Sunday, March 29, 2009

Since good Ink is neffecary

to good Writing, I fhall give a Receipt or two for making fome of the beft black Ink in the World, which is as follows, viz.

(and yes, once again I shall substitute the short s for the long, for the sake of clarity)

A Receipt for making black Ink.
TO six quarts of Rain or River Water (but Rain Water is the best) put one Pound and a Half of fresh blue Galls of Aleppo, (for those of Smyrna are not strong enough) bruised pretty small ; 8 Ounces of Copperas, clean, rocky, and green ; also 8 Ounces of clean, bright, and clear Gum Arabic ; and two Ounces of Roche Allum : Let these stand together in a large Stone Bottle, or clean Stone Pot, or Earthen Pot, with a narrow Mouth, to keep it free from Dust ; shake, roll, or stir it well, once every Day, and you will have excellent Ink in about a Month's Time ; and the older it grows, the better it will be for Use.

Ingredients for a Quart.
I Quart of Water, 4 Ounces of Galls, 2 Ounces of Copperas, and 2 Ounces of Gum, mixed and stirred as above.
(graphic of pointing hand) If you soak the green Peelings of Walnuts (at the Time of the Year when pretty ripe) and Oak Saw-dust, or small Chips of Oak, in Rain Water, and stir it pretty often for a Fortnight: the Water strained off and used with same ingredients as above, will render the Ink still stronger and better.

How to make Red Ink.
TAKE 3 Pints of stale Beer, (rather than Vinegar) and 4 Ounces of Ground Brazil Wood ; simmer them together for an Hour ; then strain it thro' a Flannel, and bottle it up (well stopp'd) for Use.
Or you may dissolve half an Ounce of Gum Senega, or Arabic, in Half a Pint of Water ; then put a Pennyworth of Vermilion into a small Gallipot, and pour some of the Gum Water to it, stir it well, and mix it together with a Hair-Pencil*, to a proper Consistency ; but it will not incorporate presently, tho' by the next Day it will ; then having a clean Pen, dip it into the Ink, having first well stirred it with a Pencil, and then you may use it : It is a fine and curious Red, tho' not so free as the other. And after the same Manner you may make any other coloured Ink, as Blue, Green, Yellow, Purple, &c. having divers Gallipots for that Use. In like Manner you may mix the Shell-Gold for curious Occasions ; pouring two or three Drops, according to the Direction, into the Shell, and mix it well with a clean Hair-pencil, and with it put a little into a clean Pen, &c.The small Shells may be bought at some Fan-sellers, or Fan-painters, at two or three for Two-pence ; or the large ones (which are the best) at the Colour-shops, at Six-pence a-piece.

To keep Ink from Freezing or Moulding.
IN hard frosty Weather, Ink will be apt to freeze ; which, if once it doth, it will be good for nothing ; it takes away all its Blackness and Beauty. To prevent which (if you have not the Conveniency of keeping it warm, or from the Cold) put a few Drops of Brandy, or other Spirits into it, and it will not freeze. And to hinder its moulding, put a little Salt therein.

Of Secret Writing.
HERE it may not be improper to say something of Secret Writing ; to which Bishop Wilkins, in his Book of Mathematical Magic, speaks largely ; but it is principally concerning writing in Cypher, which requires great Pains, and an uncommon Share of Ingenuity, both in Writers and Readers. But however I shall shew two or three particular Ways, that are very pretty and amusing, and also very easy both as to Cost and Pains. And,
First, If you dip your Pen in the Juice of a Lemon, or of an Onion, or in your own Urine, or in Spirits of Vitriol, and write on clean Paper whatever you intend, it shall not be discerned till you hold it to the Fire, and then it will appear legible. and if with any of the aforementioned, you write on your Skin, as on your Arm, and Back of your Hand, &c. it shall not be seen till you burn a Piece of Paper, and with the Ashes rub on the Place, and then it will appear very plain : And this I have experienced and tried, and therefore can say, Probatum est.
Another Way is, when you write a Letter that you intend it shall not be discovered, but to those you think fit ; first to write your Thoughts on one Side of your Letter with black Ink, as usual, (but it ought to be on thin Paper) and then, on the contrary side, go over the said Matter that you would have secret, with a clean Pen dipped in Milk, and that Writing shall not be read without holding it to the Fire, as mentioned above, and then it will appear legible in a bluish Colour.
A third Method is, to have two Pieces of Paper equal in Size, and the uppermost cut in chequered Holes or Squares big enough to contain any Word of six or seven Syllables, and in those Squares write your Mind in regular Sense ; and then take off the said chequered Paper, and fill up the Vacancies with Words of any Kind, which will render it perfect Nonsense, and not capable of being read, to any Purpose of Intelligence. And transmit and send the said uppermost, or chequered Paper, or another exactly of the same Form to your Correspondent ; whereby he shall, by laying it nicely on your said Letter, read your intended Sense, without being perplexed with the Words of Amusement intermixed, which make it altogether unintelligible.
Or again, you may write to your Friend in proper Sense with common Ink, and let the Lines be at so commodious a Distance, that what you intend to be secret may be written between them with Water, wherein Galls have been steeped a little Time, but not long enough to tincture the Water ; and, when dry, nothing of the Writing between the said Lines can be seen ; but when it is to be read, you must, with a fine Hair-pencil dipped in Copperas-water go between the said Lines, and so you make it legible.
Note. This Way will give you no Ground for Suspicion, because the letter seemeth to carry proper Sense in those Lines that are set at a proper Distance.

*Pencil: "an artist's paint-brush of camel's hair, sable, fitch, or other fine hair, gathered into a quill; esp. one of small and fine make, suitable for delicate work." The other kind are called 'pencils of black lead', 'dry pencils', or 'wooden pencils'.

Friday, March 27, 2009

cutting a quill, 1770s



Young Man's Beft Companion.


Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, in an eafier Way than any yet publifhed ; and how to qualify any perfon for bufinefs, without the help of a Mafter.

Inftructions to write Variety of Hands, with Copies both in Profe and Verfe. How to write Letters on Businefs or Friendfhip. Forms of Indentures, Bonds, Bills of Sale, Receipts, wills, Leafes, Releafes, &c. ... (much, much more)

By GEORGE FISHER, Accomptant.

The Twenty-third Edition, Corrected and Improved.

London : Printed for W. Strahan, et al. M.DCC.LXXIX.

[Price bound 2s. 6d.]

(long s is used throughout, but I have replaced it with short s in this transcription, except where it is listed as a letter with head and tail - there I have used f)


FIRST, it is necessary to be provided with the following Implements, viz. good Pens, good and free Ink, and also good Paper, when arrived to commendable Performances ; likewise a flat Ruler for Sureness ; and a round one for Dispatch ; with a leaden Plummet or Pencil to rule lines : Also Gum Sandrick Powder (or Pounce, as they call it), with a little Cotton dipp'd therein, which rub gently over the Paper to make it bear Ink the better ; particularly when full Hands are to be written, such as Text, &c. and especially when you are obliged to scratch out a Word or Letter : for then there will be a Necessity for its Use ; and rubbing the Place with the Pounce, smooth it with the Haft of the Penknife, or clean Paper, and then you may write what is proper in the same Place. These Implements are summed in these Lines :

A Penknife, Razor-Metal, Quills good Store ;

Gum-Sandrick Paper to pounce Paper o'er ;

Ink, shining black, Paper more white than Snow,

Round and flat Rulers on yourself bestow.

With willing Mind, these, and industrious Hand,

Will make this Art your Servant at Command.

To hold the Pen.

THE Pen must be held somewhat sloping, with the Thumb and the two Fingers next to it ; the Ball of the Middle-finger must be placed straight, just against the upper Part of the Cut or Cradle, to keep the Pen steady : The Fore-finger lying straight on the Middle-finger ; and the Thumb must be fixed a little higher than the End of the Fore-finger, bending in the Joint ; and the Pen be so placed to be held easily without griping. The Elbow must be drawn towards the Body, but not too close. You must support your Hand by leaning on the Table-edge, resting on it half Way between your Wrist and Elbow, not suffering the Ball, or fleshy Part of your Hand, to touch the Paper ; but resting your Hand on the End of your Little-finger, that and your Fourth-finger bending inwards, and supported on the Table as abovesaid. So fixed, and sitting pretty upright, not leaning your Breast against the table, proceed to the making the small a, and a, c, e, i, m, r, s, w, and x ; which must all be made of equal Bigness and Height : the Distance or Width betwixt the two Strokes of the n, must be the same with the Distance or Width of the three Strokes of the m ; the same Proportion of Width must be observed in the u, w, and o. The Letters with Stems, or Heads, must be of equal Height ; as the b, d, f, h, k, l, and f. And those with Tails must be of equal Depth, as the f, g, p, q, and f. The Capitals must bear the same Proportion to one another, with respect to Bigness and Height, as A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and I, &c.--This Proportion of Letters, both of Small and Great, must be observed in, and will serve for, all Hands whatsoever. N. B. That all upright Strokes, and those leaning to the left Hand, must be fine, or Hair-strokes, and all downright Strokes must be fuller or blacker. And when you are in Joining, where Letters will naturally join, without any Straining, take not off the Pen in Writing, especially in Running or mixed Hand. Care likewise must be duly taken, that there be an equal Distance between Letter and Letter, and also between Word and Word : The Distance between Word and Word may be the Space the small m takes up ; but between Letter and Letter, not quite so much. Sit not long at Writing, (that is, not longer than you improve) especially at the first, lest it weary you, and you grow tired of learning. Imitate the best Examples ; and have a constant Eye at your Copy ; and be not ambitious of writing fast, before you can write well ; Expedition will naturally follow, after you have gained a habit of writing fair and free ; and 'tis much more commendable to be an Hour in writing six Lines well, than to be able to write sixty Lines in the same Time, which perhaps will be altogether unintelligible. And besides, by a slow and fair Procedure, you will learn in half the Time ; and therefore 'tis a vain Thought in a Learner to desire to be quick before he hath acquired Experience, and a Freedom of Writing by frequent Practice. If you have Cotton in your Ink, look well that there be no Hairs at the Nib of your Pen. Never overcharge your Pen with Ink ; but shake what is too much into the Ink again.

How to make a Pen.

THIS is gained sooner by Experience and Observation from others that can make a Pen well, than by verbal Directions. But Note, that those Quills called Seconds are the best, as being hard, long and round in the Barrel ; and before you begin to cut the Quill, scrape off the superfluous Scurf with the Back of your Penknife ; scrape most on the Back of the Quill, that the slit may be the finer, and without Gander's Teeth (as the Roughness in the Slit is by some called). After you have scraped the Quill as aforesaid, cut the Quill at the End, half through, on the back Part ; and then turning up the Belly, cut the other Half, or Part, quite through, viz. about a Quarter or almost Half an Inch, at the End of the Quill, which will then appear forked : then enter the Penknife a little in the back Notch, and then putting the Peg of the Penknife-haft (or the end of another Quill into the back Notch, holding your Thumb pretty hard on the Back of the Quill as high as you intend the Slit to be) with a sudden or quick Twitch, force up the Slit ; it must be sudden and smart, that the Slit may be clearer ; Then by several Cuts on each Side bring the Quill into equal Shape or Form on both Sides ; and having brought it to a fine Point, place the Inside of the Nib on the Nail of your Thumb, and enter the Knife at the Extremity of the Nib ; and then by other proper Cuts finish the Pen, bringing it into a handsome Shape, and proper Form. But meddle not with the Nib again, by giving it any Trimming or fine Cuts, for that causes a Roughness, and spoils it : But if you do, to bring the Nib the evener, you must nib it again, as above directed. Note, that the breadth of the Nib must be proportioned to the Breadth of the Body, or downright black Strokes of the Letters, in whatsoever Hand you write, whether Small or Text. Note also, That in your sitting to write, you place yourself directly against a fore-right Light, or else to have it on your left Hand (which I esteem best) but by no Means to have the Light on your right Hand, because the Shadow of your Writing-hand will obstruct your Sight.

Thus far for Direction. Now for Application. I have here set Copies of the most usual, fashionable, and commendable Hands for Business ; with Alphabets of Great and Small Letters proper to each. Be sure you make your Letters well (both Small and Great) before you proceed to Joining. Be careful in Imitation, and observe the foregoing Directions, and without doubt you will gain your End. Command of Hand, or the Art of striking Letters, &c. is gained by frequent practicing after good Examples.

(There follow some pages of examples, then of Copy Book Headings to practice writing. But the last section is worth quoting in full.)

Double Lines in Verse.
All you that in fair Writing would excel,
How much you write regard not, but how well.
Bear your Pen lightly, keep a steady Hand,
And that's the Way fair Writing to command.
Carefully mend in each succeeding Line,
For that's the Way to reach to what is fine.
Descending Strokes are dark, but upwards small;
Even at Head and Feet keep Letters all.
From Blots keep clean your Book, and always mind
To have your Letters all one Way inclin'd.
Grace every Line with perfect, full and small,
And keep a due Proportion in them all.
Hold your Pen lightly, gripe it not too hard,
And with due Care your Copy well regard.
Join every Letter to his next with Care,
And let your Strokes be admirably fair.
Keep a light Hand, and smoothly glide along;
Ascending fine, and downright Strokes are strong.
Let graceful Beauty in each Line appear,
And see the Front do not excel the Rear.
Majestic Grace, both beautiful and strong,
Doth, or else ought, to every Line belong.
No Roughness at the Edge should e'er be seen,
But all the Letters should be smooth and clean.
On Care depends the Beauty of each Line,
For that alone will make your Art to shine.
Praise is deserved by the careful Hand,
But for the Unthinking doth Correction stand.
Quit yourself nobly with a prudent Care,
Of clumsy Writing and of Blots beware.
Remember strictly what the Art enjoins,
Equal-sized Letters, and as equal Lines.
Small Letters must of equal Height be seen;
The same of great, both beautifully clean.
Time and Delight will easy make the Task!
Delight, Delight's the only Thing I ask!
Vain are the Hopes of those who think to gain
This noble Treasure without taking Pain.
Whilst idle Drones supinely dream of Fame,
The Industrious actually do get the same.
'Xemplar Lines are Writing's surest Law,
Precepts may lead us, but Examples draw.
Youth is the Time for Progress in all Arts;
Then use your Youth to gain the noblest Parts.
Zeal for Attainment of each Art will prove
One means of purchasing the general Love.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

the first few churches

UK 08, ever-continuing.

Over that day-and-a-half,, Lucia, Mark and I explored. Not wanting to go too far afield after the long drive from Lincoln, a tour of Wingfield College and St. Andrews, Wingfield, we plumped for Hoxne (pronounced Hocksen), which has St. Peter & St. Paul church with wall-paintings, and a moated vicarage. Not to mention the Swan, a pub in a 15th c. Bishop's Lodge. In an omen for our timing in other instances, we came along just before closing time, and had to be satisfied with an ale for Mark. One of the locals actually spotted his accent as Canadian (Vancouver, which is awfully close), winning a beer to be collected next time we saw him.
Hoxne is known for having one of the better historical claims to a connection with the martyred King Edmund, including (gone now) the tree he was supposed to have been bound to. Mark remembered the name because of the Hoxne Hoard, a Roman find.

St. Peter & St. Paul, Hoxne, has been restored by the Victorian hand, though not as splendiferously as Thornham Magna below.
Pictures of the moat were taken later. On this visit, we noticed first the lovely lychgate, which is, yes, where corpses are brought in for burial. In case you wondered.
The graveyard is somewhat overgrown, and I took photos of leaning gravestones and ivy-covered tombs. There's a surprising variety of types through England. East Anglia has a number of what look like above-ground, oversized stone coffins, usually with a head and foot-stone. There's probably a technical term, but I don't know it.
I also took pictures of trees, but that may warrant a separate post. Or several separate posts. Or just keeping that sort of thing to myself.

What I really wanted to see, though, was the wall paintings. Three large paintings had been recovered in this church, and I just wish my photos hadn't been so blurry. Simon's are better, over on the Suffolk Churches page.
The first one you see is a St. Christopher, usually painted right across from the church door, because if you see St. Christopher first thing in the morning, you're safe from violent death for the rest of the day.
The other two are the Seven Acts of Mercy, shown as seven figures holding scrolls (and possibly insignia). This one is the Seven Deadly Sins, depicted as a tree. There was probably a larger scheme, with more moral lessons, but these are all that survive (or have been able to be recovered so far).
The paintings are as high as possible on the walls, and must have been impressive when all the colour was present and fresh. They're still impressive, damaged as they are.

St. Mary, Thornham Parva (which means Little Thornham) was top of my list of Churches To See. Simon waxes eloquent about it, and with good reason. That was our first church next morning.
It's a proper parish church, layered with history, so that the 14th century wall painting scheme is broken by 15th century windows, an 18th century gallery and 20th century plaques. A cardboard box holding copies of the church bulletin sits on top of the medieval font.
And it's thatched! It has a thatched tower! St. Mary sits, like a few other East Anglian churches we were to see, in the middle of fields. One thatched cottage nearby, but otherwise it's clearly a ways from any parishioners.

The interior is simple, too small to have aisles, but with a restored rood-screen, and a few pieces of rescued medieval glass tucked in the window tracery.
This picture, while giving you an idea of the small compass of the church, hides the two things that make it really remarkable.
One is a rare survival of an almost complete wall painting scheme, the sort of thing that almost every medieval church once had, destroyed in so many cases by later fenestration (sorry, putting in windows), or well-meaning Victorian restorers wanting to reveal 'the beauty of the stonework' by knocking off the plaster. The Puritans, ironically, did more to preserve the paintings: whitewashing over them and painting improving mottoes on top.
But I digress (cries of No! Really?).

The wall paintings tell two stories. One storyline is the martyrdom of St. Edmund, including his flight, the body found guarded by a wolf, the removal of his body to the shrine in Bury. A doorway arch stands in for the bridge that the cart bearing his body was miraculously able to cross (it was too narrow for the cart). The picture here is described as Edmund's head being reattached to his body by monks.

The other storyline is the Infancy of Christ. The Annunciation is missing, but the Visitation, Adoration, and Presentation are all surviving. The paintings are much more intimate, obviously, than the Hoxne paintings. They're at head-height or just above, and the style is simple, almost cartoony to modern eyes. This is not the art of the court.

The art of the court is represented by the other treasure of Thornham Parva, which is the retable. Excuse my blurry and partial photo, as I'm not good at photographing through glass. (Mark took better photos, and I may post them later).
The retable was probably the property of a noble family, hidden away and perhaps part of a secret chapel during the Reformation, then forgotten, eventually found in a stable loft and donated to this little church.
It shows the Crucifixion, with four saints flanking it on each side, holding their insignia. The background is gold leaf, and the figures are painted in oil, which pegs it as an English production. There's a sister panel, identified as being from the same oaks, now in the Museum at Cluny (and which I used as a model for a panel painting I did some years back).
The figures have that dancer's grace of early 14th century painting, with exaggerated hands and length of limb, to give them more gesture and emphasis. The modeling of the draperies is ... just so beautiful that I think I have to shut up about it now.
I'll post Mark's pictures later.

St. Mary Magdalene, Thornham Magna (Big Thornham) is appropriately much grander. It's the church of an important family (as St. Andrew was) rather than a parish church. And it has been restored most impressively, with the brightest Victorian touches of glass and paint.
Jane led us unerringly about, and we found a lane to park in, a raised cart-track alongside the road, paved with dead leaves. It had the air of being left over from the past, though I suppose it was in use enough not to be grown over.
This tree caught my attention on the way in, for its wild exuberance in a clipped and trimmed context. (Look, it's the only tree picture here, and there were some awesome trees at Thornham Parva, but I have some self-control, whatever you might think.)
The grounds are beautifully kept, and there's a fine Victorian angel in the graveyard.
There was one other church, I think, that had as impressive a restored interior (judged purely on its Victorian merits). I'll have to find which it was in my notes.

The day was cloudy while we were there, so I didn't try to photograph the stained-glass windows, which were lovely Pre-Raphaelite style, designed (I found out later) by Burne-Jones.
The hammerbeam roof may be medieval, but overall, it's best to just consider this Victorian Gothic and enjoy it for that.

I have to remind myself just how far up ecclesiastical interiors go. It surprises me each time I enter an old church, that there's so much air enclosed. Modern churches don't seem to reach quite so high.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Our room marked with an X

UK 08 continued.
Have I mentioned that the plan for the first part of this visit was to spend time in one place? Specifically, to stay in some part of East Anglia and bicycle around to moated sites. Because on a previous visit, I'd picked up a map of Moated Sites in Suffolk, and had noticed how close together they were.
(Yes, I am just that much of an anorak--and you're reading me!)
While researching it, we'd spent a fair bit of time on Simon's East Anglian churches site, and discovered the Saints, several of which are moated or near moats. Much of this within bicycling distance.
So where to stay? Well, how could we resist staying at a 16th century timbered farmhouse on a moated site? The Gables Farm looked perfect. And yes, it was. (Only a brisk walk or short cycle from Wingfield College too.)
Our room is the furthest right window, upper floor. Looking out onto the moat.

The other side of the house lets out to the drive, and to the farmyard. The chickens that provide breakfast eggs (and eat the breakfast scraps) are only a few paces away.
Breakfast is generous. Even when Mark and I got to the cycling about, we found that breakfast and one other meal carried us through the day.
I must say, food in England has improved massively since we visited in the 80s. On the downside, many village pubs have closed (many villages have become bedroom communities, and long commutes don't make for going down the pub after, apparently). On the upside, those that survive have become gastro-pubs, which is a dreadful word but a fine concept.

The breakfast room. The picture on the wall is of the restoration of Gables, which was in sad shape when the Herveys bought it (very nearly sight unseen) and devoted themselves to freeing the original timber-frame farmhouse from a few hundred years of overbuilding and neglect. As you can see, it's gorgeous now.
It's funny how much of restoring is similar, even to the 'and then we found this old bit still under the wall' and 'they'd chucked that into the ditch/moat' and 'some fool had cut away half the supports and plastered it over' anecdotes, regardless of whether one's restoring a Victorian house, or a Norman stone manor, or a Tudor timbered farmhouse.
One notable thing about Gables is that (like many timbered houses) it wasn't built for people much over 5 foot. Several times in the next couple of days it will be Mark's habit of leaving his bike helmet on until reaching the bedroom that will save him from knocking his head on one particular beam. Mike Hervey is pretty much the same height as Mark, so I have to guess he's had time to practice.

This is Daisy, one of the two dogs. You can see Poppy in the picture at the top of the Accommodations page here. Poppy (black spaniel) is a complete moocher, who stares soulfully at you while you eat breakfast. Well, soulfully at me, because however much I inform dogs that I don't like them and am in fact a Cat Person, they unerringly realise that I am still a soft touch.
Daisy is a rather cat-like dog, as you can tell from her perch on the back of a chair, where she watches for arrivals. She is conveniently lap-sized, and I spend an hour or so one drizzly afternoon napping in an armchair with Daisy.

The view from our room, which is the Mullion Room. Every morning I took a photo from this window, and called it the Many Moods of the Moat series, but I won't inflict that on you. You can see a nice picture of the room on the website, but here is my blurry one.

On the upper right, where you can't see, is a television on a mount. And to the right where you can't see at all, is a lovely bathroom. With lots of hot water, and no tricky switches or taps hidden away that need to be dealt with beforehand.
Lucia had the Gable End Room, I think.

After Wingfield College, we drove to Hoxne (pronounced Hocksen) and reached the church just as it was being locked up, but the sexton(?) kindly let us in for a quick look round at the wall paintings. The lych-gate is quite fine too, and I have a picture of Mark and Lucia standing at it, but I'll save that for a churches post.
Mark had a drink at the Swan, a 15th c. pub, and we determined to return another day, earlier in the day.
For supper we followed Sue Hervey's recommendation and went to the Crown in Weybread, good pub food more than gastro-pub, and I had excellent fish & chips.
Seated across from us at the Crown were a father and son also staying at the Gables for a bicycling holiday, though a considerably more strenuous one than ours. That day they'd cycled to the coast and back--my tone of slightly-fearful awe doesn't seem to have an appropriate font, so I'm going with the italics.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

the arthritis thing

I'm sticking with semi-denial that I have rheumatoid arthritis. Not the sort of denial where you refuse to take meds, but a surface denial because I seriously do not want to give up having palindromic rheumatism (best disease name ever, with spastic colon a close second) in favour of something as plebian as RA.
But yeah, on the medication side, I'm back on the 'anti-malarial that used to make you blind but probably doesn't anymore but get your eyes checked anyways', while still taking the 'chemotherapy drug that may cause liver damage, anaemia, pulmonary fibrosis but probably not in the dosage you're taking'. And I hardly ever have to take the 'anti-inflammatory that may eat your guts out'.
I'm now taking two drugs that disallow alcohol, so my 3 drinks a week probably has to drop to 1 (so it had better be a good one, like B&B or port). I feel oddly rueful about this, as if I'd wasted my non-medicated years when dammit I could have gotten staggering drunk! Of the things I've thought I might regret, getting staggering drunk has never before made the list. (Alas for my well-spent youth! I don't even know how to get changed in the front seat of a car.) Not puking drunk, because I figure migraines are a fairly accurate simulation of a hangover.
I asked my doctor whether I should still eat foods that are supposed to boost your immune system. My immune system hates me and wants to see me suffer, so shouldn't I be trying to beat it down with diet as well as medications? But no.

I don't want to sound all whiny, because a) the drugs are working because I can move my hands and so on, with only occasional little twinges and b) no noticeable side effects, despite the long scary side effects lists.
And since a few months ago I was chatting with two different SCA friends, both musicians, both with RA and both only getting anti-inflammatories for it--nope, no call for me to be whiny.

My real purpose in posting is to direct you to the bloggess's posts about arthritis, about which she is much, much funnier than me. Actually, about anything, especially the giant labia.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lincoln to Diss via Jane

UK 08 continued: A lovely breakfast at Orchard House, Lucia's veg preferences cheerfully accommodated, and much chat from our host about recent floods and subsequent renovations. He'd thought being on a hillside would be decent protection against flooding, but the running-downhill part sent a cascade through the kitchen. The commonality of household disasters holds true.
I finished Forbidden Magic by Jo Beverley and passed it on to Lucia last night. It's odd that it has random features in common with The Reluctant Smuggler (which I left in Vancouver Airport as an unofficial Book Crossing). Both have heroes with unbalanced mothers and a fear of inherited madness, and households employing scarred or handicapped servants who are fiercely loyal. The Beverley book was more engrossing (one of those given away at Potlatch the month before), so I was glad to share it.

Jane (Lucia's GPS) guided us safely to King's Lynn (though I have maps printed out for backup), where we waited at the slightly grubby Victorian train station for Mark.
I know it's King's Lynn and not East Lynne, but I still found myself murmuring 'Dead! And never called me mother!' at odd moments.

On to Diss and Wingfield, with Jane directing us through tiny country lanes and up and down surprising hills, considering that East Anglia is pretty flat. Triumphant (not to mention relieved) arrival at Gables Farm, where we unload quickly and set off for Wingfield College.
We are late additions to the tour, which had been mistakenly described as full. Fortunately Mark had asked further, and since everyone knows everyone else locally, that was sorted out.

Above is the church, St. Andrew, Wingfield. Wingfield is called College because it was a chantry college, turned into a private residence and later disguised as a nice symmetrical Georgian house instead of a muddly Great Hall and dormitories etc. We started in the church, which is a lovely 14th-15th c. building. Like most of the Suffolk churches we visited, it's much larger than it's ever needed to be for the population it served. In this case it has an excuse, having been built by a wealthy and powerful family.

Here's the church from the back of Wingfield College, past the garden topiary. There's a porch on this side, because of the college.
Inside is much lighter than you might expect, because of the many windows and the pale stone (I'm not sure where it was brought from).
Peter, present owner of the College and giver of the tour, is a thin, youngish fellow with curly black hair and an air of restrained energy, as if he'd like to race off somewhere. He directs us to sit in the choir stalls, ranks of inset seats with carved arm-rests. Once we're in place, he breaks the news that our seats date from the 14th century.
You can see here the misericordia, the underneath of the proper seat, which swung up (like theatre seats today) to lie against the back. Little bum-rests protrude so that you can park your buttocks during a long service and remain standing--to all appearances.
I was a bit disappointed that the misericordia weren't carved into scenes or animals, just some sedate vinery, but one can't have everything, and there were heads carved for armrests, and elsewhere a few cheerful dogs, which came out fuzzy in my photos, unfortunately.

Mark and I took many photos in the church, particularly of the two effigies and their costume details, but I won't reproduce them here because I can't assume my assumed readers are medieval-costume-and-armour wonks. I was excited to discover some remaining paint on the underside of both--that frustrating phrase that occurs in so many museum catalogues, 'traces of polychrome'--and got photos of every stain, though it might not be safe to assume any of it was original. Simon's pictures (on the Suffolk Churches site) are much better than mine, but I may post a couple of features he didn't include, later.

Then across the way to the College itself. You can see that it looks rather Georgian from the outside, but as Peter explained, closer examination shows that one of the windows is false, and the lack of symmetry is disguised by the placement of a tree in the front drive.
We had a look at the front parlour, with a tidy little Georgian fireplace, then into the restored Great Hall.
The best aspect of Wingfield is how much of the original structure remained, hidden under Tudor and Georgian overlay. The massive original beams and posts, the 14th century windows, the wattle-and-daub or brick-nogging inlay between the posts. It's rather like Hemingford Grey in that respect. The tricky thing about England is that the later overlays can end up having their own historical significance, so that to get at the 14th century beams, you may have to decide whether to remove some attractive 17th century plasterwork.
The Victorian bell-pulls to summon servants have been retained in what was the servants' wing.

Underneath the 14th c. window is a 16th c. screen carved with linenfold panels and the likenesses of the then-patrons: Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, his wife Mary (sister of Henry VIII: romantic story attached to that) and their son.

Our party is led through the rest of the house, including a bathroom with a carved oak close-stool and a huge metal bath, not native to the house but brought by Peter and his wife from their old flat in Paris. It's clearly a lived-in house, with a row of brightly-coloured small shoes and boots along one wall, and children's watercolour paintings pinned to a string across the bedroom. The floors are built of great wide planks that have shrunk and warped so that in some places thin strips of modern wood have been jammed between them to prevent the loss of marbles and small toys.

Last scheduled stop is the kitchen, where a long table is laid with tea and homemade cakes (included in cost of tour) Victoria sponge cake, gingerbread, and sticky date cake. I will bear witness that Jane (Peter's wife, not Lucia's GPS) would do well running a tea-shop if she ever needed a second career. In fact, thinking about this makes me want to make gingerbread, though mine isn't as good. Mmm.
Then we're turned out to the gardens, where the squared-off body of water is a fishpond, not a moat, and has a wall marching down into it, which Peter hopes to excavate and study some day.
Mark, Lucia, and I wander through the gardens, then go for another look at the church and more photos. Of which, more later.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

But I gave away no prized possessions

Unless blank notebooks count?
I flew to San Francisco for Potlatch, and this being the 3d I've attended, perhaps I've become a regular? Unless the Bay Area fandom that runs it is so longstanding and tight-woven that it's like the Maritimes and if you weren't born there you'll always 'come from away'. Not that I felt at all excluded, with all my VP mates: Evan, Dru, Elise and Lucy. Plus meeting up with Eva who was in the writing workshop last year and getting to compare notes (and meet her little girl) on what we'd been doing in the meantime.
This year I achieved balance--yes! Attended two panels (Books of Honour discussion and a panel on multi-pov as the new century's favoured style), visited with friends, and did the writing workshop. I even managed to sell something while table-sitting for Elise.
We missed Bart, though. Everyone missed Bart.

Workshop: an explosion of attendees this year. Last year, o faithful reader, you may recall that two sessions were required, with Suzy Charnas and Mary Rosenblum brought in to handle the overflow (which included me, and it was a great session). This year there were five (5) sessions, with one instructor each, running at the same time (Saturday lunch). A logistical challenge, especially since Vylar was both overseeing the arrangements and in one of the sessions. But all went well, with only the most minor of glitches.
I got to meet the instructor, Debbie Notkin, the evening before, because I was hanging about wondering if I could be useful for something. And she said she was drawn into my story in the first 2 minutes, and that I am a writer. (internal shouts of Yes! Yes!) But I thought, oh, it might be that 'local dexterity' thing, because as you know, Bob, I had concerns about the structure--it's an unlicked cub of a story. But she thought not, that it required tweaking more than gutting and restuffing.
The three stories (the other sessions had 4 students, ours had 3) were quite different, though all had first-person narration, and two didn't name the narrator. One was probably classifiable as horror; it had no supernatural element, and might well be salable as litfic. I wondered if it had been workshopped before, as it was polished and tight, with only some minor punctuation errors. Wait, I wrote a blurb: "In the 1960s South, three outcast boys unearth a human skeleton, and their imaginings about its past lead them to courage and destruction." I was pleased with myself in the discussion for coming up with a possible way to show the boys' friendship and foreshadow the ending at once, but honestly, the story was pretty much ready to go.
The second: "Members of an experimental utopian community leave their offshore platform for a supply run to the mainland, and return to a brewing storm and a group fracturing under stresses internal and external." This one had structural issues: most of it taking place as flashback and direct explanation to the reader, during the supply run. I found it a frustrating story to critique, because I kept focussing on plausibility problems which could probably have been cleaned up easily, or handwaved past if the pace were faster. There were several Big Ideas, and at times it felt more like essay than narrative, or at least a story that should have been much longer. Probably most of the discussion time went to this story, but it was an interesting discussion, particularly around which elements best served the story, and which might be ditched or downplayed without losing the theme.
Mine went first, because getting it over is good. One of the critiquers wanted more to be explained, which I found myself resisting--not the material culture bit, which for once I had left mostly sketched in and was willing to expand--but the backstory and the motivations of the gods (This space intentionally left blank). To me, much of the point of the story is that we don't know the motives of the gods and have to struggle along with guesses and do our best, with the contrast for the characters of having been 'favoured of the gods' once but no longer. Since the characters are disused heroes, and what (I think) the story is about is 'what do you do when your story is over', I didn't want to be too specific about what they'd done down in the world, only to have echoes of myths to suggest what sort of heroes they'd been.
Which is a dangerous path, as I learned with "Foretold". Hint at gods or heroes, and everyone's looking to figure out who's really Zeus, or Thor, or Arthur. Nobody did that this time, so I may have got the vagueness right for that aspect. So I have to think about how specific I need to be for the plot to make some sort of sense, without turning it into a rebus.
A useful takeaway: putting the story theme into words, somewhere in the story. Usually I have no idea what the theme is, but this time I do, so in revision I need to sneak it in.

Socialising: Evan put up Dru and me in his cool apartment, multilevel with a bay window and view over the gardens. Lots of space but not boxlike, the space broken up into comfortable bits, and bookcases strategically placed. Creambuns and strawberries for breakfast, late night talks about books and writing and slushpiles and agents and reading.
Elise's table was a magnet, as usual. I think each of us VPers was there for some part of the con. She had some helpful thoughts about my plot-bunny, and shared a little bit about her elves in the old West novel, reawakening my lust for her to finish it so I could read it, sigh.
Lucy table-sat and caught up with friends. I hung out with her in the con-suite for a while, and we all went out for dinner, failing at the Fish Market because of massive (and untrue) wait times, then successfully at Bombay Garden. Indian buffet with tv screens showing Bollywood videos. I'm not that experienced with Indian food, but it was delicious and I wish I'd had room for more. I will note that I'd far rather watch dance spectaculars with my dinner than sports broadcasts. Also that you should hire Lucy to petsit your cats.

And yes, I'm going to get a membership for World Fantasy this year in San Jose, so I can visit with people again. Even though I am teh suck at networking. I had cards with me, and only gave out one. I didn't even think of giving one to Jed Hartman when he (browsing Elise's table) saw my nametag and asked if I'd submitted to Strange Horizons. I didn't say 'why yes, and you have one of my stories right now', no, I said, 'yes, a few times' and did not offer him my card. Agh. I am so Canadian.

Books: why, yes, I bought books. Fortunately I'd brought notebooks for Elise, so the weight/space requirement on return wasn't hugely different. Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton, spiffy Tor trade paperback because I'd somehow missed it on the first go-round; Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop (Small Beer); Stagestruck Vampires by Suzy McKee Charnas (Tachyon), Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder because both Evan and Dru recommended it; two Dave Langfords, The Leaky Establishment and The Sex Column. And a few others.
I read Vampires on the way back, and loved "Beauty and the Opera, or, The Phantom Beast". That one's going to stay with me for a while. Mark snaffled the Langfords so I have to wait on them.

Just before Potlatch, I had the treat of a visit from Betty (whom I always think of as Serena, which comes from friendships that begin in pseudonymous societies) for a few days. I had Monday and Tuesday off, so we talked writing, walked out to the shops, and slept in. I got to read more of her long-running LOTR fanfic, which I think has a fair claim by now to being an original story, and was introduced to Crossing Jordan via a fic she's writing as a gift.
Serena handles sex scenes so well, using them to show how the characters are changing while managing both hotness and humour. Given that I tend towards asterisks or some version of 'then they had sex', I should put more study into how she does it.
Also she made a delicious vegetable dish with peanut sauce for dinner.

The month got off to a good start.