Little Cornard - All Saints

Little Cornard is often locked, but that doesn't hinder the examination of the graffiti one bit. There is a strong mix of both modern and older graffito's, many heavily abraded by the elements.

On the South door jamb there is, what appears to be a swan style bird, but it is very hard to see it in daylight. A twilight visit with a strong torch is recommended!

Finchingfield Dragons

This fine dragonesque reptile lives in Finchingfield . How long he has been scratching at the walls is anyone's guess, and getting his blood to flow would be (quite literally) like getting blood out of a stone.

Of course in real life, Dragon's blood is a plant product, a resin. It is still used in topical skin preparations and to varnish violins!
Let me draw around him to make the graffiti a little clearer. I thought he was a cockatrice to start off with. But cockatrice's are generally depicted with two legs and not four.

He might be a basilisk, The basilisk is alleged to be hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent or a toad (as opposed to the cockatrice who is hatched from a cockerels egg by a serpent or a toad (are you keeping up here?). 
Let's split the difference and call him a Basilicok; that'll cover both bases and give Chaucer a nod at the same time ..."The basilicok sleeth folk by the venym of his sighte".

The vicar of Finchingfield tells me that the screen adjacent to the graffiti is 15thc in construction. Look at this little device. Another dragon, but this time with human legs and feet!

Loss of self

It was just after breakfast, the weekend before last. I was packing my bag ready to go out and look at some ecclesiastical graffiti. I was happy and only half listening to the requests of the younger family members to look for their things, to find their hairbrush/game/socks, when it happened. *It* being the rapid and complete loss of every digital image from our computer. One minute they were all there, all the neat multimedia files, catalogued and ordered. The next minute every single pixel jumped up and whisked away into the ether... gone... just like that.

Voided, vanished, leaving behind one empty, blank, blinking screen. A nihilistic proof.

I shook my head, I gulped, I looked in recycle bins and other partitioned drives and then I yelled. I yelled for help, I yelled for the images of my babies, for the videos of their first steps, for the sepia photos of my grandparents, for the younger red headed version of myself getting married. I yelled for the archive of arts photos, for the costuming source material gleaned from various tombs all around the country, for the medieval graffiti files I had been working so diligently on.

While the larger part of myself was busy yelling, a smaller more controlled version of me was making admonishing noises - "Stop making a fuss" - the diminutive but sterner voice was saying. "No one is hurt - nothing is really happening". Once the immediate shock wore off, I proceeded to have an internal dialogue, with emotion on one side and logic on the other. While I Was having this struggle, in the background, being more useful, was some clever recovery software which was scouring the chaos on the hard disk and retrieving what it could find.

People often say that in a fire they would go to grab the photograph album. This is an example of losses looming larger than gains I suppose. People prefer to risk injury rather than lose those precious pieces of paper. Paper that will eventually fade anyway, albeit more slowly and with less alteration than our memories do. From a logical stand point it makes no sense. The event recorded is past and gone. What are the real consequences of losing those images? Was the invention of the camera so significant to our psyches that we would now risk bodily harm in order to preserve those pictures? Then there is the argument which focusses on the sheer volume of data stored. How many images do we actually require? We can't possibly need *all* of the pixels all of the time. But when it comes to human beings, we’re not that logical. We’re quite emotional.

My photos were an expression of myself, of my skill (or otherwise) as a producer of pictures. Actually they were more than that; they were an extension of myself, of my time and effort and sight. Sometimes I share those bits of me with other people, via the blog, or a survey group or one of the other social media platforms available. I know I'm not alone in this pursuit, in graffiti cataloguing particularly, there are people with vast archives of photographic material.

As soon as the recovery software had finished doing its job I returned to see what was back from the beyond. It was a relief to find that a good proportion of the family pictures had been recovered. Other returnees, for some unexplained reason, had become separated from their date stamps and some now only exist as tiny little thumbnails. I haven't seen any evidence of my wedding video yet. My grandparents photos can be replaced with copies held by other family members. Costume reference material will be supplemented by Pinterest and the graffiti photos are sitting in a huge pile.

The graffiti photos have really suffered. This is because of the way they were ordered (numerically) before being placed in individual church named files. I can only liken the effect to having your filing cabinet opened, all of the green dividers removed, the numbers scrubbed out and the pictures scattered around the room (minus two large handfuls of random pictures). I can make piles of some of the graffiti pictures by date, which is useful if I've only visited one church that day (I regularly visit two or three) but I can no longer tell you exactly where a piece of graffiti can be found inside a church, whereas I could do that before. What is worse is that I know what files are incomplete, because I have paper files that tell me what I can't find!

A week later and it is mothering Sunday. My children have clubbed together, left he chocolates and the flowers in the supermarket aisles and gone to buy me external hard drive. I am hugely grateful for this. Hopefully I won't lose any more photos ever again. Now I just need to decide whether to start back from the beginning again with the graffiti or carry on from here?

(Edit - this event triggered the creation of the Ecclesiastical Graffiti Index.)

Heritage and history

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens was never my thing. My thing was the past and plenty of it please.  I was the child who tried to make a astrolabe, who dug clay out of the garden and who lit a stick fire in an effort to produce a coil pot.
This same child, who used to cut herself while attempting  to knap flint into a useable tool (actually I still do that),  grew up into the adult who dresses up as a Tudor merchant and tries to infect other people with a love of sixteenth century through the prism of historical recreations.
 I’ve spent hours sewing historical costumes by hand, researching the tools, the methods, and the materials of my trade as a felt maker and glover. I’ve learnt the momentous events, (and some of the mundane occurences) of the 1500’s, in order to sound convincing in my role.

 I’ve even been known to talk a form of Tudor-ese, which is painful and comic all at the same time (I'm pretty sure Shakespeare would leap out of his grave and flee at my "thee's and thou's").  Then I sat down to write this blog post and realised that I hadn’t thought about the differences between the history that I study and the heritage I’ve been given.
For someone who likes books (old ones, leather bound and musty smelling for preference) and large libraries, this is slightly shameful. Casually lumping history and heritage together, what was I thinking? They may be similar, but they are not necessarily  the same.
History gives us an account of a perspective. It is inherently flawed (understandably so), because it can present itself as several versions. History involves a lot of unpicking, but even then you can never be entirely sure that you’re reached the truth. It is written by those who shout the loudest and is complicated by perception, prejudice and interpretation. History causes arguments about who is right and who is wrong: in short is it adversarial.

Spend a day in the company of other Tudor enthusiasts working out how you are going to present a station at a recreation and you'll soon learn that you have to step carefully. The "historically accurate" becomes increasingly hazy the closer you look at it. If you don't tread carefully, cherished historical opinions are likely go up in flames, and we all know how much wood smoke stings when it gets in your eyes (even if you are right).
Heritage on the other hand is an expression of custom, practice, artistic expression and value. It builds, not divides. Heritage is tangible in the form of buildings, places and artefacts as well as intangible, as a cultural construct. Heritage’s tragedy is that it isn’t given the same weight as history is, indeed it is often disguised as history and not formally studied until post compulsory education.

 We mostly achieve our heritage by osmosis, and once acquired, it becomes part of us and is passed on by us. See what I mean? Similar but different. I’m not saying that heritage doesn’t have a lot to do with history though. Heritage and history are clearly married. Heritage enjoys history’s embrace; but not all of history makes its way into heritage’s treasure chamber.
Now tangible heritage is a delicate structure which rests on precarious foundations. It is in need of protection from planners and governments.  A perfect case in point is the recent announcement that English Heritage will be divided, presumably to assist in the conquering  and undermining of the planning and environmental side of the organisation.  But if you allow the builders to remove our heritage then you start to dismantle the better parts of our collective identity.
I worry about this. The works of art, the architecture, the place, the cultural idiosyncrasies and the traditions that we inherit provide an opportunity to share experience. It gives a historical counterbalance against a fast paced world where then next best thing has to be purchased yesterday.  Without heritage we become less resilient, more mouldable, and more lost.
I don't expect anyone will listen to me, any more than they are going to listen this long dead old testament prophet I'm about to quote in order to illustrate my point of view.  Jeremiah (17:4)understood the value of culture when he delivered the following words...
“And thou, even thyself, shall discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for you have kindled a fire in mine anger which will burn forever”
Here heritage is presented as a gift, which can be detrimentally lost or removed. History is full of thugs and thieves that have wreaked havoc with places of learning and culture for their own agenda.  Do you trust this administration with the best pasts of yourself and your heritage?