Monday, 12 September 2016

The last church we went to see was Thurlton, I didn't take photographs there really apart from a couple of the map of the grave yard and the stained glass window that would have been above the altar - from the outside. Thurlton is a church to which David has close connection so maybe it was out of respect, or maybe it was because we were greeted by two very chatty ladies of the church who were logging visitors and very happy to see us because we were their first and only ones. I think we both went a little shy in the face of so much enthusiasm. But it was interesting to look at and hear David's stories, maybe we'll go back again on a quiet day.  
Hales Church is beautiful in it's way, but it's a strange sinister beauty, where Heckingham felt full of light, both inside and out - with the sheep peacefully grazing in the field at the back and surrounded by soft green hedgerows. When we stepped out of Hales and walked round to the back we were faced with a bleak landscape of ploughed field and smoke rising from a fire next to a modern barn. It wasn't an ugly view, in fact it raised an oh wow in me, it was very rural norfolk, and rural norfolk can be a bit jolie laide. 
And then we walked through a small patch of wood with a large oak all rotten in middle that revealed an empty honeycomb in a fair size cleft between the good and the bad wood. And ten steps on we found a couple of condom wrappers, close by another oak still very much alive and wide in girth and tall, which had a kind of pagan offering quality about them. Perhaps it was only me thinking that. 
Further on we came to a gate with a painted sign saying "Closed. Price List in Shed" no frills, no prettiness here please. Over the gate the track led off into more bleak East Anglia.

Another thing that we took note of was the odd graffiti on the pillars by the front door, there were initials as expected but also lots of crosses and also joined dots that were quite primitive. 

Our next stop was Hales which is said to be kin to Heckingham, the stone carving around the door perhaps being done by the same hand. But Hales church is a very different place. Like Heckingham it is set in the middle of nowhere. It's hard to imagine more than a few in it's congregation even in more godly times. Like Heckingham it is cared for by the conservation trust but seems to be subject to more vandalism. The window above the alter was broken and the chairs were pushed over. We liked it but it was little creepy.  There were stairs up to a wooden balcony and we sat for little while wondering who/how it was used perhaps musicians like in"Under the Greenwood Tree" by Thomas Hardy. Just hypothesis, neither of us knew. We were able to have a good view of the quite impressive wall paintings from that vantage point. Particularly the rather fierce looking man painted larger than life size.
By the alter there's a sad stone for a six year old girl with a carved relief skull. And oddly a pair of little boots on the pedals of a small organ. As we were leaving we noticed masses of butterfly wings on the floor under the chairs, peacock and tortoiseshell. And a wooden cross was chucked on the floor too. There was definitely a discomforting vibe. No gentle prayer here I think. 

Two tablets set into the floor, the bears are for William Mingay, a gent who died in April 1713 and his son and daughter, William and Mary.

And the outside 

Then back to the car for the next on David's itinerary, Heckingham. Heckingham Church is beautiful, It has an extraordinary carved door frame made of white stone protected by a small porch. I took photos but you have to see this  for real my photo doesn't do it justice. This is a pretty good entrance. 
And, oh, this church is something special. It's a small church with a thatched roof in the middle of nowhere, still consecrated but not used so it is looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust and they have done a good job. It feels very old and it feels like it has soul, or spirit, or whatever it is that people conjure from out of the ether, and it feels clean and good and light. I was really a little blown away to be honest.

After looking at the church we wandered down one of the paths leading out of the graveyard which took us along a walkway covered over by branches and then down to some marshy fields, our way was somewhat blocked by overgrowth and as it was raining we doubled back and took one of the other pathways leading out of/into the church grounds and headed towards the river. The path was similarly overhung with trees giving cover to those using it and we thought about streams of townspeople heading to church on Sunday morning, from servants to landowners. Later in our trip when we were waxing lyrical about history again I said that my version of history was really a mix of costume drama and books I've read so may not be very true to how it was. I think David agreed but hey we painted some pretty pictures. 
As we were walking the rain stopped and the sun broke through, we were happy to see house martins,  or maybe swallows, gathering on the telegraph wires, getting ready to head to warmer climes. David pointed out places he had connection, his uncle's farm and a newish housing estate that he remembered as a field.

Some months back my friend David mentioned the church in Heckingham as being particularly lovely and as we both have a bit of thing for looking at churches we went on a mini South Norfolk church trail on Saturday. As it happens our trail coincided with a county wide church trail so we were greeted in two of the churches we visited by welcoming women who were ticking off visitors. 
This was David's stamping ground so he led the trip. Parking up in Loddon by the war memorial which stands on edge of the grave yard. Loddon is a pretty impressive church with an interesting screen depicting a child being murdered rather gruesomely and the aftermath of the murder in which people were framed and then the child was made a saint because the monks in Norwich wanted a saint to rival the Bury St Edmund's saint. I'm guessing Bury's saint is Edmund. That's the gist of the story anyway, more research may be needed to verify and elaborate. There's scratched graffiti too on the pillars which is always interesting, the urge to leave a mark is timeless I think, perhaps an animal instinct.  
Loddon is a big church and at the back there are two doors- one from the porch and one from inside the church - leading up some stairs to a priest's room equipped with a small fire. I think being Vicar of Loddon probably wasn't too shabby a gig in the olden days when everyone went to church. Loddon is a nice little market town that I imagine has boasted all the amenities needed for comfortable living for quite some time. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A couple of weeks ago I found a needle and thread on the street. I'm a picker-up of pavement things  as any of my friends or children will bear witness, mostly rusty bottle tops and nails, and bits that have fallen  off cars, feathers, playing cards, and grounded bees which I put on close by flowers to stop heavy feet from treading on them. But finding a needle and thread felt like poetry. I wasn't very happy that day and it was treasure that made me smile, it had a fairy-tale feel. As my named practise and medium is textiles it seemed fitting and  a little magical, like a gift from outside to remind me who I am. It made me think of fixing cloth, fixing life, making good something which has been a little rent, mending. 

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Every so often in life one comes up against narcissism, one's own and other peoples. In love it's a complete nightmare because narcissistic behaviour goes against everything that love embodies and makes loving excruciating. But it doesn't just happen in love.
As an artist I am conscious of my own narcissism, being an artist demands some narcissism, or is it self worth, because unless your work is photographic in execution, and perhaps even then, it is a form of self expression. 
What tips the balance over from healthy narcissism to unhealthy narcissism ? Is there an obvious marker or does it vary within context ?
Some people seem to have no doubt. For me, lack of doubt is one of the most un-nerving characteristics I can meet in a person. Those who are absolutely certain very rarely give leeway, or allow room for another to manoeuvre, and often they expect the world to revolve around them. I find their company  fairly painful - dull and confining. 
But then the ability to be decisive is also important. Recently when I was making my piece Sutram, part of the pleasure of making it was making decisions about the placement of each thread, the choice of site and materials. And yet in making those choices I have to go through a period of intense experimentation in my studio, making awful things that only really good friends get to see, and the final weeks are full of doubt as there is a high element of winging it when making a work that is designed to be responsive and connected in body to the site in which it is placed. 
Back to narcissism, confidence is, I think, the lynch pin.  As a confident person I am able to own my space in the face of questioning and yet also I am able to realise that questions arise as a result of things not being fixed, that my ideas, notions and being are not the central point but are held within many points, that right and wrong are subjective, and no-ones right goes above and beyond another's right.
I touched upon this in an earlier blog post in which I was looking at the 1998 Human Rights Act which is currently under threat in Britain. 
When I was looking at it before I had a somewhat revelatory moment when I realised that this act covers all of us. All of us. Not just the people who think like us, who want the same things as us, who live like us, but everyone. Under the Human Rights Act (HRA) we are all protected. 
I have slipped away from narcissism, or have I ? A narcissist suffering from NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) would put their needs above anothers without any doubt or recourse to conscience. Is it possible that a country or culture could be considered narcissistic ? Is war narcissistic ?  In peace there is no one better.  A leader who advocates peace is surely worth hundreds who advocate war. War seems to be the ultimate narcissistic act and the use or trading of weaponry for social, political or financial benefit suggest a peculiarly oblivious kind of mentality - psychotic or stupid or both. 
I'm musing about this stuff because it messes with my head and taking it out of my head and putting it on paper or in a blog or into a piece of work allows me to see my questions from outside of myself. My self is important to my well being, of course, and it is ultimately where my work stems from, but I am just one small self, one part of a much, much greater body of selves each one of equal worth. For me it's important to remember that. 

Perhaps I should add as a post script that confidence fluctuates and there are times and situations when my confidence plummets. I think that confidence is built in us as children and childhood is an emotionally dangerous time because we are subject to those who care for us. If we have been lucky we will grow through childhood to be balanced beings able to meet, know and measure our own needs and other people's and make appropriate decisions accordingly. But I suspect this is less common than it is desirable, and so this balancing act is something ongoing for all of us, all the time, unless we hide away and never meet another person. For me claiming and maintaining my self esteem is a challenge I am still working to meet. But thankfully I am beginning to understand that my worth is not measured against another, or by another, and that i am equal to, tho' not the same, as most people I meet.