Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cold and Dissolutioned

The last time we visited Rievaulx Abbey, a Cistercian monastery near Helmsley, North Yorkshire - it was one of the hottest days I can ever remember. One had to literaly seek the ornate shadows cast around this magnificent 12th Century ruin* to escape the rare, blistering rays of which England seems to experience so little of these days. Despite the illusion created above by the azure canvas enveloping the stark Yorkshire sandstone, today was bitterly cold. One can only sympathise with the Brothers as they slaved over their scriptures dressed only in their coarse robes by the light of tallow lamps with a Godless draught nipping at their cassocks!

The cold eventually took its toll and we seated ourselves on a wooden bench inside the roofless presbytery and took respite in a flask of hot chocolate and digestive biscuits. As we mused at the grandeur of the myriad arches, gargoyles and majestic pillars around us I happened to glance at my watch - it was exactly midday. I took the following two photographs in sequence with perhaps only a few seconds between them.....

Whatever one's religeous persuasion one cannot fail to admire the ingenuity and devotion of those long departed brothers. Quiet echoes of study, chant and prayer still seem to emanate from the cold stone of Rievaulx. There are many inscriptions still to be found hewn into the stones around the Abbey, some may be medieval graffiti, indeed some may have been from the brothers themselves..." Lord Give me hot chocolate and biscuits..."?

*Courtesy Henry VIII 1538

Monday, May 05, 2008

Wellington Meets His Waterloo

Bank Holidays seem to come thick and fast in Springtime. The few weeks since my last entry have seen a remarkable change in the weather. The Christmas-like feel of Easter has given way to to an August-like feel to May Day. Despite the low cloud, overcoats and woolies have given way to t-shirts, ice-cream and an abundance of panting dogs. At Runswick Bay, the 'Wellie Olympics' were being held to raise funds for Laura - a 13 year old local girl with cystic fibrosis. The turnout was impressive, yet a competitive edge suffused the proceedings. Serious youths and brawny farmers, delicate ladies and cocky kids, all endeavoured to seek the fleeting fame of a wellie 'well wanged'. The aerodynamics of a Wellington boot, however, do not suffer fools, nor crosswinds, gladly and I had to follow this confident and overly competent cove too......

Yes, that is the starting line! I somehow forgot to let go of the blessed thing!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oliver's Twist

Sunday 6th April 2008

Next April it will be exactly 500 years since the birth of Oliver Cromwell - Lord Protector of England, Commander of the New Model Army...and general all round spoilsport. The puritanical cove banned festivities in general and Morris dancing in particular. Just why he considered prancing peasants waving handkerchiefs with bells round their ankles a particulary potent threat to national security heaven only knows. Thankfully, this colourful troupe performing on Endeavour Wharf, Whitby are in danger of losing nothing more than their dignity! Despite the cold winds and intermittent snow showers, sights such as these signal the start of the tourist season. Soon the the streets will echo to the sounds of street musicians, folk singers and dancing marionettes.

Almost as complex, it seems, as Morris Men syncronizing hankies or sticks, is keeping giddy dogs tangle free...but then again, there's no law against it!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

One Good Tern Deserves Another..

Grand National day here in England. Pen tops are chewed studiously and chins stroked intently as millions of us savour the prospect of easy money courtesy of little men in harlequin silks astride half a ton of graceful muscle. Hence I retired to 'The Duke of York' in Whitby to study the form and seek inspiration. As I approached the Inn I saw this seagull 'studying the form' of a rubbish bin and the treasures within. An omen perhaps? A portentious hint from the deity of fortune?

I watched a while longer as the tenacious tern rummaged and ransacked to the exclusion of all else - tourists, dogs...even a nearby pneumatic drill! I left the gull to its toil and sought the warmth of cold beer in the pub. I studied the form guide in my newspaper but nothing caught the eye nor the imagination
On the way out the gull was still there and seemed to be assessing the meagre fruits of its labour...Eureka! (My Horse came forth and I won £4.00 - not a fortune by any means, but enough to buy some fish &'s that seagull gone...?)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cross Words and Crosswinds

An unholy row erupted in 664AD between Roman and Celtic Christians about exactly when the Resurrection should be celebrated. A compromise was reached, and the 'Synod of Whitby' as it is known, gave us the movable feast of Easter. Religion is not my strongest suit, but the Brotherhoods of Bernicia did us no great favours this year - it is the coldest, wettest most unpredictable Easter I have ever known! The Easter cross outside St Oswalds Church, Lythe (above) , looks oddly unseasonal against the night sky and driving snow.

The weather however didn't stop the crowds flocking to Whitby, and yesterday armies of tourists in hoodies, hats and coats of many colours sought respite in cosy cafes, cheery Inns or curiousity shops. The wind across Whitby Swing Bridge brought involuntary tears to the eyes and claimed the lives of at least two bags of fish & chips!

Later at Sandsend the wind had eased somewhat, but it seems that, for some at least, it was all too much. The dejected duck (right) seems to have had enough of the weather and his dillydallying friends and has decided to await the 'Second Coming' of the X56 bus... Happy Easter everyone!

(Apart from brightness and contrast corrections, all photos in my diary are unretouched or manipulated in any way)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Leap of Faith

Legend has it that the famed daffodils of Farndale, North Yorkshire were originaly planted by the Cistercian monks of nearby Rievaulx Abbey nearly 900 years ago. We were perhaps a little early in the season to expect the usual riot of swaying yellow as mid-April is the best time to see them. Nevertheless, I mused on the origins of such legend - did the monks eat the daffies? Were they cultivated by wayward brothers with 'bad habits' who distilled the Narcissus for illicit recreation when the Abbott's back was turned? Alas, early research suggests that they planted them simply because because they liked the look of them!

Such care and devotion to aethstetics was much in evidence at the Feversham Arms too - this thirsty hiker traversed myriad obstacles on his way to the beer garden with almost gyroscopic control of the head on his 'Black Sheep' bitter!

" They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude, And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.." (William Wordsworth 1804)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bouquets and Bandits

A bright but cold and windy morning. The moors high above Danby have a certain 'outback' quality about them this time of year. Patches of dry earth breaking up the hardy, dormant heather. From atop Danby Beacon - a former wartime RAF early warning station - one can truly appreciate the majesty of this small corner of 'God's own County'. We came across a bouquet of beautiful silk flowers, lovingly arranged around a wooden memorial cross, nestling amongst the heather. With no inscription or clues to its provenance, we speculated on whether it was a favoured viewpoint of a departed loved one, or the last resting place of a faithful hound? But then again - Perhaps it was a memorial to the brave men of the RAF who guarded our shores all those years ago...