Saturday, July 19, 2008

Drove my Chevy to the Levels

The car being in the garage with a leak somewhere, this is what we have pootled about in for Friday and Saturday.
It is ... smaller than I'm accustomed to. When I opened a back door I had to stop myself getting in out of reflex, because I was as far from the front of the car as I usually am when I'm in the driver's seat. And now that I have the proper car back again, may I say what a pleasure it is to be able to do hills without dropping at least one gear.

But it is, technically, a Chevrolet (Matiz). And as we drove it down to Somerset, I can say I've driven ... well, check the title of this post.

And this is what we went to see.

Wells cathedral, crossing another one off our list. The verdict: extremely favourable. Its yellow stone makes it less stark than some others; it feels warmer and more welcoming. And it is in astonishingly good condition. The stone (at least in the walls and pillars) isn't worn or pitted with age. Its pride and joy are these:

... giant scissor arches, spanning the nave and the transepts, put up in the 14th century to take the weight of the tower. And they look as smooth and clean as if they had been cut with machine tools in the last 30 years.

These steps are distinctly worn:

The staircase used to curve to the right into the chapter house, but then a new extension was added straight ahead as well. And now there is this lovely curve as if two torrents of stone were pouring down from different directions and merging.

In one of the transepts, an astronomical clock gives you 24-hour time plus phases of the moon, and little jousting men who pop out when it strikes the hour. This comes from the 14th century too.

Wells itself - well, much nicer than it appears in Hot Fuzz, which was filmed there but with the cathedral CGIed out. Just try not to step in, or twist an ankle in, the streams running down either side of the street out of the market place, where one of the eponymous wells delivers its water to a conduit. This was thanks to a new favourite bishop, Thomas Bekynton, who decided the people should benefit from the springs of water that give the town its name and which rise in the grounds of the extremely well fortified bishop's palace. (When the bishop feels the need to add a drawbridge and moat to his palace, you can assume relations with the church have reached a new low.) This bish also has a tomb depicting himself in all his finery ... and, on a lower level, himself as a decomposed corpse. He knew he was a powerful man and he knew he was also just a mortal who would one day be as dead as the rest of us. For a medieval bishop, this is extremely forward thinking.

Now back home with the regular car, raised voices between mother and son in the next room and housework to do. Life goes on ... as Bekynton would have known. He definitely didn't eat babies.

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