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Easton 1b

Yesterday Man and I went on a gargoyle hunt. More specifically, we went on a hunt for rude gargoyles.

I like gargoyles and in fact most types of stone carvings. Gargoyles are decorative water dispensers, used to channel excess rainwater off the roof of the church. Grotesques are carvings, they don’t serve any sort of practical purpose and often decorate roof lintels inside or out. Friezes are many grotesques purely for decorative purposes. Corbels are stones that help support the roof – again either internal or external – that can be decorated and many of these decorations are a corbel table. I went in search of a very specific type of grotesque and gargoyle yesterday and found both.

Ever since I first read about the Mooning Men on the Great English Churches website, I have wanted to see some. Now I think I have a pretty good collection of photos but, as always, there are plenty more to collect. The churches I visited are not Churches Conservation Trust churches, these are all in use, and they don’t feature in Simon Jenkins’ 1,000 Churches (but they really should).

We started our little journey at St John’s in Colsterworth in Lincolnshire where we came across a couple of lovely examples of what I was looking for.

Colsterworth 4b

Here we go. He is definitely displaying his bum to the outside world.

Colsterworth 7b

Here he is from another angle. And, if you look closely, he has his head between his legs (wait till you see what some of the others have stored there!!) … and you can see where the rainwater would have spouted from.

 

Colsterworth 6b

This one’s a grotesque (no water spouting from the orifice here) and there is distinct genitalia there. How rude :) This is on the door arch, visible to all the pious parishioners on their way to prayer.

Colsterworth 2b

And what on earth is this one doing! Most unsavoury for a place of worship.

Honestly, I think these are absolutely hilarious – and this was just church number one. I love the way it illustrates how sensibilities have changed over the years. Can you imagine someone building a church now and announcing they were going to decorate it with a man with his bum out and testicles and a (in some cases) penis on display. People would recoil in abject horror.

From Colsterworth we moved on to Ryhall jjst down the road but in the county of Rutland and another St John’s.

Ryhall has a really impressive frieze but that is going to have to wait for another post because this one is just about bums.

Ryhall 2b

 

And here we have the bottom scratcher. Quite brazen in his pose, he is looking directly out from the wall and quite clearly scratching his testicles! Also, despite the fact that he is clearly not used to get rid of water, the mason has put a strategically placed hole in his bum. What on earth is he trying to say with this?

Ryhall 1b

This one also has his bottom out, although it isn’t quite so brazen.

Now from Ryhall, we made our way to Easton on the Hill, which took use just over the border into Northamptonshire I believe, where we found the crudest  example yet.

This is All Saints Church in one of the prettiest little villages I’ve ever seen. And, as you approach the south porch of the church, above your head on the tower is this.

Easton 2b

Now there is a local legend that says he is pointing his bum in the direction of Peterborough Cathedral in protest at the stonemason not being paid. But other reports say there is no substance in that and suggest that, like other gargoyles, these Mooning Men were simply warding away sin and evil from the sanctity of the church.

He is certainly a good example though … and worth a look from a slightly different angle.

Easton 5b

Maybe the stonemasons just had a sense of humour? Or maybe, these weren’t thought funny at all but were designed to say ‘ya boo sucks’ to the devil.

From Easton to Oakham, county town of England’s smallest county, Rutland.

It has quite a majestic church – another All Saints.

But adorning the walls of this building, there are another couple of characters who aren’t being very saintly at all.

Oakham 2b

Yep, another mooning man with his head stuck between his legs and his testicles on show.

Oakham 1b

And another, only this one’s a little deformed … his genitalia is roughly the same size as his head!

Now there was me thinking that English church parishioners in the Middle Ages were a distinctly pious lot. Obviously I was wrong, or the notion of pious has changed slightly over the years, or there is some sort of sacred symbolism here that I’m just not aware of.

Whatever the answer, I had a pretty successful day yesterday as far as I am concerned. I certainly found what I set out to find.

Now the other thing I found, that I really wasn’t expecting and was a huge added bonus, is that every single one of these churches was open yesterday. So I also got to go inside and find out a bit more about them. And, in doing that, I learned about Isaac Newton, Anglo Saxon headstones and a woman called Tampon. So I think each church merits a little, slightly less tongue in cheek, post of its own at some point.

In the meantime, the guy responsible for the website mentioned at the top of this post, Lionel Wall, has written what I think is a very interesting document about the Mooning Men and a group that he calls the Demon Carvers of the East Midlands which, if you feel like it, you can read here.

Incidentally, apparently there are female versions of the Mooning Men … you know I am going to have to find some :)

Man has a theory that says things don’t exist properly until he’s seen them, which seems to us like a damn good excuse to go on lots of road trips to see as much as we possibly can.

So, adding now to the list of things that exist are two of the most enormous statues that say ‘Welcome to the North of England’.

497bThis is The Angel of the North.

Just outside Gateshead, this huge masterpiece by Antony Gormley stands the height of four double decker buses and has a wingspan the same size as a jumbo jet. That’s Man examining its ankle.

490bAnd that’s Man too, pretending to be angelic :)

It stands 20 metres high and is made of 200 tonnes of steel. It stands on a mound near the A1 where it can be seen by around 90,000 drivers each day and is also visible from the main train route to Scotland.

The area was a former coal mine, reclaimed as green space in the 1990s after the pits closed and the Angel of the North has been watching over the area since 1998.

I really like it.

227bThe second huge sculpture we came across also has a mining history but this has been recently created using the soil taken from a neighbouring new open cast mine.

This is Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North.

If you’re not quite sure what you are looking at, to the left of the feature is her head – you can see her forehead, nose, lips and chin. The path goes across her neck and to the right of that you have her chest. In the far right of the picture, that’s one hand sitting in the water.

It’s probably easier to see from above.

229bThis is the artists’ impression on the information board.

She is 34 metres high, 400 metres long and is made from 1.5 million tonnes of soil. Began in 2010, she was officially opened by the Princess Royal last August and lies in 47 acres of public park. The orange lines you can see in the photo above show the footpaths that wind their way all over her.

She was designed by the American landscape artist Charles Jencks, can be found near Cramlington in Northumberland and has been nicknamed Slag Alice – slag being the term for the waste material produced from a mine.

It is claimed that this is the world’s largest landmass sculpture of the female form. It really is quite something.

And she will be left to mature naturally, changing with the seasons and over time.

230bBut because I’m not remotely mature and that isn’t likely to change over time, I made Man pick her nose … just for fun :)

Look at this photograph.

It looks like an office chair doesn’t it?

In fact, as it is in my office, behind my desk, it is not a great leap of faith to deduce that it is my office chair.

But, dear reader, here’s the thing … it isn’t.

It is an impostor and I have absolutely no idea how and when it got there.

You see my office chair was nicely broken.

As I am pretty short and mostly can’t reach the floor when I am the right height to use my desk, I have over many years developed the habit of sitting in a half lotus position (yoga) on my chair. I have both knees bent with my right foot tucked under my left thigh and my left foot on top of my right thigh.

This means that I wear away the material on the left front corner of my chair with my shoe and the foam crumbles all over the floor. And that is exactly what my office chair was like the last time I paid any attention (which I am pretty sure was only a day or so ago).

Midway through our busy press day yesterday, however, I suddenly noticed I was sitting on this.

This is quite obviously a new chair, which is all very lovely but mystery surrounds how it got into my office and where my old faithful seat has gone.

You see no one saw it arrive and there are 20 odd people sitting in the production department outside my office – and by that I mean there are around 20 people or more, not that the 20 people are odd (although some of them are lol) – you’d think someone would have noticed.

And I tend to be at my desk anytime between 5.30am and 7am in the mornings and leave between 6.30pm and 7.30pm in the evenings so unless the phantom chair switcher operates at night, you would think I would have run into them.

I asked every one and no-one knows how this has happened (although I have now reinforced their belief that I am slightly mad).

I even ran into the office manager and health and safety manager in reception and publicly accused them of the chair swapping deed, a crime they both deny strenuously.

As I regularly ignore emails from them with titles such as “workspace efficiency and awareness survey – please complete”, I honestly believed they were the culprits but their denials seemed genuine enough.

The only other alternative is that my office has rejuvenating properties and my old battered chair has become as new.

In which case, I should maybe sit in my office a bit longer and perhaps one day I shall walk out with the grey hair gone, baby smooth skin, 20:20 vision and four stone lighter :)

Beautiful work :)

My day is upside down. I am completely disorientated.

Had to pick gorgeous daughter number two (aka Pud) and her boyfriend up from the airport last night. Flight was due in at 1.25am – it arrived at 3.20am!

So I got up late (well 5.45am) yesterday and had a reasonable day at work. Came home and gorgeous daughter number one decided we ought to celebrate Pud’s return from Egypt by decorating her car.

Our handiwork is picture above. We were quite proud. I did the bonnet (can you see the P on it – that stands for Pud). It took us about an hour.

As we were being busily creative, this voice said :”I knew it would be you.” It was a friend of mine walking up the road. She said that even from a distance, when she saw the car being decorated, she immediately guessed it would be us :) Our reputation obviously precedes us!

I nodded off on the sofa for a couple of hours later in the evening and woke up again at 1am.

Got to Gatwick really easily but then met a jobsworth in a hat who wouldn’t let me stop in the pick up point, so I drove round in circles out of the airport and back again about four times until they had collected their bags and come out of the airport.

By the time I had driven back, dropped Boyf off and got Pud home, I finally got to bed at 5am. This is the time I usually get up :)

Now I am confused. it is 1pm and it feels like about 9am and I have got nothing done.

Plus side though, Pud laughed when she saw her car.

A great use of post-it notes :)

 

Stupid kitten.

I’ve mentioned the marvel that is Marvin the kitten before.

Well, he’s not really a kitten anymore, he’s about three years old. But he is incredibly lazy and a bit dim but hugely loveable.

He’s also one of the reasons we find it difficult to find places to live each time our tenancy agreement runs out and we have to move on.

Apparently landlords don’t like pets!

How can you not love Marvin though? He’s so ridiculous.

This is a picture of him taken on Saturday. Gorgeous daughter number one’s boyfriend covered him with rubbish. And he just lay there looking at him with an expression on his face that said “I’d be mad but I can’t be bothered”.

Hopefully this ‘tatty as hell’ house the girls have found will be ok with cats. Cos we’ve got two and we’re keeping them.

Man is down this weekend. I don’t know what we are doing but I hope it involves a road trip. Week has been busy and I could do with some R&R.

Not bothered!

They even added a bow to Marv and the pile of litter. He just went back to sleep.

Next lifetime, I’m going to  be a chilled out cat :)

 

Terrorised.

Of all the photos I took over the weekend, this is the one that made me giggle the most.

Three strapping 20 somethings being held to ransom by a kiid with half a limbo dancing set :)

It just made me laugh.

I don’t have much time this morning. Another 14 hour day yesterday (really this is too much) and we are going to be uber busy today as well.

So I just thought I’d post this for a bit of a smile this morning and be on my way. Work really is getting in the way of the rest of my life.

Get away from it all.

I could seriously do with a little bit of chill time over the weekend.

I’m heading up to Man’s woo hoo and I’m not coming back till Tuesday morning when I have a meeting first thing in the morning about two thirds of the way home.

This week has just been ridiculously manic and yesterday, which I thought was going to be relatively simple, was the worst.

Started work at 6.30am and finally left just after 8pm. By the time I got home I was so tired all I did was sit and stare at the Olympics on tv without really paying attention (I think I was watching the swimming but I’m not sure).

I didn’t write, I didn’t read, I didn’t take photographs, I literally just sat.

One more day at work then this afternoon I head up the motorway again.

And breathe :)

Man read my poem about eagles yesterday. He said if I had given him that one and a poem by someone else, he would have known that was mine.

This creative writing course keeps going on about writers finding their own voice. Well I just chat. I’ve always done that.

When I was a reporter writing articles, when I was a kid writing diaries, when I was a travel editor writing travel pieces, I have always written as if I am having a conversation with someone. I’m not sure I know how to do anything else.

I think some of our junior reporters at work try too hard to make things complicated when they are writing. But surely the idea is just to make people understand what you are trying to say?

Some need a lesson in English too. Classics we have had recently from reporters include describing a LYNCH gate outside a church (pretty sure they meant Lych), a TOE path along a canal (ummm towpath perhaps?) and a judge saying a defendant had FRAGRANTLY breached a court order (that one really did make me giggle, perhaps he flagrantly breached the order but smelt nice doing it lol).

Mind you, a conversation in my house the other day made me howl with laughter. Gorgeous daughter number two had bought a large jar of jelly bellies and boyfriend of gorgeous daughter number 1 was looking at the flavour list on the back of the jar.

“What’s a cantaloupe,” he said.

“Sounds like an animal to me,” pipes up GD2.

“No sweetheart,” I said, “You’re thinking of ANTELOPE.”

And I was right, she was. We didn’t stop laughing for ages.