Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Words

It is a while since I did a post about 'new' or interesting words I have come across recently.  So here are a few...

Manichaeism
noun
a dualistic religious system with Christian, Gnostic, and pagan elements, founded in Persia in the 3rd century by Manes ( c. 216– c. 276) and based on a supposed primeval conflict between light and darkness. It was widespread in the Roman Empire and in Asia, and survived in eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang) until the 13th century.
To be Manichean is to follow the philosophy of Manichaeism, which  breaks everything down into good or evil. ... If you believe in the Manichean idea of dualism, you tend to look at things as having two sides that are opposed.

Sophistry
noun
Specious but fallacious reasoning.  The employment of arguments which are intentionally deceptive.

Frowst
verb
To lounge about in a warm stuffy atmosphere.
noun
A warm stuffy atmosphere.
"I've got better things to do that frowst in bed on a morning like this."  P G Wodehouse "The Luck of the Bodkins"

Gibber
verb  (pronounced jibber)
To speak rapidly and unintelligibly; typically through fear or shock.  (Hence  -
Gibberish
noun
Unintelligible or meaningless speech or writing; nonsense.

Duologue
noun
A play, or part of a play, with speaking parts for only two actors.

Thrimilce
noun
Old English word for the month of May.  It meant three milks - the season when you could milk cows three times between sunrise and sunset. 




Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Valour not garlands


Chester architect John Douglas (1829-1911) designed a number of buildings in the city of Chester on behalf of the Grosvenor family – the Dukes of Westminster.  


This Dutch style red brick building by the Eastgate was the Midland Bank (which later became HSBC).


The coat of arms is that of the Dukes of Westminster and the motto translates variously as “Virtue not pedigree” (the preferred translation of the Westminsters); “Valour not garlands”; or. more simply, “Courage”. 

The dogs on the coat of arms are talbots; predominantly white hunting dogs now extinct because of lack of purpose and the need for constant care.  The talbot has been credited with being an ancestor of the modern beagle and bloodhound. The term talbot is used in heraldry to refer to a good-mannered hunting dog.  I have mentioned talbots before in the context of inn signs.





Saturday, 16 June 2018

Dust to dust

Just past the ancient Roman amphitheatre outside the city walls of Chester, lies the Church of St. John the Baptist.


The building is a mixture of Norman and early English Gothic architecture, and is much smaller than it once was. A still-functioning Anglican church now sits nestled within great sandstone ruins that speak to its former size and glory. St. John’s is notable, too, in that it has a long history of falling down: Towers collapsed in 1468, 1572, 1574, and 1881.


The arches at the Eastern end of the site include both Norman and Early English styles.




In what remains of the church’s western tower, set high into one of the Gothic arches, is a wooden coffin.

An account from the 19th century suggests that a church sexton discovered the coffin while digging a grave in a disused section of the cemetery. The rector ordered it placed high up on the wall, out of reach (but not of sight) of curious passersby.   The coffin is carved entirely out of one block of oak and although its age is uncertain it probably dates to the 13th century. The vivid inscription bearing the words “Dust to Dust” is likely a Victorian rather than a medieval addition.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Quote, unquote


Here are a few extracts from books I have read recently.  I keep on thinking how pleased I am to have my sight back.  The time spent unable to read and see wildlife was horrific.  Despite my being reasonably sure that laser treatment would cure it I found life so boring and frustrating.  I am so grateful to all those who sent me kind thoughts and prayers during that difficult time.



Anthony Berkeley  - “The Poisoned Chocolates Case”  (1929)
“He was openly devoted to his wife and did not care who knew it, while she too,  if a trifle less obviously, was equally said to wear her heart on her sleeve.  To make no bones about it, the Bendixes had apparently succeeded in achieving that eighth wonder of the modern world, a happy marriage.”
“Joan Bendix was not so serious-minded as not to have a healthy feminine interest in good chocolates.”

Punch Magazine, 1893
(Sarcastically attacking explorers like Nellie Bly, Isabella Bird, and Mary Kingsley Amis.)
“A lady, an explorer? A traveller in skirts?
The notion’s just a trifle too seraphic;
Let them stay home and mind the babies, or hem our ragged shirts
But they mustn’t, can’t, and shan’t be geographic.”

Arthur Conan Doyle – The Adventure of the Second Stain  (1904)
“And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable…  How can you build on such a quicksand?  Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling tongs.”

R Austin Freeman – The Aluminium Dagger (1909) reprinted in “Miraculous Mysteries”, ed. Martin Edwards
“The scared rite of the ‘tub’ had been duly performed. And the freshly dried person of the present narrator was about to be insinuated into the first installment of clothing, when a hurried step was heard upon the stair…”

 Draft of a talk by Dorothy L Sayers (first published 1978)
“But when all is said, it is by the writing that every work of literature must in the long run stand or fall, and Trent’s Last Case is supremely well written without ever straying too far from the plot or getting out of key with the general tone of the book; the style ranges from a vividly coloured rhetoric to a delicate and ironical literary fancy.  Now touching on the greater issues of human life, now breaking into a ripple of comment on arts and letters, running into little sidestreams of wit and humour, or spreading into crystal pools of beauty and tender feeling, Trent’s Last Case welled up in the desiccated desert of mystery fiction like a spring of living water.  No other writer had ever handled that kind of theme with so light and sure a hand.”

E C Bentley – “Trent’s Last Case”   (1913)
“The great thing about a hotel sitting-room is that its beauty does not distract the mind from work.  It is no place for the may-fly pleasures of a mind at ease.  Have you ever been in this room before, Cupples?  I have, hundreds of times.  It has pursued m all over England for years.  I should feel lost without it if, in some fantastic, far-off hotel they were to give me some other sitting-room.  Look at this table-cover; there is the ink I spilt on it when I had this room in Halifax.  I burnt that hole in the carpet when I had it in Ipswich.  But I see they have mended the glass over the picture of ‘Silent Sympathy’ which I threw a book at in Banbury.  I do all my best work here.”

Susan Barker – “Incarnations”  (2015)
“She has a personality like fingers on a chalkboard., setting his nerves on edge.”


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Billy Hobby's Well


Billy Hobby's Well is in Grosvenor Park, Chester, on the bank of the River Dee which can be seen in the background of this photo.


Its canopy is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II listed building.


Grosvenor Park was developed on land given to the city of Chester by Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster in the 1860s. The land consisted of fields on the north side of the River Dee overlooking the river. The largest field was marked on the 1833 Plan of the City of Chester as 'Billy Obbies' Field.   This field contained a spring or well that was believed to have magical powers.


As part of the development of the park, the Marquess commissioned the Chester architect John Douglas to design a number of features for the park, including a canopy for the well. The structure is now used as a pump house for the water garden in the park.   The canopy is built in red and buff sandstone ashlar. It stands on a square plinth and has canted corners. Each face has a pointed arch flanked by a granite column containing wrought iron bars. The blocks that make up  the arches include carved roses. On each corner is a small carved circle containing a carved sheaf and portcullises.


The roof consists of a tiled spire, and at its apex is a lead finial surmounted by a copper fish which acts as a weather vane.


The spring's magical powers applied only to girls as this old rhyme tells us:-

I loved the tales that idle maids would tell
Of wonders wrought at Billy Hobbie's Well;
Where love-sick girls with leg immured would stand,
The right leg 'twas - the other on dry land,
With face so simple, stocking in the hand,
Wishing for husbands half a winter's day
With ninety times the zeal they used to pray.

Pixyledpublications  website gives some detail about this rhyme.

"This old rhyme despite some pedigree suggested I have been able to date only to 1823. It appears to record a ritual undertaken at the well, a similar ‘one part of the body in, one out’ was done at Walsingham by lovelorn maidens...

However the name is much older. A Billy Obbies Field is marked in 1745, with a spring marked at 1791. This would appear to suggest that the spring gained its name from the field and not vice versa, possibly a local personage. Yet, the name is significant and it may hide a much earlier origin. The name Hobby derives from Hobb a name for a devil or demon and where the name Hobglobin derives from. It may be possible that the area was a marshy waste and to warn people away a legend of a demon was introduced. More interesting is the idea that as the name Hobb is synonymous with Puck, and Puck possibly having a Roman origin, that the site could be a much earlier Pagan site."


Blog Archive