The bells, the bells…

A bit of an experiment this, as flagged up in my last post: here is a minute of so of bell-ringing as heard from my garden on Tuesday evening just after I got home from the train.

The weekly bell-ringing session is from 7 to 9pm. Church bells, like crowing cockerels, often give rise to stories of townies moving to the country and not liking the noise. But I spent my childhood in a village: bells, chickens, cows, bring them on, I say.

These are accompanied by evening birdsong and some flowers for you to look at. Definitely not an attempt at video art; just a chance for you to drop into my garden for a moment.

I can’t help wondering if the birds take any notice of the bells or not. In the background, at the end of the clip, you can just hear the rooks cawing from their home a few gardens away (see Rooks at bedtime). Now they really are noisy neighbours.

Evening homecoming

evening train

A postscript to yesterday’s notes on travelling from Manchester: here is the ‘little train’ from Nottingham, on which I sat writing my way home. It has just deposited me at Heckington a little after 8 o’clock in the evening.

I’m alone under a luminous evening sky, watching the train pull out of the station. In the photo you can just see the lights of a train coming the other way, from Skegness and Boston.

Tuesday night bell-ringing is in full swing as I arrive home, filling the garden with sound. I try to capture the cheerful clamour with iPad video, though it may make for too strange a blog post – we shall see…

On the beach

Artist Pat van Boeckel, in his brilliant installations in St Andrews, Heckington (see More art + church) used a soundtrack of waves breaking because, he said, of churches and the sea both being places where people go to think, in search of space and a kind of silence.

The soundtracks for the beaches here would be birds crying more than waves pounding. The pictures, taken mainly by partner, not me, are from low-tide beaches in Cornwall, Le Touquet, Skegness and Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe, wide-open spaces where water, sand and sky stretch out for miles to merge in the distant horizon.

[Saltfleetby-Theddlethorpe is a bit of a cheat as it is mudflats more than beach, but never mind…]

Like the fenland landscape round my village, these are places where the sky dominates, where we feel small in all the emptiness and / but there is space to think.

Outside inside

Screen 1

This was the last weekend of the ALTered art events at St Andrews Church; and this picture is of Emily Tracy’s ‘Screen’ (see Modern art in a medieval world) on Saturday evening. As we arrived there were children running in and out of the doorway, looking up at the trees and searching for a mouse lurking somewhere in the picture.

This modern screen stood where there would once have been a wooden rood screen in the past, between the nave and the chancel, separating priest and laity. But this screen invites the visitor into the chancel to play and discover the animals and plants that decorate the medieval church.

I loved the trees ‘growing’ in the centre of the church. In the same way as those who made the exuberant carvings of human, animal and plant life hundreds of years ago, an artist has once more brought the outdoor, living world into this space of stone and light and quietness.

More art + church


I’ve been hanging out in church all weekend, besotted with video installation by Dutch artist Pat van Boeckel. It is part of the ALTered project to do with art in Lincolnshire churches that I wrote about earlier this week (Modern art in a medieval world) and there is more to come next weekend.

The image above, taken from my attempt to film using my iPad, gives you just a tiny idea of what it was like – this is part of a projection onto the back wall of the church which made the stone look like windows with people peering through them.

It was surprising, funny, moving, thought-provoking – what a treat, just yards from our own front door. And magical – like something from Narnia, Elidor, Philip Pullman, Harry Potter (solid stone or the back of a wardrobe becomes a doorway into somewhere else; people in one world look through to another, not knowing what they see).

There was more great stuff. Can’t describe it all – look forward to more art in churches – what a lovely project.

Not much work done in the garden today as a result of all this art – just as well tomorrow is a bank holiday!

Not quite so crafty

Coil pot
… or rather, not so craftsmanlike as the lovely 14th century carving in my last post.

But dear to me nevertheless: my second pot, glazed and fired, brought home from my pottery class – see A lumpy thing but mine own.

This is a coil pot, slightly less lumpy than the first one (though still weighs a ton). As I mentioned in Scenes from a country churchyard, I’ve been playing on the wheel in recent weeks, which I have loved. So I’m looking forward to tomorrow, Friday, when I hope to bring home a collection of small bowls of different shapes but all with thick bottoms, that I saw going into the kiln last week.

Since the church visit last weekend, I’ve been thinking about what I get, what we get from looking at ancient art or artefacts. The Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy earlier this year was awe-inspiring, including pieces thousands of years old, with that feel of great age and also complete modernity about them.

If we could meet the medieval stonemasons and stonecarvers who worked on St Andrews Church, we might struggle to understand their speech. But their hands and eyes would have been the same as ours today and we can feel connected to them when we look on the things they made.

I imagine what they were thinking when they were carving that sweet mermaid or grinning gargoyle. I think about feel of clay in my hands. I think how basic a part of being human it is to feel joy and satisfaction in making something.

Bring on pottery tomorrow – though today I am supposed to be reading and writing about family mediation! And the sun is shining and the garden beckons.

Modern art in a medieval world


Had a fun afternoon at the church today. Artist Emily Tracy is making an installation for St Andrews, as part of the Altered project (new art in rural churches). She and her art historian father, Charles Tracy put on a tour of the church and talked about her work, Screen, being shown on 11th/12th May

St Andrews was built in the early fourteenth century and has amazing carvings both inside and out (see earlier post). Gargoyles outside are weathered, intriguing and appealing. But my favourites are the indoor carvings: the intricate decoration, the tiny cameos, sometimes comic, beautifully portrayed. The little mermaid above is one and the man eating fruit below is another.

The mermaid is on the Easter Sepulchre, where in the past the host was put to rest on Good Friday before, as was described to us, being brought out on Easter Sunday and placed on the altar in a triumphant ceremony.

Along with mermaids, the Easter Sepulchre is decorated with carvings of abundant, cheerful foliage, making me think of the triumph, the victory that is Spring when life and warmth and growth return. There is little triumph in this spring of 2013, when all over the country farmers are looking at brown fields where there should be fresh green grass for animals to eat. It was bitterly cold again, still, as we walked round the churchyard today.

But the stone carvings, with their leaves and flowers and human faces from almost seven hundred years ago, are irrepressibly cheerful, even, to me, the grimacing gargoyles pointing the way to hell. I hope some of them find their way onto Emily’s Screen.

Man and fruit