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INSIDE THE MEDIEVAL MIND: THE WALL PAINTINGS OF NETHER WALLOP

In the small quaint Hampshire village of Nether Wallop, filming location for the BBC’s MISS MARPLE, stands St Andrew’s church, a medieval establishment built on Saxon foundations. From the exterior it looks rather ordinary (save for the strange funerary pyramid in its grounds!) but inside is a glory of wall-paintings dating from the Saxon era to the 15th century.

The Saxon paintings are of the Winchester School, usually only seen in illuminations, and are exceeding rare, unique in the country as being the only wall paintings of this date in situ. Angels frolic over the chancel arch, the survivors of a grander mural which culminated at the centre with Christ in Majesty. (Jesus has now vanished, unfortunately,  leaving just the angels on the sides of the arch.)

Along the rest of the church walls are further paintings from the early to mid-15th century, an eroded St Nicholas of Myrna and a wonderfully  vivid depicture of St George slaying a dragon to rescue the  Princess Cleodolinda. The dragon and George do battle below a tall tower, watched by a well preserved King and Queen, the King looking pleased at George’s prowess and the Queen slightly concerned!

Just down from them is a slightly patchy though very large  figure which gives an insight into medieval religious thought in the 1400’s. It depicts the legends of the Sabbath Breakers and the woes you will bring upon Christ and yourself if you do not rest on the Sabbath as God decreed! Christ’s leg is showed being wounded by an axe and a knife; there are also depictions of other tools of the trade from the 15thc including scales and a quern, among others less discernable.

All or some of the 15thc  wall paintings may have been comissioned by Mary or Maria Gore, an Abbess of Amesbury in Wiltshire. Her brass lies on the floor in the centre of the nave and is a rarity in itself–the only brass of an Abbess  still existing in England.

 

MISS MARPLE

 

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1066: A Year to Conquer the Cauliflower….

According to Mark Twain, “A cauliflower is nothing but a cabbage with a college education.” And maybe he’s right, but the BBC documentary series “1066: A Year to Conquer England”, starts off with cauliflowers that must have had a Tesco education.

There they sit, large, super-white, plump, and nestling in beautifully tender, pale green supermarket-trimmed leaves, atop posts that have vaguely human-shaped figures fixed to them. The vegetables are the figures’ heads. Along on horseback, in the middle of winter, at full pelt, come young William of Normandy plus friend, with razor-sharp swords. Double whoosh! The poor cauliflowers are in smithereens.

Now, I wouldn’t mind so much if they hadn’t used what are clearly cauliflowers grown under glass, or something similar. No cauliflowers grown outside in the middle of an 11th-century Norman winter would have such delicate pale leaves. Or such beyond-flawless white heads.

A much more awkward point, however, is that according to http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(95)00072-8 (which in turn quotes from Cabbages, kales etc. Brassica oleracea (Cruciferae), by Thompson, KF, 49-52) “…Cauliflowers were domesticated relatively recently. They were unknown in the early Middle Ages, and were apparently introduced into Europe from the Levant or Cyprus at around the end of the fifteenth century…” Oops. So how could they be in Normandy in William’s time?

If the Beeb had only used a common old cabbage, they’d have been OK, but I suppose bits of greenery flying in all directions would have quite the same impact as huge white cauliflowers being obliterated with such Norman gusto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming up this year:

As you can see, Kit Harrington will soon portray Robert Catesby in a BBC drama about the Gunpowder Plot. Catesby, shot while resisting arrest, was one of 130731-e5cae8c8-18cf-4b66-aa08-3c4ae03e6428the lucky ones. Then again, our folk memory of the seventeenth century is not entirely accurate.

Here it is.

A fictional treason case

In real life, there wercrowncourte no high treason cases in the United Kingdom after 1946 and no peacetime cases after 1913. However, regular viewers of Crown Court, which was shown on ITV from 1972-84, will have seen an episode in which a Congolese man was convicted and sentenced to death during that time. The episode ended before we were appraised of the prisoner’s ultimate fate but, until 1973, had a reprieve not been forthcoming, he could have chosen beheading as his mode of execution.

Here is the evocative closing theme, Peter Reno’s Distant Hills, played by the Simon Park Orchestra. There is also a snatch of “Jeremy Parsons QC” (Richard Wilson, with hair) examining a young Zoe Wannamaker in a rather less serious case. Many of the episodes are on YouTube. Does one of our readers have a link to the Congo treason affair?

THE DOCTOR AT BOSWORTH?

Recently the fannish world was shocked by the announcement that Peter Capaldi would be leaving the role of Doctor Who. Several of us sagely nodded and said that, along with a new Doctor, why not produce an episode which features Richard III, since he has been the ‘king in the news’ these past few years and has a story more interesting than most?  Doctor Who has had over 100 episodes dealing with historical themes and has featured Richard Lionheart, King John and Elizabeth I, amongst others; maybe it is time for Richard to join them (portrayed positively, of course) :

http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2012/02/20-historical-figures-who-have-appeared-in-doctor-who

Of course, many have asserted that for the year 2017, maybe it is time to have a female Doctor in the role of the intrepid time traveller from Gallifrey.  A fair few of us may have considering auditioning ourselves (laughter) if they did indeed produce an episode featuring Richard,  but as Viscountess W wisely said,  while the  Doctors have been ‘quirky’, more likely a female Doctor would be chosen for being ‘perky’ (ie under 30 and scantily clad!)

That said, Peter Capaldi has suggested Frances de la Tour as a possible replacement, so maybe the good old ‘quirky’ tradition would be carried on even if the Beeb does decide to cast a  female Doctor Who.

http://epicstream.com/news/Doctor-Who-Star-Peter-Capaldi-Wants-Harry-Potter-Actress-As-His-Replacement

So here’s a pic of prospective Doctor Frances overlooking Bosworth Field….(hint, hint Doctor Who writers!)delatour

The Black Cat of Kidwelly….

 

The picture left above is from https://tinyurl.com/h3s5pds, the one on the right is from https://blackcatrescue.wordpress.com/tag/black-cat-myth/

Last night I watched a programme in which the family history of the actor Ioan Gruffudd was traced. Rather amusingly, right at the end, he learned he was descended from Edward I, the very king who subjugated Wales. Oh, what a dilemma for a proud Welshman.

However, at one point my attention wandered from Ioan’s very interesting background, because I noticed a black cat badge on the back of a chair in which he was seated for part of the programme. So I searched for ‘the black cat of Kidwelly’, and sure enough, it’s on the town’s coat-of-arms.

I found the following explanation at http://www.kidwelly.gov.uk/Kidw…/kidwelly_history-11133.aspx

“The Black Cat of Kidwelly

“Kidwelly’s Coat of Arms and Official Seal shows a Black Cat. Herein lies the dilemma. The name of the township changed considerably over the centuries. In the ninth century when few people could read and spelling was of little importance, it was called Cetgueli. It was not until the advent of books, newspapers and dictionaries that correct spelling became significant. In the 17th. Century even William Shakespeare, who had more practice than most, spelt his own surname in at least eight different ways!

“In ancient documents, Kidwelly was spelt Cadwely, Catwelli, Kadewely, Keddewelly, Kadwelye, Kedwelle. The “Cat” in “Catwelli” may, however, have just been a misunderstanding about the origin of the word – some even believe that Kidwelly was named after a gentleman named Cattas, whose habits included sleeping in an oak tree in the vicinity!

“Others will affirm that the Town’s mascot was originally an otter. Otters were frequently seen on the river banks surrounding Kidwelly and indeed, one is depicted in a carved memorial in St. Mary’s churchyard. Those who believe the Cat to be the true emblem of Kidwelly, will tell you that the black cat was the first creature seen alive after the great plague hit the town. It was therefore honoured as a symbol of salvation and deliverance and subsequently used as Kidwelly’s heraldic symbol.”

So, the black cat is important to Kidwelly!

To see Ioan’s programme, go to:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04lpbn1

Gloves? Or bare hands….?

enforcer

BBC TWO: Henry VIII’s Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell, information concerning which will be found here.

This programme is very interesting, and I recommend it, but it’s not the content that has prompted me to write this, rather the treatment of an ancient copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”.

I have commented before that some ancient books and papers are treated as if they will shatter if someone breathes upon them, while others – in this case a really old copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth – are almost manhandled. Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the church at Oxford, was, I thought, rather enthusiastically bare-handed with the precious pages.

Why no white gloves and bated breath? What, exactly, makes the difference between gloves and no gloves? It seems to me that not so long ago, they were worn every time. But not now.

Aha, puzzle no more. The British Library has already answered my question here! So many apologies to the good professor!

 

white-glove

 

Perhaps they should call it …

… “Primary School Challenge”?

According to one of the Cambridge teams on January 9th, Edward IV and Edward V had the same mother. According to Jeremy Paxman, Margaret “Beaufort” was married to the Duke of Burgundy. To be fair, she did marry four times, even though the first was annulled.

Oh dear. We dunceindexshall have to fine him.

Brat Farrar

Josephine Tey’s novel Brat Farrar is widely perceived as having been based on the Victorian Tichborne case where a well-upholstered Australia-based butcher’s son posed as the missing claimant to a baronetcy. Arthur Orton/ Castro persuaded Roger Tichborne’s mother that he was the heir to the title, but very few others and lost his court casesbratfarrar.

In a book serialised by BBC1 in 1986, in their classic “Sunday teatime literature slot”, Tey makes some of the Ashby family circumstances different and introduces an interesting psychological feature: Simon knows that Farrar cannot be his elder twin, Patrick, because … but we won’t spoil the ending for those who have not yet read it. This frequently occurs in great literature and Rattigan, for example, plays with the facts of George Archer-Shee’s postal order problems at Dartmouth Naval College in The Winslow Boy.

Is Tey implying something more? We all know that she also wrote The Daughter of Time, in which she employs the device of a fictional mid-C20 policeman to explore the facts about the “Princes”. Is Brat Farrar, written two years earlier, a previous attempt at this objective. Is Patrick actually the younger “Prince” (or a combination of both) and is Simon his, or their, brother-in-law? It is more than sixty years too late to ask Tey but perhaps she wrote about it somewhere, privately.

The return of an old favourite

Time Commanders, the television programme that replayed old battles from a studio and saw a Norman army lose at Hastings – oh yes – is back after eleven years. There will only be three episodes and Richard Hammond has given way to the somewhat louder Gregg Wallace but it will be on BBC4 tonight at 21:00, set in Carthage (202BC).timecommanders

The other battles will be Waterloo (!) and Chalons (451 AD).

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