Fields of mud – seeds of hope

Citizens of Ripon and beyond have been calling into the cathedral as often as they could over the last few weeks.  Not necessarily to view this ancient building, or even to spend quiet moments reflecting.  Perhaps not even to view the poppies which are here, as they are throughout the city centre.

We’ve all been visiting the Fields of Mud  in the Cathedral itself.  Back in early October, that’s all we could see.  A large brown rectangle of damp mud, surrounded by sandbags.  This mud is from Passchendaele, and from a Great War military camp in Ripon. As, over the weeks, the wet earth dried and cracked, five ghostly, battle weary figures slowly emerged on the surface.

This image, exhibited in the Cathedral, is a print projecting the final appearance of the piece.

There are millions of ungerminated poppy seeds lying dormant in that mud.  When the piece is decommissioned later this month, it will be broken up and segments will be made available to the public to create their own memorials.  This work’s legacy can continue indefinitely.

This astonishingly moving and evocative piece is the inspiration of Dan Metcalfe: his farming background has given him an understanding of mud.  It’s disagreeable, destructive and even dangerous, as every WWI tommy well knew. But it also harbours seeds, waiting to flourish and grow when conditions are right .

Now the figures are fully visible, as the mud which surrounds them has dried out.  And so we can see that these are the same figures that have appeared round town, near North Bridge and the Cathedral itself, at Hell Wath and Rotary Way: and in nearby Sharow, where the British Legion home for former service personnel used to be.  These soldiers, and a nurse appear as silhouettes, made from rusted metal, and they are trudging home, their backs to the conflict and facing the future.

Ripon city has recently made us keenly aware of the sacrifices  made in the Great War.  But the poppies, the Fields of Mud are not the whole story.  Tomorrow, on Remembrance Day, I’ll show you Ripon’s Remembrance Light Show.

Fred and Old Bones trudging home near North Bridge, Ripon. The soldier’s pipe is turned upside down to keep his baccy dry during the inevitable rain. This brilliant image was captured at sunset by Andrew Dobbs. (https://www.andrewdobbs.photo/)

Click on any image to see it full size.

Castle Howard

The weather is far too glorious to sit inside reading and writing blog posts. Let’s just go for a walk round the grounds of Castle Howard, which everyone of my generation knows as the star of  the 1981 production of Brideshead Revisited on ITV. If you want to know more about the building’s real history, just look here.

For a closer look at any photo, click on the image.

Snapshot Saturday is being replaced by Ragtag Tuesday: watch this space.

London Gasholders

I was in London yesterday, but due to travel back to Yorkshire from King’s Cross when Judith’s blog Beyond the Window Box tumbled into my in-box. She’d been exploring the area round the station, just alongside Regent’s Canal, and found some gasholders…..

As a child, these fascinated me.  Those circular cast iron skeletons, housing storage cylinders which telescoped up and down depending on how much gas they contained were a source of wonder to me.  Though assertively industrial, they were graceful too, rising above the narrow terraced houses and the factories and trades which grew up alongside them. But ‘Gasworks Street’ was nobody’s idea of a smart address.

The King’s Cross gasholders in their workaday world.

How things change.  Gasholders London is a site transformed from its dirty, workaday past into a smart desirable residential quarter.  All but one of the gasholders now contain not gas cylinders, but luxury apartments.  The remaining one has become a small  park with a gleaming reflective canopy with grass beneath.

Nobody seems to want to hide the area’s busy industrial past.  The über-smart shopping quarter, just being developed on the site of the cobbled streets and railway sidings where coal from the North of England was received and sorted is called Coal Drops Yard.

Gasholders London, seen from the Regent’s Canal.

Round here, if you need to know the price, you can’t afford it.  A hundred and fifty years of dramatic social change.

Click on any image for a closer view.

 

Snapshot Saturday: many stories – one cathedral

This week’s pictures hint at two or more stories: at that of the life of Jesus, from whose life and teaching spring one of the world’s great religions. And at the building of La Sagrada FamiliaAntoni Gaudí’s cathedral celebrating Jesus’ family, created by thousands of craftspeople with special stories to tell, gathered over the last 136 years …. maybe only another eight or so to go.

 

 

 

‘Story’ is this week’s WordPress photo challenge.  Click on any image to view full size. 

Gardens of Light

It was cold the other night. Very cold. And for three hours, I stood outside in the dark. I was happy.

I was volunteering at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal as part of an event that spanned two continents: in Poland; in Denmark; in Germany; in Russia; in France and in China. Do follow the links: you’ll immediately have a clutch of places to add to your ‘must visit’ list.

In all these places, for one dark chilly night in February, there was a Garden of Light. Normally, we can only enjoy the Water Gardens of Studley Royal by daylight. But thanks to this international festival, there was a new opportunity.

Looking across the Moon Ponds towards the Temple of Piety as night falls.

As night fell, lighting designed to spotlight the special features of the gardens pierced the darkness, revealing a garden in harmony with the philosophy of the time in which it was conceived: where Nature and Art work hand in hand. 18th century music played in the background.

Visitors were able to stroll round, lanterns or torches in hand, focusing on the Temple of Piety and the classical statuary of the Moon Ponds; or glancing upwards at the Octagon Tower and Temple of Fame, all bathed in golden light. The Moon Ponds themselves were lit by glowing orbs – sometimes silver white, sometimes red or blue, fading in intensity as the evening wore on.

The Abbey too was lit up, though I barely saw this as it wasn’t my role to be available there.

A deliberately out-of-focus shot of the Abbey.

The moon was perfect – exactly half way between waxing and waning, it lit the visitors’ paths and illuminated the night sky. Whenever I looked up there was Orion’s Belt – and so many other stars usually invisible to town-dwellers.

Those of us there relished the chance to enjoy this peaceful yet joyous occasion. And as the event drew to a close, owls reclaimed the night, and their plaintive hooting accompanied us as we walked away, chilly but content.

The evening draws to a close and visitors take their lanterns home.

The panto is over. Long live Cinderella.

Before Christmas, I promised you an alternative version of Cinderella, prompted by a session we’d had in my writing group.

Well, dear reader, I wrote it. And no, I’m not going to share it, because what I found out was that I have no talent for, nor interest in writing fiction. What I produced was workmanlike and …. dull. Which is a shame, as I enjoy reading fiction, every day of my life.

But you did ask, so I’ll share a synopsis with you.

Grizelda and Gertrude lived with their mother in straitened circumstances since their father, a knight, had been killed in the Holy Land during the Crusades. From necessity, and from a belief, uncommon at the time that all are created equal, these God-fearing girls and their mother worked alongside the only remaining servant in running the household. Nevertheless, their mother eventually remarried. Her new husband was a widowed nobleman with an amiable if empty-headed 14-year-old daughter, Cinderella, over-indulged by a friend of the girl’s dead mother and whom she called her ‘Fairy Godmother’.

The two older girls tried to include Cinderella in their simple hard-working way of life, but she resented their efforts, regarding them as dull and boring.

One day, an invitation came from the King to all noble families. He was holding a summer ball to celebrate his son Prince Charming’s 21st birthday, in his summer palace outside the nearby town of Fantasienstadt. Grizelda and Gertrude didn’t want to go at all. Cinderella did, but as she had only just turned 15, her father stood firm and forbade it however much she and her godmother pleaded, raged and stormed.

At the ball, the two sisters, big-boned and gauche, found few dance partners. They looked on as a bewitchingly beautiful young woman arrived and straightaway attracted the eye of Prince Charming. She looked not unlike Cinderella. All evening she and the prince danced, until suddenly, just before midnight, she ran away, screaming in panic. She didn’t even stop to pick up the delicate sparkly shoe she lost in her hurry to escape.

The next day, a royal footman came to the door, bearing this same shoe. He needed to find its owner. Cinderella astonished everyone by claiming it was hers, and proved it by running to fetch its partner. She was swept off to the palace by the footman, and the rest is history.

Ann Anderson (1874 – 1952). Cinderella escapes from the ball in a great hurry.

Later, Cinderella explained that her godmother had borrowed all the finery, together with a splendid carriage, so that she could get to the ball. But she had to be home for midnight, when it was to be returned.

And Grizelda and Gertrude? Just one ball had been enough to convince them that the trappings of a noble life were not for them. They both entered a convent, where they lived in devotion and service for the rest of their lives.

The sea, the sea … in Barcelona

Another bright sunny day, so the seashore beckoned again – in Barcelona this time.

First though, we visited the Museu Marítim, located in the impressive Drassanes Reials, the mediaeval shipyard dating originally from the 13th century.  It was remodelled time and again till the 18th century, when it fell out of use.

Our main memory of this engaging and beautifully curated museum is of the impressively reconstructed galley ship the Galera Reyal of 1568, and all the instruments, arms, ordnance and documents associated with such a warship. 

What about this? Thirty oars each side, each manned by four slaves. These men toiled for hours and hours each day, shackled to the same spot for the entire voyage. They worked, ate and slept here, puddled in their own excrement. A ship such as theirs could never surprise the enemy. The smell preceded it by several knots. The exquisite ornamentation of this vessel, rich in symbolism, loses some of its allure against this background.

The whole of the dockyard area is rich in history. Here are just a few pictures, and from the more recently developed Port Vell.