £5 notes and a handful of coins under the nose of the person serving us and asked for a £20 note in exchange.  He was persistent in his request, but got no change out of the younger man who simply maintained that they were not allowed to comply with his request.  When the interloper wandered away in disgruntlement, our shop assistant explained that this was merely a distracting technique to facilitate theft from the till.  As we left the store, the Liverpudlian, still clutching his handful of currency, attempted to buttonhole Jackie on the subject of the young man’s unhelpfulness.  She simply said: ‘They are not allowed to do it’.  He shambled off, muttering.

On the A35 we became part of a convoy following a small car towing a fairground roundabout.  It wasn’t moving very fast.  Nevertheless, Jackie got us to the house on time.  Just.

The Old Post House from the garden

The Old Post House is sublime.  A former post office built in the 1930s it has plenty of space, plenty of rooms, and plenty of character set in an idyllic garden. The old Post House garden Intriguingly, the tall, elegant, middle-aged estate agent and the owner’s short, round, elderly, spaniel possessed an uncommon name in common.

The Old Post House garden 1

This house is preferable to any of the others we have seen except The Old School House.  We are now torn.  The Bisterne House may or may not have been taken off the market.  If we wait for a resolution on that, we may  lose this one.  If we plump for this and Bisterne is sold we may kick ourselves.  Decisions, decisions.

We bought a further gift in Brockenhurst on our way back home.

Helen tagged Jackie and me in one of the wedding photographs from 6th October, published on Facebook.  I impressed myself by successfully transferring it to my post of that day.

Her head spinning with the pros and cons of The Old School House vis a vis The Old Post House, Jackie nevertheless managed to produce an excellent baked gammon dish accompanied by leeks in cheese sauce and mashed potato.  Ratatouille (Jackie’s dish, not the eponymous rodent chef) provided piquancy and additional colour to brighten the otherwise symphony in white accompanying the dark salmon pink gammon.  Jackie drank some Hoegaarden, whilst I finished the Kumala.

……Twixt Cup And Lip

This morning, having read yesterday’s blog post, Jackie demonstrated that she has a broader recollection of our first date than I do. I was clearly so bedazzled by her that I only remember the ‘cannibal’ moment.  She, however, recalls the first occasion on which she had to hang around waiting for me to take photographs. Burghers of Calais001Burghers of Calais003 I had, you see, taken her to see the ‘Burghers of Calais’ on that day in February 1965. She experienced a certain compensation in having seen David Kernan, of ‘That Was The Week That Was’,  fame walking in the park.  She remembers tight white trousers.  Although I had, as stated yesterday, made the prints in the 1970s, it was the smitten young man I was almost fifty years ago who took the colour slides. Burghers of Calais002 There they were, correctly labelled, in the box from a decade earlier. Here they are now reproduced.

This afternoon we had an appointment with Elliot, the agent who had shown us The Old School House at Bisterne.  By now, we were so keen on that one that we didn’t really want to see today’s choice.  However, we thought it would be sensible.

Glenacre view

Glenacre in Thorney Hill in the heart of the New Forest, is in a setting to die for.  The view from the house takes in a field at the bottom of the garden which is a section of Glenacre’s land that has been sold off, but  accommodates the residents’ own horse. The only possible drawback is that the terrain is so hilly it would put my knees in jeopardy.  That, however, has been thoughtfully taken care of.  The older style bungalow with a very large footprint and wide doorways was designed for a resident in a wheelchair.  It has high ceilings and a double-ended wood burning stove.


We arrived early as usual, to see a Community Response Ambulance parked in the driveway.  We were still wondering whether there had been some kind of emergency when Elliot drove up and told us that the vehicle went with the owner’s job.

Glenacre 5

Our agent then gave us the news that the response of the resident at The Old Schoolhouse to being told they had a probable buyer, was to take the house off the market.  Given that it is his son who owns the property that may not be the last word, but it doesn’t augur well.  The Agency staff are all furious at this apparently inexplicable reaction, and have not given up on it yet.  Jackie and I have the experience to speculate about the cause of this stumbling block, but that should not be recorded in a blog.  We are less than optimistic, so are applying ourselves to looking elsewhere.Glenacre 3

Glenacre 2

Glenacre is something entirely different and would not push The Old Schoolhouse from the top spot, despite the height of its own position.    Glenacre 4However, we could live there.  Nevertheless, I made phone calls seeking appointments to view other properties, the first of which will be Sway Road, Bashley, tomorrow morning.

For those of my readers not familiar with the old adage from which today’s title is taken, its first phrase is: ‘There’s many a slip…..’.

Our evening meal was Jackie’s splendid chilli con carni made with our own chillies,and onion and mushroom wild rice.  I drank some Kumala Zenith 2012 which was certainly potable.


Last night Jackie researched the history of Bisterne on the Internet.  Emma historian, in her blog featured this year’s Scarecrow Festival, photographing the exhibits as I did.  She had this to say about The Village Hall and The Old School House: ‘The Village Hall was built in 1840 to house the local school and is adjacent to a thatched building which was once the old schoolhouse.  Following its closure in 1946, the two buildings were given to Bisterne and Crow to be used as a Village Hall.’  In his 1958 article ‘Journeying through Bisterne’, Roy Hodges adds: ‘a picturesque cottage, once the home of the village schoolmistress when the hall was a school’ as a description of the house we viewed yesterday.

This afternoon Jackie drove me to Southampton Parkway for a London trip to visit Carol at her flat in Rochester Row.  If anything interesting happened on the journey I missed it because I slept most of the way.

Westminster Bridge

On this beautiful balmy Autumn day tourists, as usual thronged Westminster Bridge.  Some of them, perhaps, had indulged in leaving tokens of their love for each other in a less vandalising manner than is generally applied. Lovelock Locked in place on the supports for the handrails lining the steps leading up to the bridge were a row of tiny padlocks bearing the coupled lovers’ names.  I thought of them as lovelocks. Love seat Normal examples adorned a seat in Westminster Tower Gardens, alongside the Houses of Parliament. Grafitto on plant 3.04 Lovers in Barbados, as I discovered in 2004, use a less permanent platform on which to inscribe their names.  Thick succulent leaves sufficed for them.

My reason for entering the gardens as a slight diversion from my route to my friend’s flat had been once more to admire the work of Auguste Rodin.  That great French sculptor’s ‘Monument to The Burghers of Calais’ has always intrigued me, and sometime in the 1970s I had made a series of large black and white prints.  Had I been able to find the negatives this evening I would have illustrated this post with one.  So, why didn’t I use today’s photos?  You may well ask.  I didn’t take any.  Why not? Rodin poster Because the work was away on loan.  There is something elusive about Rodin for me.  When Julia Graham, one of my Area Manager colleagues in Westminster Social Services, about the time I was taking the aforementioned photographs, had asked me to bring her a poster back from the Musee Rodin in Paris, that establishment had been closed on the occasion of my visit.  I was able, on a subsequent trip, to rectify the situation, so maybe I’ll get to find my negatives.

In order to purchase the lifting of the siege of Calais by England’s Edward III, six burghers were willing to sacrifice their lives.  This is the theme of the dramatic sculptural group.  They were saved by the intervention of the English Queen, Philippa of Hainault. Richard Coeur de Lion The crowns of England and France were pretty interchangeable in those days, as exemplified by Richard, Coeur de Lion, featured two days ago.  Today, he still sits astride his horse, sword raised, about to send his motorised transport into battle from the Houses of Parliament car park.

Lambeth Palace

Lambeth Palace, which I would pass on the 507 bus back to Waterloo, stands on the opposite bank of the Thames, vying with the vast modern buildings alongside, the tallest of which blends with it rather well.

Dean's Yard

I walked through Dean’s Yard, where the ornamental trees were beginning to rival the splendour of the Parliamentary gilt in the background.

Jackie met me at Southampton after I made my usual journey back there, drove me home, and fed me with a superb sausage and bacon casserole followed by apple crumble, with which I finished the Kumala begun a few days ago.

Not A Bad Start

An offer has been made on the London house.  Consequently we are able to view properties rather than sneak around outside, my camera poised like a paparazzo.

We began the phone calls to agents this morning.  After I printed, and Jackie framed, The Bridesmaid, the Bisterne house had the honour of being the subject of our first visit.

The Old Schoolhouse fro trees

The Old School House in front of Bisterne Village Hall has what Jackie terms ‘great character’. FireplaceEntrance Hall, The Old School House Many original features including fireplaces, exposed brick and beam walls, wooden panelling, a thatched roof and tall, ornate chimneys, are extant.  There is also a great deal of room, the entrance hall reaching right to the top of the house giving an immediate sense of space.  Damp penetrates one side of the main chimney breast, seemingly from eroded rendering at the base of one of the pair of chimneys.  Chimneys, The Old School HouseFront door, The Old School HouseThere is a smell of this.  The front section of the roof is clean and dry.  It is the side not photographed that is affected.

Panelling and radiator cover


Situated on the main Ringwood – Christchurch road, the rear of the house is surrounded by mature forest trees leading all the way to the neighbouring St Paul’s church, which looks rather splendid.  Beyond the trees are open fields.

We instantly took to this property which is a very strong contender.  ‘Not a bad start’, we thought.  The agent is to investigate the problem of the damp and is aware that we would expect to negotiate the price if we were too make an offer.  The house is owned by the son of Rod who lives there alone.  He was on his way out when we arrived, and remembered us from our meeting on 6th September.

The Old Farmhouse

Our second viewing was The Old Farmhouse at Burton.  There is farmland across the road. Burton Hall A near neighbour is Burton Hall, which has been developed into about 50 dwellings, by Jackie’s estimate.  The owners of the Farmhouse have, in the 50 years they have lived there, seen their property become surrounded by a myriad of small modern buildings.  A bus stops outside the front gate.

The Avon Valley Path is very close.  This section runs from Christchurch to Salisbury.  As we were about ninety minutes early, I explored the surrounding modern closes, then set off along the path in the direction of the Wiltshire town.  Field of gullsThis narrow footpath passes between fenced off fields, in one of which gulls were enjoying rich pickings from between rows of stubble.  When I eventually reached a junction with Bockhampton Road I thought it sensible to leave the muddy track and return on the tarmac.  I had found that a lounge suit and shoes similar to those pictured on 21st were not really suitable for sploshing about along trails that already bore perfect imprints of the paws of dogs of varying sizes and footwear that was clearly more sensible.  Three left turns led me back to the car where Jackie was waiting just off Salisbury Road.

The house we were to view was almost three hundred years old, immaculately kept, and built for people of that time.  The middle section of the visit was fascinating, and the owners most pleasant and friendly.  The beginning and ending were rather less so.  One of the attractions for us was that there was an annexe linked to what had originally been two cottages.  The owner began by asking the agent if we knew about the tenancy.  We didn’t.  There were tenants, albeit subject to monthly notice, in residence.  I wasn’t pleased and told the agent that the proprietor should not have had to tell us this.  ‘That’, I said ‘is your job’.  That wasn’t such a good start, but we got over it.

At the wedding on the 6th we had all been given little phials bearing the label ‘DRINK ME’.  I felt, and Jackie certainly looked, as if we had first imbibed the liquid given to Lewis Carol’s Alice, then tried the EAT ME cake,  and suffered something of a delayed reaction, rather unnecessarily continuing to grow.  This was the more marked the further up the house we went.  It was necessary when mounting the stairs, negotiating the bedrooms, and particularly crawling through the corridor linking the two original little houses, to bend one’s head at great risk to one’s spinal column, and attempt to squeeze our shoulders across our chests.  This latter manoeuvre was possibly marginally more practical for me.

It could have been worse. Meals at The Plough Inn We were at least able to say that we liked the house, which was indeed something of a time capsule, and that the garden would have sold it to us, when we stated what John Cleese would have called ‘the bleedin’ obvious’.

Finishing the day with a shop at Sainsbury’s in Christchurch rendered each of us not feeling like cooking, so we dined at The Plough Inn at Tiptoe, where we enjoyed their usual incredible mixed grill and haddock and chips with Doom Bar and Kronenburg.

The Melisende Psalter

This morning I finished an excellent book lent to me by Margery.  It is Thomas Asbridge’s history of ‘The Crusades’, subtitled ‘The War for The Holy Land’.  The research has been immense; the all-embracing viewpoint is unbiased; the writing flows, and consequently this thick tome is entertaining and gripping.  Simon & Schuster’s edition is illustrated with enlightening maps and photographs.  It is a shame that the quality of the paper is such that it will soon discolour, but that has probably been an economic consideration.

I have learned much from this work about a two hundred year conflict of which I previously knew very little.  I knew Richard the Lionheart led the third crusade and that he only spent one year of his reign in England.  I didn’t know that he was a Frenchman from Aquitaine, with difficulties to attend to there, and consequently wasn’t actually in the East for all the other nine years, nor that he shared the crusading leadership with the French king.  I had no idea how many crusades there were, nor that it took so long to end the struggle.  Asbridge unravels the complexity of the protagonists in the struggle, and is intelligible to the layman.  He does have a tendency to disparage what he sees as the simplicity of other modern historians.  Maybe he has earned the right.

The author demonstrates how, albeit undoubtedly genuine, religious fervour was used for material gains, and as an excuse for pursuing personal ambition.  He shows how this forgotten period of the past has been revived in the memories of those in both the East and the West, by leaders in whose interests it has been to do so.  Throughout history, of course, ruthless men and women have harnessed religious zeal as an excuse for perpetrating persecution and execrable torment of others.  Christianity may well be losing ground to Islam, but as long as people truly believe and follow their faiths, allowing others to have theirs, does it really matter?  If there is only one true religion there must be an awful lot of misguided people in the world.

The Melisende psalter:

Melisende psalter001 is ‘one of the rarest and most beautiful treasures to survive from the crusading era’.  It has a greater significance for Asbridge ‘for [its] construction and decoration seem to speak of an artistic culture in which Latin, Greek, eastern Christian and even Islamic styles have intermingled’.  On this project at least, adherents of different faiths had been able to cooperate.

President George W. Bush infamously used the word ‘crusade’ after 9/11, but, to me, it seems that the West’s current fervour has more to do with secular ideology than with religious faith.  Democracy is the new Deus.

The preceding part of today’s post was written this morning.  As she often does, without knowing what I had just produced, Jackie read out an extract from BBC News.  This concerned the death of Noel Harrison, Olympic athlete, actor, and singer.  Using her laptop she had been led to his blog site on which he had listed his ‘pet peeves’.  One of these was: ‘Religious extremism in all forms, whether Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, or any other dangerous narrow-minded bigoted “our way is the only way” belief of members of the human race’.

Before setting off for various visits this afternoon, I read Jonathon Ree’s introduction to Friedrich Nietzsche’s ‘Thus Spoke Tharathustra’.

Jackie drove us to Elizabeth’s where we collected the unsold items from The Firs Open Studio; then the three of us travelled in Elizabeth’s car to Visit Margery and Paul.  I returned the Crusades history and delivered eleven cards and two framed photographs for their forthcoming Private View.  Madelaine's niece at wedding 4.70I had been asked for ten cards but slipped in another one because I thought it very Margery.  This was ‘The Bridesmaid’.  Margery also asked for another picture for the exhibition.  It has to be this one, so off Jackie and I went to Hobbycraft to buy the materials for a frame which we will put together tomorrow.  Madeleine’s niece was a bridesmaid at her wedding to Tony in 1970.  At the end of the day she was out on her feet, her eyes like black currants kept open by sheer willpower.

Our next stop was at Mum’s where we had a usual reminiscence session, in the course of which she was able to locate the next photograph in the ‘through the ages’ series.29  Number 29 was taken so close to number 28 that I was confused because the location had to be different, yet some of the personnel were the same.  Chris and I were in the foreground, Roy Wilson behind me, and Audrey to my left.  Mum sat on the far left from the viewer’s perspective, and her parents on deck chairs in the background.  But it didn’t look like Carshalton.  So where was it?  It was in my grandparents’ garden in Durham, presumably just before the street party.  Audrey and Roy had spent a summer holiday there before returning home for the great event.  Today Mum described scratching around for the material to make the outfits my brother and I wore for the occasion.

On our way home from West End we realised that it just wasn’t acceptable to be so close to Eastern Nights at Thornhill and not dine there, so we turned around and did just that.  Rain had clattered on Mum’s conservatory roof, but had been short-lived.  By the time our food arrived, lightning was bringing daylight to the night sky and glitter to the streams of water bouncing off the cars parked outside.  We had the usual enjoyable fare, Bangla, and Cobra.