St Mary the Virgin, Burton Latimer

The church has a “Church Open” sign as I cycle past, so I pop in, and find the 13th century wall paintings. There was a cult of St Catherine here then.

Catherine challenged the pagan emperor Maxentius for his persecution of Christians. He brought the best philosophers to argue with her, but she refuted them all. He proposed marriage, but she declared herself espoused to Christ. Then he killed her. Angels carried her body to Mount Sinai, where her hair still grew and healing oil flowed from her body.

These pictures were covered in layers of limewash. It is amazing they have survived. They were restored in the 1970s. There has been a church here since the middle ages.

I have light conversation- mostly things we can agree on- with the woman who staffs the church on Sunday afternoons when it is open. We don’t know much about church architecture, but we know those arches further from the altar are Romanesque, those Gothic. We tend to like the altar brought forward West of the choir, so that the priest celebrates facing the congregation. She likes the 1662 rite, loving the richness and familiarity of the language she grew up with. You don’t have to try to understand what the prayer is saying, just dwell on aspects of it.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel date from 1600. I am surprised that the church would be so high as to have that decoration then. This was such a wealthy area, with so much to spend adorning its churches.

There is a tiny face in the bottom corner of one of the St Catherine paintings. Is it later? It is in Mediaeval form, but very clear.

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I cycled to worship ten miles on country roads, in brilliant sunshine, and stopped a couple of times to photograph wild flowers. A tiny splash of colour seen for an instant delights me, but they repay greater attention.

At the parish church, families leave their cars to worship. “Good morning!” said a woman as I pedalled past. “Happy Easter!” I replied. “Oh, well done,” she said, the slight hint of sarcasm not displeasing me. I had thought of saying “Christ is risen!” but forebore.

Housman was wrong. Pink blossom is definitely prettier.

Ministry included a quote- if you see everything as if you saw it for the first time or the last, you will live surrounded by glory.

Say… something nice

To Stanwick Lakes, for the Doctor Who costuming group. Missy is my favourite fictional trans character. I could dress in her style with my own clothes, for she dresses like a trans woman.

The David Tennant character has his hair like that all the time. Perhaps just a little more gel today. His friend is in the Sealed Knot, and they really take it seriously, live it for a whole weekend then pack it away in the car.

Queen Victoria, in her wheelchair, absolutely refused to play Davros. Victoria appeared in the story “Tooth and Claw”- she reminded me, and I remembered the story, including why the Koh-i-noor diamond was repeatedly cut, to be far smaller. Only repelling aliens could justify such vandalism. We chatted away, and her UNIT soldier stood by her without speaking, but when she got fed up with her lace cap and took it off, he folded it carefully and put it in a pocket.

Lisa as Sarah-Jane Smith had the hand of fear, which became Eldrad. It was the hand of a mannequin which she had spray-painted with rock-like paint. Someone else had badges which were given free with cereal in the early 70s: the set of six is £750 on e-bay. Lisa’s favourite Master was Roger Delgado, always failing, his mind control did not work because people were too strong, his allies were always betraying him. She did not like John Simm. We both love Michelle Gomez, and quote lines at each other.

I was sad their Peter Capaldi lookalike was not here. He tends to be more Malcolm Tucker than the Doctor when in costume. Ace’s baseball bat was signed by Sophie Aldred.

What do you do? Dress up and take photographs.

Missy would not be fazed by a cyberman. The voicebox produces a cyber voice too.

There are conventions most weekends. The actors come- Billie Piper was in Birmingham last weekend, “David Tennant” had met Julian Glover- so we reminisce about his episode, forging copy Mona Lisas to free himself from being shattered through time and space.

And- a female Doctor!

National Palace of Mafra

What can we do to entertain our friend, when he can hardly walk half a mile? We drove him about a bit, but sitting in the back I was completely bored. He did not seem much better. We parked by the Atlantic, and he said, “You get out, I will stay in the car”. “We could go to Mafra,” said the other, doubtfully, and I said,

“Why would we go to Mafra? What is there possibly to see in Mafra?”

So we went back to the villa. Such is the problem of not having the proper references to hand. I thought it would be a town with a caff and a few shops, rather than the site of the Baroque palace of João V. We went there on the last day. Unfortunately, our friend could not climb the steps, so had to sit in a caff while we went round the palace. In the ticket office, I met a couple I knew from Nupton Quaker meeting. I don’t like João V. His great palace had a monastery attached, as if that made it alright. We saw a bare cell with a desk, almost a reasonable size of bedroom, which I thought might be bearable for a moderately ascetic academic, but realised that was for the abbot when we saw the dormitory. Monks had a recess, but not a closed cell. How strange, to be immured and institutionalised here while the King enjoyed his hunting! You would be part of the Christian framework which made his every excess acceptable before God, in the convenient fiction everyone went along with.

I don’t like it, still, with this bird tethered. You can have your photo taken with it for a fee. It spreads its wings periodically, either nervously or because it cannot balance.

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A sign of the great piety is this bizarre sculpture. The bloody neck and fallen head shocked we Quakers.

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“Soft porn again,” I thought dismissively. Still, it’s all a matter of taste. I like the men grovelling before an enthroned woman, in my featured image, it’s far more my thing.

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Men on the murals are being tortured.

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-What do you think this is?
-An instrument of torture.

Well, it’s clearly a game. I wonder how it works.

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It’s a hunting lodge, and you might see this at Atholl Castle. I would hate those chairs. It delights in cruelty.

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It delights in cruelty, and the appearance of learning.

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The attached church has six separate organs, with six separate consoles, around the transept. They have recitals monthly.

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In the afternoon we went to Cascais, where I tripped off to the Paula Rego exhibition, tempted by “sexually vulnerable women and animals, and men dressed in women’s clothes or with the heads of fish”. I did not read the small print, that it is closed on Monday, so wandered round the park, where I found this folly.

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In the free Town Museum some of the English is translated picturesquely: they had an “Outbreak of tourists”.

Obidos

This Moorish fortress-town, still with Moorish street plan, is stunning. We picked it almost at random returning from Fatima- we had been advised to pop into somewhere as we drove back, but almost did not, lacking enthusiasm.

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The defensive structures are impressive. English and Welsh castles are all ruined because they could not cope with Civil War artillery yet were still used as fortresses in that war. I am glad that did not happen here. In 1580 a Spanish coup took over the country, but in 1640 Portugal achieved independence again- as a Scot, I am delighted by that, and their English alliance is a mirror image of our Auld alliance.

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These are the remains of the International Chocolate Festival, a delightful idea. The fifteenth is this year, 10 March to 2 April.

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We walked round the walls. I would not have enjoyed it with more tourists about: passing, with one pressed against the wall and the other close to the drop was mildly unpleasant. Would there be safety barriers if this were in England, or would walking be forbidden?

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We climbed that high turret. I did it just for the photo, and without a safety barrier felt a bit ill. A small girl blithely ran up the stairs, letting me take the wall-side. Later on I found a woman, clearly overcome by the experience, walking very slowly down two yard wide stairs to ground level. She leaned on the wall for support.

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Note how these graves are all lying on the surface. I wonder if they are on the bare stone, and the bodies lie just below those low sepulchre lids.

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We stopped off for a coffee, and I bought my only piece of tourist tat, of course a pendant.

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Holiday portraits

I like photos of me. So there. On holiday I find wonderful backdrops to set off my beauty, and am relaxed so photograph well, mostly.

This is the backdrop I liked best, in the grounds of the Pena palace, Sintra.

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The flowers set off my delicate feminine beauty. My face relaxes. The lens was set too wide for the next one, but I look slightly impish, which pleases me.

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Battlements, even fake ones, make a good backdrop. Sintra fake, Obidos real.

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The lens was set too narrow. I wanted more building. Oh well. He questioned it, I said it was how I wanted it, the communication or dynamic was wrong. I am acting here, and not well.

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Lisbon Cathedral

I really want you to look at my header photo. I have not seen a beggar like that in Britain. At least the Cathedral chapter allow her to be there, unlike St Paul’s Cathedral.

There are more decorative churches in Lisbon than its cathedral. Its facade is almost bare, its columns unadorned.

lisbon-cathedrallisbon-cathedral-from-the-galleryThe guide book said it was not worth seeing, with just “a couple of tombs”, but it has grandeur. I was glad to be there, after the great difficulty we had getting there. With few tourists it has a more peaceful, even holy, atmosphere than Jheronymus.

Here are the tombs. I love the dogs, and the thought of reading and contemplating while awaiting the Resurrection.

lisbon-cathedral-doglisbon-cathedral-readerThe West window is easily interpreted? Twelve apostles and Christ at the centre, smaller than they, for some reason.

lisbon-cathedral-west-window-1 lisbon-cathedral-west-windowI paid to go into the cloisters, which are being excavated. Some of the buildings uncovered are Roman, some Moorish, and there is a Roman sewer.

lisbon-cathedral-cloister-excavationsOutside, the trams shake and judder up the steep hill. They are a tourist attraction, he went to ride one while I was in Belem. Notice the English. I had not realised how quickly my camera battery would run down, and took the rest of my photographs on the phone.

lisbon-cathedral-tramThat beggar, again. Leaving, I handed her a 20c coin. She kissed it. I did not, as the Pope advises, look her in the eye and touch her hands, wishing her “Bom dia”- I looked away, embarrassed.

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The hilltop palace at Sintra

The undeserving rich, the moneyed elites of Portugal, looked at Brighton Pavilion with envious eyes, and built it on steroids.

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I love this place. I find it fabulously beautiful, and am delighted it exists; and appalled at the thought of living within miles, as it dominates the countryside. The king can get that thing built, even on that hill top, with all the labour involved, and just live there. Viva a revolução!

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All the tourists are about, and everyone is taking photographs. In the upper storey of the courtyard, below, I saw three together, all with cameras glued to faces, and they dispersed just before I could photograph them.

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The exterior is fabulous, the interior less so. When this was being furnished, sculpture had moved on from this cheap soft porn. The undeserving rich can have execrable taste.

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I find the chapel disturbing as well. The luxury-ascetic of it, such a rich depiction of death by torture. Christianity is full of paradox, the church saying the Magnificat- “He has cast down the mighty from their thrones”- while sucking up to the powerful, who pray in places of such adornment- how could anyone of any imagination get this place built then put a chapel in it? Serve God or self-indulgence, man- but you have to choose.

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