York Minster Today

Last week I mentioned that two events caused major restoration projects to be carried out on York Minster during the latter part of the 20th century. The second one was a fire in 1984 that destroyed the south transept roof. Lightning started the fire in the old roof timbers. If it wasn’t for firemen pulling away the affected timbers, with the risk that the whole section of the ancient building might collapse, then the whole lot could have gone up in flames. Smoke damage and rubble meant that major repairs had to be undertaken.

New ceiling in the south transept, with the bosses designed by school children.

One result is the new ceiling in that section of the Minster. School children were invited to create the decorations now used on the bosses Six designs won the competition and craftsmen made the copies which we now see.


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York Minster: Tales and Treasures from the past

Visiting churches might look like a religious interest, and for many I suppose that’s all it is, but for me, being able to step back in time, particularly when I can step DOWN in time, to see the layers of history hidden underneath the present day structure, is a much more interesting reason for visiting old church buildings and the older the better.

York Minster, as we see it today, underwent two massive restoration projects in the second half of last century. The first one required going deep below the structure in order to strengthen and restore the foundations that were put down for the Medieval part of the building. As a result of uncovering those problems, evidence of the original Roman settlement can be glimpsed through small holes in the floor of the undercroft.

Looking at a map of the Roman settlement, called Eboracum, I am fascinated by the fact that today’s minster is situated at least partly, on top of it. Back in the first century AD, when Romans marched into what is now York, deciding to establish their first ‘British’ post there, they chose this same spot. This happens quite a lot throughout history I’ve found. Sometimes the reason is obvious – the highest spot for miles around, therefore good viewing and readiness to defend against attack, or a central place where two or three rivers meet, that sort of thing. With York, this exact spot is not so obvious. Sometimes I wonder if there’s an ancient, mysterious power at force, that the ground is regarded as sacred from ancient times, before history. Whatever the reason, York Minster is built on one of these ‘blessed’ sites.

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Chewing Gum to the Rescue

 This short story will be included in the Memoir I’m writing. It’s all true, even down to the names as I see no need to hide the identities of my fellow gum-chewing partners.

For those of you who don’t know, Alan and I were married in 1961. We traveled around Western Australia with a caravan and a utility, camping for a week or more wherever he had work, surveying new farmland east of Narrogin. I was only on the road with him for a few months,but I have some ‘interesting’ memories  from those days.

Chewing Gum to the Rescue

We left the camp near Wave Rock at Hyden at about four o’clock on that October afternoon. The boss lived in Narrogin, so we allowed time to collect the men’s pay cheques on our way and be back in Perth in time to sleep in a proper bed at my parent’s house that night.

All went well until the radiator started boiling. On a Saturday night in 1961, when even the pubs were probably closed, three miles out of town, nothing moved. Hoping to find something  open, Alan sent Lou, his assistant, back to the nearest little blip of a town, to buy chewing gum—as much as they could supply.

Never having regarded the chewing of gum as an enjoyable activity, I hoped that my husband’s plan would not involve my participation. I realised that the local garage, if there was one, would be closed and out of action until Monday. The chance of them stocking a replacement for our radiator was remote anyway and with only a measly pay cheque and little cash, we couldn’t have paid for it even if one was available. Alan was pretty good at thinking up new ways to overcome problems but I wondered how chewing gum might help us with a leaky radiator.

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Music for Piano and Cello: Altstaedt and Madzar

This week I am writing about my other love – classical music, and the concert which thrilled us last Saturday night at the Perth Concert Hall.

Being Grand Final day for the AFL (Australian Football League for my non-Australian readers) meant that the audience was the smallest I’ve ever seen for a concert of this standard. That meant that we, and many others, could move to better seats and enjoy the performance even more.

Anything composed by Claude Debussy has me in the clouds, so when Nicolas Altstaedt touched his bow to his cello and Aleksandar Madzar  ran his fingers over the keys of that grand piano, I sat back and let the music they created, carry me away.

The novel I am currently writing is about a former concert pianist who loses his right hand in a motor accident, so I am always keen to sit where I can study the movement of fingers, hands, arms and even the shoulders of a maestro, while listening carefully to the music they make. The Russians tend to over-dramatize, using large, flourishing lifts and pounces, while some pianists seem to use their whole upper torsos in a sequence of movements up and down the keys. I am a fan of Simon Tedeschi, having followed him since he was doing gigs as a teenager (maybe a bit older but he looked like a teenager) but his performances, although spectacular, remind me of an athlete as he pounds the keys with so much energy that I feel quite exhausted and he certainly looks worn out. I haven’t seen him lately so, maybe that’s an outdated comment.

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