Ruth and I have been enjoying Tony Robinson’s Channel 5 series Britain’s Great Cathedrals. We’re looking forward to the forthcoming episode on Canterbury. That’s where we met (at the University though, not the Cathedral itself.) The Cathedral was a favourite place to visit, and the experience was always awe-inspiring. When, later, I found this poem by John Ormond I was reminded how such staggering beauty was created by so many hard-working, skilful, ordinary blokes. I love the concluding line.
The Cathedral Builders
They climbed on sketchy ladders towards God,
with winch and pulley hoisted hewn rock into heaven,
inhabited the sky with hammers,
took up God’s house to meet him,
and came down to their suppers
and small beer,
every night slept, lay with their smelly wives,
quarrelled and cuffed the children,
lied, spat, sang, were happy, or unhappy,
and every day took to the ladders again,
impeded the rights of way of another summer’s swallows,
grew greyer, shakier,
became less inclined to fix a neighbour’s roof of a fine evening,
saw naves sprout arches, clerestories soar,
cursed the loud fancy glaziers for their luck,
somehow escaped the plague,
decided it was time to give it up,
to leave the spire to others,
stood in the crowd, well back from the vestments at the consecration,
envied the fat bishop his warm boots,
cocked a squint eye aloft,
and said, ‘I bloody did that.’
My 19th century German workshop Maggini copy, with two bands of purfling front and back, and an extra turn in the scroll (apparently not one of Maggini’s signatures).
In thirty years together we have seen and done a lot: from Castlethorpe Village Hall to Westminster Hall, from Leicester to Leipzig, countless ceilidhs, innumerable morris stands and nearly as many pubs as there are stars in the sky. I ought to be sad, but I truly am not. Continue reading →
Today marks the centenary of the opening of the British and Canadian offensive at Arras, on the Western Front.
Hawtin Mundy of New Bradwell, Buckinghamshire, fought and was captured in the battle. His powerful memories were recorded late in life, inspiring community drama and song that ties modern Milton Keynes and its inhabitants to its past.
Here is a part of Hawtin’s moving testimony:
Hawtin’s description of the battlefield at Arras was carefully turned into song by Paul Clark for the play Days of Pride, and has never failed to move audiences each of the many times it has been sung since. Continue reading →
We have an old bell sally at home, tied to the balusters upstairs and hanging down into the hall. When I was still repairing violins, customers (children usually, but not exclusively) would ask what it was. Continue reading →
Question: Who led the pedants’ revolt?
Answer: Which Tyler.
I am pedantic about the use and misuse of the English language. I know it, and laugh at myself for it, because I also know that concerns about a lowering of standards in both the written and the spoken word have been voiced ‘since time immoral’. ‘Twas ever thus. Continue reading →
It is a very unremarkable guitar, except to me and to its current owner.
It was my first guitar, bought for me by my parents some time around 1969. I had pestered them for it, and Dad was not too convinced.
“It’ll be a five minute wonder like everything else,” he predicted. Continue reading →
A friend recommended the online learning resource Future Learn to me.
Since my disability keeps me at home and sedentary more than I would like, this is proving to be a great boon. I have discovered the wide world of MOOCs. Massive Open Online Courses. Continue reading →