Wednesday 30 November 2016

Bayeux Tapestry and Opus Anglicanum ...

Having just written a couple of posts about St Nicolas Church, celebrating its 800th year, arising from two talks at the Church on William the Conqueror and Pevensey … it seems, per the comments, a brief note on the Bayeux Tapestry would add to the story.

A full size copy of the Bayeux Tapestry
was given to Reading Museum in 1895:
it is well travelled, but now has its own
gallery; see the Museum site

The Bayeux Tapestry depicting the events leading up to and telling the story of the Norman conquest of England in 1066 AD … is an extraordinary piece of art showing life at that time.

iphone photo out of window - across Eastbourne,
slightly inland is Pevensey and in the far distance
across the bay is Hastings

It is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres (230 feet) long and 50 centimetres (20 inches) high … containing 50 scenes with Latin tituli (text), embroidered on linen with coloured woollen yarns. 

Hastings, not taken by me, looking back across the bay to
the South Downs and Eastbourne/Pevensey in the distance

It is thus not technically a tapestry … but has always been called one.  It is exceptionally large and appears to be not quite finished … thankfully not much is missing …

Embroidered bookbinding - English Work
of the 12th C

Anglo-Saxon needlework of the more detailed type known as Opus Anglicanum (English Work) was famous across Europe from the late 12th to mid 14th centuries.

It is believed that William Odo, William’s half-brother, probably commissioned the tapestry … the reasoning for this is that: 

three of Bishop Odo’s followers mentioned in the Domesday Book appear on the tapestry; 

it was found in Bayeux Cathedral, built by Odo; and 

it may have been ordered when the Cathedral was constructed during the 1070s in time for display at the Cathedral’s Dedication.

Detail of stem stitching and laid work

The tapestry has two types of stitching: 

outline or stem-stitch for lettering and the outlines of figures, and

couching or laid-work for filling in the figures.

Detail of  Tituli and stem-stitch, as
too laid work

There are nine linen panels, which once sewn together (after being embroidered) had the joins disguised with subsequent embroidery.

The main yarn colours are terracotta or russet, blue-green, dull gold, olive green, and blue, with small amounts of dark blue or black and sage green.

The vegetable dyes are those found in traditionally woven cloth in England, and particularly the south, at that time.

The earliest known reference to the tapestry is a 1476 AD inventory of Bayeux Cathedral … now having been carefully preserved - it is on permanent display in the Bayeux Museum.

Odo, Bishop of Bayeux

Tituli are included in many scenes to point out names of people or places or to explain briefly the event being depicted.  The text is in Medieval Latin but at times the style of words and spelling show an English influence.

A stylised tree

Stylised trees usually separate the scenes … this one here shows some messengers with Guy, and then below the border various medieval agricultural practices.  (Guy was the Count of Ponthieu who supported Duke William.)

Normandy and Brittany - the red box outlines
the whereabouts of Bayeux, while Caen is
the main town to the south east

The Bayeux Museum is near the Normandy coast and a few miles from Caen – the preferred building material by the Dukes of Normandy … the stone had been used in England in previous centuries, for example in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Tapestry is so widely recognised and is so distinctive in its artistic style, it has been frequently been used or reimagined in a variety of different popular culture contexts: being cited by Scott McCloud in Understanding Comics as an example of early narrative art, and Bryan Talbot, a British comic book artist, has called it “the first known British comic strip”.

Pevensey Castle - as it is today - it is possible
to walk from the west to the east at the top of the picture,
within the walls of the castle,
where we will find St Nicolas Church

It has also inspired many replicas, or creations of a similar ilk to celebrate anniversary events …

An illustration of St Nicolas church in the 19thC

So the Kings and Dukes may not have been able to write, yet their achievements or defeats can be recorded through embroidery … which is why we know so much about the events surrounding the Battle of Hastings, but why some things will be known, but never fully explained.

The Butler-Bowden Cope - 1330 - 1350 AD
it is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum

The Opus Anglicanum (English Work) is worth a note … it was usually embroidered on linen, or later, velvet, in split stitch and couching with silver and gold or silver-gilt thread. 

Gold-wound threads, pearls and jewels are all mentioned in inventory descriptions.  Examples can be found in the Cloisters Museum in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and in the Treasure of Sens Cathedral, Burgundy …

An early 1920s photo of the lane to the Church

The links to the two talks I mentioned can be found here …

That Law of Unintended Consequence reared its wonderful head again … I had written this post ready to schedule – when the English Historical Fiction Authors put up a post by Mark Patton – “Opus Anglicanum: Embroidery inMedieval England” … giving us a much better idea of Embroidery in Medieval England …

… and reminding us that there is an exhibition in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London open until mid-February 2017. 

Elizabeth Chadwick of The History Girls has written about a research project she made to the V&A to see the above exhibition ... and some of the glass galleries ... please take a look ... 

Well those are both great additions to this post, and tie in many of the loose threads to give us comprehensive coverage …  of the Bayeux Tapestry together with the English embroiderers of Medieval days …

Novel Writing Month - congratulations to all completing NaNo in 2016 - may your stories be successful ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 24 November 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 with Human Beans ...

To those who celebrate have a very happy Thanksgiving, while to those of us who will be thinking of you, and to those others whom we almost certainly do not know …

The First Thanksgiving 1621 painted by
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

 … let us all celebrate the great and wonderful Human Bean … be they magnolia, green, purple, brown, freckly, speckled, beige … a right mix of human beans …

… which come with lots of Vitamins … A, B6, C and K … let alone the rest of the special accoutrements beans share … 

So let those funny beans –

Many Bean varieties from Africa

Painted beans


Red Epicure Beans

 ... then all the others … remind us that we are all human: old, young, tall, tiny, big, fat, skinny … all human beans – all sharing this world.

As Aesop said: 

 “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

Or –

Better beans and bacon in peace, than cake and ale in fear.

Even Jelly Beans!

We share this planet with 7 billion others … we can live together in peace and companionship … we can share all we have …

… we can be friends, even in disagreement, we need to help ourselves so much … especially at this time.

Royal Burgundy Beans

These magical vegetable beans originated from Peru … spread via South and Central America by migrating human bean Indian tribes …

… were introduced into Europe around the 16th C by Spanish human bean explorers returning from their voyages to the New World …

English Runner Beans
… and then spread further in Europe and around the world by Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and British human bean explorers …

I am sure you’ll be having some form of bean for Thanksgiving and many of us will have a bean or two in the coming winter or summer months …

So let’s be thankful … remember peace is important to all our communities - local, countrywide and global ... 

Happy Thanksgiving to all the world
let's spread the Human Bean word

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 18 November 2016

Herbs, Spices and Herbalists - part 5: Parsley

Parsley – the world’s most popular herb … provides a large range of valuable nutrients (over 80!) … so some fresh parsley should be in our diet every day … it is packed with vitamins C and K …

Curly leafed Parsley

This workhorse of a herb … and can go in just about any dish … its mild, grassy flavour (fresh, green, woody notes) will bring out other main ingredients, yet enhance the dish and give it a little burst of colour…

Flat Leafed variety

…use flat leaf parsley for cooking, as it stands up better to heat and has more flavour … but curly parsley really is just as good – use the stalks – extra flavour in them.

My favourite … herby bread … lots of chopped parsley, some spring onion greens, a little garlic if liked (or lots!), cayenne sprinkle, lemon juice … butter – mix together …

Herby bread

… cut a baguette in slices (right through) … spread with the butter mix, sandwich together, wrap in foil … and bake – then open packet to crisp top … and serve … an easy addition to any meal, or party snack …

Parsley, a hardy biennial of the Carrot family, only came into Britain in the 16th century … it usually dies after the second season, but the seeds will have spread around and so the garden will retain new plants.

Root Parsley

There is also root parsley (the Hamburg Root Parsley) … this is common in central and eastern European cuisine …

It was greatly venerated by the Greeks and Romans … for a Greek athlete or Roman poet there was no greater distinction than to be awarded a chaplet of parsley.

Nicolas Culpeper
A chaplet is a garland or circlet … or a string of 55 beads – one third of the rosary number – for counting prayers …

Nicholas Culpeper (1616 – 1654), the botanist, herbalist, physician and astrologer, noted that parsley grew plentifully on Hampstead Heath, Hyde Park and Tothill Fields (Westminster Abbey area).

Potatoes with parsley and garlic

There were numerous ‘medicinal’ ideas for the use of parsley – but we will stick with its benefit of being rich in the vitamins C and K …

A bed of curly parsley set off
by some pansies
… at this time of year for colds, or for general good health … check out the various health benefits ascribed to these two vitamins … let alone parsley’s other benefits.

My parents grew beds of parsley for sale after the War … so I guess the Ministry of Ag   (agriculture!) … promoted it as nutritious for its war-ravaged population.

Tabbouleh - Lebanese salad

I have looked up parsley in a book (originally published in the 1800s) and thought you’d be interested in some other snippets:  apparently it is good for animals too, apart from flavour for the meat, it helps to cure foot-rot in sheep …

Ham with white, parsley sauce
… and when chewed it will take away offensive odours of the breath, such as when onions have been eaten, or spirits have been drunk.

Today … it is used in numerous dishes … parsley white sauce, Italian Gremolata (parsley, garlic and lemon zest mix), French Persillade (chopped garlic and parsley), Lebanese Tabbouleh and in many ways as a garnish … mixed in, sprinkled on top, or sprigs to decorate – which so often get munched by family … we do!

Fennel, Celery and parsley salad

Now it’s the dark days of autumn/ winter here … we all need parsley … so let’s remember to add it to our meals … or regularly eat a few stalks …

Fennel, Celery and Parlsey salad, or with salad mixes, including rocket, lamb’s leaves etc … then dress with vinaigrette of your choice, served with shavings of parmesan cheese – sounds delicious to me!

Enjoy protecting yourselves against the evils of winter draughts, bugs et al …

Just remembered this planter marker at Herstmonceux Castle ... not sure the Parsley looks so good - maybe she wants a divorce already?

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 12 November 2016

Gricer … Get Out and Push RailRoad … Adlestrop poem …

I had never heard of this term … but I bet many of you have heard of trainspotter – exactly what a gricer is.

Train Spotters on tracks in Harrogate,
Yorkshire in 1964
There’s no obvious etymological root, appearing around the 1960s… but an unproved derivation from “grouse shooting” … when out shooting for grouse or other game birds … the gun follows the flying bird before the shot is fired … logically the eyes and head follow … I hope!

… same as standing at a railway station waiting for the train to rush by … one’s neck turns quickly and the eyes attempt to follow … I could almost use the analogy of watching a tennis match?!  Grouser to Gricer … not so sure – but that’s the way it is …

Bluebell Heritage Railway in Sussex

Other terminology isn’t nearly as much fun … railfan, metrophile, rail buff, train buff ... ok, an 'anorak' is a bit more like it, or ‘gunzels’ as in Australia … but another good one – which I rather like … “ferroequinology” = study of iron horses!

This article from The Telegraph gives a bit more information, with the added plus of letting us see 10 beautiful trainspotting sites – Britain at its best … the first one is Autumn time at our own Bluebell Railwayhere in Sussex.

Get Out and Push RailRoad

To deviate slightly … (believe it or not!) … it is railway oriented: is the Get Out and Push RailRoad … or how not to sell some real estate …

This was a 19th century street railway connecting Wilmington California to the Willmore area of Long Beach … which requested patrons (potential purchasers) to assist trains over the steeper parts of the route?!

c/o Mapquest

The horse-drawn car, on the first day of service – 31st October 1882 – broke its wooden rails, forcing the men to push it to a sound section of track.  It became known as the G.O.P. RailRoad … Get Out and Push RailRoad …

The Los Angeles Times published a song to the tune of “Paddy Duffy’s Cart” (an American Old Time Song) – I sort of think it would suit Sing a Song of Sixpence:

Oh, sing a song of rail road, / Likewise the iron hoss,
Of all that run beneath the sun, / the Long Beach is the boss;
With a thirteen-cat-power engine, / that starts with a big pinch-bar,
Oh, everyone get out and push / On the G.O.P.R.R.

I think (not actually!) that’s exhausted my train posts for a while … but Gricer, G.O.P.R.R. and Ferroequine are names I won’t forget …

… and now all Californians and Americans remember how they found Long Beach – from the Wilmington and Long Beach Rapid Transit RailRoad, Get Out and Push RailRoad!

Two side notes … a minimalist film was made in 2007 on Rail Roads … titled “RR” aka RailRoad … by James Benning, who explores themes of American consumerism.

An unscheduled stop would give
some calm amongst the War; this is
where Adlestrop station would
have been
Lastly – Richard Burton reading the war poem entitled “Adlestrop” by Edward Thomas (1878 – 1917) … written when the train Thomas was on made an unscheduled stop at Adlestrop station … he describes a moment of quiet calm pause (in the midst of WW1) in which he hears “all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire” …

Interior of St Mary
Magdalene Church,
It looks a pretty and very interesting village … with Jane Austen connections … the Church with its bells …

Richard Burton reading “Adlestrop” can be found in YouTube …

On a different note ... this year I have not written about Remembrance Sunday ... I have written 5 posts for 5 of the 8 years this day has come and gone while I've been blogging - each taking a slightly different look at Remembering.

However I have just read a post entitled "National Service of Remembrance" - which Mike has written ... it is really outstanding ... giving the history ... and I had tears in my eyes by the end.

A Bit About Britain - by Mike:  National Service of Remembrance      Please read ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories