Gallimaufry

I‘ve been to a few churches since the start of the year, so this would seem a suitable point to make some notes about the more interesting examples, particularly as I’m trying to visit all the nearby churches in Simon Jenkins list of England’s thousand best churches. First came a set of churches with John Piper stained glass in Farnborough, Nettlebed, Turville, Pishill and Bledlow Ridge. For the first three in that list, his designs seem oddly pagan; butterflies, fish, flowers and trees. Near to Bledlow Ridge is the church at Radnage, with medieval frescos still on its wall. Next on the list where North Moreton and East Hagbourne, the former most notable for medieval stained glass and tracery, the latter most notable for various macabre and surreal medieval corbels and grotesques. I also make a return visit to the churches at Bramley and Silchester, with their medieval frescos and neo-classical monuments; the redbrick baroque church at Wolverton, with its bizarre spectacle of a Wren style church rising above the fields proves to be firmly locked. That also proves to be the case at Childrey and Compton Beauchamp, although the Church of the Holy Rood at Sparsholt is open and proves to contain several medieval and Jacobean monuments (not unlike Aldworth). Last on my list are Uffington, whose extraordinary octagonal spire isn’t matched by an equally extraordinary interior, save for one medieval monument, and Fawley, one of GE Street’s rather austere designs, save for some Kempe windows and some boards painted with biblical verses (presumably survivors from the previous church). In this case, the church is perhaps most notable on the exterior, being set as it is high on a windswept hill.

I also pay a more sustained visit to one of Streets churches in Oxford, St Philip and St James, which now serves as the library for Oxford’s Centre for Mission Studies. This is easily the most impressive Street church I’ve seen, something that’s perhaps helped by the bright lighting inside dispelling Street’s usually rather dark interiors. A painted wooden barrel roof is accompanied by Kempe stained glass, and a decorated rood screen. I also visit Pusey House, where the chapel architecture is also rather wonderful if perhaps a little stark; the most interesting things tend to arise from Comper’s decorations, like his flotating christ wood carving or painted baldachin. The last thing I look at in Oxford is Harris Manchester chapel; the light was fading ar this point so the interior was dark and the only thing I could see was the Burne Jones stained glass lit in the gloom.

There aren’t many examples of modernist historical novels; with the exception of Lawrence’s The Boy in the Bush the nearest comparisons I can think of is Woolf’s Orlando, which is an allegory where Lawrence’s work sits rather more tradition in Hardy. In practice though Lawrence still uses the historical form in much the same way as Woolf; to explore ideas (such as polygamy) more explicitly than would have been possible with the removal of a contemporary social context. The use of a pioneer setting also caters well for the homosocial (there are times when it reads like a homoerotic update of Fenimore Cooper) aspects of his work, not entirely unlike Forster’s green wood; "this was what Australia was for; a careless freedom. An easy, unrestricted freedom.". As such, although it is concerned with the dark unconscious as any other Lawrence novel, the tension between that facet of the self and its social aspect is rather less marked here. As an example, where Kangaroo directly examines Lawrence’s political ideas, they seep through The Boy in the Bush in a rather less palatable form; "the Jewish gentleman was effusively greeting another Jewish gentleman. In fact, they were kissing, which made Jack curl with disgust… his blood recoiled with old haughtiness and pride of race… I’m an Englishman and I could crush everything in my hand… he belonged to the blood of the masters, not the servants." Much of the novel essentially forms a parable around the masculinisation of its protagonist, Jack in opposition to a civilised society depicted as feminine in character; "Jack found himself in a really female setting. Instinctively, he had avoided women but particularly he avoided girls." Love is accordingly characterised as ‘sentimental weakness, as in the description of how marriage has emasculated Esau; "he was one of those men whom marriage seems to humiliate, and to make ugly. As if he despised himself for being married… Esau was a tame dog." The death of Esau acts as a form of allegorical amputation of these similar tendencies within Jack; "a mean with all of boyishness cut away from him… he had lost his softness…he was not a tame dog like all the rest." By contrast, all the details about Jack not being able to bear physical intimacy seem to apply rather less to male characters like Tom than to any of the women in the novel.

Food cooked: Bobotie, Hen in a pot with parsley sauce, Swedish sausage and potato bake, Ham hock with spiced figs, Macaroni cheese, Doro Wat, Damson vodka, Arroz de Pato, Portuguese tomato soup with chorizo and egg, Ardennes venison stew, Lapin a’la Kriek, Squid with meatballs and peas, Chicken with plums, Chorizo ghoulash, Catalan crab and nut stew, Plaice and pepper paella, Duck with hazelnuts and apple, Pork with chocolate and orange, Caribbean chicken, Feijoada, Fish stew and herby mash, Chicken with almonds and pine nuts, Damson and chery cobbler.

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