Sunday, July 31, 2011

As if carrying out a long conversation

Above:  last in the afternoon's circuit was this remote church in the middle of the county.  Hot dog day afternoon so that I almost missed it out and went home.  Hardly anything to see in the village except the church - austere exterior, 18th century brick, a wait for the key to be brought (by an elderly man in cords).

Above:  ornate interior, including this fabulous doric arch over the entrance to the chancel. 

Above:  beyond the chancel rail, in the Sanctuary, two bewigged London merchants (what were they doing so far from home?) lounged either side of the altar, as if carrying out a long conversation to relieve their ennui while they waited for the end of days.

Above:  the floor of the Sanctuary was absolutely packed with marble stones commemorating the local gentry, including this unfortunate Victorian traveller who was murdered by brigands.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tabloid press has systematically hacked into the e-mails of a large range of people

News reports today that the tabloid press has systematically hacked into the e-mails of a large range of people.

This is so serious that the courts need to impose exemplary custodial sentences as a deterrent.

Preferably they should be up before Judge Rivlin, who knows how to enforce respect for the law.

Making the House of Commons more relevant to ordinary people

Dateline London earlier today looked at the 'phone hacking scandal.  They also had some new correspondents on the programme, which was a refreshing change.  I am glad they have not just disappeared for the summer like the lazy MPs (do we pay them while they are loafing around all summer sorry, I meant working in their constituencies).

If "Speaker" Bercow* is serious about making the House of Commons more relevant to ordinary people he should start by giving MPs an ordinary holiday entitlement - 21 days per year plus bank holidays, like most of the population.

* I put the word Speaker in inverted commas as he was not legitimately appointed to the post and there is a question mark about whether he should be included in the historical list of Speakers.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Retraced John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath

Very intrigued by the feature on last night's Newsnight that retraced John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath fictional journey from Oklahoma to California, looking at the the hardship experienced by various communities.  We are not used to seeing images of American poverty on our television.  A report in yesterday's Guardian said that the money markets now see the UK as a marginally "safer" haven than the US.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Some of the best TV ads running at the moment

Above:  screenprint from

Some of the best TV ads running at the moment can be seen in the current Direct Line campaign.  They have dumped boring Stephen Fry voiceovers for a comedy sit-com with clever narratives, true to life characters and very subtle endorsement of selling points.  This campaign is in the old tradition of the commercials aspiring to be better than the TV programmes.

The campaign is by M&C Saatchi:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oxford House in Bethnal Green

On last night's Newsnight there was an item on the renovation of the East End, including the Eton Mission which was an "outpost" of the famous public school in the East End, working particularly to help young people before the First World War.  Toynbee Hall was a similar "mission" set up by Balliol College.  Recently I went to have a look at Oxford House in Bethnal Green which was a mission set up by Keble College Oxford and run along High Anglican lines.

Above:  the red brick building in Derbyshire Street was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield and opened by the Duke of Connaught in 1892.  It has recently been listed Grade II.  The aim of the mission was to physically place university graduates in the East End and give them social projects to carry out.

Above:  the chapel on the top floor of the building.  Empty now, as a High Church establishment it would have been richly furnished.  Apart from the chapel life in the building must have been very austere.

Above:  memorial to Douglas Eyre.  As well as founding Oxford House he is listed as founder of the Webbe Institute and the network of Working Mens' Clubs.  Other memorials recorded other Oxford House personnel displaying similar virtues of humility, charity and service.

Above:  looking out of one of the casement windows on the stairs.  The crushing institutional nature of the building was overwhelming.  Did the High Anglican acolytes who immured themselves in Oxford House ever question what they were doing with their lives? (nothing now remains of their work).

Above:  opposite Oxford House was Weavers Field, an open park.  Although my father came from Limehouse and my grandfather came from Bethnal Green this was the first time I had been in the East End (Docklands doesn't count).  I was surprised at how pleasant it all looked, and how at home I felt.

Above:  the Star of Bethlehem pub in Bethnal Green Road.  Oscar Wilde said: "work is the curse of the drinking classes".  My grandfather, who I never met, was described to me as a brilliant and innovative engineer, inventor of several patents, whose life was ruined by drink (when he died aged 55 the biggest wreath came from the Chandos pub - not sure where this pub was, other than it was in the East End).

Above:  social housing (built 1937) off the Bethnal Green Road.  Nice arrangement of vertical and horizontal lines.  Norden House is on the left, Newcourt House is straight ahead, the slender buttresses on the right belong to a non-conformist church.

Above:  more social housing (built 1922) by Bethnal Green tube - these people were not afraid to put their names on the project.

Above:  the appearance of the buildings on the Bethnal Green Estate is impressive - brick, wrought iron, foliage.

Above:  another view of the 1922 Bethnal Green Estate. 

A 'phone call meant I had to go back to the West End so I didn't have time to see the "Lenin Estate" - social housing put up by a communist-influenced Council in 1927 (renamed Cambridge Heath Estate by a later Liberal administration).  Originally the council tried to ban Jewish people from becoming tenants of the Lenin Estate - so much for the Left's multicultural solidarity.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Populist, dishonest, only wanting power for its own sake

Above:  an interesting article in today's Guardian by John Harris, writing about Employment and Support Allowance.  On the whole I agreed with most of what he says.  And I will have a look at the report of the Select Committee on Work & Pensions

But John Harris fails to point out where this new policy came from.  Judging by the way he talks about the callousness of "ministers" you would think this had been dreamed up by the Coalition.  Only the date October 2008 gives away the fact that this is a Labour policy, collectively brought in by the same people who now sit on the Opposition front bench.

Above:  Hansard records the announcement of the new policy on 27th October 2008.

It is the failure of the Left to face up to what they did to the country in the period 1997 to 2010 that is going to hamper their chances of getting back into power.  Personally I like the idea of roughly alternate governments, with the Conservatives being conservative and the Labour party being socialist (but not mad please) and the Liberals contributing interesting ideas and making extravagant moral gestures.  What I cannot stand are the sort of politicians that emerged under Major (Heseltine especially) and Blair - populist, dishonest, only wanting power for its own sake.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Terrence Malick's Tree of Life

I went to see Tree of Life at the Camden Odeon.

The film has received mixed reviews, and I was not sure what to expect. But I reasoned that any work that has won the Palme d'Or must be worth seeing. The front of house team at the Camden Odeon needs more training.

Long film, but completely entrancing. Impressionistic in style, the director Terrence Malick presents a sequence of moving images that are consistently beautiful. No sequential narrative - the film moves from present day to the Jurassic period, to 1950s Texas.

Performances are excellent - especially Brad Pitt, Fiona Shaw (small part but unmistakable), Jessica Chastain.

The subject of the film is disputed. There seems to be a general consensus among critics that the film is about "the meaning of life". Personally I think the film may be a more specific discussion about competing ideologies - the authoritarian father favours Darwinianism (only the strongest will survive) whereas the mother has a love-focussed philosophy (Larkin's view that all that ultimately remains of us is love).

Ultimately the Darwinian philosophy of the father failed, while the mother’s philosophy of love validated everything.

The film is symbolist in style, although the symbols are encoded in the work. For instance, the title Tree of Life probably refers to one of the two trees in the garden of Eden, which in turn reminds me of the story of the brothers Cain and Abel who were exiled "east of Eden", which then makes me think of the 1955 film East of Eden, directed by Elia Kazan. East of Eden was a 1950s retelling of the Cain and Abel story, which seems an elliptical reference back to Terrence Malick's Tree of Life.

The dinosaurs in the film are more problematic. Terrence Malick seems to be using the creation of the universe scenes to show that he endorses the science of evolution. Therefore the message I gain from the film is that Terrence Malick rejects Darwinian perpetual struggle, widely regarded as one of the mechanisms of evolution, in favour of evolution based on a mechanism of love and mercy.

An ambitious film that aims to unite in a visual work the philosophies of science and religion.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Afternoon drive

Above:  afternoon drive to see one of the earliest memorial brasses in England (there are only four others which are older).  Late thirteenth-century half effigy of a knight in band armour.  I know that many experts say these brasses are not meant to be representations from life, but there was something about this guy's enquiring eyebrows, steady gaze and dimpled upper lip that made me think it might be a portrait.

Above:  I also had a quick look round the rest of the church, although I didn't want to detain the churchwarden (who had disturbed his afternoon to let me in).  There is some magnificent woodwork dated to 1430, including the rood screen across the chancel arch and parclose screens either side which enclose two chapels (you might need to click on the photo to see them properly).  These chapels were the focus of cults dedicated to St Helen (who is supposed to have come from the county) and St Nicholas (venerated by a guild of saltwater fishermen).

Above:  under the tower was an 18th century metal cylinder which contains the enclosure map (marked with tithes).  I wanted to see this, and hesitated about whether to ask to have it unrolled (the churchwarden would have obliged, despite being in a rush).  In the end I decided not to make a nuisance of myself.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer has always been marked by festivals

I am on holiday at the moment.  Not doing anything in particular.  Just using up my annual leave.

One of the interests I have is the way rituals govern our lives - official rituals, private rituals, unconscious rituals.

Three examples:

Above:  the recent heavy summer showers have made the meadows lush with clover or Trifolium repens.  Living in the country, you cannot help being influenced by the passing seasons.  The appearance of clover flowers in late May, lasting until September, are one of the unconscious reminders that this is summer (whatever the weather indicates).

Above:  this London pub has a cider festival during July.  Summer has always been marked by festivals - food and drink festivals as the seasons change; religious festivals of the ancient past; modern music festivals etc.  The ritual nature of these festivals are so ingrained that we hardly notice their influence on us.

Above:  a comparatively modern music festival are the Promenade Concerts held at the Albert Hall.  If I lived in London I would probably go to most of them.  I will go to the Mahler concert on 7th August, and listen to Radio 3 for Grainger on 2nd August and Shumann on 19th August.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Chocolate in India

The market for chocolate in India is one of the fastest-growing in the world.

Three brands dominate - Cadburys, Nestle and Amul (which is owned by the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Board ).

But rather than copying Western products for sale in India when is Amul going to export innovative chocolate products to the United Kingdom?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Chavs by Owen Jones

I have just finished reading Chavs by Owen Jones.  I had been looking forward to reading this book - it had received good reviews, been praised by Polly Toynbee, and the author had appeared on Newsnight.  But I found Chavs to be a deeply flawed work, and on the whole unconvincing. 

Some quotes:

"Demonizing people at the bottom has been a convenient way of justifying an unequal society throughout the ages".  This sounds interesting, but he does not give any examples or provide an historical timeline, we are just supposed to accept the statement.  It might be true, it might not be true.  I would like to know the philosophers, sociologists, political theorists etc who are supposed to be doing this justifying and how they are doing it.

(Drawing attention to the way the media reported the Shannon Matthews case) "The estate is a real-life version of the smash hot Channel 4 series Shameless".  Shameless is a horrible dehumanising drama that defames people who live in social housing, in this respect Owen Jones is right to condemn the way the media uses a television metaphor as a shortcut to an image in people's minds.  But Shameless didn't create itself, it was created by Paul Abbott and I think Chavs should have looked at the way the chav identity has been created and exploited by people like Paul Abbott (rather than going off on a quasi-Marxist rant about class war).

"…the idea that the old working-class had given way to a feckless “chav” rump".  This view is so prevalent now that an expose of this lie is long overdue.  Unfortunately Chavs does not do this.  In this respect the book represents a wasted opportunity.

"Most of us think of ourselves as working class. As a poll published in October 2007 revealed, that’s how over half the population described themselves".  Absolutely right.  Anyone who looks at United Kingdom demographics should not forget this.  Perception is reality, and most people perceive themselves as working-class, whatever their material circumstances.

"Governments have effectively socially engineered these working class communities to have the problems that they have".  Yes, I have long suspected this.  But where are the examples?  Where are the case studies?

"The tragedy is that New Labour bears much of the responsibility for the negative light in which the working class is now seen".  I would say New Labour bears ALL of the responsibility.  The term "chav" was unheard of before 1997.  "Chavs" as a demonised demographic were a creation of the New Labour project - the party betrayed the people they were most pledged to protect.

"In a meritocracy, those who possess the most “talent” will rise naturally to the top. Social hierarchy will therefore be arranged according to “merit”. Society would remain unequal, but those inequalities would reflect differences of ability".  This was the one part of the book that really made me stop and think.  Until that moment I had more or less subscribed to the idea that merit should govern the control of the distribution of power and resources.  Now I am not so sure - I see now that "merit" is a relative concept.

"If we want kids with aspiration we need to give them something to aspire to".  Owen Jones hardly addresses education, and yet it is one of the key issues we need to understand.  How is it possible for money to be poured into education and yet for the chav demographic to emerge?  Why are the schools so bad?

"…hundreds of thousands of people the government wants to drive off incapacity benefits. Yet there were less than half a million vacancies in the entire country according to the government’s own figures".  Not sure this is wholly accurate.  Owen Jones is referring to vacancies registered with Job Centres, but these are just a fraction of the total number of vacancies in the United Kingdom (a large percentage of which are never advertised).  It is errors of this kind that destroy the credibility of Chavs.
So on the whole Chavs was disappointing.  It hops all over the place and becomes a platform for the author's (unsubstantiated) political views rather than an accurate history of a new demographic.  It also seems to have a very flimsy intellectual underpinning.  Out of 213 references in the book 127 (60%) were references to press clippings.  Even allowing for the fact that Chavs is partly looking at the media, 60% is unacceptedly high and represents an exercise in churnalism rather than a serious study.  Original research (mostly interviews) is sketchy, books hardly feature, all that we are left with are recycled press articles from the last ten years.

Above:  letter that appeared in The Observer.

Owen Jones does not properly address the way in which migration has depressed wages in the United Kingdom.  We are told that the NHS "would collapse" without immigration - no it wouldn't, all that would happen is that wages within the NHS would have to rise to attract people into the vacancies (and taxpayers would tolerate this because they will not economise on health care, however much they might grumble).  Before the era of migration transport jobs were reasonably high status (railway clerks earned salaries similar to solicitors' clerks a hundred years ago) but from the early 1960s wages have been driven down in the public transport sector, with a consequent fall in status and perceived value.  There are many other examples in which migration has had a depressing effect on wage rates (and the fall in wage rates leads inevitably to a fall in social status and thus to a fall in social value).  Unfortunately migration cannot be discussed in a rational way.  In the last few days Maurice Glasman has attempted to discuss the effect of inward migration on wages and already the screams of "racist racist racist" have begun - pathetic really.

Above: article on Geordie Shore, a "reality" show on MTV and a recent example of the way in which the chav lifestyle has been adopted with enthusiasm by large sections of people aged 18 to 34.  I really wanted to see this demographic analysed properly instead of Owen Jones rehashing student politics of the 1990s.  Geordie Shore, for all its shortcomings, seems to genuinely reflect participants who live for the "night-time economy" (which was absolutely a creation of New Labour).  It is also an example of the way in which "chavs" are exploited (perhaps willingly exploited in this case) by television to entertain other social groups.  Sexual incontinence, worthless employment (giving out leaflets), spitting into people's faces, bullying and ostracising a group member "no-one likes", obsessive emphasis on visual appearance, implicit violence (I predict a riot was the theme music).  A supposedly humorous, exaggerated and choreographed presentation of a real tragedy that has overtaken young working-class people.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Alexandra Harris and Among The Sweet Green Fields

Above:  Alexandra Harris talking at the London Literature Festival.

Last week I went to see Alexandra Harris talk about her new book Romantic Moderns, which has been praised everywhere.  I have not read the book yet, but critical acclaim surrounding Romantic Moderns has been such that I wanted to see the author while I had the chance.  She began with an illustrated talk, and then answered questions.

"Investigate feelings about home... John Piper is the hero of my book... used abstract art to portray ancient landscapes... Paul Nash wanted to paint England but to also wanted make it modern... he is seeing the modernity in something ancient... there was a trend to go out and discover England in the 1920s and 1930s and discover and understand the country... the futurist movement was fascinated by Stonehenge... Margaret Jourdain was tireless in recording forgotten traditions of art and design... Ralph Hancock designed an English garden for the roof of the Rockefeller Centre in New York... Edith Sitwell... Morton's In Search of England told us to see quaint authenticity and takes us in search of a particular kind of England... SVB Mayes and the folk history of England...the Shell Guides and Shell advertising was bright, bold, modern... there is a tradition of place names in English poetry... the wartime project Recording England commissioned 1,500 watercolours... Blundon said the English had gone on pilgrimage in their own land... TS Eliot felt he didn;t belong, so went on to invent a form of Britishness... I can't believe I have gone a whole hour without talking about Virginia Woolf..."

With Alexandra's talk in my mind I went to see Among The Sweet Green Fields at Cecil Sharpe House.  This is a wonderful exhibition of new paintings illustrating the folklore and customs of a small corner of Oxfordshire.  The combination of a modern style of painting illustrating ancient rituals and places seemed to be a perfect example of what Alexandra Harris was talking about.

Above:  Sunrise on Midsummer Morning. 

Above:  The Earth Was Green, The Sky Was Blue.

Above:  Midsummer Morning.

Above:  Maypole.

Above:  Glovemakers Cottages - I was interested in the way that folk customs were integrated into the daily lives of workers in the pre-industrial period.

Above:  St Fridewide.

Above:  different tribes of Morris lined the stairwell.

Above:  Lamb Ale Kirtlington ("ales" were summer festivals, often linked to the patronal saints of particular churches).

Above:  St Mary Magdalene Woodstock.

Above:  The Hare.

Above:  Harvest Moon.

Trevor Kavanagh (Associate Editor of The Sun)

Very acute and expert interview of Trevor Kavanagh (Associate Editor of The Sun) by Sarah Montague on the Today programme this morning.

Asked about the 'Phone Hacking Scandal Trevor Kavanagh moved from a position of robust defence of the Murdochs to an awkward-sounding (and suspicious) defence of his own knowledge of what might have gone on at The Sun. "I'm only a columnist... Associate Editor is just an honorary title... no-one asked because there was no reason to ask..." etc. Sarah Montague's questions were remorseless.

We are expected to believe that News International's senior executives were too incompetent to know what was going on.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


(screenprint above)

Today's hearings of Rupert and James Murdoch (and Rebekah Brooks, and the dodgy police chiefs) before Select Committees of the House of Commons makes me wish the National Theatre would revive the 1985 production Pravda by David Hare and Howard Brenton, preferably followed by an updated sequel (shown consecutively like Henry VI Parts I & II and III).

This crisis needs to have a cultural memorial.

Monday, July 18, 2011

From today's Guardian

Above:  excellent analysis by Jackie Ashley from today's Guardian.  "Blair's team" don't forget included John Prescott, Yvette Cooper and Ed Miliband - all three now claiming to be whiter-than-white, holier-than-thou and attempting to occupy the high moral ground over the 'phone hacking scandal.  Hypocrisy is alive and well and sitting on the Opposition front bench.

Above:  letter from today's Guardian.

Geoffrey Robertson QC pontificating

Every day (almost every hour it seems) brings new and shocking developments in the 'phone hacking scandal - and yet Daily Politics has gone off on a long summer holiday!

I have just watched BBC News 24 (I am holiday myself for a couple of weeks) and saw Geoffrey Robertson QC pontificating about the Prime Minister's supposed lack of judgment in employing Andy Coulson.  Geoffrey Robertson is reputed to have a brilliant legal mind, so it is odd to see him make such lazy and illogical comments.  IF the Labour government of Tony Blair / Gordon Brown AND the Metropolitan Police had been doing their job in the first place Andy Coulson would not have been available for hire - he would have been arrested long ago and processed through the criminal justice system.

Therefore there cannot be much of an "error of judgment" by David Cameron in employing Andy Coulson.  Mr Coulson had already been given an implicit clean bill of health by the Labour government and Metropolitan Police.  The most you can accuse David Cameron of is being too trusting (and it now seems we cannot trust the Metropolitan Police - which is a very serious state of affairs).

The focus by the media on David Cameron is irritating as it seems to be going off on an unimportant tangent.

The real issue is what happened during the Blair government.  In particular the Murdoch press cheerleading for British involvment in the Iraq war.  What reward did the American government give the Murdoch press in return for delivering British participation in the invasion of Iraq (since it is inconceivable that Blair would have gone to war without the support of Murdoch)?

PS If we are to have a female new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police can I suggest Julie Spence, former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire and the current president of the British Association for Women in Policing, given an OBE earlier this year for "management of complex and contentious organisational issues".

Crusader credentials


As I have travelled around the county I have become increasingly aware of the links that might exist between many of the villages and the various crusades of the medieval period.  Several Templar preceptorys directly contributed to the crusades in the Holy Land.  There are connections with Henry IV who went on a crusade to the Baltic territories with the Teutonic Knights.  Less obvious are suggestions that some villages were involved in the crusades to reconquer Spain.  These are some of my thoughts, not backed by any research, that occurred to me while visiting a village along the coastal strip.  Do bear in mind that I might be wrong about everything...

Above:  the village church, dedicated to St Mary, was holding an afternoon "strawberry tea" to raise funds.  This is a view from the main road of the north side of the church, with the principal entrance to the building through the north porch.  Elderly ladies, young children, various no-nonsense matrons at the tea urns.

Above:  the south elevation, much quieter and secluded.  Note the south porch.  It is not unusual for churches to have more than one porch.

Above:  a closer look at the south porch, which seems to have been added at a later date to the rest of the building (the courses of brickwork do not line up, and the bricks are a different colour.  The niche above the arch would formerly have held the image of a saint.  There is a tradition that weapons were left in church porches (they could not be taken into the church itself) and sometimes secure porches became mini-arsenals where weapons were kept permanently.

Above:  medieval inscription which tells us the porch was paid for by the Guild of St Mary (Orate piabs frum et Guild sororum sce Marie Huu ecclesie quoruin expens t suptibs fabricat).  What was the Guild of St Mary?  There is evidence that guilds and fraternities were active in raising funds and recruits for the crusades.

Above:  inside the church looking towards the inner door of the south porch (which was locked).  Notice the two columns, which are the only ones in the church with ornate capitals, indicating that the entrance from the nave into the south aisle was of considerable significance.  Also note above the right hand column a carved head (looks like a white blob).

Above:  a more general view of the south aisle, which was (in my opinion) probably the focus of the Guild of St Mary where the fraternity would hold their religious services and formal meetings.  As you can see, the other capitals are very plain (also the arcade splays outwards, slightly alarmingly).  Also notice the stained glass windows, which I will come to later.

Above:  returning to the carved head above the right-hand column, this is a thirteenth-century carving with bands across the head and chin.  There are twenty or so similar medieval heads in English churches.  Their meaning is obscure but they are supposed to represent a headdress worn by pilgrims who had visited the shrine of Santiago de Compostella in northern Spain.

Above:  all the windows in the south aisle held stained glass, different from the windows in the rest of the church.  Pevsner is very dismissive about this glass saying they are commonplace nineteenth-century designs.  This puzzled me, as I have seen a lot of stained glass windows and I have never seen examples like these.  Undoubtedly they are mid-Victorian, but it is possible they replaced more ancient versions of the same symbols.  It is worth considering them one by one.  The first held a shield with three crescent moons - a familiar enough heraldic device.

Above (screenprint):  except that the crescent moon is also an Islamic symbol.  This medieval manuscript suggests that crusaders fought Muslim forces with the crescent moon on their shield.  Coincidence you might say.

Above:  the next window had a design of arches, together with the symbols of church and state.  A simple colourful design you might think.  But to my imagination there was something Moorish about these arches.

Above (screenprint):  they reminded me of the arches in the Alhambra Palace in the former Moorish caliphate of Al-Andalus in southern Spain (scene of reconquest and auto de fe).

Above:  the last window I looked at in detail was this stella crown.  Possibly meant to be a crown of the Virgin Mary (but hardly likely in a Protestant church in the mid-Victorian period).  A search on Google Images suggests that queens of Navarre (a northern part of Spain that remained Christian after the Arab invasions) wore stella crowns - Blanche of Navarre and Joan of Navarre for example. 

Above:  in front of it was a colour portrait of Queen Elizabeth II - perhaps propped up there in 1953 and not moved since.  Why would a picture of our current Queen be placed in front of a stained glass crown?  As an adherent of Jungian synchronicity I think there is more happening here than meets the eye.

Above (screenprint):  scene from Cecil B deMille's 1935 epic The Crusades showing Queen Beregaria of Navarre wearing what looks like a stella crown, standing beside her husband King Richard the Lionheart (no doubting his crusader credentials).

Above:  directly opposite the church, on the other side of the main road, was the Saracen's Head pub.  Was this where the Guild of St Mary held feasts and social meetings?  Did they bring back an actual head of a Saracen, displayed on a pike?

I freely acknowledge that this is all supposition and imaginative conjecture.  There is no hard evidence I can produce (by which I mean original documents).  But these experiences have happened so many times to me that  I think it must be more than just coincidence.