DAYS OUT: Pond & Horses

Lovely!

Patrick came over today. He and I went for a little country lane pootle. Change of scenery. Fresh air. And a lovely sunny day.

Beautiful pond, on Willock Road.
Gorge!

Not far from the pond, I spotted two horses in a field. Can you see them?

I spy…

Ok… how about now:

A bucolic scene.

Teresa and Pat are watching Dr Who. Old Tom Baker era stuff. I’m in bed!

DAYS iN: Food n’ Frustration

Last night I cooked a paella. Perhaps foolhardy, having a Spaniard staying with us!? I kept it trad’, except for one or two things: I added chorizo, and the artichokes weren’t raw/fresh, but bottled (all I could get/less hassle!).

Antonio did a delicious salad, to go with it, with mango, walnuts, and balsamic vinegar. I’m not sure that his salad wasn’t tastier than my paella. Well, never mind. For dessert we had tiramisu.

Great poster!

After dinner we watched The Bridge at Remagen, on Amazon Prime. I have it on DVD, but it’s faulty! The old 1969 poster is sooo much better than the more modern packaging. My DVD, alas, uses the latter.

Hmmm… ok, but less good.

The foodie pics at the top of this post are the leftover paella and salad, which we just had for our Sunday lunch. Antonio is now off visiting Dad and Claire, with the girls. And after that, he’ll be in Spain till 5th June.

I’m still seething over what happened at Morrisons a couple of weeks ago, and the further blows life sees fit to rain upon me. And that’s making booking work with Amazon – easily and always the worst part of the job, by a margin – very dispiriting.

Looks like we’ll be missing this…

I’d planned to take us hup nurth, leek, to the above. The idea was to go today. But poor weather, total exhaustion, and the desolation of penury – oh, and Teresa would prefer to stay home! – all mitigate against that.

There’s a slim chance – if I could book a nice fat juicy shift today, for example – that we might be able to go tomorrow. But the odds are, alas, about 100-1 against. Hey ho!

DAYS OUT/CHURCHES: St Mary’s, Southery (old & new?)

Lovely view, atop a wee brudgey.

I was doing my delivery rounds today. And what a fine day it turned into! And, as ever, various things caught my eye.

Fenland road names can be such fun.

My final delivery of the afternoon was in the village of Southery, near Downham Market. My work done, I went and found the village church. Yet another bloomin’ unimaginative St. Mary’s.

The church was shut. But, not one to be deterred, I rang the churchwardens, and a guy came out with a key and unlocked it for me. Fab!

This 19th Century church isn’t as interesting to me, overall, as the kinds of church that are built on and integrate much older buildings.

Perhaps the chief attraction here is the stained glass? And, amongst the folk depicted in the windows, an unusual sight, my namesake, St Sebastian!

Whereas some Fenland churches – such as St Wendreda’s, where we live (March) – have fabulous wooden angels in their roofs, here we find a pair carved into the supports of an arch.

Also of interest are the 12 ‘stations of the cross’ roundels. And numerous written ‘inscriptions’ (inc. the one in the porch that lists the folk who worked on it).

I also found out whilst here, that there was another older church, at a site not too far away. But that it had fallen into disuse and ruin, and is now fenced off. This picqued my interest!

I wandered around the entire old church site. There’s an extensive graveyard here. But access to the old ruins is prevented by a metal fence. Even the wrought iron gate admitting one to the site/graveyard has been made inaccessible.

Careful study of these pics – it’s much easier to see when you’re there – reveals that the structure of what remains standing is visible, in veiled outline. Albeit entirely clad in greenery now.

But, it turns out that hidden under all this rampant growth is a mostly brickwork disappointment. I’ll come back to this in a bit more detail later.

Sunglasses required.

When I got home I took Teresa to the chemist. We passed this amazingly vivid (livid!?) bush, en route.

Overwhelming!

That kind of shocking pink wouldn’t have appealed to me in years past. But I love it now. Nature’s fecundity, albeit here under human guidance, is a wonderful thing.

Tesco used book buy, £1.

I bought the above at Tesco. From their little second hand book library. I initially thought it was a non-fiction history book. But I now realise it is in fact historical fiction.

Never mind! It’s Napoleonic, and set in 1812, against the backdrop of Napoleon’s Russian debacle. One of my particular favourite eras of history. So I shall read away, and hope it lives up to the book jacket hype.

I did say, up above at some point, that I’d say more about the slight disappointment at finding the ruins of the older church completely covered and sealed off by fences.

One would like to think that under it all lies a medieval gothic wonder, or something even older. But, as the two pics above (which I found here) attest, much of this ‘older’ church is a much later red-brick repair.

Anyway, as ever, a trip to a church – or churches? – proves to be deeply interesting, and richly rewarding. Even when neither church is top drawer.

DAYS OUT: Fenny Creatures

At the end of my delivery shift this afternoon, as I left the final drop, a gaggle of geese were crossing the country lane I was driving back up.

It looked like a primary school crossing. Only missing a lollipop lady. The geese and their furry little goslings were very cute to see.

And a little later, I spotted the two horses, pictured above. The black and white one was originally stood sideways on, and looked more impressive that way. But by the time I’d got my phone trained on him, he was facing me.

Much more annoying than that, however, was missing a potentially fab snap of said horse with a heron flying up and out of the river, at the same spot. My reflexes just weren’t quick enough. Dang it!

Still, lovely to see a few critters.

DAYS OUT/CHURCHES: St Mary’s & Saints Syriac & Julitta, Swaffham Prior, Pt II – St Mary’s

Moving from St Syriac to St Mary’s… gorgeous!

Next, the tower of St Mary’s. A truly magnificent space. With some very ‘gnarly’ exterior stonework.

I could linger in or under that tower for ages. And indeed, I did just that.

As the above panorama shows. There’s a lot to take in. The modern stained-glass is noteworthy for being both very clearly modern, and yet actually really very good. Not a combo I’m used to.

What we have here is a textbook example of an embarrassment of riches. Every which way the eye doth turn, it’s belaboured by rich craftsmanship and beauty. An intoxicating and overwhelming experience.

Pause for breath…

Elvis exits the building.

I love the above panoramic view of both churches.

It had just about stopped raining when I left, and was merely dripping. The green stuff growing on the trunk of the tree, above, seemed to capture a perfect feeling of the dank, dark, rich greenery.

A final parting shot…

As I’ve said here before, one church visit whilst out and about is good. Two is great. Three? Well, I feel blessed.

DAYS OUT/CHURCHES: St Mary’s & Saints Syriac & Julitta, Swaffham Prior, Pt I – St Syriac

I’ve read online that ‘twin’ churches, on the same spot, aren’t quite as unusual as one might think. Indeed, there are – so this website said – several more such pairings in Cambs alone. But, despite this, to my less experienced churchical sensibilities it still seems a bit unusual.

It also said that given the position of this church, it’s likelier the older site of the two. Even though the bulk of the fabric of Syriac’s is newer (Victorian; witness the interior!).

There’s something of an irony here, inasmuch as it’s the newer (albeit older looking) St Mary’s that remains an active ‘house of worship’. Syriac is a CCT property, and is currently mostly empty.

Looks like it’d be a great venue for cultural shenanigans. From music (quiet!), to art, maybe even drama? Prob’ comes a cropper on all that modern health & safety bollocks, nowadays. What a waste…

DAYS OUT/CHURCHES: St Mary the Virgin, Stow-cum-Quy

St Mary, Quy.

St Mary The Virgin was the first of three churches I visited today. When I arrived it was pouring down with rain. And the church was locked. I took most of the pics in the first gallery wandering around outside, getting very wet.

But a notice in the porch directed me to a nearby key-holder, and I was soon back, to snoop and snap around the interior. I’m no expert on church architecture. I just love wandering around, and soaking up whatever appeals to my eye or mind.

As with almost all old churches, the more you look, the more you find, and longer you linger, the more you see. Here we have a couple of fragments of an old wall painting. A font supported by stone angels. And some wooden rafter-angels.

There also lots of little heads, and heraldic stuff. Some of the heads are on windows, outside. Some are in the interior stonework. And, as in most churches, there’s the evidence of multiple layers of building, repairs, additions, subtractions, and suchlike.

Even, as here, when there’s no really nice fancy stained glass, I still love the windows. And overall I simply find these places endlessly fascinating.

MiSC/READING: Is It Just Me? Miranda

Is this even a good idea?

As I lurch from one disaster to another (quite possibly – to be honest I’m past knowing or even caring – largely self-inflicted), I’ve opted to pick up and read this.

Another book recently purchased in a church for 20p, or thereabouts. And one I was actually on the point of taking to a charity shop, unread, as part of our ever ongoing de-cluttering.

The Next Day…

It’s been raining more or less continuously for the last 48 hours. We have a soggy moggy just arrived in our bedroom. Bless him!

Well, I’m kind of glad I chose to read this Miranda book. I do prefer her on’t tellybox. Her persona in writing is essentially a literary version of her onscreen self. All clumsy and ex-public schoolgirly.

But her candour and humour are charming and amusing. And whilst I don’t share all of her ‘Is It Just Me?’ stuff type experiences, I do – as I’m sure a great many of us do – identify with a great deal of her experiences.

Who hasn’t had a number of mortifying moments over the course of their lives? Surely most folk’s lives are – if we only knew – messier and more troubled than a first glance might suggest?

But with things like her height – she’s the same height as me, 6’1” – she’s built an adult identity, indeed, an entire career, out of playing the klutz. A dangerous game, perhaps?

Anyway, whilst I generally avoid books of this sort – by which I mean apparently lighter than a soufflé – esp’ if loaded to the gunwhales (as this is) with contemporary pop culture references, I’m glad I made an exception for Miranda.

I’m a fan of comedy. I mean, either you laugh or cry at the tragicomedy that is life. I’ve done more than my share of crying. I’d far rather laugh, if I get to choose.

And Miranda can and does make me laugh. Sometimes it’s just a wry smile, at others it’s a proper full on belly laugh.

The latter sounds like a euphemism for farting. And, to her great credit, whilst simultaneously admitting to a very English difficulty with all things bodily, she frequently visits this most comedic of bodily functions.

I remember attending a meditation group in Brixton, some decades back, where a hirsute hippy dude let off a pleasingly sonorous but appallingly eggy guff. I was one of the few who couldn’t help but laugh. So Miranda’s recollections of po-faced yoga classes where the ‘fart-police’ ban mirth has a sulphurous resonance for me.

And whilst I’ve not had a pigeon mistake me for a lamp post, I did have one defecate directly into my as yet untasted pint of beer, just as I hoisted it mouthwards, sitting outside a pub in Soho, many moons ago.

The pesky pigeon bum-bombed my beverage with what might’ve been a pleasing plop, to an avian dam-buster. ‘Bomber’ Harris would’ve killed for that pigeon’s pin-point accuracy.

I was, of course, mortified, and very pissed off. And I have countless other experiences not dissimilar to many of Miranda’s. So it really isn’t just her. As I guess she full well knows.

At present, after just one days’ reading, I’m about 60% through the book. If I/you weren’t doing anything else (I had a shift of work and numerous household chores to contend with), it could be comfortably read in just one day.

She’s written ‘what I call’* ‘Miss Book’, in part, as a conversation with her 18 year old self. She’s also made it 18 chapters, allegedly one for each year of her younger self. Each is themed on one of life’s vexing challenges. Ranging across such issues as Hobbies, Beauty, Office Life, Technology, and so on.

* Viewers of her TV show will recognise not just her catchphrases, but her entire persona.

All told, whilst not blown away by Is It Just Me? I am glad I did at least choose to read it, before moving it on. Teresa and I have been ‘in the wars’ recently, in our differing ways. And some light-hearted laughter – perhaps esp’ when it touches upon potentially awful/personally distressing stuff, as this does – is most welcome.

SOME DAYS LATER…

Ok, so I just finished this book. Much Miranda is already known to us, via her TV shows, etc. But there are some new things I’ve learned about her, reading this. Some that I love, and a few that make me feel I might have less in common with her than I originally thought.

I guess the main thing I have in common with her (apart from close to identical height), is typical human foolishness, or klutziness. And traits associated with how that plays out in adult life.

Areas where we diverge include the fact that I’m an artsy-fartsy muso type, of sorts, and whereas she seems proud to be a little dumb, and is happily and unashamedly into ‘pop culture’, I’m keen on trying to be clever, and pretty cranky about the banality of popular mainstream culture.

Her book is a quick, fun, easy read. I much preferred it to a book I once read (Born Lippy, was it?) by Jo Brand. Both are female comedians whose paths through life have been greatly affected by their physical and related aspects.

Both books are written to come across like the TV personae we know and (for me, with Miranda) love. Neither is to my normal tastes. But of the two, Miranda’s Venn circle overlaps that bit more with mine than Brand’s.

Unlike many books I’ve read and reviewed over the years, esp’ those I’ve really enjoyed, I’m hesitant about recommending this. It’s hardly a classic. And it’s not going to teach you anything you didn’t already know, or haven’t already heard elsewhere.

But, at the end of the day, if, like me, you enjoy Miranda on the tellybox, you’ll probably also enjoy her in book form. Of the two, I think TV is better suited to her whole style.

Alan Partridge would be an example of a TV comedy character that, for me, whilst still best enjoyed on TV (or now in podcast form, as well), transitions better into the written word.

Anyway, there you go. I picked it up cheap. Eventually read it. Quite enjoyed it. And now I’m moving it on.

MUSiC: Wish List

Here’s a wee listicle, of music I’m interested in hearing/acquiring, presented as a selection of image galleries.

J-Jazz

Mainstream

Brazil

Funky Jazz Fusion, General

Blue Note

Etc…

MUSiC: Building a (Modest) Mainstream Records Collection

A while back I got these beauties.

Some while ago, I scored the three Chuck K discs above, from Japan. And now, I’ve got a few more, from this superb Japanese reissue series:

Fab sounds, via the Land of the Rising Sun.
Don’t they look cute, with those little Obi strips?

For me Mainstream Records struck a seam of pure musical perfection, around ‘71-‘73. The very definition of the Goldilock’s zone: never too little nor to much. Just so…

The music is the main attraction, of course. But I love the whole package. There’s a distinct aesthetic at work. And a fabulous one, at that.

Musically we get a beautiful melange of numerous strands in jazz, as it was evolving at this point in time: remnants of hard-bop, blues, and soul jazz, rub shoulders and more, and get downright freaky with modal, a d even free jazz elements.

And there’s an almost ‘chamber orchestra’ aesthetic, with groups often that little bit bigger than might’ve been the norm. Maybe with extra horns, or percussion.

And often – in a much funkier take on say organ jazz for example – having the almost rock group guitar, keys and bass, as a core trio, in the rhythm section, where in the ‘60s, organists might do the bass stuff on pedals.

There remains a great deal more to explore and enjoy. I have a ton of this label/era on mp3. But I prefer to have the CDs. I might’ve preferred vinyl, if money and space were no object. But they both are!

So I thank the Japanese cats who’ve had the good taste and plain human decency to bring these dusty treasures out on CD, and release them at affordable prices. Thank you, brethren and sistren!

Oh…

And I have another order in the pipeline, including Blue Mitchell, Shelly Manne, and Curtis Fuller… yeah, baby!