Friday, 6 November 2009


Out recently to Lyme Regis. Heavy rain all the way but I told wife that by the time we got there the sun would be shining – it was! (We still got wet though!) Bought a beautifully illustrated book bound in blue calf leather from an antique shop.

Documenting the First World War it is richly embellished with gold decoration and gold edged pages and weighs nearly a stone. I have had it looked at by an antiquarian bookseller. He believes that “this beautifully bound book” was the work of a gifted amateur who probably intended it to be a contribution to the Arts & Craft movement which was active at that time (1920’s) At a fiver it was a steal and as much as I admire the fabric and content of the book I am quite sure that someone out there on Ebay will admire it even more than me. And if you are wondering why that strange object is in the photo - wonder no more - its a plug for my new book............

On the journey back we stopped to have a look at the church of St. Candida at Whitchurch Canonicorum. In the church we were met by Sue – a churchwarden – who shared with us some of the churches history. It is the only church in the country to have a shrine complete with bones, the bones of St. Wite to be exact. It seems that St. Wite may have been a hermit living on cliffs nearby who also may have been a beacon lighter (to warn of seaborne attack). She may have been killed by an invading army of Danes coming in at Charmouth but nobody is sure of the exact facts. Neither is anyone sure how the shrine escaped Henry VIII’s reformation blitz or Cromwells vandals but it did and Sue explained that the story goes that the villagers spirited it away and hid it until it was safe for it to return.

This church and its shrine has been for centuries, a place of pilgrimage. Sick pilgrims would undertake long journeys to visit the shrine to find a cure for their afflictions. Take a look at a photo of the shrine:

The top is a stone casket containing a lead coffin which holds the bones of a fortyish woman (they have been checked out). Underneath are three holes in which the pilgrims would place their poorly body parts praying at the same time for a cure. Many years ago there existed a leper colony nearby and in those days there were also holes on the outside wall so that these poor people who were forbidden from entering the church could also take advantage of the saints remains. Pilgrims were expected to leave a gift for the saint and risked life and limb from marauding robbers in their approach to the church through thickly wooded country. The churchwarden painted a vivid picture of what it must have been like for hundreds to have come here for “the cure” and as if to emphasise the point, and while standing with our backs to the altar, she pointed out the distinct downward slope of the stone floor to the door at the rear of the church. “It made it easier to sluice the blood and vomit outside” she explained. History always has had the ability to shock and I found this a powerful example.
Incidentally – and I only remembered it after we had left to resume our journey home - the Bulgarian dissident, Georgi Markov who was assassinated in the 70’s near Waterloo Bridge by having a ricin pellet fired into his leg from an umbrella gun, is buried in the churchyard.
Taking a roundabout route back to the caravan we stopped at one point on the route and watched a buzzard perched atop a carcass enjoying a delicious meal of “road kill” pheasant. I was barely ten feet away from him and as we stopped he paused, looked up and fixed us with a beady stare. Wife remarked that the expression on his face was quite clear “It’s mine and I’m not sharing!” Shame I did not have the camera ready.

Brisk walk down to the beach and snapped these cormorants on the pier – first time I have seen them there. Looking toward Weymouth the beach was windswept and invigorating.

Visited an antiquarian bookshop in Dorchester and bought a leather bound copy of the 1922 edition of T.E.Lawrences’ “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”. Some people pray – I buy books! Outside in the car park we saw this tree.

I know that counting the rings in a tree tells you how old it is but this tree just seemed “tyred”!

Sunday, 1 November 2009


The two S’s left us this morning; they had a nice evening at the party last night. We were pleased to have their company and see them enjoying themselves.

Last year we found a pub in the small village of Plush here in Dorset. Today, we returned and enjoyed Sunday lunch. My ladies pork was a bit fatty but the venison I ordered was rare and succulent – served with roasted vegetables and accompanied by a glass of bitter beer from a tapped cask it was a delicious meal.

Wife remarked on folk in the pub – “snobby” was the descriptive word she used for them and yes, I agree to some extent. This is one of the last areas in the UK that nurtures the old British way of life with its class divisions and country pursuits. As a child of the fifties though, I find it comforting that these social values are still alive and well – just! All the same, I still can’t help thinking that we had lunch today in a pub that in this day and age is an oddity - a social museum even?  It was very nice though and I look forward to going back there.