(Carl Van Vechten, photographer.
Library of Congress. Wikipedia)
Maria Pilar Abel Martinez claims that you got pally
with her mother at Port Ligat.
The DNA sample should sort out that.
Let’s hear it for his twin sister, St Scholastica too!
Benedict I had heard of, but I was touched that there was
also St Scholastica, his twin sister. Surely she
must be a patron saint of female teachers?
Apparently not. She did ally herself with convulsive children and
thunderstorms, however. Hope she holds off the storm for Djokovic
Whether St Scholastica was buried at Fleury, or at Le Mans is a moot
point, but one on which I haven’t decided. I’d prefer if she had been
laid to rest in the crypt with her brother.
It is a pity that the name of the sanctified lass seems to have connotations
with a surgical stocking which might prevent DVTs. Maybe it resonated
with an educational publisher’s title. Or was it more coolly channelling a
For starters, she had been rewarded with a meteorological miracle which
put her brother’s signs and wonders in the shade. She had been given a
divine imprimatur on her heartfelt desire to be sociable and her brother
had learned that rigidly sticking to his timetable was not that better part.
Her tears had brought down a hailstorm which prevented him from returning to
Montecasino and his cell. She reproved him for not listening to her when God
had heard her. So much for the usual portrayal of Benedict with his
finger over his lips and his injunction to pin back one’s inner ears.
Practise what you preach might have been dinned into him by a loud
However, since it is his Feast Day today, let’s celebrate the sainted
Their Last Supper – did she know?
(Benedict had prophesied his demise.)
A twin, she dreaded separation,
so she begged him to delay departure.
He resolved to adhere to his own Rule:
to return to his cell before sundown.
An adept at resisting temptation,
he’d shooed a blackbird; mortified his flesh
and could spot a poisoned chalice; restore
broken vessels, but worshipped his routine.
Whereas Scholastica, in sincere love,
pleaded with him to delay a little.
When tears did not avail, she cried in prayer –
the clear sky darkened and a storm arose.
Benedict, rooted to the very spot –
coldly angry, began to lecture her,
but her petition had prevailed with God.
Three days on he witnessed a dove ascend.
Her soul took flight, leaving her corpse below,
illuminated by a beam of light.
Benedict placed her body in his tomb.
Their celestial converse carries on,
their bones together, or apart, at peace,
transcending the rules, united in love.
An old one from my childhood poems….
The World, The Solar System, the Universe
Miss had mentioned the Antipodes, so
we planned to dig to Australia, or
New Zealand. But surrounding earth would flow
back into our trench. Buchaille Etive Mhor
rose at our backs as we hit stones and bones.
Knees were black and soon a delegation
of children commentated in undertones
on the progress of our occupation,
careful lest a kangaroo should leap out.
We hoped to find a duck-billed platypus,
but it was getting difficult: no doubt
because we had no JCB. The loose
hafts of our rusted seaside spades rattled;
we hadn’t even reached the equator,
International Dateline. We battled
on, searching for a Tropic. Potato
roots were what we found. Raleigh had too,
but the Queen had shown her ingratitude,
just like my mother, who dispersed the crew:
she wasn’t one to care for latitude.
She made us fill in our enormous hole.
(Would Weddell’s mum have banned him from the Pole?)
If water flowed down plugholes the wrong way,
we’d never know. Our Christmas would be cold,
and all because research had to obey
my mother. Now we would never find the gold.
Someone’s aunt gave them a koala ‘bear’;
a boomerang was posted to a friend-
although it returned itself to sender-
but we were the ones who nearly got there:
the didgeridoos were just round the bend.
Back at school, our exercise books would bear
our names, addresses and galactical
affiliation, because those Out There
might find this information practical.
But the message in locked diaries just read:
Keep Your Nose Out of Here – or lose your head!
(Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
25/8/06 Photo: Zhi Yong Lee Flickr)
My chin was resting on the narrow ledge
and my hand sensed where to find the button.
I pressed: the drama slowly evolved.
Small-headed ptarmigan; weasel, or stoat;
a Mountain Hare… Was there an Arctic Fox?
My memory is blurred, just as the light
gradually dimmed and a square of blackness
disconcertingly ensued. By magic,
or perhaps a further impatient press,
a non-existent stage curtain lifted
on the mise-en-scene and, where there had been
autumnal, russet fur and feathers; leaves
of crinkled beech, now there was dazzling white
and a sparkling winter wonderland, with
the taxidermied tableau now pristine,
like the snow in our back garden, before
I rushed to stamp my welly-prints in it.
There were only two seasons, I recall:
autumn and winter. There was no vernal;
no fresh, green meadows with two hares boxing.
There was no aestival, with growing young.
There only seemed to be approaching Death
and a brief, glittering transformation
before darkness set in.
It was not there.
I sought in vain for the diorama
when I made my last Glasgow pilgrimage;
no grandfather to hoist me up the steps.
The ’64’ Auchenshuggle bus- gone-
at least from its old Clydebank/ Partick route,
where it stopped at the grandiose facade
of a Santiago in red sandstone.
Like a ViewMaster, the shutter came down
on four years of study under the spire
of grimy, but Romantic Gilmorehill.
I ask where my springs and summers have gone.
I no longer need a hand to ascend;
can see in the mirror my auburn fade
and pure white winter begin to appear,
with growing sense of metamorphosis.
Camouflage did not help them to survive-
except in the memory of a child.
(Rock Ptarmigan (Norway) 28/5/10
Photo: Jan Frode Haugseth)
Okay. I know. I know. I abandoned Augustus Snodbury, erstwhile
Senior Master of St Birinus’ Middle School. He was at the altar alongside
Virginia Fisher- Gyles and both were sharing a service with Murgatroyd-
Syylk and Diana ( renewal of wedding vows for the latter) and vestal
virgins, Nigel Milford- Haven and the chaste- but not very chased, it must
be admitted – Drusilla (Gus and Diana’s daughter and Murgatroyd’s
adopted daughter.) All very complicated, n’est-ce-pas?
However, that is the modern family for you.
Gus, having been a Classics teacher at one time, could have expanded on
that subject ad nauseam – and frequently did so. He loved to read and
re-read Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars. He and ‘Sweaty Tony’
could have told you that there was nothing new under the sun.
Gus felt equally qualified to write a book called The Playground, as
the Classical author had done. Now that retirement had been achieved,
he intended to have a go.
It was one way to have an alibi for sitting in the study alone for long
periods of time, playing Battleship online.
Virginia said that she could bring out a monograph on The Physical Defects
of Men. A very big monograph.
Mehercule! Did that mean that she wanted to share the study?
Married life had brought him face-to-face with the central question of
Suetonius’ works: how does one cope with absolute power? Gus now felt
sure that he was coming to a good understanding of the answer and it
was something along the lines of promptly saying : Yes, dear, to any
assertion, request or remark.
Once Gus had had two very prestigious jobs- Senior Master and (Acting)
Deputy Head. Neither had involved much work. They were posts
comparable to Suetonius’ positions as flamen sacerdotalis and pontifex
Now our newlywed had a very stressful post as Husband. If he wasn’t
careful, he might develop a nervous stammer, like Claudius. Derek
Jacobi- now wasn’t he marvellous…? So, indeed, was that actor who
played Wilfred Owen in Regeneration. Owen had a stammer. Wasn’t
that evidence of Post Traumatic Stress? Virginia wouldn’t develop one,
that was for sure. And she didn’t even have the mitigation of PMT – not
at her time of life… Maybe she had Post Menopausal Something- Else?
But she was not the one who was feeling the pressure… What was her
excuse? He felt like asking her to reflect on her mis-demeanors in some
kind of detention. She could write an essay, perhaps…
Gus! Could you take the bin out?
I could, he thought rebelliously. But will I? Ha! I could say
that I don’t want to be pedantic, but, in fact, I very much do.
Gus! Did you hear me?
Ita vero. On my way. Yes, dear!
Dumb insolence got him n…n.. n… nowhere.
At least he didn’t have to write the Christmas card this year. Wives
seemed to take on that mantle. Virginia had bought about six packs of
In the past, he had only sent one – to ‘Aunt Augusta’ (God Rest her Soul.)
His Christmas shopping had been confined to a bottle of Dewlap Gin for the
Discerning Grandmother. It hadn’t been boutique, but had always been
acceptable to the old bird. He wondered if he should buy a bottle for old
times’ sake. The stresses of connubial bliss were driving him in that
I visited the church today as I wanted to somehow commemorate five
brothers who were all killed in World War 1. Their youngest brother-
Percy Soul- died of meningitis after the war. He was the sixth son.
Apparently some villagers were annoyed that Mrs Soul received financial
‘compensation’ for her five sons’ deaths in service.
Later she moved to Great Barrington. She had three daughters who must
have been traumatised by the loss of their brothers.
I kept thinking of Fry’s Five Boys chocolate, for some reason and I checked
that it was in production when the boys were young. It was. I hope they
were able to enjoy this childish luxury as they ran around the fields,
scratching their names on the beams of a barn. Maybe not, if they were
(Photo by Kim Traynor, 2013. Own work of enamel sign.)
It was freezing cold today. Inside there were wall monuments to others
who had died – centuries before. One girl had only been 19 when she
There was a little trapped wren inside and an aspiring organist who
arrived for a practice. I don’t know how he could have attempted to play
with cold hands!
Anyway, I went home and thought I’d try a villanelle. The rhymes are
limited, but there are 5 tercets- one for each brother, maybe. It ends with
a quatrain, where the rhyme feels a bit anti-climactic. But then, maybe it
suits the content… All ready for Remembrance Day. Let’s Not Forget.
The Lost Souls of Great Rissington
So, she wouldn’t stand for God Save The King,
though all five sons lay down for him and died.
For each life she pocketed a shilling.
The candle in her window kept burning,
watched by a girl who’d never be a bride.
And a mother and three sisters crying
was no salve for the sharpness of Death’s sting.
Over the cow-common, The Windrush sighed
and, in a drawer, telegrams were yellowing.
The candle guttered- a Soul was leaving.
The Roll up yonder couldn’t be denied.
No bugler registered this sibling.
In a village barn there is a carving-
names of hopeful lads which emphasised
desires for immortality. Living
in a peaceful hamlet? No, perishing-
even a twin had no one at his side.
While some entrenched neighbours were gossiping,
lethal as shrapnel and more exacting.
(St John the Baptist Church, Great Rissington
Photo by Jonathan Billinger, 2007)
(A seasonal re-blog, folks- enjoy!)
It was Hallowe’en and Carrie’s children were hyper-excited. Tiger-Lily was
in charge of her siblings. She had dressed as a witch and her brother,
Ferdy, was carrying a plastic trident and sported horns. Ming had a
black plastic cape and his smile was rather disconcerting as he had
managed to retain plastic fangs from a Christmas cracker in his mouth,
in spite of the additional dental obstruction of a brace. The whole effect
was akin to Frankenweenie.
Bill was a white-faced zombie with fake blood dripping down his jaw.
Edward’s face was green and he had a screw sticking out of his neck.
Rollo was a Ghostbuster. Dressing up in clown costumes had been
All carried pumpkin lanterns and empty, be- ribboned mini-trugs, for
the reception of donated goodies.
Now be polite, children, and only visit the houses on High Street. Ring the
doorbells once only and say thank you if anyone gives you fruit. You
mustn’t accept money…
Edward looked disappointed. I’ll wait round the corner in The Peal O’
Bells with the other mummies. Stay together and when you’ve finished,
knock on the window.
Let’s go to Grandma’s first, said Ferdy. She won’t be scared of us.
Yes, let’s get it over with, said Tiger.
They rang the doorbell and stepped back politely.
Suddenly a white-sheeted figure with two black holes for
eyes opened the door and shouted: Boo!
Little Edward was terrified. He seized his sister’s hand and
dropped his trug.
It’s only Grandma, silly, said Tiger, annoyed at the naughty
Trick or treat, Grandma?
Ginevra pulled the sheet off and smoothed her hair.
We’re not having that American nonsense here, she lectured. When
your daddy was small he had to do guising properly. We’re a traditional
So, who’s going to do the first turn?
Turn? quailed Rollo.
Yes. A recitation, dance or song. You don’t get owt for nowt as
they used to say.
What’s a recitation? asked Ming.
Come in. I’ll show you, said Ginevra enthusiastically. Ola! Have you
put the apples in the basin of water?
But Ola wasn’t there. She had run off to Bric-a-Brac with Jean-
Paul, the opportunistic widower from the twinning visit. Ginevra
had forgotten her new carer’s name.
Sorry. Magda, then.
They all trooped into the sitting room and Ginevra moved her
case of Dewlap Gin for Discerning Grandmothers off the sofa, so that
they could sit down.
She took a deep, somewhat juniper-scented breath and launched
Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought Death into the world and all our woe…
Sing, Heavenly Muse!…
Two hours later Tiger had to shake Edward awake as their
grandmother uttered the final words:
..through Eden took their solitary way.
Ginevra bowed with a huge flourish and pronounced:
Paradise Lost: now that’s poetry!
She then proceeded to help herself to a bag of Mars bars which
Magda had been instructed to purchase for the children.
Grandma, we’ve got to go. It’s past Edward’s bed-time, said Tiger-Lily
Oh, what a pity. We didn’t get round to ducking for apples, said Ginevra,
There’s always next year, replied Tiger, scarcely banishing a rather
un- grand-daughterly thought: If the old bag is still around.
Carrie was frantic: Where have you been all this time?
Blame Grandma, said Tiger. Give her any opportunity or a platform and
you’ll be there all night.
You should have taken the crucifix and the garlic, like I told you, said
Carrie, bundling them into the 4×4. She’s always been a monster.
Even to Daddy? asked an exhausted Ming.
Especially to Daddy. Never mind. We’ll have good fun at Clammie
and Tristram’s Guy Fawkes Party. Burning effigies is so therapeutic!
Alcuin, Alexander Pope, Anthony Gormley, campanology, Cassandra Austen, cathedral Close, Chawton, global warning, Great expectations, Harris Bigg- Wither, Henry Tilney, Izaak Walton, Jane Austen, St Swithun, Winchester Cathedral
An old series which may re-pay another airing:
As the most famous Hampshire novelist remarked: We can all go through the somewhat embarrassing motions of offering each other the Peace for a few moments at Sunday Eucharist, but it is keeping it throughout the week that is the true challenge.
Whenever I am in Winchester Cathedral, I am conscious that the Blessed Jane lies beneath our feet. I mean, of course, Jane Austen and it is significant that she was not praised for her literary talents on her ledger stone, but rather lauded for her virtue.
Occasionally I fantasise that she is eavesdropping on snippets and gobbets of conversation that are echoes of those which formed the foundation to her writing at Chawton, where, in a more constrained square meterage, she still found plenty of grist to her mill.
The types still exist with their universal foibles and characteristics and you could deem her to have an excellent position from which to amass fragments for her personal notebook. Her neighbours are interesting too.
Jane’s internment took place early in the morning, perhaps to avoid comment from the faithful on the rectitude of a resting place having been given to one whose relation had been imprisoned for petty theft and whose cousin’s husband had been guillotined.
I wonder what our novelist would have made of discussions on women bishops and gay marriage?
Would she still count eighty seven women passing by, without there being a tolerable physiognomy among them?
(Some people are worth seeing, but not worth going to see.)
However, as stated, she does not have to move at all. To be the unseen guest at baptisms, ordinations, weddings and confirmations must delight her. Even those alliances which are the triumphs of hope over experience must provide entertainment enough for any spinster. The voice of the people is the voice of God, said Alcuin – vox populi vox dei.
Being witness to so many unions, does she ever regret turning down Harris Bigg- Wither? Nay, she was delighted to have spared herself any lifelong conjunction with that particular large and awkward youth. Whenever she had experienced a broken engagement, failed seaside romance or unsatisfactory flirtation, she consoled herself in her sister’s company and they shared a game of rubbers, or played a few duets. Next to being married, a girl liked to be disappointed in love a little, now and then. It gave one a sort of distinction among friends and one’s mother an opportunity to remedy the situation.
When a baby grizzles during the Intercessions, does it irritate her? No, not at all, for Jane was the seventh child of eight and loved boisterous games of baseball and cricket. She does not mind the troops of schoolchildren, brandishing clipboards with attached worksheets on Global Warning and St Swithun, who mark their territory by expelling curious deposits of masticated material on the ancient stones.
She is amused when itinerant latter-day pilgrims are riveted to the spot. Teacher: Well done, Merlot! Now that you have ticked all the boxes we can enter you for the Win a Cathedral Roof Tour on a Windy Day prize draw.
Rinaldo, why don’t you go down to the crypt and see if you can spot the virtualangel? Don’t hurry back. Have a little paddle. That was quick! No, that wasn’t the angel. It was the sculpture by Anthony Gormless.
No, children do not bother her, but she is disturbed and aggrieved by members of the congregation who show no discretion in the timing of their personal coughs and who would be ideal members of the cast of some stage representation of Great Expectorations. Perhaps they could be induced to retire to the Fisherman’s Chapel to meditate on the Izaak Walton stained glass injunction contained therein, whose vitrine injunction is: Study to be Quiet.
A restoration appeal for £19 million was launched and so Jane hopes that the ancient roof will no longer threaten to tumble around her ears from the vibrations of deaf loops, microphones, county brayings and excessive campanology.
Her single regret may be that she misses her dear sister’s company. As Mrs Austen once said to her: If Cassie were to have her head cut off, you would insist on joining her. And Jane’s father often quoted Pope: The proper study of mankind is Man.
So, here she is dignified with as much learning in the University of Life as her brothers experienced in their various careers. Persuasion, pride, prejudice, sense and sensibility are paraded over these flagstones every day, in as compressed a social milieu as any novelist could desire to inhabit.
Henry Tilney once observed: The Close is surrounded by a neighbourhoodof voluntary spies.
Certainly, Jane would have avowed that its grapevine is as efficient a system of instant gratification as the pew sheet or Internet, whatever that organ of gossip may be.
© Candia Dixon Stuart and candiacomesclean.wordpress.com, 2012