Auckland Castle (i)

Auckland Castle (also known as Auckland Palace) in the town of Bishop Auckland, County Durham, is the former palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham.

It houses a collection of paintings known as the Zurbaráns, which are definitely worth seeing.

The exterior of the Castle/Palace wasn’t at its best when we visited as there was some refurbishment work going on at the side of the Castle nearer the town. That was swathed in plastic. (Our usual luck then.)

Gateway at side:-

Auckland Castle Gateway

Bishop’s quarters:-

Auckland Castle

Visitor’s entrance. This may have been temporary due to the works:-

Auckland Castle

The Castle’s/Palace’s chapel, to the right of the entrance, is impressive.

Altar + stained glass windows:-

Auckland Castle, Chapel Altar

A marble altarpiece sits against the wall:-

Auckland Castle, Marble Altarpiece

The chapel organ is set on the wall above your head where you enter. The organist’s access is via wht looks like a precarious circular staircase whose upper part is seen to the right here:-

Auckland Castle, Organ in Chapel

Ceiling. The ceiling isn’t curved. I stitched two photos to show it as a whole. It is elaborately painted:-

Auckland Castle, Chapel Ceiling

Clerestory detail:-

Auckland Castle, Chapel, Clerestory Detail

Marble pillar:-

Marble Pillar, Auckland Castle, Chapel

Mountains on Pluto

Remember those days when Pluto was just a blip on a photographic plate, then merely a fuzzy set of dots on a Hubble telescope image?

No more.

Astronomy Picture of the Day for 15/1/21 featured this photo taken by the New Horizons probe 15 minutes after its closest approach to the (dwarf) planet when it was 18,000 kilometres away from the surface.

Some of the mountains on show are comparable in height to the highest on Earth but of course they are not composed of rock but most likely of ice. The plains below them may contain solid nitrogen or carbon dioxide.

Also visible above Pluto’s horizon is its tenuous atmosphere.

Pluto's Mountains

Tynemouth Priory and Castle (iii)

Outbuildings looking back towards Castle:-

Tynemouth Castle Outbuilding

Outbuildings as seen from east:-

Ruins at Tynemouth  Castle and Priory

Chapel?:-

Tynemouth Priory Ruins

The prominence on which the Castle and Priory stand made it an ideal point to place military defences.

Remains of World War 2 gun emplacements:-

Tynemouth  Castle, Tyne and Wear

World War 2 artillery piece on wall beyond old graves:-

Tynemouth Castle and Priory Fortification

The gun itself:-

Tynemouth  Castle and Priory Artillery Piece

Phyllis Eisenstein

I see from George R R Martin’s blog that Phyllis Eisenstein died last month – from Covid-19 though she had suffered a cerebral hæmorrhage much earlier in the year. Another sad departure for a year too full of them. Not that this year is looking much better at the moment, vaccine apart.

I first read her work in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction way back in the day but it wasn’t till recently that I read her two novels relating the adventures of Alaric the minstrel, Born To Exile and In the Red Lord’s Reach.

I have another of her books on the tbr pile. It will be read with a sense of sorrow.

Phyllis Eisenstein: 26/2/1946 – 7/12/2020. So it goes.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Guild Publishing, 1981, 459 p. First published 1814.

 Mansfield Park cover

Well, this started out well enough: with one of those pithy Austenisms on page one, “But there certainly are not so many men of large fortune in the world, as there are pretty women to deserve them,” but I think it is safe to say that had Austen’s literary reputation rested on Mansfield Park alone it would not be so high as is usually asserted. The main man of large fortune here is Sir Thomas Bertram (owner of a plantation in Antigua) who married a Miss Maria Ward of Huntingdon. Her two sisters married less well, one to Rev Mr Norris, who then was able to secure the living in the gift of his brother-in-law and was therefore reasonably situated financially, but the other “disobliged” her family by marrying a Lieutenant of Marines without education, fortune or connections and so ensured a breach with her sisters.

The Rev Norris having died, his wife moved into Mansfield Park – and fancied herself as running the place. She took it into her head one day to relieve her poorer sister of the care of one of her children and, with the assent of Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, Fanny Price came to stay at Mansfield Park. There she is treated very much as the poor relation, receiving her cousins’ cast-off toys, the room she is given to use having no fire laid, and treated as a dogsbody by Mrs Norris – though less so by Lady Bertram – a dogsbody who should nevertheless be grateful for her condition. Sir Thomas she finds scary and aloof. The only one of the family who treats her with any consideration is the younger Bertram son, Edmond. The older son, Tom, is a bit of a wastrel (as was the wont of older sons with the prospect of inheritance.) Mrs Norris is always complaining about Fanny’s habits and supposed deficiencies and similarly misguidedly sagacious-seeming about what is right and proper. We all know a Mrs Norris. The local clerical living has been taken over by a Rev Grant whose wife’s sister and brother, Henry and Mary Crawford, come to stay and so enter the social circle of Mansfield Park.

Sir Thomas’s fortunes go up and down and he is forced to make a voyage to Antigua. In his absence the Bertram children and their friends hit on the idea of putting on a play. There follow several utterly tedious chapters on which play should be chosen (one called Lovers’ Vows is eventually selected,) who should play whom, and what alterations to the house are required to stage it. Fanny is mostly a bystander in all this but agrees to help with rehearsals.

Okay, this all has a plot function since it illustrates Henry Crawford as not to be trusted – he uses his part to try to suborn Fanny’s elder female cousin, by now engaged to the wealthy (but dull) Mr Rushworth, away from her fiancé – and so forms Fanny’s opinion of him. At the same time she has become friends of a sort to Mary Crawford. In one of their conversations there appears another Austenism as Mary tells her, “there is not one in a hundred of either sex, who is not taken in when they marry …… it is, of all transactions, the one in which people expect most from others, and are least honest themselves.”

The play is destined never to be performed as Sir Thomas’s early return – and high disapproval – puts an end to it. Henry Crawford later sets his sights on Fanny, whose refusal of his proposal mystifies all and sundry. A return to her family in Portsmouth for a period of reflection is settled on and while she is there the later unfoldings of the plot take place, off-stage in London.

As a novel this has severe limitations. Fanny is not a very active protagonist, almost an absence in fact. She has to be self-effacing due to her station in life but as a result becomes all but invisible as a character. The omniscient third person narrator (who only twice interpolates an “I” into the text as a sort of commentary on what we are being told) more often relates events and characteristics rather than illustrating them. This may though be to attribute twenty-first century expectations of a novel on to one two hundred years old. The whole is of course as long-winded and circumlocutious as any other early nineteenth century novel but that cannot really be held against it.

From a modern perspective it is signal that the text directly mentions slavery only once, but that institution was of course the foundation of all that the denizens of houses like Mansfield Park, and their frivolous pursuits, depended on. It was not Austen’s main focus in any case, which as is customary were the vagaries of the marriage market and the gradations of social class. The sections set in Portsmouth do bring out the contrast between the hustle and bustle of life in more constrained circumstances and that in a supposedly sedate house like Mansfield Park.

Pedant’s corner:- Some Austenish spellings – everybody, everywhere, everything, anybody, nowhere, anywhere, background, akin, are all written as two words – staid (stayed,) stopt (stopped,) stampt (stamped,) chuse (choose, but ‘choose’ itself did appear once,) headach (headache; though ache itself was spelled in the usual manner, as was heart-ache, albeit with the hyphen,) buz (buzz,) cruize (cruise,) birth (berth,) or early nineteenth century usages, fulness (fullness,) intreat (entreat,) cloathe (clothe,) sunk (sank,) sprung (sprang,) shrunk (shrank,) etc. Otherwise; “the Miss Bertrams” (the Misses Bertram,) “the Miss Bertrams’” (the Misses Bertram’s,) “the Mr Bertrams (the Mrs Bertrams would be misconstrued; so ‘the Misters Bertram,’ or ‘the Messrs Bertram,’) “the two Miss Sneyds” (the two Misses Sneyd,) “the Miss Maddoxes” (the Misses Maddox.) “‘How many Miss Owens are there?’” (Misses Owen.) “Mrs Grant has has been” (only one ‘has’.) Mr Yates’ (Mr Yates’s,) Beachey Head (Beachy Head,) “a last look at the five or six determined couple” (couples,) some commas missing before pieces of direct speech. “‘- So many months acquaintance’” (months’ acquaintance,) “to stay dinner” (to stay to dinner,) similies (similes,) “by the bye” (later expressed as ‘by the by’, which I prefer anyway,) “‘I did not use to think’” (did not used to think,) “better that Maria” ( better than,) “heir apparents” (heirs apparent.)

Tynemouth Priory and Castle (ii)

We visited Tynemouth again in December 2019 and this time had a look round the Castle and Priory.

Priory ruins from entrance:-

Tynemouth Priory

Tynemouth Castle (entrance to complex) looking back from Priory:-

Tynemouth  Castle

Main structure of Priory:-

Tynemouth  Castle

Tynemouth Priory Ruins

More ruins:-

Tynemouth  Castle  and Priory, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

Ruins, Tynemouth Priory

From seaward side:-

Tynemouth  Castle, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

Stained glass window on small chapel:-

Stained Glass Window at Tynemouth Priory

The chapel feels quite cosy inside. Stained glass window:-

Tynemouth  Castle, stained glass, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

More stained glass:-

Tynemouth  Castle, Tynemoth, Tyne and Wear

Clarke Award 2020

I seem to be a few months late in noticing this. I couldn’t have been looking hard enough, though I posted the shortlist here.

The winner was The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell.

It’s on my tbr pile. I’ll probably shift it up the list now.

Tynemouth Priory and Castle (i)

Tynemouth Priory and Castle are the most prominent (former) buildings in Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear.

It stands on a promontory overlooking the mouth of the River Tyne:-

Tynemouth Priory

On our first visit, in June 2019, we did not enter the premises.

Tynemouth Castle as seen from Tynemouth town. The Priory is unseen behind the castle in this view:-

Tynemouth Priory, from Tynemouth

From northwest, Priory to left:-

Tynemouth Priory from Northwest

Plausible Deniability?

As soon as I saw the footage where T Ronald Dump said he wanted no violence and that none of his supporters should commit any (far too little and too late a disclaimer) my bullshit-o-meter hit overdrive. Am I being overly cynical or is this just part of his playbook? He clearly meant not a word of it. Nothing about his demeanour suggested a belief in what he was saying. In fact his body language said the exact opposite – which I think his followers will pick up on; indeed that it was designed for them to do so.

For I suspect that the only reason he said those things was not to display contrition (it didn’t) nor acceptance of his election defeat (it didn’t) nor even somehow to ameliorate his inflammatory conduct and speech (it couldn’t) but so that if there is any violence, whether in Washington DC or elsewhere, on Jan 20th, the day of the Inauguration of the next Presdent of the US, he can then say that it has nothing to do with him and therefore the assault on the Capitol on Jan 6th (and on democracy itslef) was nothing to do with him either.

Markinch War Memorial 2019

Markinch War Memorial and Bench just after Remembrance Day 2019:-

Markinch War Memorial and Bench

Closer view:-

Markinch War Memorial 2019

War Memorial Crosses, Markinch, 2019:-

War Memorial Crosses, Markinch, 2019

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