Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wedding bells!

I am off to get married - back 1 October!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

King Cynegils

Cynegils became King of Wessex in 611. He and his son Cwichelm won the Battle of Bindon against the Dumnonian army in 614. (Dumnonia broadly emcompassed Devon and parts of Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall.) They were worried about the rise of the Northumbrian kingdom in the 620s and Cwichelm sent an assassin to kill King Edwin, unsuccessfully, causing the Northumbrian army to march south and defeat the soldiers of Wessex at the Battle of Win and Lose Hills in Derbyshire in 626, forcing them to retreat back to Wessex. Relations with Northumbria improved after King Oswald came to the throne in 634. He persuaded King Cynegils to listen to the Italian missionary Birinus and to enable Birinus to build a cathedral in Dorchester. Oswald married Cynegils' daughter Cyneburga and the royal family of Wessex converted to Christianity. King Cynegils died in 643.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Queen Mother

I was struck by the charm of the new memorial to the Queen Mother as I was dashing up the steps from The Mall into Carlton Gardens last week. A fine statue of her by Philip Jackson stands below King George and on the staircase on each side are a pair of reliefs in bronze showing aspects of her life. The one to the left depicts her in London during the war, together with her husband and the young princesses. The one to the right (apologies for this small photo of it) shows her presenting prizes at Ascot in the centre and sitting with one of her corgis on the right. The friezes were carved by Philip Day and are beautifully crafted.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Symmetric poem of the day

I------------often---- wondered--- when------- I -------cursed
Often -----feared ----where ------I --------would -------be -
Wondered- where----- she'd---- yield-------- her -------love
When --------I --------yield, -----so ---------will --------she,
I ----------would -------her -----will ---------be --------pitied
Cursed -----be-------- love!----- She------- pitied--------me...

Lewis Carroll

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Hungry Ghost Festival

Today is the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar and is called the Hungry Ghost Festival as the realms of heaven and hell are open to the living and ghosts return to visit their families. Rituals are performed to absolve the sins of the ancestors and food left out for visiting ghosts. The festival originates from the story of one of Buddha's disciples, Mahamaudgalyayana, who was a clairvoyant and sought out the spirits of his parents. He found his father's spirit in heaven but his mother had been sent to the realm of the hungry ghosts as punishment for her greed in life. The hungry ghosts had thin delicate throats through which no food could be swallowed but their bellies were large and so they were always hungry. The Buddha told Mahamaudgalyayana to feed his mother's ghost with food which had been prayed over seven times and thrown on clean ground. In this way she escaped from the realm of the hungry ghosts and was reborn as a dog belonging to a noble family.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Solomon spider

For about a year or so, there has been another resident in our house: a large spider called Solomon. He was not visible very often but could occasionally be spotted on the stairs or on the wall above the front door. The other day he appeared in a bath tub from whence he was unable to escape. He was carefully rescued and he scuttled off, disappearing down a crevice between floorboards.

Anyway, dear readers, I was rather shocked on Saturday when I was letting in a guest who noticed Solomon scurrying along by the wall in the hall. "Aargh, a spider!" she cried and she killed him with the heel of her shoe. Do you think she should have consulted her hostess before committing such an act?