Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Minsterworth and St Mary's, Kempley

Having business in Gloucester, I took the scenic route. First stop, St Peter's Church in Minsterworth.
I was there to pay homage to the poet F W (Will) Harvey, another World War I poet and friend of Ivor Gurney. This is his grave. 

It's considerably less arty than the headstones afforded Gurney and Siegfried Sassoon - maybe because Harvey is less well known nationally. 

Inside the Church, though, is one of the most pleasing commemorative windows I think I've ever seen, by Graham Dowding of Nailsworth. 

I spent a happy ten minutes immersed in its detail, with its finely depicted wildlife and allusions to the trenches.  

The lines of poetry in the design are from 'A Gloucestershire Lad at Home and Abroad' 

Though you may see me not, yet hear
My laughter in the laughing streams,
My footsteps in the running rain. . .

For sake of all I counted dear
And visit still within my dreams

I shall at last come home again.

The Church at Minsterworth is very close to the River Severn - indeed, the mediaeval church was replaced by this pleasant Arts and Crafts-style building in 1870 because of the damage done by flood waters. Apparently, in 1852 the parish clerk sailed up the nave in a boat. I went to have a little peep from the flood defences, which were last breached in 2014. All quiet today. 

My second destination was the Norman Church of St Mary's in Kempley, some 14 miles sunnier, which dates from 1095. 

It has a picturesque 12th century porch of sagging oak ... 

... which partially obscures the carved Norman arch and carved Tree of Life tympanum ... 

... but its true glory are the mediaeval wall paintings which were uncovered in the 1870s under layers of whitewash.

The ones in the chancel are 12th century frescos painted onto wet plaster. 

They depict scenes from Revelations, centering on a Christ in Majesty surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists. 

I liked the Apostles sitting in judgement down either side.

The murals in the nave date from the following century, and are in tempera painted on dry lime plaster.  
The Wheel of Life

And the roof timbers - which you can't see from the body of the church - are the oldest in the country. The south and west doors, too, are a similar age. 

I'd hoped to get to the other Church, an Arts and Crafts treasure, in Kempley, but I'd run out of time. No matter, with Dymock and Brockhampton nearby, there's every reason to come back again soon. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Frome Festival Poetry Cafe, 10th June 2017

I love Frome. It's one of my favourite Somerset towns, and if obligation hadn't kept me closer to Bristol, I'd have loved to have moved there the year before last.  So when Crysse Morrison kindly asked me to read at the Frome Festival Poetry Cafe some months back, I said yes yes yes and thank you. 
Not that the journey was without tribulation. Having been held up for two hours on Flowers Hill in South Bristol last autumn on my way to read at Words and Ears in Bradford-on-Avon, I vowed, as we squeaked into The Swan with moments to spare, that I'd never accept an invitation to read outside Bristol on a work day again. Obviously I'd disregarded this in the my eagerness to go to Frome ... until we found ourselves sitting in traffic on the ring road for 40 minutes. Even the relatively startling sight of a muntjac nibbling on a hedge at the side of the road couldn't distract me from my gloom.  

But the M4 was remarkably clear, as was the rest of my route, apart from when an elderly denizen of B-o-A blocked a single track section of road for four minutes while I avoided eye contact and everyone behind me papped her.  Eventually she deigned to reverse.   

Once in Frome, in the garden of the Garden Cafe, everything was sunny and lovely again. The theme of the evening was 'That Adlestrop Moment' and all the poets reading in the open mic produced poems which either referred directly to, or were at least partly inspired by, Edward Thomas's poem.  The poem judged the best would win its writer the title of Frome Poet Laureate for the year. 

It turned out the guest reader is the judge in what was a simultaneously enjoyable but tricky task. There was barely a hair's breadth between so many of the best poems, and in the end I opted for honourable mentions for several poems, with Liv Torc winning a book for her beautiful poem about her baby, and B a bottle of wine and the Laureateship for her poem. I don't have the piece of paper to hand with the notes I made while I was listening to the poems so I can't give you the titles, but the winning poem was about riding pillion on a motorbike, and was memorable for all its original images playing with the neither-here-nor-thereness of the original poem. 

And my reading went well too, I was told. (It's good to be told even when you think it was probably OK.)

I was far too busy to take photos, so I've half-inched some from other people. 

Crysse Morrison with Martin Bax, taken by David Chedgy

Crysse, drawn by Frome Festival sketch artist, Ann Harrison-Broninski

Liv Torc, taken by Crysse

B reading her winning poem, sketched by Ann

Louise Green reading her brilliant glosa on Adlestrop, taken by Crysse

B and me, taken by Crysse

Ann sketching the guest reader, taken by B

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Back to the 80s #bristolmidnightwalk for #stpetershospice

Funny how it all comes rushing back. The rolling and tying of an Indian silk scarf in a top knot. The back combing and hairspray. The smudgy black kohl eyeliner. The preferred order in which to pin the badges. 

All this as part of the Elmfield School for Deaf Children team taking part in the Back to the 80s Midnight Walk in aid of St Peter's Hospice, which recently gave our friend and co-worker, Clare Bear, such wonderful care in her last weeks. 

And the ones amongst us who'd been there, done that didn't scrub up that badly. (Jade was merely born in the 80s - just - but was doing brilliantly well being only three weeks post appendectomy.)

Setting off. (I am a little unhappy as a non-football fan, obvs, but Bristol Rovers supporter, obvs, starting out from Trashton Gate, home of the City, but there you go. ) 

We'd chosen the five mile walk, which I thought would be a breeze, even after an afternoon taking up my back room carpet and depositing it at the tip, but I hadn't realised how often I pause on my walks to take photos. Tonight there was no stopping - not even up Bridge Valley Road which is fairly steep. And all my photos were wonky.  

The best part of the evening, though, was spotting Sherry Eugene who was one of the comperes. Sherry is also a British Sign Language Interpreter and well known at our school. She took the time to sign a tribute to our Clare Bear to a hushed group of 1200 women plus stewards. It was followed by a burst of applause and the Elmfield contingent had a bit of a sniff and a tear or two. 


There's still time to donate if the spirit moves you.  Here's the link to our justgiving page, and thanks to everyone who has already supported us.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Once upon a Dartmoor dreary ...

Happenstance took us to Dartmoor yesterday, for the second time this year. The first time it was wet, misty and dispiriting. Yesterday ... ?

... Well, it really wasn't any better.

The fabled view from the car park near Bennett's Cross  

We abandoned our plans to go for a walk out on the open moor and had our picnic in the car. Which is a bit tricky when you're sharing the front seat with a large, moulting border collie. 

On, then, to Postbridge, where at least it wasn't raining. Much.

And it was so very beautiful and lush, even on this greyest of days. 

I don't think I've seen the East Dart this full - at least, not in summer.

We then proceeded sedately through low cloud and mist, noticing with pleasure that the Forest Inn at Hexworthy, high above the West Dart, has reopened after two long years of closure. 

It was pretty bleak up on Combestone Tor too, looking out over the Dart Gorge. 

Finally, we stopped for a brief amble on the edge of Hembury Woods, so that Ted could stretch his legs and have a splash in a nearby stream. 

At least the company was excellent.

And as for not so glorious Dartmoor, we'll just have to try our luck again soon.