Tuesday, September 1, 2009
St. Lawrence's Church in Lechlade was completed by 1476, but excavations reveal an earlier foundation and burials dating back to Saxon times. There is mention of the parish of Lechlade in the Domesday Book of 1086. The first mention of the dedication church to St. Lawrence was noted in 1255. The church was one of the few in England with the privelege of sanctuary.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
We are still waiting.
When you think about it, the lack of response from the aliens out there is quite staggering. The earth after all, is over 4 billion years old and the universe itself, is 14 plus billion years old. Enough, already. Forget time travel, parallel universes, and worm holes. If someone, intelligent enough as we are, has been working on this problem of contacting intelligent life out there, and has failed for 10 billion years more or less, then the likelihood of finding intelligent life anywhere is slim.
Still, we keep trying.
I am reminded of Sisyphus, who was doomed to roll a heavy rock up a hill for eternity, only to have it roll back during the night so that he could start all over again. It is an existential nightmare, but it is our nightmare, and so we embrace it.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Villagers had removed from the crashed plane its radio transmitter, weapons, ammunition, and explosives. When the German authorities learned of this, they took hostages from the village and threatened to burn it. Living in the village was the French widow of a German Colonel, who had died in 1913. She interceded with the authorities and obtained the release of the hostages and cancellation of the order to burn the village.
The Airmen who died in the plane crash are buried in the village cemetery of Graffigny-Chemin.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Ever since I can remember, I have thought about escaping from my mundane life into a world of excitement and adventure.
It is the wish, I imagine, of most small town boys boys and girls to want to strike out and find something new and different. Main Street, Winesburg Ohio, Our Town, books that I read in high school, revealed to me that this need was epidemic. The longing to leave is epidemic.
This last Saturday,
I dropped my son Will off in Emporia where he was trying out for an Olympic High School Development is expressed in many ways.Program. With the whole day to kill while I waited for Will, I brought my kayak along, hoping to find a river or stream to navigate.
Hartford, Kansas is north of Emporia and just off I35 on the way to Kansas City. The town survives on farming, and by survives I mean that like so many other small Kansas towns, it is hanging in there. Opportunities for high school students are limited. If you don't farm, you pretty much don't do anything.
At the north end of the town is a bridge. It looks like the "bridge to nowhere". It leads into the Flint Hills Park, but that is one way trip down gravel roads that end at the John Redmond Reservoir. If you really want to leave Hartford, you need to go back the other way, hop on I35 and head north to Kansas City.
The bridge is now the haunt of high school kids who wanting to express themselves, paint the bridge and not the town. From its railings these kids can look out and wonder where the river of life will lead them. Right now the bridge serves as a way to express loves, memories, feelings, and hopes. In a greater sense it expresses hope that out there somewhere there is more.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Julie is Julie Powell whose blog the Julie/Julia Project, a race to complete 524 recipes in 365 days, becomes a blog sensation, followed by a book and a movie. (Watch the trailer.) Julia of course is Julia Child, cook, author, and TV sensation.
If your looking for the original blog, there is little that is left other than a tribute posted on Julia's death in 2004. And, yes Julie has created a new blog to record her experiences as she deals with fame and fortune, but apparently lighting does not strike twice with Julie; her blog has none of the appeal of the original.
A no-holds-barred movie review.
Having just come back from Paris this summer, I loved the scenes in the movie. Shakespeare and Company, the bookstore, is still there on the Left Bank. Yes, it is the bookstore that Hemingway frequented when he had no cash and was struggling as a writer. The subway scene was also real, the only change was finding a metro train that was vintage. Sadly, the French open-air markets where one went to buy fresh produce are gone. But, one can still find patisseries, boulangeries, and the other small specialty shops where Parisians love to shop.
Read the N.Y. Times story as Julie goes into the homestretch on her blog.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Read about the poet Shelley's trip up the river Thames with his wife Mary Shelley.
"The weeds above Lechlade became so thick that ...tugging and pulling [they] could not move the boat an inch..." They returned to Lechlade and stayed at the inn.
In Lechlade Shelley's thoughts turned to writing and the self-reflection that writing creates:
"A mirror would be held up to all men in which they might behold their own recollections, and in dim perspective - their shadowy hopes and fears, all that they dare not, or daring and desiring, they could not expose to the open eyes of day."
The writer's passage from sensation to reflection is sometimes so difficult and dizzying that one "dares not look behind".
"THE wind has swept from the wide atmosphere
Each vapour that obscured the sunset's ray,
And pallid Evening twines its beaming hair
In duskier braids around the languid eyes of Day:
Silence and Twilight, unbeloved of men,
Creep hand in hand from yon obscurest glen.
The dead are sleeping in their sepulchres:
And, mouldering as they sleep, a thrilling sound,
Half sense half thought, among the darkness stirs,
Breathed from their wormy beds all living things around,
And, mingling with the still night and mute sky,
Its awful hush is felt inaudibly.
Thus solemnized and softened, death is mild
And terrorless as this serenest night.
Here could I hope, like some enquiring child
Sporting on graves, that death did hide from human sight
Sweet secrets, or beside its breathless sleep
That loveliest dreams perpetual watch did keep."
What follows is a summary of the economic history of Langford Downs (Langford Downs, a farm north of Leclade, should not be confused with the nearby town of Langford.):
The enclosure of common lands occurred throughout English history. Motivation was the improvement and profitable use of common land. Enclosure in and around Lechlade was carried out under a private Act of 1808 promoted by the rectors of the several churches holding land and other freemen. "Among leading farmers, ... the rector’s lessee received 450a., Richard Wells and William Young of Langford Downs farm 380 a., mostly for
History of Langford Downs
Langford Downs was newly built and one of the larger enclosures at 380 acres.
Whether as a landowner or as a tenant, my family possessed the farm for a period of time in the mid to late 1800's. This statement is based only on the picture of the house of Langford Downs passed on to my by my father Arthur Harvey Davis, Jr.. Wouldn't it be nice to confirm this from the land records?
By 1910 Langford Downs farm was enlarged to 424 acres, while by comparison Kelmscott estate, the summer home of William Morris, was 99 acres. (The image of hay is from Kelmscott.)
The late 19th and early 20th centuries was a difficult for Langford's farmers as imports of cheap foodstuffs undercut the British farmer. Dairy herd were introduced to many farms to increase profit. By the beginning of World War II, "Langford Downs farm was 72 per cent arable and had a flock of over 400 sheep. The chief crops were still wheat, barley, and oats, together with root crops. All the farms had dairy herds, most raised pigs and poultry, but only Langford Downs and Rectory farms kept flocks totaling nearly 1,000 sheep."
History of Langford Downs, page 19.
Anecdotally, when I was in England in 1979, I spoke with a Mr. Davis who had owned the chemist shop in Lechlade. (The picture of Langford Downs house that I have spoken of earlier was developed at his shop, but presumably from an earlier date.) He was, to my knowledge the last remaining Davis still living in the area. He was then in his seventies and childless. He claimed that Langford Downs was a chicken farm. My wife Robin was then and now much amused.
On another occasion in 2009 I again visited Lechlade and spoke with the historian of the church in Lechlade. As a young man growing up he remembered Mr. Davis (first name forgotten) and described him as a bit of a character, so that one has to question the characterization of chicken farmer.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Julie married Charles Guillame Christian Meine at a date unknown. They had two children, my grandmother, Marguerite Tony Lilly Meine and her older sister, Marie Leunn Paula Meine. both birthdates unknown.
"Julie Laura Emma" - such English names for a proper French girl. The name "Emma" I can guess is the subject of Jane Austin's 1815 novel of the same name.
"Emma Woodhouse is a young, beautiful, witty, and privileged woman in Regency England. She lives on an estate in Surrey in the village of Highbury with her father, a hypochondriac who is excessively concerned for the health and safety of his loved ones." EmmaJulie Chevallier would have been like the Emma of Jane Austin's novel. My great grandmother was the daughter of a comparatively wealthy landholder in Graffigny; not that Graffigny was itself large or wealthy by any means, but her family was wealthy enough to own a second home in Switzerland and to properly educate the daughter so that she spoke several European languages.
The names "Julie" and "Laura" I will have to leave for later.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
If you are not fifty, or at least forty, go no further.
Now ask yourself if, when you get up in the morning, are you feelin' it?
Or, maybe, after you have been sittin' in a chair for a long time or driving across country and you stop to get out and gas up, are you feelin' it?
For a hoot, listen to Leonard Cohen's Tower of Song on youTube.
Pictures can often be dated by both the subject's fashion and stance. Compare the photograph of my grandmother Marguerite Chevalier Meine with John Singer Sergeant's 1897 painting of a fashionable couple.
"Women's dress in the 1890's continued to be built in a sturdy, heavy, upholstered style, but the silhouette changed to that of an hour glass. Female bodies were corseted to a small waist, and then padded in the buttocks, hips, bosom and sleeves to exaggerate the apparent wasp-waisted effect."
Tara McGuiness, The History of Fashion and Dress
My family history relates that my grandfather James Madison Pearson saw action in World War I with the 2rd Infantry Division and with the 3nd Infantry Division.
In the spring of 1918, with close to 50 divisions freed by Russia's withdrawal from the war, the German Army launched successive attacks on the Western Front, hoping to defeat the Allies before United States forces could be deployed.
The 2nd Infantry Division was organized in October 1917 and headquartered at Bourmont, Haute Marne, France. In June of 1918, the 2nd Infantry Division stopped a German advance at Belleau Wood. At Belleau Woods, the 2nd Infantry Division was three times awarded the French Croix de Guerre for gallantry under fire. The 2nd Infantry Division was next committed to a German advance on Paris and the battle at Chateau-Thierry.
The 3rd Infantry Division was posted to a position protecting Paris on the banks of the Marne River. In July of 1918, the 7th Machine Gun Battalion of the 3rd Division rushed to Chateau-Thierry amid retreating French troops and held back the Germans. While other units retreated, the 3rd Infantry Division remained rock solid and earned its reputation as the "Rock of the Marne".
My grandfather received numerous medals, including the Silver Star, Croix de Guerre, and Purple Heart during his service with the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Divisions. He was wounded in action and treated at a hospital in Graffigny-Chemin, near Bourmont. It was here that he met and wed my grandmother, Marguerite Chevalier (Chevallier) Meine.
'You will jump with joy at the date of this letter, and you will say, 'Ah! mon Dieu! she is finally at Cirey.'
- letter Mme de Graffigny to a young friend, on her arrival at Cirey, December 1738
Madame de Graffigny was a middle-aged woman who lived at Luneville, the provincial court of Stanislas, the last Duke of Lorraine. She was a real-life Madame Bovary who long dreamed of a more elegant way of life, divorced her husband and, penniless, managed to get herself invited to Cirey where she joined Voltaire and Emile du Chatelet.She is remembered for her letters recounting her stay collected in Besterman's edition of Voltaire's correspondence and paraphrases in Frank Hamel's, An Eighteenth-Century Marquise: A Study of Emilie du Châtelet and Her Times (London, 1910).
Read David Bodanis's review.
Read The Life of Voltaire by Stephen G. Tallentyre.
Madame de Graffigny wrote Letters from a Peruvian Woman, a satirical description of the conditions of French women seen through the eyes of an outsider Zilia, an Incan princess - captured, rescued, and then educated in French culture, who talks about language, literature, philosophy, education, and child rearing.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Here is a picture of Maruerite with her older sister.
My grandfather was serving with the 2nd Infantry Division under General Black Jack Pershing. My grandfather received the Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Legion of Merit among his many decorations. He was wounded in battle and treated at the hospital in Graffigny where he and my grandmother most likely met.
Here is a photograph of the house in Graffigny where my grandmother was raised.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
From small beginnings, great things happen.
And so, on a warm summer July day in Twyford, England, this mere pip of a pumpkin has taken hold. In time, weather permitting, this pip will blossom into the biggest pumpkin in all of Twyford, England.
The owner is no other than Adam Workman, winner of last year's prestigious "Biggest Pumpkin in Twyford" award. Oh yes, the beer is the secret. Everything looks bigger and better after you have had a pint or two.
As those move easiest who have learn'd to dance.
'Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense. "
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism: Part 2, 362-365
I'll bet you didn't know that Benjamin Franklin lived in Twyford, England. It was here in 1771 that he began work on his autobiography. The village is on the river Itchen, a short three miles from historic Winchester, the capital of King Alfred's England.
I'll bet you didn't know that Alexander Pope went to school here, but so do Ollie and Charlie Workman. Charlie studies Mandarin Chinese and loves to draw. Ollie loves to act in school plays.
This is the house in Twyford where at the age of 65, Franklin began work on his autobiography. Adam Workman and family also lived in this house. More.
The Flint Hills of Kansas are a band of hills in eastern Kansas stretching from just north of Wichita to south of Emporia. They can be viewed along Interstate 35 or more scenically from Highway 77.
What is flint? Mineralogical, flint is simply black chert. Chert is a sedimentary rock composed of silicon. The silicon is formed from diatoms - microscopic, single-celled algae that lived during the Cretaceous era when Kansas was an inland sea.
Technically, flint is a finer grain chert and capable of producing a spark when hit against steel. This is not the case with the chert or flint or the Flint Hills. The rocky chert of the Flint Hills renders farming impossible except along the river beds, but allows for cattle ranching.
"The reality of the flint verses chert debate is that in most cases it is something like 'splitting hairs', there really is very little difference, chemically speaking. Artifact collectors tend to call materials that have a more waxy luster 'flints' and those which have less luster to no luster 'cherts'. The difference between them lyes in their purity relative to pure quartz and their matrix particle size. The smaller the particle size and the purer the material, the more likely we collectors would be to call the material flint. To a purist, we would be wrong. A generalist would say 'close enough'."
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Eventually, everything changes.
For fifteen years I have traveled to Berkley Springs and then, for exercise and peace, found my way through the woods to the top of the mountain that looks down on the Shenandoah River. The forest is full of deer. Tall and stately oak trees are mixed in with the lower climbing sassafras and red bud. Ferns dot the undergrowth and lichen covers the exposed rocks.
Imagine my disappointment - I pull up to the trail head and find a big yellow No Trespassing sign warning me that if I should set foot on this pristine woodland path, I "would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."
Joni Mitchell said it all years ago:
"They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know
What you got til its lost...."
Oh yes, I still went on the trail, up to the top of the mountain and yes, the Shenandoah is still there.
Alone among all the citizens of Frederick, she was demonstrating her opposition to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson's troops, who were passing through in Lee's Maryland campaign of 1864. The rebel troops shot at the flag and broke the staff....
Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff
Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.
She leaned far out on the window-sill,
And shook it forth with a royal will.
'Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag,' she said.
A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,
Over the face of the leader came;
The nobler nature within him stirred
To life at that woman's deed and word;
'Who touches a hair of yon gray head
Dies like a dog! March on! he said...
The poem by John Whitleaf Whittier.
This rectangular extension table of solid white oak is fit for a feast.
After you select the right table, you can change its style by changing its edge or legs. The edges add character without adding cost. Most legs are interchangeable without changing a table's price.
The Extra Large Turned and French Regency legs are thicker and carry some additional cost. Our Turned and Tapered legs are also available in counter height. This option will raise the height of a table from 30" to 36".
Click here to see how.
Each piece of furniture is made by hand. The artisan signs and dates his or her work. Gat Creek exclusively uses domestic hardwoods - cherry, oak, and walnut, all wood coming from sustainably managed forests.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The 2009 Annual Homecoming Show for Gat Creek Furniture is being held this week.
Gat Creek features solid handmade furniture from native oak and cherry, with many of the pieces made by Amish and Mennonite craftsmen from Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Some of my favorite things include the solid cherry rectangle table with two leaves that seats eight. This table is available in oak or cherry and with a variety of stain finishes and custom edges and legs.
Gat Creek also hand builds a mission style table and chairs, here shown in a clear unstained oak.
My son Will likes the group Kings of Leon and I have to agree. See them on Youtube.
Other favorite group, The Killers. Like the lyrics, check them out.
Remember the movie "Breaking Away"? I know it has very little to do with racial profiling. But, then it has everything to do with class consciousness:
"Dave, nineteen, has just graduated high school, with his 3 friends, The comical Cyril, the warm hearted but short-tempered Moocher, and the athletic, spiteful but good-hearted Mike. Now, Dave enjoys racing bikes and hopes to race the Italians one day, and even takes up the Italian culture, much to his friends and parents annoyance. While meanwhile, the 4 friends try to break away from their townie, Indiana reputation while fighting with nearby college snobs."
Remember how Dave wants to impress the university coed? How he has to deal with the legacy of being a stone cutter's son, and making dad proud? The point of the movie is that class shouldn't matter.
Before you say that this is a stretch, at least think about your point of view - Judge Sotomayor has a point, remarking in her Senate confirmation hearings, on how her experiences as poor and Hispanic will give her a unique insight into hearing cases on the Supreme Court. We are all biased; it is the legacy of our racial, social, and economic backgrounds.
For police officer Crowley, no man is above the law, neither Harvard professor nor thief, and both should comply with the lawful orders of an officer to produce identification and answer questions. For Professor Gate, his home is his castle; he should be accorded the respect both the humblest and mightiest citizens have a right to regardless of race or class.
As for President Obama, who now finds himself in the middle of a national debate on race, I suggest that when he gets the two parties together for a beer, his idea, he also screens for them the movie "Breaking Away" so that they can all think about social arrogance as much as racial arrogance. By the way, what kind of beer do they drink in Boston?
Officer Crowley arrives to find the caller standing on the sidewalk in front of the home. Crowley recalls "she observed what appeared to be two black men with backpacks on the porch ... her suspicions were aroused when she observed one of the men wedging his shoulder into the door." The caller, now identified as Lucia Whalen, a white woman, does not recall using a racial description of the men, other than to say one might have been Hispanic.
Gates, 58 and gray-haired, was dressed in a blazer and walking with a cane. His driver was wearing a black suit jacket and matching pants. After they forced open the door, the driver carried Gates' luggage into the house, then drove off.
Crowley confirms that Gates is the owner of the residence, but still arrests him for disorderly conduct. What was said between the two and what conduct Gates used is uncertain.
President Obama later comments that Officer Crowley "acted stupidly" in arresting Professor Gates. The black community collectively says, "Right on!" The white community reacts in disbelief saying "Don't mess with a police officer in the execution of his duties." And, we are still talking a week later about what happened and who's right.
Can't we just recognize that both sides acted a little stupidly and move on. Both the racial aspect of the situation and the fact that we are dealing with class - a Harvard professor versus a Boston police officer - means that perception is in the eye of "victim", the black professor coming home from a long trip or the police officer just trying to do his job and getting no thanks for it.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Randy is a pro and he has only been at it for a third time. Okay, he was a little anal about scratching the bottom of his new kayak, the "Swifty" painted a stoplight red and yellow.
Andy, big Bwana as he is known along the river, glides along in his green for go kayak.
It is good to be back in the USA.
By that I mean there is cheap entertainment in kayaking on Satchel Creek leading into Lake El Dorado, Kansas. I can't give too much information, otherwise, it would be crowded with everyone trying to find a getaway to our own secret place.
For starters, Randy and Andy slide like pros into their colorful kayaks.
At first the river is wide and deep.
And then, it gets a little narrower.
And narrower still. Along the way we see strange trees and root formations, pretty skies, but no lions, tigers or bears.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
A picture may be worth a thousand word, but it will never replace being there.
The family had just driven from Tuscany to Bellagio, on Lake Como and checked into our hotel, The Pergola. The weather began to change immediately.The wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and clouds gathered between the mountains.
What had been serene and peaceful, became foreboding.The sky which had been half sun half gray was now full-blown gray and wet. The boats began to rock to and fro. The wind whistled through the masts. The chains anchoring the boats clanged in furious rhythm to the wind.
The rain which had until now held off, began to beat against the window of the hotel. As the rain began to fall, the visibility was reduced to nothing. White caps appeared on the lake. It is the quickness of the change that is so surprising. In a moment the beauty is replaced with the fury of nature.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Along the Champs d'Elycees in Paris, France, Toyota has a showroom for its newest and sportiest cars. Here it is, the 2004 fuel cell concept Toyota Triathalon Race Car.
"The MTRC was conceived to compete in three different environments: an off-road course, a smooth and high-grip racetrack and a narrow city street circuit, as if in a 'triathlon.'"
Will is on the left on the bottom row. Along with Will is Ignacio, next to Will, Pedro, the second to the far right , bottom row, and Jordan, in the middle on the top row.
For more information on the residential courses in Manchester, click here.
Arles was a key city in Roman times. A Roman arena still stands guard along with this dog.
Arles was a depressed town that Vincent Van Gogh came to in the 1880's. Painters can still find inspiration in the colors of the town's window shutters and doors, as well as the cafe at Arles which was the subject of one of his most famous paintings. (You can compare the real cafe with the artist's version by clicking above.)
Today it's a conservative place, the stores shut up shop when the tourist buses go home at six, but the town comes to life for the Saturday market, which brings in farmers from thecountryside, and during festivals of tauromachie between Easter and All Saints, when the town's frenzy for bulls rivals that of Spain.
The drink is a pint of your favorite ale; the food, well, it is heavy and unappetizing. But, the fans come for the football and the ale anyway. Hey, maybe, it is an upset stomach from that spicy food that causes the English football fans to become so unruly.
"Manu," as the team is more familiarly known, is Will's favorite team. In England a great way to start a conversation is to wear a football jersey. You will get a response either way. Loyalties are intense and local.