Thank you all for your New Year wishes, and let's hope that 2018 is a good year for us all. I've started it with viral bronchitis, picked up from one of several folk I know who are suffering from this, so I haven't been out much. Apart from the discomfort of the illness, I've been happy enough. I've begun reading Helen Dunmore's "Birdcage Walk," and look forward to reading more every time I take it up.
I don't know how it ends yet but it's about a young woman in 18th century Bristol who is married to a seemingly respectable man - but the reader (though not the young woman) can see he is becoming increasingly dangerous and desperate. A very interesting situation!
Dunmore is a wonderful writer in a literary sense - I admire her use of words, her writing technique, the quality of her research and the elegant way she uses that research to bring her period to life. She is also a master of plot. Or, at least, to be more precise, the other books I've read of hers have had terrific plots. I'll let you know if this also the case at the end of my reading of "Birdcage Walk"!
I've also been enjoying blogs. One of my favourites is "The Gentle Author," an anonymous resident of Spitalfields, a once-neglected, now trendy part of London. Her (or his) mission is to reveal as much about this area, past and present, as possible. Because London is such an old city, there is history everywhere once you start looking and the blog is varied and full of treasures. Today the author shows some of the many wood and stone carvings that used to grace East and central London, as seen in local photographic archives. I am glad a photo survived of this physician tending his patients, and particularly the matter of fact way he is sawing off the patient's leg in the second picture down on the left. What do you think is happening in the lower right picture?
These days, one of the best ways to discover ancient carvings of everyday life is to check in old cathedral choirs. Many of them contain special tip-up seats called misericords. These often show scenes of medieval daily life, and may be humorous and touching. Others feature the fearsome demons which occur very often on old churches of all sizes throughout England. I have never known exactly why these demons live in old churches. My theory is that they're imprisoned there so they can be kept under control by God. Here are a nasty couple of creatures on an archway at Ilkesthall St Andrews, Suffolk. The one on the right with its sharp teeth appears to be muzzled. Let's hope so.
Many pubs also have artistic and interesting signs. This "World's End" is near Taunton, Somerset has a nice picture of a punter escaping from the world's cares, but the surround is also interesting.
The badger's a symbol of the brewery, "Hall & Woodhouse" which owns the pub. You can get a better view of the badger here on Street View.
Talking of pubs, do you know the Lidl and Aldi song? (In case you are living in a parallel universe, Lidl and Aldi are discount supermarkets which sell a limited range of very nice food at very good prices plus loads of "special buys" which can be anything from fitness mats to drinks fridges, or embroidery kits, or cheese graters,or even the very nice jacket which T. impulsively bought for £15 in Lidl in Belfast when the weather turned cold.)
This Irish pub song explains how you simply can't go into either store without buying loads of random stuff you never knew you wanted, because the price is so insanely low. Yes, yes.
The composer and performer is Mick McConnell, and the pub's John B. Keane's in Listowel, Co. Kerry.
A friend from Japan stayed with us a couple of days ago - hope I haven't given him my bug. We've had some wonderful New Year and Christmas presents from Japan. Here are two charming small boxes of sweets from friends in Hiroshima. Each box, made from papier-mache, is a little work of art. I think they depict characters from Japanese folklore: the Seven Lucky Gods and Hyottoko.
I've got tickets to something tonight, but I'm not sure I'll be well enough to go. I hope so. My neighbour's invited us to her Twelfth Night party later this evening so I'd like to go to that too but don't want to infect others. Perhaps I'd better do some more research into bronchitis and see if I can figure out what to do!
So that's what I have been up to. I hope you have enjoyed the first week of 2018