Monday, 4 March 2013

Stones and Snowdrops

What a weekend of poetry I have had!  In addition to my monthly Poetic Licence workshop on Sunday, Friday was the annual Voices In The City Day at Bath Central Library, part of Bath Festival of Literature and always a highly enjoyable occasion.  Then, on Saturday I went to Avebury with Hazel Hammond to take part in a workshop run by poets Jo Bell (a former archaeologist) and Martin Malone.  

We arrived in Avebury with snow falling, which was ironic given that the original workshop focusing on the stones had to be postponed in January because of feet of the stuff lying on the ground.  This time it was as fine as grains of salt, however, and didn't pitch. The wind still had a set of sharp teeth, however. 

First off was a tour of the site.  Avebury is a strange place. Unlike Stonehenge, where the stones stand in magnificent isolation, the village has encroached on the henge and despite the original archaeologist, Alexander Keiller, and the National Trust taking it upon themselves to demolish part of village, the better to show off the stones, there's still an odd sense of the unfathomable hugger-mugger with bricked and tiled domesticity.  I love the majesty of Stonehenge, but also adore the very clear impression of historical layers you get at Avebury.  

And of course you can still get close enough to read the lichen maps covering the sarsen stone.

After a while we began to turn to stone, so we adjourned to the cosy National Trust study centre for tea, chocolate biscuits and some stimulating writing exercises about our own personal landscapes.  

After lunch in the cafe, Hazel and I visited the museums, Avebury Manor and the Church of St James.  The rooms of the Manor were disappointing, having been done up like sets from different eras for a BBC television programme with Penelope Keith in it.  I suppose that every National Trust interior, with the exception of somewhere like Mr Straw's House which has retained all of its chattels, is to a certain extent fake, but this was flimsy and hollow fakery.  There was no sense at all of its history, no trace of who once lived there.  Boo!  Though at least there are none of those teasels and kids can jump on the beds.

The Church is built very close to the stones, reputedly to counteract their supposed malevolence.  (I think we're straying into Marianne Dreams territory here).  For me, the its jewel was the Norman tub font, designed for total immersion and  carved with a bishop carrying a crozier and two serpents. 

Outside, the sun had come out and there were nebulae on the gravestones,

not to mention to mention snowdrops and sunshine. Time to stop hibernating. 

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