The church attracted me back this morning - quieter now. More serene. An opportunity to be more attentive to the building and its monuments.
The Luz church has memorials in at least three languages - including one which I first took to be Armenian (there is an old Armenian church in Chennai which I visited when last here), but the church insists is Aramaic.
Aramaic is the language Christ is believed to have spoken. It is still used in the liturgy of a small strand within the Thomas Christians in India - those who believed that an apostle, 'Doubting' Thomas, brought the gospel to south India a few decades after the crucifixion. Thomas was, his followers insist, martyred near Chennai. The basilica which is said to mark his burial spot is only a mile or two distant. The Luz church, as you might expect of a Portuguese foundation, does not appear to venerate St Thomas.
From the Luz church in Mylapore, I headed the short distance to Chennai's crowning glory - the Marina beach. It's a vast slab of sand, once the venue of nationalist meetings, recently of angry demonstrations (against a Supreme Court ban on the traditional Tamil sport of bull taming - the protestors won) and now just a place to chill. Not that this is the word which most comes to mind when promenading in the full south Indian sun. Several of the most eminent Tamil political leaders - including Jayalalithaa, chief minister of Tamil Nadu who died a few weeks ago - are buried close by in what has become a place of pilgrimage. We'll come back to that theme in future posts.
This lone beachcomber was collecting some small molluscs in the shallow water - he showed me what was in his bag. They were still wriggling, and looked like fleshy, over-sized cockroaches. Perhaps, to be charitable, they were small crabs. And perhaps, to be even more absurdly optimistic, they are for use as fishing bait rather than in seafood restaurants.
The saddest sight was this giant turtle - I thought for a moment, when I saw its gaping mouth, that it was still alive. But no. And it had been partly disembowelled. This pie dog knew it had found something of value, something which offered sustenance - but not what to do with it. And it better watch out. That turtle looks minded to deliver a sharp ankle nip.
As to my principal purpose here, teaching broadcast journalism ... I meet the class for the first time tomorrow.
To Huddersfield yesterday - I'll explain why in a moment - and the second time of late that I've been there on a Saturday and so shopped at the excellent tat stalls in the glorious town centre open market.
What you need to remember about flea markets is most of it is complete rubbish - bags of assorted screws, scruffy VHS copies of unsuccessful films, chipped coronation mugs. All those were there - plus some Northern Soul singles, a touch of militaria, and, and ...
Well, look above. I was well pleased to find this - a wartime propaganda leaflet, German, and dropped over Britain, says this specialist website, in June-July 1941, when it did indeed seem that we might be losing the war,
It's cleverly done - much more sophisticated than much wartime psyops material. It proclaims that German bombers and U-boats were decimating allied shipping across the Atlantic, and that as a result: 'If the war is continued until 1942, 60% of the population of Britain will starve!'
'All this means that starvation in Britain is not to be staved off. At the most it can be postponed, but whether starvation comes this year or at the beginning of next doesn't make a ha'porth of difference. Britain must starve because she is being cut off from her supplies.'
Did you pause on 'ha'porth'? Half-penny-worth. It will have struck readers then as now that the Germans were going to some effort to communicate in everyday language.
You do wonder how this fragile sheet of paper came to be picked up, kept (and well kept), and a lifetime later ends up on a stall at Huddersfield market. But whoever kept it safe for so many years. thank you! I don't like Nazi memorabilia at all - but this telling remnant of the most difficult days of the Second World War is a welcome addition to my collection.
And what takes me to Huddersfield? Watching Town, of course. It's an enthusiasm I share with my son. And yesterday they won 2-0 against Ipswich - thanks for asking! Huddersfield Town are currently standing third in the Championship. Third! Just one place off automatic promotion to the Premiership.
And what's particularly nice about travelling by train to Huddersfield is arriving there - one of the most elegant stations around. I've seen some Parliament buildings with less grandeur.
If you ever want to have a full English breakfast in a burial crypt, then St. Martin-in-the-Fields is the place to go.
This iconic church overlooking Trafalgar Square - deservedly renowned for its work with the homeless - has a neat cafe underground. The crypt once housed the graves of the grander among the church's congregation. The bodies of the poor were disposed of with a touch less decorum in the adjoining burial vault. But as part of the renaissance of this church towards the end of the last century, all the human remains were removed and reinterred. The crypt doesn't have any whiff of the dank decay that you might associate with an underground mausoleum. As well as the cafe, the old burial vaults have been opened up into a bright and welcoming conference hall, chapel and public space. Quite a makeover!
But the crypt, with its sturdy columns supporting an eye-catching brick-lined ceiling, hasn't entirely turned its back on its old purpose. The stone flagged floor also features gravestones retrieved from the adjoining burial ground - an area long since redeveloped.
A detail from Baron's gravestone appears at the top of this blog (and you can also see it by the column in the photo of the cafe). It's not unusual to see skull and crossbones in gravestones of this period. But did you spot the spade and pick axe? I don't ever recall seeing a burial monument which features quite so graphically the implements with which the grave is dug.
The crypt has other curiosities. There's a small vault with a part spherical ceiling which has amazing acoustic properties. If you are positioned right, then someone talking a feet away from you sounds so strikingly clear it's as if there's a tiny speaker lodged in your cranium. (You can't get away from skulls in this crypt!)
And then there's the whipping post. That's right, a post to which miscreants were once tied and then whipped. It was once positioned, along with stocks and a small jail, on the other side of St. Martin's Lane. Now it's slightly hidden away in a crevice of the crypt. It's curious that a place with such an emphasis on kindness and redemption should house an instrument of cruelty. But better to be reminded of past intolerance than to lose sight of how we once were.
This whipping post dates from 1752 - the date's just about legible, and a drawing from the Survey of London gives a much clearer indication of the original design. And just as Andries Baron's gravestone bore the image of the skull and crossbones to which his body would quickly have been reduced, so the post records graphically the means by which those tied to it would be assailed.
Henry VIII passed the Whipping Act in 1530, according to a website which has an interest in such things. This decreed that vagrants should be ‘tied to the end of a cart naked, and beaten with whips… till his body be bloody’. Posts came to be used instead of carts, and over time victims only had to strip from the waist upwards. This public punishment was still occasionally used in the eighteenth century for drunkenness, blasphemy and slander, as well as petty theft and bigamy. It was finally discontinued in 1791 for women and 1837 for men.
And if the words 'Whipping Post' stir up some vestigial memory - yes, that was the title of one of the Allman Brothers most memorable numbers. This is how it went:
Sometimes I feel
Sometimes I feel
Like I've been tied
To the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Tied to the whipping post
Good lord I feel like I'm dyin'
So, you don't know where Haggerston is? Neither did I! But it has a station - on the Highbury and Islington to West Croydon route, if you are wondering - so what better place as a starting point for some New Year psycho-geography.
It's in Hackney - sandwiched between Hoxton and Dalston. E8 is the postal area. Haggerston station was rebuilt and reopened six years ago, and in the bright winter sun looks rather fetching - as does the adjoining Stonebridge Gardens.
The whole point of these rambles it to discover the unexpected - and just three minutes stroll from the station is the delightful Albion Square, with a wonderful, almost tropical-looking, garden.
Adjoining the square, on Albion Drive, is the home of Iain Sinclair - psychogeographer extraordinary and author of Hackney, that Rose-Red Empire. And plumb in the middle of the gardens, deservedly listed as a local landmark, is a splendid granite drinking fountain
Venturing on, the real surprise of the ramble came - as so often - on a back street. This 'Gothic Revival spectacle', in Sinclair's judgement, was built as the Hamburg Lutheran Church, its foundation stone laid by the Duke of Cambridge in 1875. Apparently, its minister in the late 1930s was a Hitler sympathiser, and on the outbreak of war he headed back sharpish to Germany. The building is now used by a Pentecostal group, the Faith Tabernacle Church of God.
Still more delightful is the array of adjoining buildings, tucked away from view - these are, or were, the German Hospital.
The hospital was established nearby in the 1840s. These buildings date from 1864. Although intended for local Germans of all religions, the hospital also provided care for anyone who needed it.
By the 1930s, the hospital had almost two-hundred beds. But in 1940 the German staff were arrested and interned on the Isle of Man as enemy aliens.
It became part of the NHS as a general hospital in 1948 later became a specialist psychiatric and psycho-geriatric hospital and eventually closed in 1987. The older, listed buildings now provide affordable housing.
The hospital into which this one was subsumed offered the only modern architecture of note (Haggerston Station apart) encountered in E8. Here's part of Homerton University Hospital - a splash of bue among the rose red:
On Shacklewell Lane, there were two memorable moments - a wonderful old dairy frontage ... and an old public wash house now done up as flats.
I had this vague sense as I promenaded along Shacklewell Lane that I was heading out, out, out - that Newham could well be next stop. Then I hit Stoke Newington Road. So I was about as wrong as could be. But taking to some of the back streets of good old Stokey, I still found some new places to ponder over.
On Walford Road, just two or three minutes from the main road, is a back street synagogue - and independent orthodox synagogue, according to its website, which dates back to the inter-war years, initially serving I imagine those Jews who moved out of the East End for a more comfortable life. Architecturally, it's distinctly drab - but nice that it survives, and as a place of worship too.
Zig-zagging to the south side of Abney Park, I chanced across Aden Terrace, which follows what was once the course of the New River, the ancient waterway which once provided drinking water to the capital. And delightfully, where the river once ran there are now allotments. How could I have never spotted this before?
The course of the New River crosses Green Lanes on its way south and then once ran in the middle of Petherton Road, now grassed over and a long green snake of a dog walk. And on the one-time shopfronts facing the road, one last surprise -
A fashionable restaurant has made a virtue of being located in a former garage - to the extent of keeping the old, fading signboard, complete with the three letter area code.
This is CAN for Canonbury. CAN do!
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