Earlier this year a documentary was shown on Yesterday TV about the St Bees Man.

St Bees is a remote location.  Perhaps that is why the story of the well-preserved body in a lead coffin/casket is not better-known.

The body was found during an archaeological dig in 1981.  Its discovery raised a large number of questions.  Some of these now seem to have been answered to some extent.

There is enough information, which has not been used in the first documentary, for a second programme to be considered.

It is strange that it often happens, that a subject (medieval knights in this case) is brought to someone’s attention and soon afterwards other similar, but not directly related articles, books or whatever are noticed treating a similar topic.

In this case, St Bees Man having been publicised on TV, I discovered a blog post about skeletons in Hereford Cathedral.

Shortly after that I found a second hand book entitled The Riddle and the Knight: In search of Sir John Mandeville by Giles Milton.  I mentioned it in an earlier post.  One thing which amazes me is how much travelling some people managed to do in medieval times.  They had to walk, ride horses or travel over water – unless they were carried or could ride in a horse-drawn vehicle, such as a cart.  There were no metalled roads, no motor vehicles, no trains and certainly nothing to fly in.  SatNav or Geolocation is a very recent invention.  Early maps were sometimes incorrect and/or incomplete.  Yet people managed to travel to distant parts of the world and return years later to tell the tale.  (Or had friends, who were prepared to go to considerable pains to bring the body back.)  This book mentioned a man by the name of Prester John.

Not long after I read the book, there was a radio programme “In Search of Prester John”.  Unfortunately I did not remember to listen to it at the time.  In the UK programmes from the BBC are available for catch-up via the i-player for a limited time.  I can’t remember whether I listened or not.

This post has been languishing in my ideas folder since July!  History is not my speciality, but I read fairly widely.  Publishing it this week allows me more time to research another idea I have for a post, which is also inspired by someone I heard of in one context cropping up soon after in another.

Do you find that once you have heard about something, related topics catch your attention soon afterwards?



Reflections on a rainy day

After an exceptionally sunny and dry start to the autumn, November arrived with mist, rain and gales.  No wonder it is the month when so many writers in the Northern Hemisphere settle down to take part in blogging or writing challenges.

Having decided in October that I was probably trying to do too much, I resolved to write as much as possible in November without committing myself to any specific targets.  So I am not attempting to write a novel – that is not one of my ambitions in any case – or to blog every day in November, as I did in 2013 or to write a poem a day.

I did venture out on a miserable day to the writing group.  Fortunately it was hardly raining as I set off to the station.  There were reasonable views from the train, if not long distance ones.  There were plenty of trees, birds and farm animals to look at.  I might have thought I was imagining things, but the young man sitting in front of me expressed surprise on seeing four herons standing around a small pool.  On earlier journeys along the same route I have seen at least three stationed at intervals along a river.

To pass the time quietly on a noisy weekend train taking many people to a beer festival I made notes of the trees, flowers and birds I saw.  I didn’t bother about the sheep and cows.

Previously I have blogged from the point of view of the train and published a list of what I saw from a train.

I am hoping to write a poem soon about the autumn colours and share it with a group of poetic people on Facebook, who respond to seasonal prompts.  My notes may help.  (I did this on Wednesday, having drafted this post on Tuesday.)

I knew my homeward journey would be after dark, so there would not be much to see.  Fortunately the passengers were not quite as noisy as earlier in the day.  The train was not quite as busy.  Perhaps that was the only reason, but I think not.

A city in the pouring rain has a different atmosphere from on a fine day.  Everyone (including me) seemed to be self-absorbed.  I thought I heard a busker outside in a street, but didn’t bother to look where the music was coming from.

I stood outside in the rain to take a couple of photos for the Daily Post photo challenge.  A lady apologised for walking in front of me, but she had to get out of the rain!  (Perhaps she was less self-absorbed than I was!)

The shopping mall was full of people; were they preparing for Christmas already?  I have to admit I have already bought my Christmas cards among other advance purchases.

Do you plan in advance or are you more spontaneous?



How (not) to make an angel

My latest craft project has been to make an angel.  When I heard that Burrswood was having a Festival of Angels this December, my original reaction was that I could crochet one.  After reflection and a look through my craft materials, I changed my mind.

I have several craft books with projects explained.  The Big Book of Soft Toys by Mabs Tyler has patterns for simple dolls.  I drew a paper pattern and cut out the pieces from some white polycotton material.

Paper pattern: doll and wing

Paper pattern: doll and wing

My sewing machine came in handy for joining the body apart from a gap for the stuffing.  (I used some recycled polyester stuffing.)  I also used the machine for the clothes, which I designed as I went along.  I had the remains of a frill from a petticoat.  My angel ended up with an underskirt and a smock.

I drew the pattern for the wings on a piece of scrap-paper.  I had some white felt and cut four wings.  Stuffing the wings lightly was a possibility, but I decided that two layers of felt made the wings stiff enough.  I embroidered them simply with feathers in mind.

At this stage I thought of an angel joke.  “Cross my wings and hope to fly!”

Her wings are attached to her clothes rather than her body.

I made a wig out of surplus tapestry wool and attached it to her head.

My biggest worry was her face.  I am not good at drawing faces.  I had a similar doll, which my artistic daughter made several years ago, as an example of what can be done.  She had drawn a face.  I was not confident.  Then I found a piece of flesh-coloured felt.  Embroidery is not permanent.  If it looks wrong, it can be unpicked and redone – several times.  So her face was attached after her hair.  (Not recommended.)

Back view

Back view

Perhaps my angel will give people some amusement.  It is not particularly beautiful, but I have tried.  Maybe it can fill a space where it won’t be inspected too closely.


Front view

And if you’d like to make an angel out of any material any size they are required by 20th November 2015.

A previous Christmas project at Burrswood was a knitted Christmas tree.  There is a short YouTube video about how it was constructed.

If you live within reach of Kent, why not go and see the angels for yourself?  I only wish I could, but due to distance, I’ll have to make do with photos.