We did something a little different for St. David's Day this year. In recent years, the day has either been marking by joining in with the ever growing parade that works its way through the middle of Cardiff, or, oddly, I have been in Rome. Staying much closer to home this year, and taking advantage of an impressively sunny day, the decision was made to go mountain climbing. Granted, as mountains go the Sugar Loaf is perhaps one of the less challenging options in Wales, but every mountain counts. It was also a first proper adventure for our intrepid collie Kai, who only seemed to approve of the location. To commemorate the day, I felt stereotypes needed to be lived up to, so lunch involved the consumption of a raw leek - I'm not sure there can be a more fitting way to commemorate St. David's Day, than by sitting on a mountain top eating a leek.
Chepstow played host to its annual Mari Lwyd event on Saturday night. It would appear that in collecting no less than eight Maris in one place, Chepstow managed to tap into some sort of Mari Lwyd inspired power which staved off the worst of the predicted weather. As a result, strong numbers were once more in attendance for this unique display of Welsh intangible cultural heritage. I've got a couple of articles in the pipeline on the Mari Lwyd, so I won't witter on at length about the tradition, or the particular Chepstow manifestation of it, but I did want to post some images giving a flavour of this very special event. Inevitably several images included here are a touch blurry, but, given the nature of the event, where things do get blurry, it only adds to the sense of occasion - enjoy, and if you have not had a chance to participate in this before, make a date for 2015.
A partially dry day, and a partially free weekend, allowed for a visit to Caerwent. It's been a couple of years, but generally the sites look to be holding up. A bit of wear and tear here and there but that is probably as much to do with the recent weather as it is to do with anything else. Always a pleasure wandering around this landscape.
I've either been in, talking about, or hearing academic discussions on church and graveyards quite frequently over the last few weeks. My most recent interaction was related to a conversation regarding resetting headstones which had shifted and sunk in the soil. Debate raged in the community (I won't name which one as the arguments are ongoing) as to whether or not headstones should be reset, left as they were, or (and this is probably the scenario more common than most in such discussions) to remove certain examples altogether. In addition, there are plenty of cemeteries which are delicately manicured, made as presentable and accessible to as many as possible. Okay, so many churchyards are havens for wildflowers, but that does not mean that the more intrusive and cumbersome forms of vegetation are not quickly dealt with, dismissed as a threatening invasive growth which might undermine the graveyard monuments. This all brought back memories of Iceland, where I found examples of foliage in Reykjavík which would probably horrify many custodians of British graveyards. The tradition of tree and shrub growth in Icelandic cemeteries is well established, and significantly adds to the experience and atmosphere of the location. But is this too great a threat in the long term to the monuments, or perhaps a refreshing way of thinking about the use of these spaces, which we might explore in a British context?
Following the shocking circumstances surrounding the loss of the Chartist mural earlier this week, a strong protest group assembled in Newport on the 5th of October. Listening to discussions on the day, it seemed that outrage was more directed at the circumstances of the loss of the mural, rather than the loss of the mural itself. Either way, a lot of people were very unhappy about the loss of something many regarded as an integral part of Newport's heritage landscape. We can both hope, and work hard to ensure, that this is not simply the beginning (or continuation) of the erosion of that cultural inheritance.
The National Roman Legion Museum held another one of their reenactment events over the weekend, one of a series of gladiatorial themed occasions. These have been very well received, and quite rightly continue to be a major feature of the museum's events programme. Despite the many different takes on reenactment warfare to have been undertaken at the museum, to my shame I had failed to see a single one in person. So, with a window of half an hour to spare on Saturday, I marched myself down to the museum, and finally saw first hand a series of gladiator battles. I can't say I got much of a feel for the day, with only half an hour to enjoy proceedings, but the large crowd of families assembled certainly seemed thoroughly engaged by the four battles which took place - and if we consider audience engagement to be a major feature of what we are doing with our museums today, then such events are going some way to achieving that.
The photographs below give a small flavour of the weekend's battles.
I've spent the majority of the last two weeks slowly melting from the inside of my brain out - I was never intended for warm weather, and simply do not cope well in it. This triggered memories of some of my happiest time spent in the sun, and those times were to be found in Kalaallit Nunaat - Greenland - crisp, cold conditions, the best way to enjoy the sunshine (in my case anyway). I've been looking for an excuse to post some images from the landscapes I was lucky enough to explore when I was in Nuuk, and this Welsh heatwave seems as good a reason as any, so enjoy all the ice - cool thoughts for baking days.
Found myself in Bath last week for a graduation ceremony. It's been several years since my last visit, but much of what makes this city so special has been retained. No time to get down to the old Roman haunts, but plenty of opportunity to take in the detail of the Cathedral façade, and the wider surrounding architecture. It remains an excellent, and challenging World Heritage Site, where cultural landscapes conflict with contemporary urban demands.
The Cardiff Central Library played host to Japan Day on the 25th of May, a highly successful day celebrating Japanese culture, through music, food, clothing, art, tradition and kendo. Alas my camera suffered a slightly critical memory wipe, losing my many photographs, so instead I thought I'd upload some of the videos from the phone - low quality I know, but at least they should give some small flavour of the day - included here are a koto performance and clips from the kendo demonstration, performed both outside, and then impressively inside the library.
Having known about Treowen for a very long time, it was probably remiss of me to wait three decades before actually visiting this impressive building, but it was certainly worth the wait. A wedding over the weekend provided the opportunity, and both thanks and congratulations to Paul and Rebecca on their wonderful day, and for their excellent selection in venue! This was probably not the most academic of ventures, but the celebrations still provided a perfect opportunity for investigating some of the more well known features of this property, notably the monstrous staircase, somewhat random selections of Samian wares and a very distinctive priest hole, which naturally required investigation!
(Honorable mentions to St Woolas Cathedral as well, visited on many occasions but never for a service, and what better way to start than with a wedding!)