Friday, 6 December 2013
Just upstream from Cookham Bridge on Berkshire’s bank
The sailing club;
Sunday race day, chilly November day,
A breeze of barely four knots attempts to cross the flat unruffled Thames.
Distant high woods now show branches
What leaves remain are as dull gold on a gloomy day
Each dingy barely moves, the crews try every tactic
Against the stream
Mirror calm replicates the colour of each person’s garb.
A sharp blast from the Race Box abbreviates the frustration of the day.
Thursday, 28 November 2013
Out through Banbury, past it’s cross, which now sits astride a roundabout.
Out west across an Oxfordshire top road, up and down through brown fields and golden trees. All polished by the November sun, low across the landscape.
Onward to Lower Brailes to meet up with good colleagues Wayne and Mark.
With work behind us they escort me to St Georges Church, featured in Jenkins’ 1000 Best Churches. We are as one with its loveliness.
The pale gold gingerbread church tower reach up through the trees, visible for miles.
Higgledy Piggledy gravestones amongst unrestrained grass
Inside all is huge and calm and once a garrison for Royalist troops.
The Victorian restorers have been a work with little damage done.
This is the ‘cathedral of the Feldon, we are in Warwickshire.
Our investigation and my drawing of the Decorated font, complete we repair to The Gate public house in Upper Brailes. A sup of sound Hook Norton Ale, our backs to a warming fire, we contemplate richness of this world.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
This is short trip in and out for work, mere Tuesday back Thursday morning, leaving the hotel just before five in the morning. Tuesday a knuckle biting connection across Zagreb airport from Gate 13 to 2 and onward to Dubrovnik
Arrival into Dubrovnik: we shudder then plummet through deep mist and are on the tarmac. A howling gale and lashing winds the afternoon has immediately become night. At last, the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel, etched into the Cliffside.
Briefings and meetings for the next day take the evening and a solitary meal. I pass a restless night the now normal prelude for my workshop session the next morning.
All goes well. I wrestle twenty-six people to the ground with experience, expertise and entertainment.
An afternoon free; Brightest sunshine turns the sea outside my room and beneath the pool terrace a deep metallic blue. The horizon appears as a orange yellow line, the horizontal cross-hair in a rife sight of azure. The wind occasional sends spray across my journal. Two old men make their way down the pool the pool steps the low cliffs where they set up like two cormorants with theirs poles, lines, floats and bait.
How quickly one can forget a meditterran sea and its attendant light. I luxuriate briefly before being whisked back to England’s natural greys.
Monday, 18 November 2013
A grey day, late October and an impulse to see my Father and visit two Essex Churches, part of several that are part of an ecclesiastical ribbon development in an area north of the A120, that Essex top road from Stanstead Airport to Colchester.
Churches here about, again nominated for wonderfulness by Simon Jenkins, have come about from the wool trade and closeness to the river. These churches build close to the monasteries’ were adorned further from the wealth of local families, exemplified by the Countess of Warwick’s connection with Tilty Church and her Coat of Arms on the cottages that lead up to the church.
Outside both churches the flint and stone echoes the autumn cloudiness. Inside there is a cool light. In Little Easton Church there is a memorial window to a USAAF bomber squadron stationed close by during WW2, a reminder that most of East Anglian was a patch work of airfields now almost gone and once more under the plough and furrow.
On entering each church the opening part of Phillip Larkin’s poem, Church Going chime a chord
Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.
Friday, 15 November 2013
We resume our quest outside the railway station at Staines (on-Thames) having captured a bargain, a Group Return ticket from Windsor and Eton Riverside station.
It is the last day in October with melancholy skies of course but no rain. Now the cycle ways are now often tarmac. We swap the lumps and bumps made by cattle and horses hooves for local council speed bumps.
Across this stretch of the Thames Path are strewn the leftovers of Monday’s gales; up rooted poplar trees with great roundels of earth still attached, willows left low as if to sip from the river, we make a diversion through drab council flats to regain the path further down.
The riverbanks are now fringed with swanky dwellings, bungalows and pre-fabricated chalets. We pass through Classy-on-Thames: Chertsey and Weybridge. For £3 each we make our first ferry crossing at Weybridge, a fast buck for the Aussie ferryman.
Hampton Court Palace’s towers are hidden in polythene and the bridge is choked by traffic. We are more than consoled by a large and excellent ‘late breakfast’ at the Hampton Court Café.
After lunch Kingston Bridge confuses us with a cycle lane that carries us across four lanes of traffic. For a moment we are separated, I regain Mike and Dave using the lift down to John Lewis’s car park, by pressing the ‘R’ button, a lucky guess.
By two o’clock it almost feels dark. Out on the brown-grey water Eights and Single Sculls skim upstream. We peddle by their cavernous boat houses crammed with sleeping craft, oars and other paraphernalia associated with these human water boatman.
Richmond, Teddington, Twickenham, Kew, Chiswick and Barnes, under their bridges; often the river is hidden from view.
All of a sudden like some colossus, Hammersmith Bridge rears up in front of us. It pale green wrought iron appears to form the gates to London. To my mind we are certainly at the entrance to this river’s principal city.
So we leave the river, making our way through posh Putney terraces and twilight to the railway station.