Thursday, 22 December 2016

The shortest day ...

There’s something about the light in Bath. There's a great deal of it, and I wonder if it’s all to do with reflection. Pale gold stone, a river and a canal, much glass, big sky. I don’t have the answer but it’s a dazzling city in so many respects.


We took a break preparing for dinner for special friends and took a family walk from Henrietta Street, via the Holburne Museum, to Sydney Gardens, the canal and back via Bathampton.

Highlights? Cutely mad European folksy exhibition at the Holburne. Fab Christmas tree on the balcony. Kingfisher by the river. Blackbird eating scarlet apples. A majestic Husky called Thor with crystal eyes and a silver mane. Stoic ponies in an orchard. A glimpse into the new refurb at the terribly posh Cleveland House - its chandeliers all intact. The secret hideaway of Raby Mews. Medieval-style intricacy of plants around railings in Henrietta Park. Then a family pint at the Pulteney Arms. 


And now the nights will stop drawing in. More light! Astonishing.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The longest night ...

Today is the Winter Solstice. More accurately, it occurs for a fleeting moment at 10.44 here in England. This is when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. It occurs when the North Pole is tilted furthest – 23.4 degrees – away from the Sun.


The shortest day and the longest night  ... For the ancients, this was the moment to assert the power of light over darkness and prepare for the harsh months ahead. Although eclipsed by Christian doctrine and contemporary commercialism, this calendrical moment is still crucial to many, harking back to our primitive instincts.


As a Celt, I’m always aware of the Solstice, although I’m not saying I’m going to start hacking down mistletoe with a golden sickle, as the Druids were wont to do – or so it’s said.

I’m happy to finish the decorations with fresh greenery, make an ice candle and pour the mulled wine. This year, I've also made a sparkly 'fairy ball' with green lights and a small glass globe.

It's also a great time to curl up and read ... A Walk in the Park is a ghostly winter’s tale to mark the occasion (now out on Amazon). When I wrote it, I scared myself to bits!

The moon. The stars. One malevolent entity. 
A supernatural romance of astronomical proportions for the Winter Solstice.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Gothic Bath

Just a few minutes’ walk from the bustle of cosmopolitan Bath lies a truly Gothic experience.  

The graveyard of St Mary’s, in Bathwick, has become an historical side note, through no fault of its own. The churchyard of St Mary’s was opened in 1809 when the original 12th century St Mary’s church was demolished to widen Bathwick Road. The mortuary chapel, now a ruin, was designed by John Pinch, as famous in his day as John Wood, but now forgotten. It was built in 1818, a year before Queen Victoria was born, and constructed out of the material salvaged from the demolition of the 12th-century parish church.

The chapel was used for baptisms and funerals but only for two years until the new parish church down the road was consecrated in 1820. By 1856, the churchyard was closed in favour of St Mary the Virgin Churchyard which opened in the same year at Smallcombe Vale.

 
The cemetery has a desolate feel, intrinsically Gothic. As I stood in the foggy dusk taking photographs, a bat appeared, completing mystic figures of eight between the yew trees. One can just about make it it out in the photograph below. Just the one bat, with raggedy wings. He didn't seem perturbed by my presence.
I am not that suggestible, but I swear something was moving in the shrubbery. A badger, possibly, for they do cause havoc in the grounds. At least I hope it was a badger, for one of the graves was partially excavated at one corner, and I can only hope that this is the perfectly logical explanation.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Solstice surprise

Many, many years ago, I used to be Features Editor on the Bath Chronicle.

A rollercoaster time it was, and, for the most part, a lot of fun, as we survived the storms of the 1980s and early 1990s, some literal, the rest figurative. I even wrote a book about it! Tomorrow's Anecdote is fiction but based on those turbulent days of Kinnock, Thatcher and Major.

Years passed. One of my former colleagues became editor after I left on maternity leave, and is now editor of the glamorous Bath Magazine. And to my surprise, I found myself writing features again.

Solace for the Solstice is a fun article about shunning plastic baubles this Christmas and releasing your inner Druid. I even took a few photos. You can find it here on pages 108-9.

Such fun. Thanks, Georgette. And I love the retro cover of this month's issue!