Thursday, 21 June 2018

St Cadoc's Church, Llancarfan

I can't say I've wanted to see the mediaeval wall paintings in Llancarfan Church for aaaaaages because they were only discovered in 2008, when a thin line of red paint was discovered under more than twenty coats of limewash. 

I heard about them in 2012, which is quite long ago enough, when I went to hear the lovely Michael Wood speak at Bristol University. And on Wednesday, I finally got a chance to go there. Hooray!

Apparently, the name Llancarfan derives from Nantcarfan, the valley or stream of the stags. Here's the stream ...  

... and here's a stag. 

And here's a scratch sundial.

Even before the uncovering of the paintings, St Cadog's Church would have been worth visiting for all its other mediaeval survivals, but they do rather steal the show. 

Here's a few of the highlights ... like the magnificent St George on his 'orse, vanquishing a depleted but still impressive dragon.

Death, dressed in a shroud, wrapped around by a worm and with a toad clinging to his chest, leads the Gallant in the Dance of Death.

Rather than the more usual sinners-being-sucked-down-into-Hell, here the Seven Deadlies emanate from the sinner's body rather like heads of the Hydra. Except you can't see much of him, apart from his bent knees.

Lust reminds me - in design, if not execution - of the similar warning in the nave of St Winifred's in Branscombe, which is on the cover of my first collection, Communion.
I love how both sets of lovers are oblivious to their diabolical tormentors.
Here's a detail of Gluttony ... 

... and of the Acts of Mercy.

The south aisle

I especially like the glimpses you get of the paintings as you wander around the church ...

... and in juxtaposition with other parts of the decoration like this stone carving.

In fact, there's a fair bit of stone and wood carving but information about it is harder to come by than it is about the paintings.

Fourteenth century capital 

This fragment of a shaft of a pillar cross is the only surviving part of the late 9th/early 10th century Celtic church.

The fifteenth century Perpencidular screen and cradle roof of the Raglan chapel

The parish chest

The 12th century stoop
The also-recently-rediscovered-and-restored-canopied reredos screen

Apparently, Llancarfan once had a chancel window that was a masterpiece of stained glass, but during the Civil Wars, a local man called Whitton Bush destroyed it while shouting 'Down with the whore of Babylon!'

Rather less contentious glass here now. 

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Goldney House and Birdcage Walk

Another day, another house connected with the slave trade. This is Goldney House in Clifton.

It was built for the Goldney family, who profited from the manufacture of brass manillas and other items traded for slaves in Africa. 

We were there for the poetry reading section of the Clifton and Hotwells Labour Party fundraiser. And to commemorate the late Bristol-based novelist and poet Helen Dunmore, who was herself a member.

First, though, an exploration of the gardens ... 

... including the shell grotto which is still as creepy as I first found it decades ago.

I was reading poems in the Orangery with Bob Walton and Elizabeth Parker - a few of our own to start with, and then a few of Helen's.

It's a rather grand space. You might remember it from  the second episode of series 3 of Sherlock. Sadly no actor associated with that show was there today.

When everyone had been sufficiently delighted, we walked back to the car ...

... along Birdcage Walk, which, funnily enough, is the title of Helen Dunmore's final novel, and which I shall now elevate to the top of the book mountain next to my bed. 

Just time to fling a passing greeting to my second favourite mulberry tree. Must remember to make some more mulberry and almond vodka this summer. 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Stepping Out Theatre: The Rise and Fall of Ronald J Dump

The village of Hallen doesn't get much of a look in when it comes to histories of Bristol, or even coverage of contemporary concerns, such as pollution, nearby industrialisation, and the plight of its residents. 

I suspect the fact that it was sliced in two by the building of the M5 did a lot to render it invisible. In any event, I've lived no more four miles distant for much of my life but have only been there twice. And one of those visits was by mistake. 

So it's high time Awareness Was Raised, and this is what Stepping Out, our outstanding mental health theatre company, is doing with its latest political satire, The Rise and Fall of Ronald J Dump, currently running at Kings Weston House. 

If you care about our city and its environment, please go and see it. And in the meantime, here are some highlights of last night's show.