Friday, 25 July 2008

Friday Week (Ago)

It is Friday week from last Friday.

This is merely to assist certain people who, like myself, might tend to forget where they are, which knitting project should get preference, or what date it is.

Last Friday, the first installment of company for the weekend arrived. And there was much rejoicing! (and i caused the evening to get to an only slightly late start as a result of snapping my bike key off in the lock -- but as a future lock-picker, successfully forced the key halves together and jammed them down to make the key turn. This after only a 2 1/2 minute fit of despair in the bike shed at work.)

Matthew arrived from Cardiff (first class, of course) and was able to peruse a bit of the city and locate the Puppet Man for future reference (and possible career inspiration -- we all need a little inspiration). Eamonn and the Late Child (aka, me) met M on the Prince of Wales Bridge, where the people-watching is so good, and toddled off for our evening's repast and entertainment. After some lovely nosh and beverages at the Adam and Eve (Pimm's for me, as I was trying to be a laydeeee and ale for them as they were adamantly not), my friend Lisha joined us as well, and we then located the tour that leaves from the pub 6 nights a week from April Fools' to All Hallows.

Bryan McNerney
leads tours of Horrid Histories in the summer, and our tour was themed 'Revolution'. It took us around the back of the Adam and Eve and along a part of the Riverside Walk that I had never discovered before. We walked past the Swan Pits on the way.

The Swan Pits are uphill slightly about 10 steps away from the river and were the slaughter location for the annual swan culling for centuries. Swans were considered royal food and owning swans was limited to persons who had been gifted the privilege by the monarch; even today, the Crown retains ownership of all unmarked mute swans on open water. However, these gifts were also limited in the annual population that could be maintained by the individual or family and so each year the swans were counted (families of swans can be distinguished by features -- who knew! And owners also marked them... but that is much less intriguing) and any in excess of the allowance were killed and then gifted as luxury food (usually for Christmas) to other privileged persons. A little 'tributary' runs from the pits to the river.

About 1/4 mile further on is Cow Tower. I am ashamed to say that I have never been to it before, partly because of the report that you cannot climb up inside it anymore. This makes me sad because I am a climbing mammal. It is still about as tall as it was in its defensive days, but then, Norwich's city defences were more for show than for true battle, as there were huge gaps in the walls, significantly along the river (not like anyone couldn't just boat or swim across the river). The most usage of the gates and walls was to force local traders to pay taxes on either entry or exit (I forget) from the city instead of just coming in to the huge market and then taking their money all away from the city economy.

It is not called Cow Tower because a cow was led to the top and thrown off. It is probably not called Cow Tower because a dead cow was put in a trebouche and shot through the 4-foot thick walls. The tower is placed along a part of the river that used to be meadowland and was where people could bring their cows to graze.

A pretty 5 minute walk along the river brings one to Bishopsgate bridge. This is a place that we have been before, but on a walk of a different sort, as The Red Lion Pub is situated right next to it :)

Bishopsgate is the only remaining medieval bridge in Norwich. As part of the aforementioned city defences, it did have a tower at one time (which is now gone) and did have defensive holes for the bottom of the gate to lock into. This road goes all the way into the Cathedral walls, and is the route which heretics walked on the way to a chalk pit where they were burned at the stake.

Along the riverbank at this point was also where the tanners had their work. Tanners used refuse (most particularly urine) in the tanning of leathers and this was therefore the location where the gong farmers brought their 'wares'. 'Gong' is a Tudor slang term signifying solid excrement. Since there was a plentiful supply of this at this location, a popular form of entertainment was to purchase a bucket o' poo (and such) and throw it on the poor Lollards or whoever were the popular heretics of the week.

In 1549, Ketts Rebellion began as a simple protest again the gradual removal of common land usage rights. Landowners for centuries had allowed peasants to use common land for grazing, etc. but they had begun to remove this privilege, leading to more severe poverty. (This linked article gives a slightly different skew from the tour)

Kett, although a wealthy man by this point, led the peasants in protest against the city, which barred gates against them. The rebels camped on Mousehold Heath, a hill across from Bishopsgate and were apparently sent food stuffs, beer, and things necessary for survival from the citizenry.

After sheltering in a gorgeous 1970s doorway to Trudie's Hair Salon for quite a nice little rain, we made it to the corner where Italian mercenaries were severely outnumbered by 15,000 rebels who had flooded over Bishopsgate Bridge. Lord Sheffield is supposed to have been killed at St.-Martin-Palace-Plain, but from descriptions of his being dragged from his horse and bludgeoned to death by a local butcher with a powl-axe, he was killed at a sharp turn in the road -- right by the back gate to the Cathedral.

The Cathedral itself was also a site of revolution at several points, the most notable being in the 1270s when the Prior decided to levy an extra tax on the Tombland marketplace, the Anglo-Saxon market right outside the Cathedral priory gates. They cleverly decided to raise the tax on a holiday, thinking that since the vendors would be raking in the money, they would be too busy to fuss about a little old tax.

Market traders, however, stuffed their selling of goods, stormed through the cathedral gates into the cathdral, stripped what they could, piled the rest under the tower and set it afire. The inferno only stopped when the tower collapsed dusting the flames. The cathedral is built of limestone. When limestone is heated, it turns pink just before it turns to dust; there are sections of pink limestone still evident inside.

Afterwards, we sat in from the rain and visited with Bryan for a while. Bear learnt a lot.

Upon our leaving, it started to rain again, for which reason I was v. happy to have my lovely authoresses brolly gifted thoughtfully by the Clever Clarence and which I have had with me for my entire sojourn in this country.

We watched our step.

It was a marvellous evening, and I cannot wait to go on another tour (as I am a dork)!

And this was just Friday!
(Saturday will be next installment -- the arrival of the Dawn!)

Monday, 21 July 2008

Amaryllis Rapist

Last night, I foolishly forgot to bring my plants in from the front stoop.

Now, they have stayed outside overnight before but, as a mediocre parent, I usually try to bring them in to protect them from unwanted contact with the detritus that seems to be increasingly becoming our 'society'.

Sadly, the very pretty Apple amaryllis was assaulted and beheaded in the night (and I think I know exactly when it was as a sense of something awry seemed to invade my counsciousness at approximately 5.37am -- this is a fact because i looked at the clock but dismissed the noise). It was a lovely stalk with two flowers and a bud.

The beheading came to my attention as a grumpy Bruner was beginning her cycle to work without enough tea. Grumpy Bruners without enough tea can be incited to cry with the very slightest of provocations, but I withstood the temptation.

Upon my return home, the beheaded flower has now been placed not on a pike (as an example of what I would like to do to the cretin who committed this offence) but in a latte cup on my desk so as to be seen through the window as a sort of middle finger salute to said heathen.

I hope a pigeon suffers from eating too much curry and it lands on the travesty of a ''human's'' lice-ridden and scabby pate. And that they get scurvy.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Clear St. Swithin's Day

If it rains on St. Swithin's Day, it will be a horrid summer.

But it did not rain yesterday, thanks to the brave efforts of E sitting outside mine reading at the patio table last evening in defiance of the grey clouds looming overhead. But the wind blew them elsewhere, and so we were saved. And the sun is shining again today! (more historical information on the real St. Swithin here)

My activity during this conflict of wills between E and the elements involved fighting a futile frying battle with tuna croquettes, which insisted that they did not wish to cohese in any sense of the word -- but they actually tasted okay... so they might be tried again. I love t'internet recipe and food sites (such as Potlikkery)!

I have had two days off this week (and this is the third) and have completed half of a tea cosy. However, I actually started it last week but it took some time to bend the edge stitches to my will. This week also marks the 175th anniversary of the Oxford Movement, which kind of held as its seminal event the delivery of Keble's sermon on National Apostasy. There is a lecture series at the Cathedral, so I have been going along every day at 1pm.

Monday was a reading of the sermon, and it is an interesting document; but sadly it was read by a (no doubt, intelligent and lovely) person whose voice is soft and absolutely soporific in the regular undulations of every single sentence. It kind of lacked the firey mode in which I imagine it to have been delivered originally :)

Yesterday's lecture was on the 'Literal and Mystical' and the methods of textual analysis

One fascinating thing to me is how this movement was in response to increasing secularisation of the Church and attempted to return focus to its Christian (and, dare one say it, Catholic) heritage and the actual doctrines on which this faith is founded. Today, it seems to me that there is again fairly significant secularisation in the Church, but it is in the direction of a direct rejection of anything Catholic or historical and, in the opinion of the tuna croquette maker, results in one of two (and perhaps more) things:

1. reliance upon each person's individual reading and personal opinion of a translated text
2. no reliance at all upon any reason for church-going except as a social fashion event with the added bonus of a dash of sanctimonious self-aggrandisement. (sometimes enhanced by the Sunday morning equivalent of a Battle of the Bands Saturday night -- in this situation the tithe seems more a cover charge. But this is another rant.).

As regards the first point, I am aware that each person is responsible for his or her own salvatory efforts during life. Persons should always take personal responsibility for investigating their beliefs. And since a translated text is weak in the very fact of its translation and added influences of culturo-historical contexts and probable lack of verbatim 1st-century reporting of events and speech, this investigation is enhanced by spiritual inspiration and faith. But when there is no delving further than the words on a page, a skewed version of reality/opinion must develop, as the divinity of most of us is quite questionable. If we rely only on our individual spiritual link with God (which part I am not disparaging), we will probably be no more successful than the Blind Men and the Elephant. The sad part is that we might never know it.

The Oxford Movement's 2 main tenets were: Authority and Tradition. Because of the humanness of the theorists, one can naturally argue that it is a faulty premise if one is feeling particularly argumentative. However, I would counter that it is the lack of these two things today that is the cause of so much religious disputation and fragmentation (how many denominations of 'Christians' are there?) -- heaven forbid that we should have any Order in our worship (Free Love for God, dude!), and blast and damnation if we are forced to stop whittering on and listen to what anyone else has to say. There can be no unity without dialogue; opinions are not to be drunk in like so much Kool-Aid, they are formed like muscles as a result of exercise.

Today's lecture will be on the 'Oxford Apostles' :)

Saturday, 12 July 2008


The birds seem to have flown. Or the bird. I am just not sure how many creatures it took to make all that cooing noise.

There were birds living in my fireplace. It was not that big a deal until the appearance of possible droppings on my grate (I had thought the little door -- is that a flue? -- was shut, but indeed it was wide open).

Yesterday, my landlord gave the detailed instructions to 'light some paper on fire, because they will leave because of the smell'. I thought, 'Yeah, right. Birds don't have such keen senses of smell that that will cause them to move house...'

However, in an attempt to be cooperative (and because i LOVE fire!), all of my 'shredding' pile has now been burnt and there is a little pile in my grate. (E seemed slightly alarmed at the enthusiasm with which the ritual burning took place, but he is just going to have to get used to it. As he is building a website, his attention quickly turned back to work, and the small fire crackled on merrily.)

It seems to have worked, and I swear there was a vexed bird twittering back and forth between my chimbley and the churchyard trees last evening (E thought it was my overactive imagination and returned to his page-building), and there is no cooing this morning!

Sadly, the auction this month is woeful and we are not going to go. We did write down some numbers of things we wanted, but really it is not anything I need (like books -- titter) and not worth E standing there for three hours. Oh well -- there is plenty of dusting to do at St. Clement's :)

My hair now needs washing, as it is sticking out at funny angles.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Introducing Matilda

This is Matilda.

She is 1 day old (well, in my counting).

She is the result of astute reader, Matthew T., having had the intelligence to navigate the UEA website and the kindness to inform me last Thursday of a benefit scheme offered by my green employer (of which I was completely unaware. There are lots of things at UEA which are out of the sphere of normal comprehension -- titter.). This scheme involves me paying for the 'hire' of a bike before taxes are taken from my salary each month, thereby saving me some mathematical calculation of money -- M and E both tell me it is good, and since they are both fabulous computer geeks, my faith is in their calculations. At the end of the 'hire' period, I will have the option to buy her outright for a small percentage of something...

You see, my previous bike (pictured to L, at Cardiff Bay) was a mountain bike. She was purple, but she was also really a pain to ride on the road. When one is commuting to work, one generally cycles on the road. Mountain bike tires have a lot more friction on the road or something, but they are just a lot harder to pedal, rendering certain pro-sweaty people to have a less than professional appearance upon arrival to work. So, as much as we got on, I sold her last week. I love Gumtree! (She never told me her name, unless i happened to mention it on the Cardiff blog...)

Purchasing a new bike may seem like a frivolous luxury, and walking to work is very good for me, but it does take 45 minutes (although I have walked to and/or from work about 10 times in the past week - click link to see route! This has been outstanding!). Not really something to be done every day, especially if no one is going to be my nanny and wake me up on time, force me out of bed and to the ironing board, and make me tea so as to stimulate functionality in reasonable time to arrive at 9am. Being Ruth's grand-daughter, there is no 'speeding up' gear in my walking as I already outwalk most people, so 'late' is really and truly 'late'. And just gives me high blood pressure.

So, what I got to do was pick out a bike last weekend, get a quote, take the quote to Finance people on Monday, sign an agreement for my salary to be altered on Wednesday, and go collect Matilda yesterday! E has made some adjustments to chains and things, attached the front light (the back light is being a tricky customer).

Today, I will take her out on errands (since I am having to use holiday time up before end of August) and see how she likes me. I shall now get myself ready, as the tea is kicking in.