Richard III

I spent the morning watching the burial of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, live on tv, an amazing 530 years after his death. His remains were discovered during an archaeological dig in a council car park. They were found, implausibly, beneath a letter ‘R’ printed on the tarmac.

You couldn’t make it up.

Beneath the ‘R’ lay the long lost Richard. The ‘R’ indicated a reserved parking space for the Director of Social Services. It also stood for, as it turned out, X marks the spot.

In the very first trench, archaeologists discovered a skeleton. The very first skeleton, in the very first trench, was a skeleton which was found to have a marked curvature of the spine. In Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard, he was a hunchback. Having been hidden for so long, the archaeologists had hit the jackpot straight away. (Examination would later reveal the King was not a hunchback, but had Scoliosis.)

It was like everything was being engineered favourably in Richard’s favour. He was rediscovered in a remarkable window of opportunity. A window where the technology was available to test his DNA against surviving descendents. A window where his last two descendents, neither of whom have children, were still living and available for comparison.

The reconstruction of Richard.

The reconstruction of Richard.

I’m not a monarchist, in fact I’m quite ambivalent when it comes to royalty. I’m neither pro, nor anti. But I do love history, and the place the Kings and Queens fit into our nation’s past. Richard is an important figure. He was the last of the Plantagenet Kings, and the last ever English King to be killed in battle. Lines come to an end in him. New beginnings occur after him.

The last few days, from when the body of Richard was taken to the Cathedral along crowd-lined streets, to today’s service of burial, there has been many symbolic moments. Soil from three different places was placed in the coffin:from the place he was born, from the place he spent much of his childhood, and from the place where he suffered his final end.

Even after being found, there was conflict: Leicester and York laid claim to him, battling for the right to hold his remains, with Leicester eventually winning. There were arguments about what type of man he was:was he the murderous uncle who killed the Princes in the Tower? Or should he be remembered as the man who in his short reign introduced aspects of law and justice which are still with us today? The odds are that both are applicable. He was a man, a King, of his time.

There were other symbols used in the ceremony, especially symbols of peace and reconciliation:in the coming together of the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches, in the use of white and red roses representing both sides in the War Of The Roses. Being buried in an Anglican place of worship, Catholic rosary beads were placed in the coffin with him. Laid before his coffin was the actual prayer book that Richard used in life.

The service was solemn and dignified, and, yes, historic.

I  loved the poem written by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, commissioned by the Cathedral, and read by actor, Benedict Cumbersnatch. I share it here for you to read:

Richard

My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; you own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …

or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.

Two Years

City Jackdaw has been going now for two years. The time really has flown.

Children, when they reach the age of two, are able to say three word sentences or more, sing to themselves, dress themselves in easy clothes, can be clingy one minute and fiercely independent the next.

I think this blog is developing age appropriately.

In the Twenty-First Century, the world truly is our neighbour. You fine folk who read my haphazard posts live in all corners of the world. Some of you are blistering beneath the sun at the same time as some of you others are battling through snowdrifts. Some of you are alighting on City Jackdaw not long after falling out of bed, while some of you others are just stumbling up the stairs. Some of us are on first name terms, some of us are satisfied with an occasional nod.

It’s all cool.

Whether you are here in my backyard, or whether I have to scramble up my rickety fence to catch a glimpse of you, I appreciate you all.

Hammer Chooseday #7:The Reptile

The Reptile (1966) 5/5

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Harry (Ray Barrett) and Valerie (Jennifer Daniel) move to a Cornish village after inheriting a cottage from Harry’s recently deceased brother. They soon discover that the brother’s death was one of several attributed by the locals to the ‘Black Death.’

In their dealings with sinister neighbour Dr.Franklyn, whose attitude towards his own daughter, Anna (Jacqueline Pearce), is contemptuous, it soon transpires that the root of the epidemic is actually Anna herself, who is cursed to transform into a snake-like creature.

Surely the local folk should have thought of that first? Yokels.

"Get your claws off me, I'm not that kind of girl."

“Get your claws off me, I’m not that kind of girl.”

A favourite scene is the sudden, hissing, appearance of the reptilian Anna, behind an unsuspecting Harry, which is startling.

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Hammer favourite, the splendidly named Michael Ripper, is on hand to help the good guys out. Speaking of splendid names, there is a character in the film called Mad Peter, who ends up foaming at the mouth, his face blackened and swollen, which made him madder than ever.

Oh yeah-he dies.

"I thought you was going to show me around the kitchen?"

“I thought you was going to show me around the kitchen? Where’s all the, erm, food?”

Poor Pearce was claustrophobic, and hated wearing the monster make-up, vowing never to do so in any future role again.

"I've..got to..wear..what?"

“I’ve..got to..wear..what?”

"THATH IT!  THITH ITH DEFINETLY THE LATH TIME!!!"

“THATH IT! THITH ITH DEFINITELY THE LATH TIME!!!”

I enjoyed this film: it is atmospheric and has a climatic ending, despite the death of Anna being somewhat unsatisfactory. It was shot back to back with The Plague Of The Zombies, also set in a Cornish village, and so shared many of its sets.

Cornwall:you just wouldn’t move there, would you?

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There must be something in the Cornish water.

Solar And Selma

I was barely up twenty minutes this morning when I started with a migraine. As the day continued, I heard of other similar sufferers of either migraines or it’s lesser cousin-the headache. Perhaps it was all down to this solar heebie-jeebie stuff. I’m not even sure if that is a real word:heebie-jeebie. My autocorrect and I have been at loggerheads about it for the last five minutes.

I remember the 1999 eclipse. I had planned to head down south, with a few friends and a ramshackle caravan in tow, to experience the effects of a total eclipse in Cornwall. We had been seduced by predictions of confused birds falling silent, street lights coming on, and other jumbled moments of delirious confusion.

But, for a number of reasons, I had to cancel. Instead, I had to make do with a partial eclipse as experienced up here in Manchester.

I was a postman at the time, and was sulkily riding my bike on my second delivery through an industrial patchwork of warehouses and factories. I remember a couple of metalworkers stood outside in a car park, viewing the event through their welding helmets for safety’s sake. Wonder if they had headaches, though?

This morning I was set to head into Manchester, where I was going to watch the movie Selma at the cinema, but first I wanted to take in the eclipse, predicted to peak near us at 9.32am. I went out into the back garden, fearing the worst as the usual Mancunian blanket cloud threatened to thwart everything. There was nothing but thick grey cloud everywhere. About to give up the vigil, though, I was suddenly rewarded by a miraculous pocket of sky, in the exact place where the sun was being swallowed up.

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The day suddenly had a strange feel about it. It was like the half hour before dusk, when all seems heavy and gloomy, and the world is settling down.

Doing the best that I could on my phone, I took this shot, which also includes the barely discernible silhouette of one of my subdued jackdaw friends, perched atop the television aerial.

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The moment passed, the sun began to slowly emerge unchewed from the mouth of the moon, and I left for town. At the bus stop a couple of people were stood gazing skyward as they waited. There was a girl who didn’t, though. She just regaled some faceless other over the phone with the lowdown on her love life. A non-stop rattle of mundanity. A rare astronomical event was taking place above her head, and she was oblivious to it all, cocooned as she was in her own little soap opera.

Her beau was a tosser though. Who takes the piss. Apparently.

The bus came. Before taking anybody’s fare, the driver took a photograph of the departing celestial lovers, now partially obscured by cloud. I don’t think Lolita even noticed. The phone was still glued to her ear. Her partner was still a tosser.

Anyhow, Selma was great. Surely David Oyelowo, playing Martin Luther King Jr, should have been in the running for an Oscar? He wasn’t even nominated. I thought he gave a great performance, discerning film goer that I am. After the film I called into a small second hand book shop (every Manchester visit demands it) and picked up a cheap copy of Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. 

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A free banana came with it. Really-a banana. You don’t get one of those at Waterstones.

On returning home, my newsfeed was clogged with photographs of the eclipse, and many trite observations. (And here I am, dear reader, late as always to the party. Rubbish photos, but a banana.)

My favourite update was the woman who had been looking forward to the event all week, then missed it as she thought it was due to occur at 9.32pm rather than 9.32am. She had planned to buy some glasses in the afternoon, oh so protective of her eyes as she is, until it finally dawned on her (no pun intended), too late, that the sun was not even out at 9.32pm at this time of the year. She would have been ecstatically witnessing the longest solar eclipse on record. She should still get those glasses, though. They will come in handy for the next one in 2026.

There were many, many, photographs featured on Facebook that recorded the event. Some amateurish, some professional, all better than my paltry efforts. My favourite one, though, complete with caption, was this:

No way! Just looked through my kitchen window:

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Hope you guys managed to catch some of it wherever you were, unless, of course, you was stood at a bus stop, slagging off your Romeo. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.