Sunday, April 10, 2016

And the Beat Goes On

The school holidays seem to have lasted for at least six weeks, but the calendar says otherwise. Determined to get my money's worth from our National Trust and English Heritage membership cards, I've subjected my younger son to a gruelling tour of castles, stately homes and parks. His older brother has remained in his room, mostly sleeping, like someone in cryogenic suspension on an interstellar voyage.

I find the planning and recollection of days out much better than the thing itself. The reality is usually either slight disappointment, or an awareness of being detached from the thing I am looking at and wondering why. But occasionally, something serendipitous happens that negates the angst.

My last moment of serendipity happened recently, on a mild, end of March day. I was sitting on a bench, by the ramparts of an 11th century castle and could hear birdsong, a cock crowing and the sound of people singing in the nearby parish church - it was Good Friday. At one point, a brimstone butterfly fluttered past and I remembered why I love this time of year so much.

On the way home, I picked up my mother and brought her to have lunch with us. As she struggled to get into the car, she suddenly said "I'm running out of books. Can you get me some more on your thing?"

I've ordered so many books for my mother, Amazon now thinks that my literary tastes revolve solely around tales of working class girls who become impregnated by the local squire's son. When I open the Amazon home page, a long list of titles is waiting for me.

I found one novel that looked like my mother's cup of tea, but the customer review was one of the oddest things I've ever read, straggling the line between madness and a haunting, epic beat poem.

To quote it in full (and scroll down if you lose the will to live):

Wow this Book was absolutely Great. or shall I say Fantastic
Yeah. Kay Brelland knows how to write a Book.. Thought the
Windmill Girls was good. But she's gone one better with this
One. It's been good to begin with . Got more exciting as it
Got to Rosie joining the Ambulance service. And her father's
Old Associate.I will call him Frank Purves was a bad man
Wanted to cause trouble and make him start his old business
Up. And Rosie s father said no he wanted no part in the deal
He'd made with someone down at the docks.
But he said to this man he got five hundred pounds to start
Up. A whisky brewing set up. Illegal. But John said no.
And sent a man to see him called Connor Flint. John told
Him no way was he going to do this. He'd given it up years
Ago. And .Connor said but you got five hundred pounds for
This. He said. No Frank Purves got that . He hasn't seen any
Money at all. Come his way. Frank has it all stashed away
Somewhere. Connor believed John. Cause he didn't trust
Purses and didn't like him either. So he went after him
Rosie had a child. And she'd been attacked by purves son
And had his child. Lots of hair Raising episodes happened.
From Kidnapping of Rosie s Daughter. And John and Frank
Having a bad fight. And Rosie ending up falling in love
With Connor Flint. Who was in his thirties. Rosie was twenty one
And her dramatic life in her Ambulance job. She was once a
Windmill girl. And settled down .eventually. but will not
Spoil to much by giving away too. Much. But. This book is
A must to read. Lots of war. Happening V1 Rocketts falling.
And causing disasters. keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Well this was truly great .enjoyed it very much . Worth waiting
For. To read. So I give this
Five stars truly worth it and more."

I like the seventh line from the bottom "but will not Spoil to (sic) much by giving away too."

I've been taking lots of photographs, trying to improve. I now have a cheap but cheerful zoom lense, which makes it easier to take shots of people. I'm particularly pleased with the touching scene below. It may not be a great photograph, technically, but it warms the cockles of my heart:

And further along the beach, another heartwarming sight - someone reading a book:

I used to wait for good weather before taking photos, but Gothic style buildings like this look far better on dark, stormy days. 

This is Pevensey Castle. It used to be by the coast, before the sea disappeared.  

This doorway appears to be the only surviving remnant of a much older building than the one behind it, but I can't find any information on the internet. It's just outside a village with the memorable name of Blackboys. 

This is part of Battle Abbey, built on the sight of the Battle of Hastings. Unless you visit at the height of the tourist season, it's usually mercifully empty.

Hove Station, where a footbridge offers this striking perspective.

This medieval ruin reminds me of a Caspar David Friedrich painting. I'd love to come back here at dusk and take some pictures, but I expect the staff might have something to say about it as they close at 5.00. I wonder how tall the walls are.


Roger Allen said...

"Gothic style buildings...look far better on dark, stormy days. "

The painter John Piper shared your view and when he was commissioned to make paintings of Windsor Castle depicted it accordingly - in moonlight, under lowering clouds, pennons flapping in high winds, lashed with rain...

"You seem to have very bad luck with your weather on your visit, Mr Piper." said George VI when he saw them.

Val said...

Brilliant post.... a rather enjoyable mixture ...that was rather a surreal review of a book!
I can see why you enjoy the photograph of the couple so much, it captures a charming moment and made me smile.
Love the range of photographs and am now equally puzzled by the isolated doorway, it's obviously not a wardrobe so can't be to Narnia...most odd.

zmkc said...

If our experience at Tintern Abbey is anything to go by, your dusk proposal would definitely be blocked. We arrived at Tintern, which closes at 5, at 4.15 - no, you can't come in because we're closing at 5, but you can go to the shop. Fifteen minutes of wrangling later, mixed with shop promotion, & they were able to triumphantly explain that there is no entrance permitted 30 minutes before closing. As you may just possibly be able to tell, I am still feeling really annoyed, even though this happened 8 years ago.

Annabel Gaskell said...

Wonderful photos.

joan.kyler said...

Once again, great photos!

frances said...

lovely pictures... Pevensey castle is beautiful, isn't it? and most atmospheric. but the village is a terrible disappointment - we realised we should have brought a picnic when we went. re: review - extraordinary! for more head-shaking reviews, look up ouija boards on amazon as i did last xmas - eg
"No its not a toy, tbh unless you want something invited in to your home, I'd stay away from this game as they put it, only experienced mediums who know how to shut one down should use them, and when mentioned by most they will tell you to stand well clear hun x".
baffling, yet intriguing, eh? and why the kiss at the end?

Anonymous said...

I empathise with your Amazon issue - I have bought so many Santa Montefiore and Penny Vincenzi volumes for my mother than my recommendations are impossible. And that review is priceless!

Wonderful pictures too - thanks for sharing!


Kristin said...

Really enjoy these photos (and the post overall), particularly the one of the Gothic abbey in the grey weather. What sort of lens are you using?

martine said...

Really love the dark and stormy castle picture.

Steerforth said...

Roger - The George VI anecdote wouldn't be out of place in a Waugh novel. Thank you for sharing - I'll add it to my repertoire.

Val - You can enter Narnia from a number of places, so perhaps this is a portal to Aslan's world. Sadly, grown-ups aren't allowed to go there (although I'm not sure if I really want to go somewhere with talking beavers and a mad witch).

Zoe - I do encounter the occasional little Hitler in these places, but nobody as petty and intransigent as the staff you encountered at Tintern Abbey - now wonder you're still cross about it. It's a pity they don't have the occasional late opening.

Annabel and Joan - Thank you!

Frances - Yes, the local area around Pevensey isn't very inspiring - lots of badly designed bungalows and mobile homes. It feels quite post-apocalyptic in places. As for the Amazon reviews, they remind me of that Churchill quote about democracy being a great idea until you spend five minutes chatting to the average voter.

Kaggsy - I suspect it's a common problem for anyone with an elderly parent who won't use the internet. As far as the books are concerned, I'd never be able to tell which ones I'd bought if it wasn't for Amazon - they all look the same and seem to have largely identical plots.

Kristin - It's a Nikon 18-55mm zoom for most of the shots.

Martine - Thanks - that one seems to be the most popular. It doesn't look half as good in colour.

Stephen Mitchelmore said...

Odd thing: the girl in the first photo looks remarkably like the singer known as Birdy.
Apparently, fact fans, she's related to Dirk Bogarde.

Steerforth said...

Stephen - I hadn't heard of her. Perhaps I've been an unwitting paparazzo. I must do this again. It's a good zoom lense - almost sub-Hubble - so if I take enough shots I may net another celeb.

Steerforth said...

Stephen - I hadn't heard of her. Perhaps I've been an unwitting paparazzo. I must do this again. It's a good zoom lense - almost sub-Hubble - so if I take enough shots I may net another celeb.

Canadian Chickadee said...

I agree with your comment about the planning of a visit to an historic home or castle being part (if not most) of the fun. For one thing, there's usually so much information about each place that it's hard to keep it straight on the spot. Soon, one's eyes glaze over and the brain shuts down. But I love them, and plan to keep going to them as long as I am able. Sometimes a second visit is in order.

As always your photos are fascinating. Looking forward to more. Thanks for the post. Take care. xoxox Carol

Martin Lower said...

I may be able to shed some light on your picture of the strange doorway. There's a drive just visible on the right of your photo and this once led to a large house, presumably in the style of the gateway in the picture. Apparently, it was destroyed by fire and duly replaced by a large bungalow! My wife called there once (about thirty-five years ago), and remembers an elderly couple with a title. We've passed that gate a number of times and she's commented how strange it was to pass that and find a bungalow at the end of the drive!
Unfortunately, she can't remember the name of the original house although she has a hunch that the name has changed since the bungalow was built.

Steerforth said...

Carol - You're right about all the facts and figures. If I visit a historic (or an historic, if you prefer) building, I want to enjoy the atmosphere and mystery of the place, not find out in what year the fireplace was built. I can read around the subject before and after the visit. This morning, I went to a medieval house and when I turned down the opportunity to have an information sheet, the guide was clearly put out: "But not all of the things are marked and without the information sheet, you'll miss some of the...information." she protested. I smiled sweetly and said that I was fine, thank you.

Martin - I'm even more intrigued now. I zoomed in on the gate and it says Western Lodge, but my internet search has been fruitless. What a shame that the building burned down, if the ostentatious doorway is anything to go by.

Nige said...

Lovely post.

Polly said...

Great photographs! I like the one of the young couple. Wonder what they where talking about.

I very much liked your description of the bird song,crowing cock and the church singers! I grew up close to our village church. One of the things I miss most about England, is the sound of blackbirds and church bells. I recently discovered that someone has recorded our village bells and up-loaded the file to You Tube. Listening to it takes me back 50 years, to long summer evenings, riding my bike around our cul-de-sac with the other kids, running into the house to plead with my Mum to let me stay out, "until the stars come out". The church bells pealing and the solitary blackbird.

Tom Ford said...

"His older brother has remained in his room, mostly sleeping, like someone in cryogenic suspension on an interstellar voyage. "

That's a masterful sentence. Thank you for your posts -- they are something special.

Catherine said...

Is the doorway anywhere near a churchyard?

Steerforth said...

Nice - Thank you.

Polly - That's a beautifully evocative description of childhood as it used to be, before people became afraid to let their children roam the streets.

Tom - Thank you for your kind words.

Catherine - No, it's nowhere near a church, or any ecclesiastical building.

Steerforth said...

Nice - Thank you.

Polly - That's a beautifully evocative description of childhood as it used to be, before people became afraid to let their children roam the streets.

Tom - Thank you for your kind words.

Catherine - No, it's nowhere near a church, or any ecclesiastical building.

Canadian Chickadee said...

Steerforth - you asked which we prefer - I prefer "an historic house" over "a historic house", hands down. (Help! I am running out of "h's" on my keyboard!

BTW - love your curmudgeonly and quite rebellious approach to informational leaflets - I think you and my husband would get along really well! -- with a bit of grousing followed by a nice pub lunch at which I would gladly join you.

xoxox Carol