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Blog Action Day: Nature and Memory

As decided, on the Blog Action Day we’re blogging about environment. But exactly what shall we say? On occasions like this I’ve always wanted to say something different, yet how different can you be these days when absolutely everyone seems to be aware of the necessity of environmental protection?

JS Herbarium 1988

My problems were solved when my mother scanned and sent to me my first (and only) herbarium. I went to school in 1987, and upon finishing our first form we’d all got this task, to create a herbarium. My mother and I made it together in 1988, and I must be honest and say that it was actually her who made most of the job, although I did have my share. This, for instance, is the title page with my first-form handwriting. This is a poem by a Russian children’s poet, Valentine Berestov, and it tells of the author’s amazement at seeing different flowers out together in herbarium, even though “in the wild” they probably didn’t know about each other.

JS Herbarium 1988

I must admit that I never liked biology or botany at school. I might have mentioned on the blog my Biology teacher, who was a Chemistry teacher by her uni degree, and who actually was up to teaching any subject, including History and Law. Her method of teaching, unfortunately, boiled down to reading from a textbook and drawing tables, and naturally perhaps, the lessons were far from engaging.

JS Herbarium 1988

Believe it or not, but the first time we spoke about the environmental protection was at the English lesson. We had an improvised “environmental press-conference”, over which I presided. I introduced the topics and speakers, from “environmentalists” and “journalists” to “witnesses” of environmental catastrophes. The “speakers” discussed at length the pollution, and the green-house effect, and the animal protection, and the global warming. Yet I should be honest again and say that the only thing that has then benefited from such lesson was my English vocabulary, and not the awareness of the environmental problems.

I think in part the problem may have to do with how the subject of Environmental Studies is taught at schools. In those early years at school I had the lessons in what could literally be translated as Naturology. And I can never forget a quiz we had had when we had to answer questions and tick boxes. One of the question was to classify the objects by their nature – “animate” or “inanimate”. Everything was OK, until I saw “flowers”. I thought of photosynthesis, of everything I knew then about flowers, and ticked “animate”. Turned out, this was the wrong answer. To this day I cannot understand, why. If I go from Latin, it makes sense: “anima” is “soul”, and flowers, naturally, don’t have soul. But neither do animals, one would imagine, yet they do belong to the “animate” world.

And just as I was writing this post, I remember about Hans Christian Andersen again. I was sure he had had a tale about the four seasons, but when I went to look for it I found another tale, which I always used love, it is called The Elder-Tree Mother. The elder-tree tea is a great popular remedy against the cold, but Andersen presented the elder-tree as a dryad, whose spirit told the protagonist, a little boy, wonderful stories. Let me quote this passage to you:

Now the little maiden with the blue eyes and the elder blossoms in her hair sat up in the tree and nodded to them both and said, “Today is your golden wedding anniversary!” Then from her hair she took two flowers, and kissed them so that they gleamed, first like silver, and then like gold. And when she laid them on the heads of the old couple, each became a golden crown. There they both sat, a king and a queen, under the fragrant tree that looked just exactly like an elder bush, and he told his old wife the story of the Elder Tree Mother, just as it had been told to him when he was a little boy. They both thought that much of the story resembled their own, and that part they liked best.
“Yes, that’s the way it is,” said the little girl in the tree. “Some people call me Elder Tree Mother, and some call me the Dryad, but my real name is Memory. It is I who sit up in the tree that grows on and on, and I can remember and I can tell stories. Let me see if you still have your flower.”
Then the old man opened his hymnal, and there lay the elder blossom, as fresh as if it had just been placed there. Then Memory nodded, and the two old people with the golden crowns sat in the red twilight, and they closed their eyes gently and – and – and that was the end of the story….

And so I looked my herbarium, and I saw things I’ve almost forgotten about, or haven’t recalled for years. Indeed, as the works of some historians would prove to us, Nature is the cradle of our Memory. This Memory is living and surviving, from generation to generation, and if this is not enough to persuade us in the necessity of its protection, what else will?


Hans Christian Andersen, The Elder-Tree Mother (in English)
The same in Russian
The same in Danish
The same in German
For translations in other European languages, check Hans Christian Andersen Centre.
Julia’s Herbarium 1988 Photoset on Flickr.

Stella Artois: Just the Name Makes the Beer Taste Better

Whether you are a cinema fan, or a beer fan, the name of Stella Artois is familiar to you. Exquisite TV adverts with an anecdotal story at heart of each of them, praising the labour of love of the Belgian brewery in Leuven. The Belgian tradition of brewing the beer dates back to 1366, and last year saw Stella Artois’s 640’s anniversary. The launch of a new interactive website this year is a perfect birthday gift to the dedicated beer-makers and to all faithful Artois lovers.

The website is located at www.artois.co.uk, but on October 8th it was only open to a limited number of people invited for its online premiere. It was a pleasant surprise for me to have been invited (along with “various designers, marketers, film enthusiasts, beer connoisseurs and reasonably friendly-seeming people”, to quote the invitation email), and I have just spent the most wonderful hour on the site. As you see from a very blurred image on the top left, I had to type in two special words to access the site, and once I did I have entered the Artois Wonderland.

On your journey through the Wonderland you are being guided not by a White Rabbit, but by a newly appointed (i.e. invented) Artois brew master (left). As the creators of the website, Johan Tesch, Noel Pretorius, and Tim Scheibel, explain, the whole visual language of the journey is strongly influenced by the early 20th c. posters., films, and Artois’s own print ads of the time. To get in the mood for your journey, watch this teaser (courtesy of http://www.artoisblog.co.uk/).


As it happens in all polite houses, La Famille Artois first introduces you to their beers (left). After learning everything you certainly did not know about these wonderful beverages, you are taken to the dawn of history of La Famille Artois. The section Le Courage (right), which, as the creators admit, is one of the most entertaining, captivating, innovative and humorous parts of the site, potently reminds one that to brew a good beer in 1366 was indeed an act of courage. The hard-working citizens of Leuven had to balance the Earth, fight against the evil spirits, and even to appease gods. But we, modern people, obviously know that the Earth has got no end, and we can help, for example, to balance it. A Greek mathematician, Archimedes, reportedly claimed that he could overturn the Earth with the help of a mere stick, all for the sake of science. Well, to make a perfect beer is a science, too, so you have 30 seconds to turn the Earth with your mouse, to save the precious hops.

I must admit: although I managed to balance the Earth and to appease the gods, I was unable to do any more for the lovely people of medieval Leuven. In particular, I couldn’t lit the lantern of a brewer who went to collect water, and I was told that “the people of Leuven would be sorry tonight”. So am I.

The next section, L’Origine, tells the actual story of La Famille Artois, from 1366 when Den Horen brewery had been established in Leuven to 1926 when the Artois produced the first filtered lager (left). La Publicité is a deftly arranged collection of diverse and sundry TV adverts, of which you may perhaps recognise the one on the right. And the section L’Etranger is the best place to test your knowledge of pouring the ideal glass of beer, or better else, of learning how to do it (below). At least with regards to La Publicité, I can imagine its content being enjoyed and put to good use by some clever cinema or media student.

Although the Stella Artois website would be impossible without the three gifted guys I mentioned above, it is accompanied by a special Artois Blog, written mainly by Sam. The blog serves as a hub of everything you want to know about La Famille Artois, as well as the website developments, and Sam has granted permission to use some of the contents in this post.

The website will be up and running full-time since October 9th, and I hope the teaser and the pictures have put you in the right mood for enjoying the process of “passing on something good”, as Artois have been doing for over six hundred years. As for me, I totally enjoyed it, mostly as a cinema fan rather than a beer connoisseur, but also as an historian. I notice I keep getting back to where I came from academically, that is Medieval and Early Modern History. Le Courage is absolutely a hit for me, for its amazing animation and subtle jokes on the Titanic labour of medieval beer-makers. But as you also know, I am a Francophone, and all the sections after Le Courage is a great treat for someone like me. Finally, I just loved this phrase, which sounds like a perfect tagline and has been used in this post’s title: “just the name makes the beer taste better”. Vraiment, c’est ça!

Life in Space: The Anniversaries of Satellites and Search Engines

Russia was in the avant-garde of Space Science in the 20th c. Today’s Google homepage reminded us of the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, which was the first satellite sent into space (image is the courtesy of NASA website).

But space has many meanings. In the passage above it means “cosmos”. If I say “I need space” it will mean that I either crave for freedom or that I need to put something somewhere where there is little or no place. And when we say “virtual space”, we mean the web.

Recently it was Google’s 9th anniversary, of which again their homepage has reminded us. At Search Engine Land they contemplated on whether 9 is the correct number, but Google seems to have their own view, which they communicated with this logo (right) on September 27th.

And ten years ago, on September 23rd 1997, Yandex, Russia’s leading search warehouse, has set off their rocket into the virtual space. To mark the anniversary of intermittent work of their orbital station, they have sent a lovely gift. The gift consisted of a cylinder box, which contained: a message to other “space civilisations”, a flashy pen, a tube of cherry and apple juice, a can of meat in white sauce, a prunes and nuts flapjack, and a pack of 10 miniature bread loafs. As you undoubtedly notice, the word juice is spelt “cok” in Russian, which looks very familiar to the English speaker. I would like to repeat that it means juice, and not what it may seem to mean, judging by its spelling. 🙂

Yandex is obviously playing a deft joke on the word “space” and Russia’s history of delving into the cosmic vastnesses. All the food items are exactly what they eat (or definitely used to eat) in space. I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre at Starry Town (Zvezdniy Gorodok) in, if I am correct, 1993. I went with my classmates, and I vividly remember our sheer amazement at the size of those Lilliput chocolate bars and bread loafs on display at the museum. Well, now my present colleagues have shared this amazement, too, and in turn, I am sharing it with you.

Raphael, Degas, and the 16th c. music

2004 saw the first exhibition of Raphael in England. In November I happened to be in London, and my first visit to the National Gallery naturally included a voyage to the Sainsbury Wing. I had mere half an hour to enjoy some 40 works of one of the Titans of Renaissance. To see them, I had to gently if politely wriggle past some visitors, or queue up where it was impossible to squeeze through. Everyone who knows the Sainsbury Wing will recall its catacomb-like interior: low ceilings, dim light, rather small rooms with dark walls – hardly a backdrop for the rich Italian masterpieces.

At exactly the same time they were exhibiting Edgar Degas upstairs. The works of French artist resided in two or three well lit halls with tall ceilings and light pastel-colour walls, there were not many visitors (it was one of the first days of exhibition, I should note). Most paintings were of medium size, in front of every second or third of which there stood a Far-Eastern girl with a pad and some crayons, copying the works of one of the greatest Impressionists. To this day I cannot fathom why these two exhibitions could not be swapped places.

I wrote a lengthy text about it in Russian in the same 2004, contemplating on how these two exhibitions manifested our attitude to art. I was probably a bit harsh to suggest that it was easy to admire the classical art because then no-one would find a fault in your taste, but on second thoughts this is hardly far from the truth. Indeed, one would rather be ridiculed if they admitted liking pop music than if they admitted liking Mozart. Same with Raphael. As Henry James put it, Raphael was a happy genius, and by looking and admiring his Madonnas we seek to find happiness, too. Raphael is also easier to comprehend, unlike his contemporaries. Leonardo is very intellectual, to which La Gioconda is a good proof. Michelangelo’s devotion to the physique is sometimes baffling, as can be seen, for instance, in the figures on the Medici monument. Raphael, on the contrary, is always pleasant, always radiant, always rich in colour, and even if his end may not be as happy as his paintings, we probably shall still forget about it when we observe his work.

It is different with Degas. Degas was known for his perfectionism, and many times in his life he turned to rework his own paintings, as the examination of certain works, e.g. Portrait of Elena Carafa, shows. The name of the exhibition – “Art in the Making” – further highlights Degas’s critical, intellectual approach to his work. The British art historian Kenneth Clark in his book “The Nude: A Study in the Ideal Form” (N.Y., 1956) says, in particular, that Degas excelled at what the Florentine artists of the 16th c. would call “disegno” (i.e. a drawing, a sketch). He focused on a human figure as his main theme, but aimed to capture the ideal image of the movement of this figure, and especially the energy of this movement. Degas’s painting is more vigorous than Raphael’s, and his Madonnas are not only nude, they are also depicted in the poses or at such activity that many of us would still deem inappropriate. Still, again in the words of Clark, had the figures painted by Michelangelo come to life, they would have scared us to a far bigger extent than Degas’s naked women.

Thanks to his colour palette, techniques, and themes, Degas appears more disturbing, almost revolutionary, compared to Raphael. I noted in my text that in the three centuries, from Raphael to Degas, the very attitude to art had changed. As far as Madonnas are concerned, after the European revolutions of the 19th c. and on the eve of the First World War they became more emancipated, they drank absinthe and spent evenings in the Parisian cafes. Their blurred faces, loose hair and outrageous nudity were the symbols of their time, the sign of the fear of changes and of the vulnerability in the face of the outer world. Their movement and individuality were more prominently expressed in comparison to their Renaissance predecessors. Like many other Impressionists, Degas is much more “relevant” to our time, but as it happens we prefer to turn to what gives us hope and faith, and Raphael seemed to be a perfect saviour. Apparently, I concluded, when people turn to the classical art, they seek peace; and when they find peace, they’ll think of a revolution.

Nevertheless, I bought a wonderful CD at the Raphael’s exhibition, The Music of the Courtier, which contained several beautifully performed pieces by the late 15th – 16th cc. composers. One of this, Dilla da l’acqua, by Francesco Patavino (1497?-1556?), performed by I Fagiolini, has become an instant favourite, and I hope you enjoy it too.


The paintings used (from top, left to right, clockwise):

Raphael, La Donna Velata (c. 1514-1516)
Edgar Degas, Portrait of Elena Carafa (c. 1875)
Raphael, Madonna of the Pinks (c. 1506-1507)
Michelangelo, The Tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici (1526-1531)
Leonardo da Vinci, La Gioconda (c. 1503-1506)
Raphael, Madonna Connestabile (c. 1502)
Edgar Degas, La Coiffure (Combing Her Hair) (c. 1896)
Edgar Degas, Russian Dancers (c. 1899)
Raphael, Ansidei Madonna (1505)
Raphael, Lady with a Unicorn (c. 1505-1506)
Edgar Degas, Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando (c. 1879)
Edgar Degas, Young Spartans Exercising (c. 1860)
Edgar Degas, After the Bath (c. 1890-1895)
Raphael, St Catherine (c. 1507)

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The Saddest Work of Art in the World (Leonardo, Last Supper)

In the recent years we’ve heard a lot about Last Supper – a large mural by Leonardo created for his patron, which can be seen at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Cenacolo (Last Supper) featured prominently in The Da Vinci Code and in many subsequent publications and TV programmes that aimed at “decoding” the novel by Dan Brown.

I wanted to quote, however, two passages from the works of Henry James, in which he contemplates on this work by the great painter. As we know, the mural has been in the state of decay for centuries, but James seems to have interpreted the reason for its survival in beautiful and passionate narrative. There is much more to one of Da Vinci’s great works than a quasi-female head, and the two passages below explain this.

“… the prime treasure of Milan at the present hour is the beautiful, tragical Leonardo. The cathedral is good for another thousand years, but we ask whether our children will find in the most majestic and most luckless of frescoes much more than the shadow of a shadow. Its fame has been for a century or two that, as one may say, of an illustrious invalid whom people visit to see how he lasts, with leave-taking sighs and almost death-bed or tiptoe precautions. The picture needs not another scar or stain, now, to be the saddest work of art in the world; and battered, defaced, ruined as it is, it remains one of the greatest. We may really compare its anguish of decay to the slow conscious ebb of life in a human organism. The production of the prodigy was a breath from the infinite, and the painter’s conception not immeasurably less complex than the scheme, say, of his own mortal constitution. There has been much talk lately of the irony of fate, but I suspect fate was never more ironical than when she led the most scientific, the most calculating of all painters to spend fifteen long years in building his goodly house upon the sand. And yet, after all, may not the playing of that trick represent but a deeper wisdom, since if the thing enjoyed the immortal health and bloom of a first-rate Titian we should have lost one of the most pertinent lessons in the history of art? We know it as hearsay, but here is the plain proof, that there is no limit to the amount of “stuff” an artist may put into his work. Every painter ought once in his life to stand before the Cenacolo and decipher its moral. Mix with your colours and mess on your palette every particle of the very substance of your soul, and this lest perchance your “prepared surface” shall play you a trick! Then, and only then, it will fight to the last – it will resist even in death” (Henry James, Italian Hours: From Chambery to Milan, 1872).

“…I have seen all great art treasures in Italy;… but I have looked at no other picture with an emotion equal to that which rose within me as this great creation of Leonardo slowly began to dawn upon my intelligence from the tragical twilight of its ruin. A work so nobly conceived can never utterly die, so long as the half-dozen lines of its design remain. Neglect and malice are less cunning than the genius of the great painter. It has stored away with masterly skill such a wealth of beauty as only perfect love and sympathy can fully detect. So, under my eyes, the restless ghost of the dead fresco returned to its mortal abode. From the beautiful central image of Christ I perceived its radiation right and left along the sadly broken line of the disciples. One by one, out of the depths of their grim dismemberment, the figures trembled into meaning and life, and the vast, serious beauty of the work stood revealed. What is the ruling force of this magnificent design? Is it art? is it science? is it sentiment? is it knowledge? I’m sure I can’t say; but in moments of doubt and depression I find it of excellent use to recall the great work with all possible distinctness. Of all the works of man’s hand it is the least superficial” (Henry James, Complete Tales: Travelling Companions, 1870).

Citation is from Henry James, Italian Hours. Penguin Classics, 1992.

The Strongest Parts of Our Bodies

Last year when I only just started blogging I wrote this post about the offbeat news stories in Metro newspaper. Those included a story about the bull who got stuck in the river mud while trying to get to the herd of cows on the opposite bank, and tips for appeasing the over-amorous neighbours whose moans don’t let you have your own quality time.

Frankly, I don’t read Metro very often. I spend so much time reading both printed and digital texts that having something in front of my eyes on the train is too much. But now and again I flick through Metro’s pages, and it somehow happens that it is in the second half of the year that I get to read some really funny stories.

So today I read about a Malaysian man nicknamed “King Tooth” who beat his own record of train-pulling. He tugged the seven-coach 2.9tonnes train almost 3m along the tracks. Rathakrishnan Velu is a strict vegetarian, he gets up every morning at 4.30am to do at least 25km of running and to lift at least 250kg (and not just with his teeth). He is said to attribute much of his dental strength to daily meditations. Indeed, in some videos shown on the web he is seen entering the state of uttermost concentration before embarking on his record-breaking “trail”.

His management is reportedly “slightly disappointed” because the man was expected to tug the train 4m. The government, on the contrary, is elated. The Malaysian cabinet minister Dr Maximus Ongkili is quoted saying: ‘I don’t know what toothpaste he uses. But I’m sure a lot of companies will be looking to endorse their products from Rathakrishnan’.

I included a few images in this post from Metro, but I especially like the one on the left. I think this is the most natural image of profound contemplation since “The Thinker” by Rodin – and strikingly similar, too (see right).

It wouldn’t be Metro, however (or any other respectable newspaper), if it didn’t accompany the story with a selection of other world records in lifting and pulling. So, in the past we’ve had a Pakistani man lifting 51.7kg with his right ear. We’ve got a Briton lifting more than 11kg with his tongue. A Lithuanian lifted 59.18kg with his beard. An Australian pulled “a Boeing 747-400, weighing 187tonnes, a distance of 91m in 1min 27sec”. I suppose this one is not just about the weight or distance, but primarily about the time.

Last but not least, at a strongman contest in Jakarta (Indonesia) in June a man “proved how hard he was by pulling an 8.9tonne bus 50m using his penis“. I won’t contemplate his methods of training, but really, isn’t this the ultimate proof of manhood?

Carmarthen Cameos – 9: Childhood Memories of Dinefwr

When I sat down to narrate my journey and stay in Carmarthenshire in June, I wasn’t sure how this would go. As I said in the very first post under Carmarthen Cameos label, I didn’t know how to approach Carmarthen. It would seem occasionally that medieval ballads and lullabies were still heard across Carmarthenshire, and my visit to Llandeilo and Dinefwr only confirmed to me that there are still places very near to us that haven’t lost their original charm.

However, my impressions were largely my own, and I didn’t intend to make them particularly entertaining or objective. I must admit, though, going to Dinefwr Castle was like fulfilling a child’s dream for me. That post on Dinefwr attracted some comments, but little did I know that a couple of months later I would receive a letter from Jeremy Thomas, who grew up in Llandeilo in the 60s and 70s and now lives in the States. The letter in which he narrated his memories of Dinefwr is the one that you’d write about something that suddenly visited you and is very precious. It also documents that part of history of Dinefwr and Llandeilo area which is only known to someone who lived there, and, with Jeremy’s permission, you can now read what it was like to be a kid in Llandeilo:

“Your words brought back the memories of the many weekends of my youth when my cohorts and I would trespass on the castle grounds.

Yes, trespass. In those days the castle was not open to the public at all. There were no signposts, no pathways, and no history lessons. The castle was as raw as if it had been left untouched for centuries. To get there we would pretend we were entering guarded territory (back then the threat came in the shape of the dreaded local farmers). We’d scale the hillsides and thrash through the wooded areas to get to our reward–a veritable time-wrap.
The novelty never wore off. Each and every time inside the castle we would be transported to medieval times–an eerie but irresistible connection to the voices and bodies of the past. We all had ancestors going back centuries in the Llandeilo area, so the connection was plausibly familial.
At the end of the day we would always scare the living daylights out of each other, making up ghost stories as we sat in one tower room that I remember still had a parquet-type floor. I don’t know if you saw that same tower room, but I used to think it was some fair maiden’s boudoir.
There were never any other people at the castle which made the experience so personal. With dusk upon us and with our imagination running wild, the flight back to Llandeilo was always at full speed. I remember once getting in trouble with one of my friend’s mothers for having frightened my poor pal out of his skin with one of my ghost stories.”

I didn’t see the floor, but if I am totally honest, I didn’t even look on the ground where I walked. The walls and the views from them were so much more captivating for me. And considering that to walk up the hill to the castle is quite a feat, it probably doesn’t see too many visitors, in spite of being open to the public.

Jeremy also mentions the church (that I also missed), “Llandyfeusant, tucked under one of the hillsides on the way to the castle. We would also stop off there when we were kids to get our adrenaline flowing (it was always too dark on the way back, of course). The church hadn’t seen a service for decades back then and was always cloaked in such a creepy silence. Some of the tombstones were even open so you can just imagine what dares we subjected each other to. Life went along at a steady pace in those days and the days were definitely longer.

I must admit, reading Jeremy’s story almost made me jealous. As a child, I lived in the capital city of concrete, brick and glass, and I had no such luxury of visiting a derelict church with half-open tombs, or of sitting in a cold medieval castle, pressing my back against the 13th-14th c. stones, listening to the movement of bats’ wings and to the scary tales of my friends. I had to exploit the books and my imagination to fulfil the void, but, God knows, I wish I had spent at least a couple of days in Llandeilo, visiting Dinefwr. Thanks to Jeremy, however, I did just that.

If you have your own memories of visiting Dinefwr, or any other castle, especially when you were a child, and don’t mind sharing your stories with us, please leave a comment.

– D([“mb”,”\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>It feels so far away now.\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Like you, I am a linguist. I have lived in Russia (as Soviet Union), Geneva, Seville and France. I have been in the States for seventeen years now, but my family still lives in and around Llandeilo.\n\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Sincerely,\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>Jeremy Thomas\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv\>\u003cbr clear\u003d\”all\”\>\u003cbr\>– \n\u003cbr\>Jeremy Thomas | Partner / Director of Account Planning | Collaborate | work: 415.651.1218 cell: 415.425.2802\n\u003c/div\>\n”,0] ); D([“mi”,10,2,”11499b57fd73fa05″,0,”0″,”Julia Shuvalova”,”Julia”,”julia.shuvalova@gmail.com”,[[[“jeremyt”,”jeremyt@collaboratesf.com”,”11499b57fd73fa05″] ] ,[] ,[] ] ,”24-Aug (4 days ago)”,[“jeremyt@collaboratesf.com”] ,[] ,[] ,[] ,”24-Aug-2007 22:09″,”Re: Dinefwr musings”,”Hi Jeremy, I hope you are OK. I’m very sorry for not replying earlier, I’m af…”,[] ,1,,,”24 August 2007_22:09″,”On 24/08/07, Julia Shuvalova \u003cjulia.shuvalova@gmail.com\> wrote:”,”On 24/08/07, \u003cb class\u003dgmail_sendername\>Julia Shuvalova\u003c/b\> wrote:”,”gmail.com”,,,””,””,0,,”\u003c4d7733f50708241409y43d05bc1o7749d12e370bdbc3@mail.gmail.com\>”,0,,0,”In reply to \”Dinefwr musings\””,0] ); //

Every Inch Royal: Mail Post Box

There are many things you can find in Manchester that strike an unusual cord with you. For instance, I used to adore this wall painting in Northern Quarter, in Hare St. It requires no further musing, and I always thought it was very witty, given the name of the street.

Alas, this was painted over with some bright children-friendly images, and my heart still aches when I think of what a loss it was.

Another site which may soon be driven to extinction is located not far from Deansgate. I first noticed it in spring, but the weather was never good enough to snap it. The site is this:

I know they say that royalty and nobility both have got blue blood, so it is perhaps only logical that this “blueness” extends on to their possessions. Including one post box in red-brick Manchester.

Water lilies in Warrington and Blogging at Cornerhouse

As you might notice, some changes have occurred in the sidebar on Notebooks, thanks to Craig McGinty. Craig has given a helpful hand and advice to many a blogger out there, and I didn’t escape his touch of gold either. Not that I mind, especially as the sidebar now looks neater and makes more sense even to me. Much encouraged by a late evening discussion I may tweak things further, but the top of the page is unlikely to change any more, so feel free to make use of the readily available archive of posts. Many thanks to Craig, who can always be contacted via his personal blog at Words, Writing and Web.

We met at Cornerhouse. This fantastic place, in addition to all gems of cinema and contemporary art, now also offers the wi-fi connection, which makes it a perfect venue for any purpose. We sat just a table away from where I wrote Exercises in Loneliness – IV, and admittedly the place today was quite busy. I’ve even met another friend of mine there and saw a fiancee of my colleague. This just confirms how small the world really is.

Long before then I had a short afternoon walk around the pond in Centre Park in Warrington where I work these days. I noticed that many provincial cities are often slagged off without a reason, and I find it truly disappointing because this is how an opinion is being formed. As a result, many people may just never visit a certain town because it is described as poor, or bad, or sad, and apparently people like Charles Dickens or Jean Genet are too rare these days, so no-one wants to enter the dens of life. What can be lost is well illustrated by this slide show of pictures I took today in Centre Park. I don’t think it will generate a flood of visitors to our business den, but hopefully it will somewhat have changed the perception of Warrington.


Warrington Centre Park on Flickr. Other photos from Warrington.

Memento Ossis (Remember the Bones)

As many a blog reader will agree, you never know what you find in blogosphere. Just like in any sphere, really. Blogosphere is your web Cosmos, and the last thing I read about our galaxy was that, unfortunately, Uranus was no diamond quarry. Neither is Neptune.

Thankfully, in our Blogalaxy there are some sparkling stones, and on this occasion I’m speaking of a post in Jezblog. Jez, as he says about himself on Flickr, is a “good freelance translator” and a “bad photographer”. I can’t doubt the former, but I do think he’s slightly too modest about his camera skills. At least, when he visited the Sedlec Ossuary in Czech Republic, he’d taken some stunning photos.

Ossuaries date back to the time before our era, but the examples of this somewhat morbid art that we see today across Europe have come into existence since the Middle Ages. Sedlec Ossuary that Jez has documented for his blog and Flickr photoset was created in 1870 by František Rint at the request of the Schwarzenberg family. One of the compositions that Rint had made was the family’s coat-of-arms. Below, on the left, is Jez’s photo of it; and right next to it is the original coat-of-arms. Rint’s interpretation lacks neither wit, nor creativity. Other examples of his artistic vision come from Jez (left) and the ossuary’s official site, http://www.kostnice.cz/.

Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora is not the only European site of this kind. The most famous is, perhaps, the Portuguese Capela dos Ossos in Evora. Built in the 16th c. by a Franciscan monk, the chapel has the following inscription above its entrance: “We bones that are here, for you bones we wait” (“Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos”).

I notice that the mendicant brothers were particularly apt at spreading the word about life’s being transitory in this peculiar “bony language”. Another ossuary was created by the Capuchin monks in Rome, in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. The Order of Friars Minor of Capuchin, a deviation of the Franciscan Order, was established in the 16th c. in Italy. The church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini has also got the website, with a special section highlighting The Crypt.

The most recent ossuary is the Douaumont Ossuary in Verdun, which commemmorates the unthinkable cruelty and catastrophic human losses during the battle of Verdun in the First World War. Inaugurated in 1932, the ossuary (on the right) is the resting place for the staggering number of unidentified French and German soldiers.


Jez’s Kostnice Ossuary set on Flickr

Pictures of Capela dos Ossos at Sacred-Destinations.com

error: Sorry, no copying !!