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Friday, 6 January 2017

Pasty on Avon

Cold sucks the joy out of you. A week or two ago we went to Stratford on Avon along country roads dense in fog and mist. Stratford itself was clear under blue skies, but it was bone-frozen cold. When it’s really cold you walk, muscles clenched and sinews taut. Even my teeth were cold.

Under these conditions you find yourself immune to history and culture. It comes to something when the highlight of the day was a Cornish pasty. It was peppery, with just the right combination of swede and beef. And it was hot.

I consoled myself we’d been to Stratford before, in happier, warmer times. Even so, there is always something of interest, and besides I had my new iPod touch with a rather fine camera to test. 

This is Shakespeare's birth home where his father worked as a glove maker. 


I’d like to say it was warm inside, but it wasn’t. I was though attracted to the hearth, for obvious reasons, and also because these were the original stones where the boy Shakespeare and his siblings would have parked their bottoms, fought over a pasty and sought to stay warm.

We went to ‘New House,’ Shakespeare’s grand residence in his later years. This now consists of a facsimile gate, a knot garden along with a slightly larger garden behind, and an exhibition hall where there are myriad gems like this.

 But no actual house. That was knocked down years ago. The Cavern suffered a similar fate.

Finally we went to John Hall’s house, the residence of Judith Hall, Shakespeare’s daughter. John Hall was the local Apothecary with a clientele of over two and half thousand. Uncomplaining souls the lot of them.

                            Recipe book and mixing tub. Eat your heart out GSK and Pfizer

 John Hall kept a detailed casebook of his prescriptions. One was for a woman called Cooper Marit who, ‘ perceived vapours or wind rising ascending from her Feet into her Stomach,’ as she suffered from swooning. John Hall prescribed her a powder made from hart’s horn, ivory, ginger, coriander and nutmeg. Ibuprofen it was not.

Time for another pasty (untouched by John Hall) and home


Thursday, 15 December 2016

St Herbert and Squirrels

On our last full day in the Lake District we went to Derwentwater which was both mercifully flat, relatively speaking, and highly atmospheric.

In the foreground is St Herbert’s Island. It’s named after St Herbert a very close friend of St. Cuthbert.  According to Bede in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People,  Herbert visited Cuthbert yearly for spiritual sustenance. On his last visit St Cuthbert told him ‘Brother Herbert, tell to now all that you have need to ask or speak, for never shall we see one another again in this world. For I know that the time of my decease is at hand.’ 

Then Herbert fell weeping at his feet and begged that St Cuthbert would obtain the grace that they might both be admitted to praise God in heaven at the same time. And St Cuthbert prayed and then made answer. “Rise, by brother, weep not, but rejoice that the mercy of God has granted our desire.” And indeed Herbert, returning to his hermitage, fell ill of a long sickness, and purified of his imperfections, passed to God on the very March 20th 687 on which St Cuthbert died on Holy Island.

For the less ecclesiastically minded, St Herbert's island is also the inspiration behind one of Beatrice Potter's illustrations in Squirrel Nutkin. There, it is referred to as Owl Island. 

And it is likely that St Herbert would have roasted them over a low fire