Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ye Olde England

The fog is starting so slowly lift from where I am in the Midlands: we can now see about half a mile instead of a hundred yards, but besides being slightly less claustrophobic it hasn't got any less damp. In Finland it rains and everything gets wet but there seems to be something uniquely soggy about my homeland. The dampness just hangs around.

The other thing that strikes me when I'm back in the UK is just how much "old stuff" there is. The picture above is the church near to where I grew up. Its not particularly remarkable - just like hundreds of others around England, but it dates back 900 years to Norman times with the bigger bits being added in the Medieval period. When you study history and realise how much can change in just a few generations, so 900 years is an awful long time. Growing up around here it all just fades into the background, but now living in Finland where due particularly to a history of building in wood, structures of more that a century are pretty rare away from the centres of the biggest towns, I really notice it.

This is a yew tree in the church yard. Yews have been traditionally grown in church yards because their wood is used for the manufacture of longbows, the weapon that gave England military hegemony in Europe in Medieval times. They live a long time so from the thickness of this trunk it is presumably also a good couple of centuries old at least.

The local stone is a very soft sandstone which weathers relatively quickly. There are many graves considerably older than this one but none have legible inscriptions on them. This one does and dates from 1822.

The Norman doorway of the church. This is amongst the original parts of the building dating back nearly a millennia. The door is medieval if I remember correctly, and for some odd reason I don't know is hung upside down.

It would look very Christmassy in the snow wouldn't it? Unfortunately in these days of ever worsening (i.e. warmer) winters, this part of the Midlands seems only to get a day or two of snow a year if we are lucky, and it has not happened whilst I've been around for a good few years. I remember good blizzards in my childhood when the area would get snowed in for days on end until the local farmers cleared the lanes with their tractors.

So this was the only vaguely seasonal shot I managed to snap: a traditional little Robin perched in a very soggy tree.

Happy Christmas everybody.

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