Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
People are like horses
One good thing about spending a day or two away from home is the refreshing change that regional differences in building materials affords - this clay-tile roof in Salisbury contrasts warmly with the Welsh slate ones of central Bath.
The tourists at Pilgrim destinations also make a pleasant contrast to the traditionally hedonistic ones that flock to Bath as they have been doing for about 2000 years now, peaking at around 1750. My home town is now the U.K.'s number one destination for Hen Parties. God knows why - our nightclubs are all shite, and we have - probably - the most expensive drinks menus of anywhere outside of London.
As Peter Ackroyd pointed out in his 'biography' of London, regions, locations and areas never lose the 'spirit of place' that they were originally founded upon, no matter how developed and modernised at their outskirts.
I just heard that Will Self has written a new book about a brain disease which turned people into living statues, and the setting for it centres in a famous - and vast - mental hospital in North London which has now been converted into luxury flats. Not that long ago, this building had the longest corridor in Europe, at 1,750 feet. There were about 3000 inmates in it at any given time up until the government decided to wash it's collective hands of their responsibility for them, and turfed them out onto the streets in a scheme dubbed 'care in the community'. I don't think I would want to live in one of those apartments, no matter how luxurious.
There are no ghosts in our compact but adorable city apartment. It is a simple and pleasant place to live, though H.I. did once claim to see a cat walk past her when she first moved in about 40 something years ago.
I have spent most of my adult, domestic life clad in stone. Sometimes I look at the wooden lap-boarded houses of East Kent, or the 17th century, dark oak interiors of the Cotswolds - even some log-cabins of North America - and think it would be very nice to be surrounded by a softer, warmer and more fragrant material than hard limestone, especially in the winter.
Much of the woodwork in 17th century houses is over 1000 years old. A timber was cut from a giant oak which had spent - maybe - 300-500 years reaching a size big enough to fashion a great spar for a sailing ship, after it had lain in an airy place to season for another 50 years.
The ship had sailed the seven seas until going out of fashion, when it was sent into dry-dock to be dismantled and recycled into building materials. The great timber would be deliberately set on fire for a short period of time, and this gave it a half-inch coating of charcoal which served as fire-proofing when incorporated into the new house. Fight fire with fire.
Then the house itself would grow old as it provided shelter for generations of humans, and witness all the lives, deaths, joys and sorrows that befall all families. 400 years later, the old woodwork creaks and shifts according to the temperature and humidity, sometimes producing brief, rapid knocking sounds as an old mortice joint eases itself inside the socket.
No wonder these places are supposed to be haunted. People are like horses - scared of their own farts.