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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Friday 20 July 2012

To Hell and Heaven in a Morris Traveller

The novelist, Julie Hearn, has written me a commendation for my forthcoming novel, 'Dart', and I wanted to repay the favour without compromising her - or my - integrity, so came up with the idea of taking her on a jaunt.  And a jaunt not being a proper jaunt unless you do it in a Morris Traveller, Dru joined us too.

From Julie's home we headed to Fairford to see the mediaeval glass in St Mary's - the only surviving complete set of windows in the country.

I was especially struck by the great West window, with its depiction of Heaven and Hell. 

Above is St Michael (or at least his legs), weighing souls to determine whether the owner will go to Heaven or Hell.  And to the left here he is in full, with his beautiful and astonishing butterfly wings.

Not so beautiful is the fate of those deemed unworthy of paradise.  In the corner is Satan, looking like something from a Steve Bell cartoon.  Far more horrifying is the poor demented soul being wheeled to hell in a handcart courtesy of a rather laid back looking blue demon.

You can see the West window behind me and Julie in the next photo.

The other windows were wonderful also, although some were very graphic. (There were a lot of decapitated heads and at least one baby being stabbed.)  Other windows showed saints with faces just like ones you might see on the bus.  The one above, of the Ascension, reminded me of a 1960s album cover.  Look at Jesus's feet disappearing into cloud!  They're just like the stone carving above in Wells Cathedral.

When you are surrounded by so much coloured light, it's easy to miss other, less ostentatious beauty things.  Like this angel painted on the wall, high to one side of the arch separating the nave from the chancel.

And the Soup Dragon outside.


While we were in the charity shop over the road, one of the volunteers told us to head for Lechlade Church, where there was a stone in the wall carved with lines from a 
'Summer Evening Churchyard, Lechlade' which Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote in 1815.  The path through the graves has been renamed Shelley's Walk in his honour.  After Keats' Walk in Winchester on Saturday, this seemed to synchronous to miss, so off we went.

The church is described as one of the six finest in Gloucestershire, but we found it a bit bland after Fairford.  There was an interesting if rather horrifying mid 13th century sculpture depicting the martyrdom of St Agatha ...

... and an irritating grammatical error in a 20th century stained glass window of St Ursula, dedicated to the memory of Thomas and Sarah Hawker.  Bloody greengrocers' apostrophe's get everywhere.  

After Lechlade, we made our way to William Morris's Kelmscott Manor, somewhere very dear to my heart.  Julie had been there before also, while researching her novel 'Ivy' about a young artist's model and laudanum addict working for a minor Pre-Raphaelite artist, but it was Dru's first visit.

She took a highly illicit photo of Julie and me in one of the corridors, and another with the iconic front elevation of the Manor behind us. 

We also popped into the Village Hall, designed by Ernest Gimson in memory of Morris, and the Church of St George, the churchyard of which contains Morris's grave.  There must have been a wedding the previous weekend because the ancient font was full of white flowers and the scent of lilies was just this side of over-powering.  There were more flowers wreathing the pillars, where during Morris's funeral which coincided with Harvest, there were rings of oats and barley.

We lingered for some time in the north transcept admiring the mediaeval wall paintings, particularly this one of Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden yet not looking too distressed by their fate.

We had hoped to go to Buscot also, to see the Burne-Jones paintings, but time was not on our side, so we adjourned to Julie's house for tea and to plan part two of our jaunt in the autumn.

On the way back to Bristol we again passed the prehistoric Uffington White Horse, and I vowed to get back there with Ted for a walk before long.  A final stop in Wantage brought us face to face with a statue of Alfred, again my second of the week, having encountered him the previous weekend in Winchester.  Funny how things go sometimes.

Thanks to Dru for - amongst other things - doing all the driving, and to Julie for being another kindred spirit to add to my precious collection.  Feels really good to have made another Friend-in-Jaunting.

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