Out Now!

Friday, 30 July 2021

Salisbury Cathedral


The spire and tower at 404 ft high is the tallest spire in England and probably built between 1300 and 1330. The spire was seen as directing people towards God and can be seen from miles away



The cloisters and a view of the cathedral from the cloisters. 







This is the original cross mounted on top of the spire in the 1300s and the weathervane alongside – more modern at 1762 but with some nice World War II bullet holes to give that special contemporary touch


Tradition


According to military tradition, old colours are ‘retired’ in a special ceremony and left to hang until they fall apart. When this happens, they are taken down with their pike and a special service is held during which they are buried in an unmarked grave in sacred ground.  These particular colours are well on their way.





This is the world’s oldest working mechanical clock, made in 1386, possibly earlier. It told the priests when to pray and made sure religious services started on time. Unlike modern clocks it has no dial or hands but tells the time by striking the bell on the hour. The clock was originally kept in a separate tower with the cathedral’s bells. When the bell tower was taken down in 1790 the clock was moved inside the cathedral.  

The clock is still wound up every day and has ticked over 5 billion times. I thought you might want to know that.


Above is the font and below is the magic. The font gives a perfect reflection of the cathedral's roof.








Two pictures of the interior. Not reflections. 










St Osmund's tomb




Osmund was bishop of the first Salisbury Cathedral at Old Sarum, from 1078 until his death in 1099. He was first buried at Old Sarum but in 1226 his tomb was moved here. The foramina – holes in the sides of the tomb allow sick people to reach in and get closer to Osmund’s body, in the belief that this would make them well. Osmund was made a saint in 1457 and a magnificent shrine was built in his honour – destroyed during the Reformation when the worship of saints was forbidden. The Shrine contained so much gold and precious stones that it took a month to take it apart—which perhaps explains the real motive behind its destruction.





And a very special tomb from both sides. 


William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury (1176 – 12 26) was a bastard of Henry 11 and therefore the half-brother of King John who he remained loyal to until almost the end. He became an earl when his other half-brother Richard the Lionheart found a wife for him, Ela, a wealthy noblewoman with connections to Salisbury. A giant of a man with over-large weapons he fought across Europe but, according to the chronicler Roger of Wendover, was poisoned on the orders of Hubert de Burgh (note that name) Old Roger was a bit of a fantasist so many took the story with a pinch of salt until….. see below



Was Roger vindicated?







a small chapel for reflection. 







This shrine more than glorifies the Seymour family.


The Shrine should have an even larger placard ‘But I get up again!’ Though  this goes for the Cathedral too, when you consider it's history. But back to Edward and his splendid shrine.

Edward Seymour was the nephew of Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, so he knew what he was doing when he married Lady Catherine Grey in 1560 and had good reason to do it in secret. Catherine Grey was the sister of the unfortunate Jane Grey, Queen for nine days. As far as the new and endangered queen Elizabeth I was concerned, Edward was playing marital politics. Poor old Catherine was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Edward was imprisoned elsewhere in the Tower. Despite this, Catherine gave birth to two sons. In 1562 the marriage was annulled and the Seymours were censured as fornicators for their ‘carnal copulation.’ Edward was released from the tower when Catherine died, but the two children were now officially bastards. In 1582, Edward married again— in secret—and was arrested. And he secretly married once more in 1601, possibly on the basis that Queen Elizabeth didn’t have much longer to live. This glorious monument was erected in 1625. It shows Edward and Catherine lying together, and their two sons to either side.


Under the floor, the Cathedral’s foundations are only 4 ft deep which is surprising given the size and weight of the building. The foundations are made of flint stone held together with lime mortar. They are on top of gravel left by the nearby rivers. In 1915, the water came up through the foundations, flooding the cathedral.










Thursday, 22 July 2021

The Clay Cross Chronicles - Out Now!





 The ebook is launched - a snip at £3.  The paperback is pending, barcode to be attached.  There are eight  stories, some quite long, The great cover is the work of Maria Zannini

Penny Dime

Ginny Mambo

Vasia Verami 

Hecate

The Cagney Effect

Jinn Don’t Play Nice

Raising the Dead

Bunga Bunga



Below are a few random excerpts (easier than writing a blog post.) I hope you enjoy them, bearing in mind the opinions are not necessarily those of the author. 😎


"You got something to say to me, Sam? I think you have something to say to me."

He looked up, defeat scrawled on his face. There are six letters in 'defeat' and they don't look good on men with small faces.


 #


I put down the phone and stared. The request was nothing new, the oldest one in the book. It was one I’d done a thousand times before and likely would a thousand times more. A package had gone missing, and there was only one man who could find it. Clay Cross. He hadn’t mentioned Sheri Lamour. He hadn’t said what the package was—just that in the wrong hands it would change the world as we know it. 

I reckoned that might be a pretty good thing, but I hadn’t been hired to philosophize. I stared out the window and wondered where Sheri was, and why she was taking so long, and why I even bothered to ask. It was raining. Brown rain. And people scurried like ants on a honey-run. It was a damn shitty world and it seemed to me any change would be an improvement and that I could philosophize and crack a case all at the same time. I was a big boy. Sheri agreed when the mood took her.


#

 

Sheri was studying the papers. I was down to my last four fingers of bourbon. It was quiet in the office, the way I liked it—but for two small flies in the ointment. Sheri looked like she was itching to talk, and the bourbon was nearing its end. Work was slow, and the office needed cleaning—and one look at Sheri tells you it’s not something she does. 

“Anything interesting?” I was talking about the book in her hand, not the small screen permanently on mute. Screens are for stumblebums grazing on chicken fry or breeding the next feral horde. Give me a book I can open or close, occasionally burn. In my experience screens regurgitate lies and salacious tattle from broads with more silicon than brain. Jeez. I like a broad with something to hold. I just don't want to be knocked off my seat when they turn.


#

 

She’d been gone less than a minute when the air rippled and a skeletal figure in black sat in the chair she’d vacated. He wore a crooked stovepipe hat. A long cigar clenched between a skull’s teeth. 

Baron Samedi, the one who’d got us into this mess. The cigar swivelled to the side of his mouth. “And aren’t you the miserable fucker. What’s up?”

“Sheri just asked me that.”

“I know. I was there. So, spill. What’s crunching your balls?”

I said the first thing that came to my head and knew it didn’t make sense. “Midlife crisis.” Something a dame might say in between sobs. “Try that on for size.”

 “You have no mid-life, Cross. You’re fucking immortal. You’re Djinn.” 

“And whose fault is that?” For a time, there was silence, the kind that gives death a bad name.


        #


I was halfway across the room when the door opened, letting in a dim orange light, street noise, and a dame that’d make a corpse whistle. She wore a dress tighter than skin, a dress designed by Beelzebub and cut by Mephistopheles of Milan. She smiled, and my brains turned to ice cream, and I knew I was in trouble with a capital T and then more. One thing for sure, she was here for a purpose, and it had something to do with Jake and a leg that had gone walkabouts. Was she after it too, or had she come back disappointed, looking for what they hadn’t yet found?

"What can I do for you, kid?"

"It's what I can do for you, Clay." Her gaze flitted over my shoulder a moment before my brain turned to mush. I saw a shadow, smelled onion and garlic, and turned just a little too late. The cosh hit me hard, and a thousand lights told me the film had just ended.


        #


 

We found Nightingale Song easy enough. The streets were mean but there weren’t many of them.

Nightingale Song, yeah, I know, sounds like a ladyboy— only Nightingale Song was less classy. It was a club you'd be wise to avoid, one on its own, turning lowlife into specimens for the rich to shiver at as they sipped their overpriced drinks. You know the deal. Bring in a few 'characters', those without teeth or missing an eye, the broads with clothes too tight for bodies you didn't want to see. Atmosphere, they call it. I call it a not very nice smell. But it appeals to people who want to live 'dangerously' and hold down a 9 to 5 job.

Sheri spotted her first and led me across a room full of shadows that shuffled, shadows without faces. I wondered whether they'd ever had them or whether it was something they handed in along with their hats, along with their souls.


#

. . . The dame was unarmed. With breasts like those she didn’t need guns; she was packed with enough fissionable material to blow the place sky high…and she was looking at me. Maybe I should have been excited, given her some kind of dopey smile and whisked flowers out from behind my back, but this dame was trouble. A man had been beaten to death because of her and now her sights were on me. 

Me? 

I’m Clay Cross, with a nose for trouble and an eye for dames. And this was one broad I was going to follow wherever she took me if only to see how she looked from behind with her come-and-get-me-I’m trouble-boys sway.

 

Friday, 16 July 2021

Rotten Boroughs or Rotten MPs

In the early C19th, Old Sarum was a long-deserted Saxon village. And yet, as late as 1832 it sent two MPs to Parliament. These two worthies represented a few fields and hundreds of sheep. 


What you see is what you get. Well, there's a little bit more but not much

 


The foundations of the original cathedral from the Castle Wall. Really very close.


It wasn’t always thus. The original village was situated at the junction of two important Roman roads and with its Iron Age hill fort was well defended against Viking raids.  The Normans built a castle there and later a cathedral. 





There's something so tactile about these old Norman walls. Up close you want to stroke them; a perfectly harmless past time. 


Although you may not want to stroke the walls below.


Hard to believe the castle was once a Royal Palace or that this was once a Royal Toilet. It couldn't be flushed with water; instead the waste fell into deep pits filled with straw and bark clippings. When the king was not in residence, someone would be lowered into the pit and dig out the contents ready for the next royal visit.  


In the C13th it was a prosperous borough and merited the two MPs it sent to Parliament. Old Sarum declined because of one man, Richard Poore, Bishop of Salisbury between 1215 and 1237. He wasn’t fond of Old Sarum, thought it squalid and blamed the exposed plain, its winds and rains for the rheumatism of his monks. He also detested the lord of Sarum castle as ‘an ungodly man who commanded a garrison of vile and rude soldiers.’ This town literally wasn’t big enough for the two of them.


Being a man of God, Richard gets a statue. The commander of the garrison being an ungodly man gets nothing, though I imagine him as Sean Bean or perhaps Ernest Borgnine


All that's left of the original cathedral.


 So, Richard Poore moved, taking the cathedral with him. Well, not literally. The new cathedral was built a bowshot away on the floodplain of three rivers. The  rivers made for easy transport of raw materials, and it was Richard Poore who was largely responsible for the layout of Salisbury as it is today. 


You can see the spire of the 'new' cathedral reputedly a bowshot away


The original settlement should have faded from history, but it didn’t. 


Fast forward to 1832 and Old Sarum remains in existence, a magnificent example of a rotten borough sending two MPs to Parliament even though no one officially lived there. Come election day, the forty or so electors were carted in, stayed overnight, and voted for the local landlord or highest bidder. 


Mind you, it wasn’t all bad. The old hill and its sheep elected William Pitt the elder (1708-1778, and his son William Pitt the younger (1759 - 1806) who between them ensured the world dominance of Britain and the decisive defeat of our only real  competitor, France. One might compare it favourably with our present electoral system which regularly provides moral grandees like Keith Vaz and Bob Roberts. Rotten Boroughs or rotten MPs. Take your choice. Irrespective of 'democracy' and the virtues of a represented hill, MPs tend to reflect their society

Friday, 9 July 2021

Some problems cry out to be fixed even by the terminally stupid.


One of the things I remember about America (and it is a generalisation) is that if there is a problem ‘fix it,’ which was in sharp contrast with a tendency on this side of the pond to ‘live with it.’ Both options have their merits and drawbacks, but two weeks ago I cracked having lived with this problem for almost two years. 



In 1982 I bought a then state-of-the-art High Fi. Technics with Kef speakers, and we lived happily together for many years. Five or six years ago, the sound became less hi fi and more hiss, and two years ago one of the speakers stopped altogether. As a result my once beloved Hi Fi gathered dust, I the philandering spouse lusting after strange women – in this case a Sonos Smart speaker and an Apple subscription. 


But what to do with my once prized possession, now gathering dust in the corner? Surely, I could fill the space with a small bookcase, sell the system and with the money buy a new Sonos speaker? 

I checked Sonos prices along with the rumour that they had limited lifespans in terms of necessary updates. I was good for five years at least, or so I was told—which didn’t impress. He also confirmed that though Sonos was good, the sound from a Kef speaker was far richer. Hmm. Had he heard my Kef speaker? I tried to remember when it had last sounded good. Next, I contacted a retail unit that dealt with second-hand Hi Fi. And my world came tumbling down. They were very, very sniffy. Didn’t want to know. 


What to do? I wasn’t going to give it away. The only option left was to fix it. I’m a mean-minded but impractical soul, logic kept at some distance. Still, needs must. Discover the source of the problem and work on from there. It seemed to me the problem lay either in the speaker or the amp. 


The naughty speaker minus wires.


And so, young Sherlock Holmes began his endeavours, swapping wires from one speaker to another—writing down the results—inconclusive. 


Sshh! Yes I know. They could do with some dusting.


Next, I attacked the amp, moving the two wires from the Speaker outlets to the two Auxiliary outlets. Again, nothing conclusive. Just a hiss and this time the other speaker not working. It was time to phone Hi Fi Western, the best retail Hi Fi in Newport. 

He listened and asked how long I had had the wires. 

Forty years, I said.

 There was a pause on the other end of the phone, which told me everything, including the fact I’m a fool

.

Suffice it to say, I have brand new far superior speaker wires and my system, like Lazarus, has risen from the dead. The sound is incredible. It’s like falling in love again. Some problems can be lived with, others cry out to be fixed.   

Friday, 2 July 2021

Some of my best friends are vegans




Earlier this week I was suspended by Twitter. The feelings were those of amusement, irritation. It was like being slapped by the damp hand of an elderly woman, and yes, I suppose, I was a little upset and surprised. Out of the blue I had become a rebel without a cause, minus the leather and bike, the naughty boy at the back of the class. Was this something to boast about, another item I didn’t expect to add to my bucket list? Was I now on a par with Nazis and Antifa? Part of the Orc deluge of hate and abuse you see daily on twitter?


Weird. With friends and family scattered across the world of all denominations and political hues – and every now and again trying to sell books—I go out of my way to avoid pointless squabbles.

I checked the tweet in question, a blog post, which you can see if you click on the link .


Nothing offensive there, I thought so I looked at the two options available to me. Accept my bad and recant—just a click of the button to delete the tweet—or appeal. The pressure was all one way; to appeal came with the warning it might take some time. The siren voice, recant. It reminded me of the benign authoritarianism of the late medieval church. The Inquisition has a bad rap but they too allowed heretics to recant to avoid a worse fate. In fact, the Inquisition was better in one respect. They engaged with the 'heretic,' explained where he/she had erred. 



I appealed, convinced I was the victim of a rogue algorithm. Two days later I  got this



As far as I can see, there are only three possibilities: 

1)    Twitter doesn’t understand the role of a question mark, irony or the point of a funny but harmless cartoon. Or maybe its confusing the question with the Australian/Californian inflexion where questions and statements become interchangeable.

2)    It has a beef against the Pope.

3)    It is offended by any criticism of the media, even from one mildly annoyed resident of Monmouth. 

One thing I don’t know is how these things work. Was it a rogue algorithm akin to those closely woven nets that catch fish they shouldn’t or had someone actually complained? If someone knows, please let me know. But then there's the fact that a moderator actually approved the algorithm or anonymous complaint, which leaves me dumbfounded.

I am annoyed even though it appears a relatively trivial thing. But harbingers by their nature appear trivial. 


I have recanted in order to tweet this. When I do I shall of course change the blog heading 'Hidden Agendas,' perhaps. I mean, nobody in their right minds would suggest killing vegans.