Liturgy for St Frideswide

A “Liturgy for the Feast of St Frideswide” will take place on 19 October (her Feast Day) at 6pm, St Frideswide’s, Botley. This is part of my on-going PhD “Encounters with Frideswide”.  All very welcome!

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The image is from the remains of St Frideswide’s shrine in Christ Church Cathedral. At St Frideswide’s, Botley, there is a wooden door carved by Alice Liddell, the Alice of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The same book contains reference to a “treacle well” based on the well St Frideswide is said to have struck in answer to prayer. The well is still at St Margaret’s, Binsey. Interestingly, “treacle” is derived from the Middle English “triacle” from the Latin “triacle” from the Greek “thēriakē” meaning antidote to poisonous animals. Perhaps there is something that has stuck to legend of the well’s curative powers.

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Calling Villa fans…

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North Leigh Roman Villa is always open, nestling on level ground near the river – they certainly knew where the nicest sites were! This weekend the shed constructed over the mosaic floor was also open so I finally got to get a good look at it. The stone piers supported a brick barrel vaulted roof. The pattern includes typical knotwork panels and arrangements of lamps “hanging” from central medallions. In a rather Escheresque way, they look like pie-eyed birds when seen the wrong way up! Interestingly, this fancy dining room was abandoned when the  occupants decided to build something newer and grander next door – the foundations that you see now. Some things don’t change…

Science and Poetry 2019

Fantastic line up at St Hilda’s in July of people enjoying once more the interaction between science and poetry. Perhaps the most engaging and interactive session so far – Adam Horovitz, Frances Leviston and Michael Symmonds Roberts in the hotseats with Sarah Watkinson gently steering them trough interesting avenues of thought….

See here for a fuller blog post on TORCH at the University of Oxford: https://www.torch.ox.ac.uk/article/scipo-2019-plants-brain-and-the-imagination-0

 

 

Poetry News

My poem “Scop-sweg: The Beowulf poet considered his composition” was commended in the South Downs Poetry Festival Binstead Prize 2019, and has recently appears in the anthology of winning poems. Scop-sweg is Old English for bard-song. The poem is about where the Beowulf poem came from (perhaps!!).

 

“Eidolon”, which won the Edward Cawston Thomas Prize in 2017, has come out in “A Nest of Singing Birds”, an anthology of winning poems from the competitions 2017-2019, and published by The Edward Thomas Fellowship.

Bridging the Gap

DSC_0079.jpgIt is really beginning to feel as if Spring has really arrived – “Suddenly you are voluble” as R S Thomas said. Just spent a reflective and illuminating week co-leading a CARM retreat (www.carmretreats.org/) on poetry and prayer at Holland House, near Pershore (www.hollandhouse.org) where these joyful cyclamen were sparkling on the lawn. There was also a woodpecker dinning his brains out on a tree – I found the tree from which that unmistakeable burrrrr of the beak was coming from, but he/she was too well hidden.

We spent the week looking at those gap times in life, those moments between happenings, the time-out, respite, wilderness moments and explored poetry not only by Thomas, but also Denise Levertov, Kathryn Simmonds (her “23” is a masterpiece in “owning” a psalm), Luci Shaw, Malcolm Guite and others – poems that took us into the gap, taught us to find the extraordinary in the everyday, and to adjust perspective to enjoy the here and now, instead of lingering over the past or hastening to a new beginning. It is amazing how a few days “out” of the slipstreams of life put you back on an even keel ready to paddle on. Of course, the wonderful company, caring attention of Holland House staff and the ballast provided by the generous and delicious meals also helped!

The Last Warm Hug of the Year

The White Horse pub in Stonesfield (https://whitehorsestonesfield.com) has hosted a series of “White Horse Wednesdays” since the summer, and the last session of 2018 was last Wednesday. A wonderfully talented and diverse array of musicians (and a random poet!) have been gathering from 8pm on the first Wednesday of each month to make music, sing, read, listen and raise a glass to getting over the cusp of the week, catch up with familiar faces and meet new ones.

This last Wednesday it came fully home to me how significant it has been in bringing people in the village and nearby together, creating a sense of belonging and encouraging me, at least, to feel “at home” – and that it is worth putting down roots for this kind of community experience. Above all, after a day of cold and wet commuting and work frustrations, it is one great big warm hug to come home to, lubricated by the excellent and very local Little Ox Goldilox (in summer) or aptly named Wipe Out in winter (http://littleoxbrewery.co.uk).

Thanks to our hosts for encouraging us to keep coming back and all those who came, listened, played and sang. Hopefully we’ll be invited back next year, kicking off in February when the Christmas bubbles will have gone flat and we all need a bit of reviving to see the winter out.

And yes, one day I will be brave enough to bring the harp….