Monthly Archives: May 2010

and Principalities and Powers

There can be disadvantages to an over-fertile imagination, but just occasionally there are advantages. This evening to St Mary’s for evensong, and splendid readings, but what caught me was an anthem on Isaiah’s vision in the Temple. I have always liked this, but it waited until this evening to speak clearly to me.

I spent a lot of childhood hours in the British Museum. I would have been very young when I twigged that the achruve – the cherubs – that Isaiah saw were probably the cousins of the great six winged hybrid beasts from the Assyrian collection. In my imagination they have always been huge and powerful and not wholly human.

This evening however, they erupted into such a mass of colour and personality that I could hardly contain the excitement of it all. And evensong at St Mary’s might not be the place for ecstatic dance.

I have been thinking for some time of how angels ‘become’ – they are not born but created, but if the exasperating God who reassures Moses that he can know it will be all right because AFTER he has confronted Pharaoh he will find himself back in this very place again worshipping (er, how about some reassurance BEFORE Moses goes into action?) that same God is known for asking for input to go alongside his generous gifts.

The result was not the ordered massed ranks of a late mediaeval painting but a huge swirling excitement of individuality which undoubted owed much to the splendid murals by Gwyneth Leech at St Mary’s – thus does art nurture us.

In my own personal mythology, therefore, each angel must ‘become’. I think I have in mind ‘become what you are’ – each angel must discover what their essence is, although it is already there, and when they find it, they will change and become more like themselves.

This evening’s multi coloured and formed achruve filled my head so fully it was hard to focus on any one, although of course John the eagle and Michael the dragon were filling the ranks – they are an angel and an archangel, and not achruvime of course, but they were still there.

And I have not even considered what a Principality or a Power or a Throne might look like.


Biodiversity and Morgue Row

Today is biodiversity day. I have been contemplating the wonderful diversity of plant life in the Ayrshire hedgerows and roadsides. We have blackthorn, hawthorn, and apple, the latter cut into hedging as well as allowed to be bushes and trees. We have water avens, and marsh marigold, primroses, bluebells, and bushels of cow parsley or Queen Anne’s Lace, as my father knew it. We have stitchwort and campion. In and through it we have a myriad of bees and hoppers and flies. In consequence, we also have swallows and finches and warblers. Each tier a joy.

As I drive to work on Tuesday and Thursday I go through a particularly delicious and rich stretch. The narrow lanes at this time of year burst with colour. Until I get to Morgue Row. In Morgue Row some tidy-minded farmer has decided the weeds must go. He has, and I suspect it has taken years, knocked most of the diversity out of the place, but until a few days ago the cow parsley was flowering bonnily. Now there are tortured remains, and agonised twisted shapes. He has sprayed each and every inch of the wayside with weed-killer. It makes me wretched to pass it.

Biodiversity is not something for others, biodiversity lives or dies on our own roadside.

… all silver white

The wild-flowers in Ayrshire this year seem far more spectacular than last. I am pretty sure it is not my imagination. For a start there are many primroses, and I know I looked hard for them last year and did not see any. Then there are the marsh marigolds – they were here last year but not in the profusion I am finding this year. They are one of the flowers which really cheer the heart, and they are in massive drifts this year. There are many violets, too. But they are all capped by the drifts of ladies smocks. Shakespeare put them in a song with ‘daisies pied’ and adds a cuckoo (to taunt married men. He is not good at keeping sex out of things, Shakespeare. Sad he found it the expense of spirit in a waste of shame.) I even have the cuckoo.

No this photo does not do justice to the field that was silver and purple and pink with them and if I get sunshine I will try again. Meantime, imagine.

Bosch and Sergant

Yesterday a bloke who fixes central heating arrived. I re-christened him Hieronymus Bosch. I have found this renaming of potential contractors after famous artists a great help. It tells me something about them, and also acts as a mnemonic. Or rather, it tells me something I already know about them. It lets me see my own understanding.

Despite his originality I very much doubt Mr Bosch will be working for me, the more so as he told me he was not a charity, causing me to wonder just how unreasonable his charges are. Time for another estimate, methinks.

Despite some misgivings I have asked Sargent to carry out the work on floors and walls for me. Technical mastery, I am sure, although a deal of modern briskness, I suspect.


About two thirds of the way during the massive cleanathon that is Thursday, I realised I was Not Wholly Well. I hate this. I hate being under the weather. However I was, and any kind of Ascension Day service was not going to happen. I pondered the best way to get safely home and in the end went for setting off at once, instead of a cuppa with a friend. I got back for a perfect Thursday evening. I inspected the sheep, for Polly too has been Not Wholly Well, though she seems well again now, and the ponies, who are in the now-regrown winter paddock, giving the spring section of the Big Field a rest (and a chance for IT to re-group). Then I walked the dogs, put the poultry behind bars for the night, and collapsed in my chair to watch a comedy movie, and eat my favourite roast veggies.

I have an ideal of Thursday evening – a complete rest from all activity, the kind of Sabbath that the Sabbath (and its adjacent Sunday) never give me. When I arrive at this ideal, when there really is neither anything much needing done urgently, not yet anything I can do, it is a kind of bliss. Mere physical unwellness of the minor kind (lassitude, slight dizziness, malaise) does not touch my joy in these occasions. Strange that being ill actually helps certain kinds of intense pleasure.

Re vision

A woman’s lovely touch has been left right out of me. I do not have any ability with furnishings and fabrics and artfully-placed flowers. I tend to yearn for more masculine improvements like a wood-worm free attic (done) and dry walls (still to do). There is however an exception. Floors. Over the months I have drooled over stone floors, and parquet floors and wood floors.

It turns out my choice is somewhat limited and for the sake of economy and rationality I need to have floorboards. Something durable and splendid, a worthy successor to all the dreams of perfect floors. In the end the choice came down to pitch pine and Canadian Redwood. Both of these were recycled, re-sawn timber. Floorboards which have been lifted are a devil to re-lay – too much damage. Re-sawn timber is different. It is taken from beams and joists which come out of demolished buildings and structures. It is given a new life by being re-cut into floorboards. It allows one to have timber which conscience would otherwise bar.

I was yearning for pitch pine, but I requested a sample of the Redwood from another company. It was substantially cheaper, and this restoration needs to run to a budget if it is to be done at all. At first sight I did not warm to it at all but I put it on the floor. I then pushed off for a decadent weekend elsewhere. At intervals I bemoaned the fact that it was the Redwood which was the cheaper timber, and sang the praises of pitch pine. When I came back, there was the Redwood. And I saw it with new eyes. Going about my work I kept looking at it and thinking how really splendid it was. What a handsome colour and so beautifully grained. I suddenly realised that it was what I really truly wanted.

This morning I carefully re-measured the house floor area, and finding to my relief I made it just what the builder had made it, I rang up and ordered my Redwood. It will come in about three weeks. It is a more-than-worthy fulfilment of the months of day dreaming. All I needed to do was to abandon what I thought I wanted and see what was there.


I have spent a long time dreading the place I am now. Dreading getting estimates, taking responsibility for the adequate or more likely inadequate restoration of this place – both home and security. I have dwelt on the difficulty of telling apart the honest tradesman from the undercutting cowboy and the one who hears my accent and sees £ £ in my eyes, as in the cartoons.

I have thought hard on the terror of watching totally irreplaceable capital evaporate while work still needs done, and the impossibility to stretching it to what needs done, let alone to what I have long dreamt of doing.

And now I am here.

And I am just loving it.

Me, the peace loving, the ritual creating.

I am surfing down terror inspiring waves, and it turns out it is just as much of an adrenaline rush in the realm of metaphor as it is when the breakers are real water.

Driving home.

Good bye – good bye – small Angus who will be changed beyond recognition before I see him again.
Dogs, car – Tesco, fruit, veg, petrol, brie.
North -leaving leaving behind. Passing junctions to loved places. Leaving, leaving.
Rain and traffic and dirt and spray, and driving and driving.
Popping bread into my mouth, and strawberries, and crawling traffic past roadworks.
And dirt, and still leaving.
Birmingham – last of the known territories.
And a break. Coffee and internet. And dogs walked, and watered, and time alarmingly gone.
And on and on and traffic less than a crawl. Dog sighs.
I sigh. I try further from the steering wheel and my shoulder aches. Nearer and my left leg cramps.
And now the traffic moves, walking speed, running speed, pauses, and lets us head off bicycle speed.
And now it is city car speed, and then country road, and then, at last, we spread out.
Motorway speeds, slow ones.
And it is still leaving, and my thoughts of son and daughter and grand son.
The furies of modern life still drive me on. The kindly ones of self fulfilment, independence.
And then the light changes, and the road opens up. Watch the speed limit.
And petrol, and on, and on. And Scotland, and suddenly, I am arriving.
I am driving home.
Are the beloved ones at home well? Are the geese picking on the hens?
I want to get home. I want to arrive.
I want peace and green.
The rain comes down in torrents, and blinds me, and clears.
And the road is spray and then blinding bright, and my head aches.
And then astonishingly, I am bumping up my own track.
And it is green and sweet, and the ponies are all well, and Martha is fat,
And despite all the love left behind, this is home.