Evensong to the sound of water – Salisbury special + More Dumb Americans


Part two of my daily diary for Wednesday, 24 May. About 11 AM we decided on impulse to drive to Salisbury, a city that I have not visited for about 30 years. This will be a largely pictorial comment on a visit to the town, and particularly concerning the Cathedral. Details of the art season as well as concerts and events can be found here and the Cathedral abounds with them. This Cathedral is well-known for it’s interest in modern art.

One of the blessings of living in Somerset is that there are many places that are within an hour or so’s drive of Midsomer Norton and Salisbury is one of them. We decided to use the ‘park and ride’ scheme which saved us about seven pounds on parking charges but didn’t make much of a dent on our expenditure for the day (ooops) which was our wedding anniversary.

First some examples of local artists’ work exhibited at the local library in Salisbury. I absolutely love the casual nature of the way the works were displayed including the Cabinet photograph below of people’s sketchbooks

Raw data brings the individual to life
example of a multi purpose room

Then to a National Trust property Mompesson House. What a delight to come across a normal sized house open to the public. I contrast this with a place like Chatsworth House which although vast and opulent, cannot relate to us in the same way as a living space for actual human beings. Everything here works on a miniature scale. The volunteer staff are a delight and very enthusiastic about their work of communicating the essence of this essentially private house to the visitor.

I need to add another chapter to my Dumb American theme. I can assure you that if it was any other nationality for example Chinese, Japanese, Norwegian I would have made a comment about them in these columns.

As a prelude, a Canadian man and his wife made themselves known at reception. He was soft-spoken, had a very smart appearance, and was apparently a member of an equivalent organisation in Canada to the National Trust. He was respectful of the property. I noted that trait, and  when he was seated having tea I showed him where the water meadows were using a map that I had. In other words, we had a normal tourist type conversation.

The first American incident was while we were having tea in the National Trust property. A tall lanky American came in, glanced around, and said “Gee I wondered what it was like when you English had tea”. He said this in the tone of talking about looking at animals in a zoo without making any eye contact with us.  There were only two tables occupied and the other one was occupied by German couple who were talking quietly enough to each other. I made some inane comment about it not being four o’clock but what I noticed was he came in, made his announcement, and walked out. I call that arrogance.

Number two: We attended the Evensong in the Cathedral with about 150 congregants. It was a joyous and involving celebration which lasted from 5:30 PM until nearly an hour later. Another couple from America came in, sat in the back row with their cameras, and talked to each other during the service admittedly in quiet tones but everyone else was taking in the spirit of the event. Then, the wife walked around with her camera at the back of the Cathedral while the husband got out a map of the area and started looking at it. I became irritated and moved away. I should add that I was also seated towards the back.

the cathedral on a perfect afternoon

I should have said – and may do so in the future if I can be bothered and if I felt it would make any difference at all – “This is a religious place; a service is going on; the least we expect is respect irrespective of your race or religion”. The usual arrogant exceptionalist attitude would doubtless have come across, probably involving staring at me with a blank face. I wonder if these people communicate at all or are even capable of it. In matters of dispute they normally threaten to contact their lawyers, such professional creatures being slightly more common than blades of grass.

Anyway, on the the images…

‘To Let’ adverts from the Salisbury and Winchester Journal January 21, 1788
creative space of the owner as it was when she left the house


House from the rear. Immaculate garden.
work by Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco
resurrection scene below the pulpit


amazing font which trickled happily away accompanying the service.

Thirdly some shots of the cathedral which has a good reputation for featuring modern art (above and below).

How humans react to suffering
world’s oldest working clock which as ticked an estimated 4.4 Bn times between 1386AD and 1884, then 1956 to 2013… and counting.



Monday 23 May 1664

Up and to the office, where Sir J. Minnes, Sir W. Batten, and myself met and did business, we being in a mighty hurry. The King is gone down with the Duke and a great crew this morning by break of day to Chatham. Towards noon I and my wife by water to Woolwich, leaving my wife at Mr. Falconer’s, and Mr. Hater and I with some officers of the yard on board to see several ships how ready they are. Then to Mr. Falconer’s to a good dinner, having myself carried them a vessel of sturgeon and a Lamprey pie, and then to the Yarde again, and among other things did at Mr. Ackworth’s obtain a demonstration of his being a knave; but I did not discover it, till it be a little more seasonable. So back to the Ropeyard and took my wife and Mr. Hater back, it raining mighty hard of a sudden, but we with the tilt kept ourselves dry. So to Deptford, did some business there; but, Lord! to see how in both places the King’s business, if ever it should come to a warr, is likely to be done, there not being a man that looks or speaks like a man that will take pains, or use any forecast to serve the King, at which I am heartily troubled. So home, it raining terribly, but we still dry, and at the office late discoursing with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten, who like a couple of sots receive all I say but to little purpose. So late home to supper and to bed.

it seems that the term ‘lunch’ had not been invented then because ‘dinner’ refers to any formal meal taken at whatever time of day. In the UK anyway we would not have two dinners per day unless we were exceptionally greedy but this terminology appears to be normal for someone in Pepys time.

‘Aftermath’ is used to describe the effects of an unpleasant event. You would not talk about the aftermath of a party unless there were fighting or disagreement. the term originates in the 16th century  after + math = a mowing, Old English mǣth. rather obscure but that’s the way it is.

By the way, a ‘sot’ is another way of saying a stupid person, a fool, someone who spends too much time inbibing. you can also be ‘besotted’ by somebody which implies a departure from your rational mind.

The same cannot be said of the people of Manchester who are demonstrating their spirit of togetherness and support by offering free food, accommodation, and transport.  I went out this morning and bought copies of the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail which between them will give a pretty good down to earth account of Monday nights events. their photographers always get the most striking pictures. I felt very sorry for the woman who made an appeal for her daughter to return only to be told a few hours later that the daughter had passed away.

I think religious fanaticism takes on a new meaning here. I’m not quite sure what is religious about the action of blowing yourself up, apparently getting to heaven quicker, and killing a lot of other people with nuts and bolts. I just don’t get it.