Sunday, 6 July 2014

La Coq Sportif

Here are a couple more pictures taken inside and outside of St James's church in Dauntsey - both by my mate, Neill Meneer of Spirit photography.

I tried to sell an article to a magazine about the Doom Board and its restoration, but the only one to take it was the BBC 'History' magazine, who ended up paying for the photos, and that was it. There was one shot of me, H.I. and a church warden standing inside, and the caption described us as 'visitors'. Bloody journalists usually get it wrong, even when you write the article for them.

The royal crown set into black marble is slightly ironic, because the inscription on the largest Danvers tomb describes him as 'Regicide' - a very rare accolade. This 17th century Danvers was one of a handful of people who condemned Charles 1st to death, then lived to regret it.

The only other magazine which I have sold an article to was the American, 'Architectural Digest', and then it was only the photographer who made any money from it as well. I thought I would get lots of enquiries from people all over the USA for fancy stone-work, but instead I had about 100 companies - literally - trying to sell me their wares. Every letter began, 'Dear Designer', and contained brochures for ranges of truly hideous door-knobs and tap-fittings, etc. Yet again, the magazine made more money by selling my contact details to other companies.

In trying to sell this article, I visited the London head-offices of most of the top-flight, British periodicals, including 'Interiors', and 'Country Life'. I was amazed at how their editor's offices reflected the general message and feel of the magazine.

'Interiors' office was straight out of Ab Fab, with posh young girls saying how absolutely super the pictures were, and how they would just love to have run a piece on it, but they had to leave it a year before doing so, as they had just run one very similar to it only a month ago. Min Hogg walked past me without a word, stepping over a drunken tramp who blocked the entrance to the Chelsea Road doorway.

The 'Country Life' office is right at the top of a 1960s South Bank tower block, and when I was shown into the editor's office, I was met by a man wearing a tweed suit, surrounded by dark oak panelling which had framed fox-hunting prints on its walls. He said no as well, but in a much more traditional way, beating round the bush and mumbling in an upper-class, English accent.

The article was on a grotto I had restored for the late Lord Weinstock, which was very near Lacock, just mentioned in another blogger's post, and I picked up the American (ex-pat) journalist for the interview from Chippenham station.

After visiting the grotto, we went for lunch in Lacock (or 'La Coq', as it was once pronounced to me by a French tourist) and she surprised me by knowing a lot about the architecture there, despite the title of her magazine.

For instance, she pointed to some charred beams set into the 17th century stonework of a building which did not seem to have ever suffered a fire in it's long life, and explained that this was an effective, early form of fire-proofing. They charred the timbers before using them, giving them a protective skin of charcoal - fighting fire with fire.

I had a lot of free time on my hands when 'helping' H.I. with the Dauntsey Doom Board, so as well as spending hours watching a Kingfisher dive in and out of the nearby river, infallibly coming up with a minnow every time, I got to know the church and its environs very well.

One day, I noticed this little rudimentary sundial scratched into the walls of the porch. It still works after 300 years - I tried it, by poking a twig into its depressed centre, not having my walking-cane with me at the time.


  1. This is as near to sport as you get is it?

    1. Today it is, though I thought it was a real shame that the British bloke fell off his bike just at the finish. What an annus horribilus (my spell checker says that should be 'anus horn-bills') for British sport.

    2. You are entitled to your view.

  2. The beat of the different drummer is its own hard taskmaster.
    Catching that sundial was by a good eye as well as idle time.

    1. Another splendid phrase from you, Joanne.

      I noticed the sundial when the light was right.

  3. I used to make charcoal (not a great seller - I did better with woodland clothes props). While researching my craft I discovered that people used to char wood to stop it rotting - apparently, points on fence posts would often be held in a fire in the days before wood preservative.

    1. Do you know, I used to do the same thing myself. If you char a wood point, it also makes it harder - it tempers it, in fact.

      Van Helsing was my teacher.