Monday, June 14, 2010

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

I have been fortunate over the years in my license to read what appeals to me rather than something assigned. This allows one book to lead to another. The story of the doomed House of Howard depicted in "House of Treason" by Robert Hutchinson led me almost without a hiccup to "Her Majesty's Spymaster" by Stephen Budiansky. The thread is the foolhardy 4th Duke of Norfolk, only duke in the land, who tangled himself up with Mary, Queen of Scots. He was no match for Francis Walsingham, and, perhaps because I have a modest position in the civil service, I wanted to know more about "Mr. Secretary", what made him tick and how he was able to expose Mary.

Mary was reckless in her imprisonment, and Norfolk aimed too high in his hopes for the marrying of her. He was, due to his naivete, rather easily dispensed with, beheaded in 1572. Mary was the center of other plots that were laid bare by Walsingham. She was saved, perhaps, for as long as she was, by a wavering Elizabeth, who didn't want to set an example of regicide.

From here, I will step into some historical fiction, namely "The Captive Queen of Scots", by the mistress, Jean Plaidy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Knocking on Devil's Door

This beautiful aged church has a feature I had never seen, and have since found out is indigenous to the UK. It is called the "Devil's Door", built into the north face of some medieval and earlier churches. Here it can be seen under the third window, and is perhaps too small for a human to enter. Its purpose is to provide an escape hatch for the Devil as he carries the soul of an unbaptized child to an unpleasant place. I wonder if this practice is a crossover from pagan beliefs.

Unfortunately, I have no idea of the name of this church as I took this picture from the second storey of a tour bus, the use of which fitted our need for low impact sightseeing whilst I was suffering a coughy illness.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Streets of York City

Throughout the two weeks or so we dallied in York, we returned repeatedly to the medieval streets of the City Centre. Tight and confusing to the visitor, they were exceedingly delicious. Continually becoming lost was truly a privilege. Within aged lanes were such phenomena as Poundworld, more enjoyable to experience than American Dollar Stores, and an Oxfam charity shop that I perceived to be a better deal than our Salvation Army Stores.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Micklegate Bar

It was one of those omigod moments when I saw Micklegate Bar, the southern entrance to the City Walls of York. On a few occasions, famous heads greeted the visitor. Chief in my mind is Richard, Duke of York. I was drawn to the period of the Wars of the Roses many years ago because of enjoyment of the Shakespeare history plays spanning from Richard II to Richard III. I realize that Henry VI is conspicuous in his relative absence in his plays, but I love the speech at 3 Henry VI, II. 5 - "This battle fairs like to the morning's war", because it is the clearest picture of him in the plays, miserable and mournfully alone.

Anyway, I digressed. It was a magical moment seeing this gate to York.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Air Conditioned Comfort

My dreams of becoming a writer of something worthwhile have, since the UK2010 trip, crashed and burned, with scorched wings trembling on a gritty ground. I have all the physical tools - now and iPad among them - but they all lie dormant save this one currently being used. This dream death has left me a little breathless, with the wind whooshed out of me.

But, you see, it may be a good thing - it may be like growing up. It may seem a yawning hopelessness now, but this loss may lead to some grounding in the present that has been lacking in my psyche. Approaching the workplace with some seriousness now, I am thinking about my job as more important than I have done. There was within a feeling of "just passing through", and now I see that my innate mother-given respect for any task in front of me has stood by me well. This attitude was drilled in me and I am glad of it.

On a domestic note, my spouse has laudably ripped the rug out from under all the living and dining room furniture (well, he did move it all first), exposing quite a nice dark hardwood floor. The rug had been there, we estimate, about 40 years. It appeared so anyway. This deed will completely change how we interact with our living room space in a good way. Also, the air conditioner in my office is up and humming. Let summer come in!

Enough about me. I am reading Robert Hutchinson's "House of Treason" and find it very informative regarding the ill-fated Tudor House of Howard, which brought two queens to be beheaded along with a cast of several men who sojourned in the Tower. Hopefully I will bring together some thoughts about these folks soon.