The Tin Chapel

There was a time when churches were not turned into luxury flats or storage rooms, but when those people who lacked one demanded one, much in the way some people today protest if they don’t have a Waitrose within strolling distance. The people of Henton, a tiny hamlet in the parish of Chinnor in Oxfordshire were seriously miffed that they had no church – a place for all to celebrate the arrival of babies, the coming of age of the youth, the marriage of the young and the departure of the old. And let’s not forget, the best place to have a chat and catch up on the latest gossip. Finally, in 1886, Magdalen College, Oxford, let some ground for the princely annual rent of 1 shilling to the rector and churchwardens of Chinnor “for the purpose of a mission room to be erected thereon“, and so the people of Henton finally could have their own place of worship. Boulton & Paul of Norwich had the honour of supplying the construction, which was a pre-fabricated building in wood, clad in corrugated iron. It was not Notre Dame or Westminster Cathedral, but it was a place where the good people of Henton could congregate once a month (low frequency of services because they were so remote), a place that was theirs to come together as a community. How telling of our times that before restoration took place between 1994-1997, it had fallen into disrepair and had even been vandalised since services stopped in the 1970s, whilst people got bigger and bigger television sets. And talking of television, it was used as a location in an episode of Midsomer Murders. It is currently residing in the excellent Chiltern Open Air Museum, where I had the pleasure of encountering it whilst on a weekend trip to the area.


Yeah! 20,000 Milestone Reached

The crime writer P. D. James had a full-time career and children to take care of, but managed to write by getting up in the wee hours. Following her example in this (if nothing else) I have now managed to reach a word count of 21,439. Hurrah! Quantity sorted, quality is another question. I promised in an earlier post to share my sketches of the characters in the book. Here’s the first one. This is of the main character, Bjørn-Eirik (a name that causes him some bother when he first arrives in London). He is a young man who looks slightly older due to his thinning hair on top (not at all like me then, as I am not a young man anymore). So far I have eight chapters, which those good at maths will have worked out means that each chapter is a little over 2 1/2 thousand words. I feel that is a good, short length of a chapter. You can then realistically finish a chapter in the course of your commute, or in the evening before going to bed. I hate long chapters, as I find it easy to lose the thread if I have to pause mid-chapter. More drawings later…now, breakfast for the young one must be organised.

Early Morning Writing

The early(ish) morning is my most productive writing time. From 7am to 8.30am, fuelled by excellent coffee from Guntons of Colchester, I have produced just over a 1000 more words to my new novel, so I am glad to say it now totals 16,824 words. More importantly I feel I have created some interesting characters that I like spending time with, and who I therefore also believe potential readers will like to spend time with. I have made some sketches of how I imagine the characters to look like. I shall photograph them and share in a future post. But now the others are awake, and so writing is over and breakfast beckons.



West Bergholt Old Church

On Bank Holiday Monday I took a bike ride on my beautiful Pashley through Essexian countryside, to the charming West Bergholt Old Church, or St Mary’s Old Church, to give it its proper name, just outside Colchester. There’s been a church on this site for over a thousand years, and the building clearly tells of different ages and different materials being used. The most striking is that the clock tower is wooden, whilst sitting on top of a more conventional flint stone building. The flint stone structure is itself interspersed with bricks of various kinds. Inside the church you find the beautiful royal arms of King James, with the Latin motto Exurgat Deus Dissipenter Inimici; let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, a reference to Psalm 68:1. The church is no longer in regular use as a place of worship, but remains consecrated and is in use for weddings, as well as other events including Carol services. It is maintained by the Friends of St Mary’s Old Church, under the overall responsibility of the Churches Conservation Trust. Below you can see some of the pictures I took. The main picture above was taken from the gallery.

Beheadings are nothing new

The story of the beheading of Holofernes by Judith, depicted in the apocryphal Book of Judith (see Wikipedia article here), inspired a scene in the new book I am working on (working title The Calling). I imagined a stained glass window with a depiction of the scene. Then thanks to the wonders of the internet I was able to discover that such stained glass windows do exist (some images under copyright protection, so please look up for yourselves). Many artists up through the ages have painted the scene. Caravaggio’s depiction is particularly blood curdling, because of the naturalism of the flesh. It all looks like a scene from the butcher’s shop. I rather liked the picture I have posted here, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530. It looks very genteel, a lady showing off the result of a day’s hunting. Yet there is something determined in her face. This is one that would not suffer fools gladly.