Seventy at Seventy

Life Begins at 70

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[43] Afterwards Our Buildings Shape Us

[43] Afterwards Our Buildings Shape Us – A Pictorial Blog about Old Buildings

It has been hard dividing ‘Buildings’ into two separate areas for blogs. This one is about the old ones so it covers most of the buildings we see every day.

I will start with Hampton Court Castle or Hampton Court in Herefordshire. The building is Fifteenth Century but the internal décor owes much to an American billionaire (Robert Van Kampen) who refurbished it to look like his view of Mediaeval England. It includes guest bedrooms for when the castle becomes a venue for weddings.

Next in a fairly random order are some old castles, some timber-framed Elizabethan architecture, some ordinary houses, some grand public buildings and some shops, pubs and banks. Some pictures came from Cheltenham and my usual haunts and some are from Oxford, Cirencester, Tewkesbury or further afield.


I have picked out a few for some brief comments.

There is an area of unused industrial buildings by Lydney Harbour. There are notices about redevelopment but I have seen little change in the years I have been visiting.

The next one is an old mill at Tewkesbury. It has also been unused for many years.

The next two do represent change. The Midland Hotel opposite Cheltenham Station was a thriving pub. When we have horse racing it pits out a marquee at the front to supply Guinness for our Irish visitors. Recently it closed suddenly so maybe it’s now a ‘development opportunity.’

And the remnants of a large wholesale and retail builders’ suppliers are shown above as they started to clear the site when it closed at the end of last year. There will be hundreds of houses there soon. The first show houses are already ready.

The last picture below is a magnificent crescent of Regency buildings in Cheltenham.

In October 1943, following the destruction of the Commons Chamber by incendiary bombs during the Blitz, the Commons debated the question of rebuilding the chamber. With Winston Churchill’s approval, they agreed to retain its adversarial rectangular pattern instead changing to a semi-circular or horse-shoe design favoured by some legislative assemblies. Churchill insisted that the shape of the old Chamber was responsible for the two-party system which is the essence of British parliamentary democracy: ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.’



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[40] Green and Pleasant Land

[40] Green and Pleasant Land – A Pictorial Blog of Landscapes

You may recognize the title from the poem by William Blake. We call the poem, put to music as a patriotic hymn, ‘Jerusalem,’ but its proper title is the same as its first line. ‘And Did those Feet in Ancient Time’.

It was inspired by the apocryphal story that Joseph of Arimathea may have visited England at Glastonbury. It uses the word ‘Jerusalem’ as a metaphor for heaven.

And did those feet in ancient time; Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God; On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine; Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here; Among these dark Satanic Mills?

The often misquoted ‘Chariots of Fire’ comes from the second verse.

Bring me my Bow of burning gold; Bring me my Arrows of desire:

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight; Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem; In Englands green and pleasant Land.

Of course, none of this is relevant to my blog but we may use the expression ‘green and pleasant land’ to refer to the countryside of England.

This is a collection of pictures of landscapes in no particular order. Most of them are from England but some come from Wales or abroad.



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[41] Transcendent Beauty and Poetry

[41] Transcendent Beauty and Poetry – A Blog about Churches

I want to make it clear from the start that this is about church buildings. I keep away from politics or religion (or football!) in my blogs. My title quotation comes from a Nineteenth Century British historian and journalist called Goldwin Smith. [If you surname is Smith there is a lot to be said for having an unusual Christian name.]

‘Everyone who has a heart, however ignorant of architecture he may be,

feels the transcendent beauty and poetry of the mediaeval churches.’

I love visiting churches just to look at the buildings. I will do a sort of pastiche of all the churches I have visited in a vague architectural order. This will be a cosmopolitan mixture with some churches from abroad and some that call themselves cathedrals or abbeys or priories or whatever…

Church Architecture

The standards for church architecture have been virtually unchanged for centuries in the UK and throughout Christendom – at least for Roman Catholic and Anglican churches. The building is shaped as a Latin cross aligned from East to West (for archaic reasons which depended on the idea that Jerusalem was in the East.)

The main part of the building, corresponding to the lower part of the vertical line of the cross is the nave with a central aisle and rows of pews, perhaps with other aisles to the side. I’m talking about the traditional standard. Most churches seem to have abandoned pews now. Wikipedia says that the central aisle is called the nave but we still talk of a women being led down the aisle as metaphor for a wedding.

The transept crosses the nave and separates the area used by the congregation from the chancel where the service is conducted by the priest. In the transept are a pulpit (used by the priest to deliver his sermon) generally to the left and a lectern (holding a large Bible for readings – known as lessons) to the right. The altar lies at the far end beyond the chancel and choir stalls often come between the transept and chancel. (What we call the altar is now also known as the Communion Table or the Lord’s Table to reflect the fact that is not used for animal sacrifices.)

[I have to admit that there are exceptions to my generalization about left and right for the pulpit and lectern. I may be wrong.]

Somewhere, often destroying the symmetry of the design, there may be a Chapel, like a small church within a church, used for private individual prayers. It may be called the Lady Chapel with reference to the Virgin Mary and large cathedrals will have many chapels in the building.


I will start with a collection of views of the outside. It’s a mixture of old and new, large and small, English and foreign, magnificent and simple. Not all of them fit into the general description given above.


From mediaeval time churches and cathedrals have been built on the top of hills. To make them even more prominent they generally had spires or towers. Bells were often put in these towers so that the church could be seen and heard from afar.


As a tiny diversion let’s look at doors. Normally there is an impressive door or pair of doors forming the main central ceremonial entrance at the top of the aisle. There is also a much smaller entrance at the side and the main doors are rarely used – perhaps only for weddings and funerals.

If you look round the inside or outside of a church or cathedral you may also see some very old wooden doors. They look as if they may guard some secret passages.


Nave and Ceiling

The most resplendent view inside the church building is often looking down the main nave towards the far altar. The buildings are always high and may have magnificent ceilings.


Church architecture has always been limited by the technology of its time and from early centuries this was little more than walls of large stone bricks with timber to support the roof. They were dark buildings and they made the most of limited window space by using pieces of stained glass held together by lead. Not all churches could afford the coloured glass to make these expensive windows. They are like coloured mosaics showing pictures to illustrate biblical characters and stories – although they are generally very difficult to read or understand.

Font, Pulpit and Lectern

The font, usually near to the entrance at the back, needs to hold a small quantity of water for baptisms (known more generally as christenings.) It’s generally made of wood and relatively unassuming.

The pulpit, also generally wood, is much more impressive. It’s an elevated structure with its own steps for the priest. This makes the priest more visible and easier to hear but I suspect it also adds to his symbolic authority making the sermon something appear as if it is delivered from above.

The lectern may be a simple wooden structure but it is often a large brass or gilt statue of an eagle. I don’t think the eagle has any religious significance. It makes a convenient shape to hold a large open book.

The last picture shows a movable lectern in front of a pulpit, both on the right!

Until about sixty years ago the only version of the Bible was the Authorized Version known as the King James Bible. Many churches still have a big old Bible left open on the lectern. The actual readings are now probably from a more modern version using a smaller book on top of the old Bible!

Choir and Chancel

Where there are choir stalls they make the altar more distant from the congregation. In large churches and cathedrals you may see another altar in the transept in front of the choir.

Cathedrals are managed by the Dean and Chapter (not the Bishop) and historically each member of the Chapter House had his own stall behind the choir. These rows of elaborately carved stalls may be the most impressive parts of the building.

The Altar lies in the Sanctuary area at the far end. It is the most holy area accessible only to the priest and his assistants. The communion rail in front of it clearly delineates the limits for the congregation.


The organist is normally hidden away with his complex set of keyboards and stops but the pipes that make the sounds are so large that they are ornately displayed.

You will find many plaques in churches on the walls and many old gravestones on the floors. I have just picked three of my favourites – the Ten Commandments; the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer and an unusual list!

Finally I have to note that many of our old church buildings are no longer used as churches. They make convenient auction houses and restaurants.

I have had too many church pictures but that’s all.

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[44] Fresh Air

[44] Fresh Air – A Pictorial Blog about Quenington

It’s about buildings and landscapes but mostly it’s about sculptures and the Fresh Air 2017 Exhibition.

Quenington is a small village in Gloucestershire with a population of about 600. It appears in the Domesday Book. The name derives from the Old English Cwenenatum, ‘the women’s settlement’ (cognate with the word Queen.)

It is the location of an outdoor sculpture exhibition now held every two years. Fresh Air 2017 was the thirteenth. As it says on their web-site:

‘Set up by art collectors, Lucy and David Abel-Smith, the first sculpture show was held in the Quenington Old Rectory gardens in 1992. Acclaim for the show’s originality and innovative mixture of traditional, modern and cutting-edge contemporary outdoor sculpture has grown year by year and it is now an established and much anticipated fixture in the art events calendar.’

These pictures are from our visit to the exhibition this year.

The Village

It is a small village. They like you to park on the village green and walk down to the Rectory.

It still has a village pub with its own statue – of Mercury, the Roman god of messages, perhaps related to the telephone box beside it.

The Church

St. Swithin’s Church was built around 1100 AD. It was extensively restored in the Nineteenth Century but retains two Norman doorways.

The Location

There has been a rectory since the Twelfth Century but most of the present buildings date from the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The exhibition gave us the chance to see some of the actual house and much of its gardens.

The Sculptures

These are some of over a hundred sculptures in the exhibition. I wanted to call them statues but artitistically they are more then that. Some were excellent but I felt that some were not good enough to merit a photograph.


It was a nice sunny day so here are a few flowers before some landscapes of views from the garden.

The exhibition was well worth a visit but you have to wait two years for the next one.







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[45] Digging for Gold

[45] Digging for Gold – A Pictorial Blog about Streets

This will be just pictures – pictures of streets. Some are from England including Cheltenham, Oxford and Cirencester. Some are from France, Croatia or Antwerp. I have randomized them a bit so that you can have fun working out where each one comes from.

Streets remind me of the story of Dick Whittington but also of the song sung by Peter Sarstedt, The Mountains of Mourne. It is sung to a traditional folk tune but the words by Percy French are from around 1900.

Here is the first verse.

Dear Mary this London’s a wonderful sight Oh there’s people here working by day and by night They don’t plant potatoes, nor barley, or wheat But there’s gangs of them digging for gold in the street At least when I asked them that’s what I was told So I just took a hand at this digging for gold But for all that I found there I might as well be Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

Of course I also remember a bit from the second verse.

I believe that in writing a wish you expressed As to how the fine ladies in London are dressed Well if you’ll believe me, when asked to a ball Oh They don’t wear no tops to their dresses at all Oh I’ve seen them myself and you could not in truth Say if they were bound for a ball or a bath Don’t go starting them fashions, now Mary McCree Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

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[49] Working His Purpose out – a Pictorial Blog about Water

[49] Working His Purpose out – a Pictorial Blog about Water

I started with a category covering Landscapes and Buildings and thought of Seascapes – but Water as a topic covers so much more than the sea. There are lakes, rivers, waterfalls and fountains. This blog will have a lot of pictures with nothing in the way of comments. Because it’s pictorial I have adjusted some pictures for contrast and colour balance to improve the artistic impression!

Coastal pictures may come from Bournemouth or Croatia or Antwerp or France. River pictures will be mostly from walking along the Thames Path and lakes and wetland pictures may come from my birdwatching haunts – Slimbridge, the Forest of Dean and Pittville Park.


Lakes and Rivers

Boats and Bridges

Canals, Locks and Weirs


Reflections and Water Surface

Water Drops and Fountains

No apologies for another Biblical quote. As always, only the Authorized Version of King James, from Habakkuk Chapter 2: “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” I remember it for the stirring hymn, God is Working His Purpose Out.

God is working his purpose out – as year succeeds to year: God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near; nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea.


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[46] The Man who bears the Cross

[46] The Man Who Bears the Cross – a Blog about the City of Antwerp
I am using my categories loosely and there is a lot of overlap between [3] Places and [4] Outside. The Outside category is about landscapes and buildings and will have topics such as Churches, Streets, Buildings and Statues. This one is about a visit to the city of Antwerp concentrating on two of its buildings and several of its statues.


As always, Wikipedia provides some helpful information. Antwerp is the most populous city of Belgium (second to Brussels if you count the extended metropolitan areas.) It is the capital of the Antwerp province in the region of Flanders – the northern Dutch speaking part of the country. Its inhabitants are nicknamed ‘Sinjoren’ referring to the Spanish noblemen (señor) who ruled the city in the Seventeenth Century.

It lies on the river Scheldt and is linked to the North Sea by the Westerschelde estuary, the remaining part of what was a more complex delta before management by a number of dams.

The port of Antwerp is the second largest in Europe. We visited for just part of one day in late May when our ship docked at the cruise terminal.

There are differing versions of the city’s name. A legend, illustrated by a statue in front of the Town Hall, talks of a giant called Antigoon who lived near the Scheldt. He exacted a toll from passing boatmen. For those who refused he severed one of their hands and threw it into the river. He was eventually killed by a young hero called Silvius Brabo, who cut of the giant’s own hand and threw it into the river. Antwerpen is said to come from hand werpen (similar to Old English hand wearpan) meaning ‘throwing the hand.’

Another longstanding theory puts it from the Roman period and the Latin Antverpia from ante verpia meaning ‘before sedimentation.’ The Scheldt used to follow a different track with the city in a curve of the river. Perhaps Antverpia was a small outpost by a river crossing.

Many historians and etymologists now argue that it derives from “An ‘t werf” meaning ‘on the wharf.’ Another possibility is from “Aan ‘t werp” (at the warp.) This “warp” (thrown ground) is a man-made hill or a river deposit, high enough to remain dry at high tide, for the construction of dykes and polders.

Before I start with our city visit here is an example of Belgian hospitality. We just asked for Americano coffee but we each had a little madeleine and a tiny amaretto – and it wasn’t expensive.

There were narrow streets in the central old part of the city, probably only so empty because we were early on a Monday morning. In the background of the picture above you can see the Cathedral, the main attraction. We did have to wait for it to open so we went elsewhere to begin our sightseeing. We will come back to the cathedral.

The Steen

Known in Dutch as Het Steen, (‘the Stone’ or ‘the Stone Castle,’) this is a medieval fortress, the oldest building in Antwerp. It was originally known as Antwerpen Burcht (Antwerp Fortress) but it became “‘s Heeren Steen” (‘the King’s castle’) in the early Sixteenth Century after extensive rebuilding by Charles V, and later just Het Steen.

It controlled access to the river Scheldt and was used as a prison from 1303 to 1827. In the Nineteenth Century most of the fortress was demolished when the quays were straightened to prevent the river silting up. The remaining building was heavily modified and became a maritime museum. More recently the museum has moved and the building is no longer open for public access but we could walk round it and see various statues and plaques.

There is a rather unusual statue at the entrance depicting the giant known as Lange Wapper and two ordinary men. He is not the same giant mentioned above but is a character in several stories about Antwerp from Flemish medieval folklore.

Just by this statue a ramp takes you through an arch round the back to another arch. In the picture above you can see a crucifix overlooking a view of the Scheldt and a coat of arms on the wall ahead. Both of these are shown in more detail below.

The arms are those of the Margraviate of Antwerpen, Mechelen and Turnhout (an earlier version of the province of Antwerp) with the eagle of the Holy Roman Empire over the arms of the city. The city arms now are just the castle with two hands. The motto Fortunata Antverpia was only used in the Sixteenth Century. The lord and lady as supporters also date to the Sixteenth Century. The modern arms have male and female savages.

Shown above is a view of the castle from the city side.

The Cathedral

The cathedral with its tower and gold clock-faces dominated the city and I will start with some external views.

The front entrance (above) is impressive but so is the side door!

As the notice proclaims it is the Cathedral of Our Lady, ‘Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal,’ and it took 170 years to build. It was designed to be the largest Gothic church in Belgium but was never fully completed. Instead of having two towers of equal height its south tower is far from complete. The architect Pieter Appelmans will be mentioned later.

Inside we find an impressive nave with a magnificent ceiling.

The carved choir stalls were equally impressive but very reminiscent of similar carvings in many English cathedrals.

The carved pulpit and many of the other statues and decorations came originally from other churches.

It was full of baroque art including pieces by Rubens.

The stained glass windows were difficult to photograph.

I suppose I was thinking of how the cathedral differed from those I had seen in England. The art was different and the windows were not quite the same. But the organ could have been British and the crypt was not unusual.

I was surprised at these memorial stones. We do have them in churches and cathedrals in England but the lettering fades over the centuries. I have never seen them before like this with white stone set into the black monuments. They were in Latin and said much less (perhaps because this technique only works with large letters,) but they had survived for three or four hundred years.


I start with three statues of people you have already met.

Here is the one with Silvius Brabo and the severed hand. It’s actually a large fountain – a very unusual fountain without a visible reservoir of water. The water just disappears under the fountain.

Next tucked into a corner outside the cathedral, a monument to its architect and some of his master craftsmen.

I have to admit that there were some statues of people I had never heard of but I had to include this son of the city.

Two more statues on buildings that, like the large fountain, showed the green patina of copper. They also had something in common with their subject matter.

I have three more from buildings before I come to one of my favourites.

I loved this child snuggling in bed with a canine family member. The statue was given to the city by the people of China.

Moving away from the city centre to the area by the Steen and the river there were a few more statues starting with an anchor outside the Steen.

I don’t remember Minerva as the goddess of automobiles from my classical education.

Jan Fabre, who lives and works in Antwerp is described by Wikipedia as ‘a Belgian artist, playwright, stage director, choreographer and designer.’ He is responsible for this statue in Antwerp Cathedral called ‘the Man who Bears the Cross.

I won’t attempt to explain its deeper significance but is a life-like statue of a man balancing a cross.

There will be another blog from our very short cruise.