Mind & body.

I am interested in the idea and practice of spirituality: but it may all be nonsense, and I may be venially corporeal. This category is a bit of a catch-all for posts on subjects ranging from the intellectual (I should be so lucky), to the spiritual (likewise) via the psychological and the creative.

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Stanley North: Artist, conservator and ruralist

This posting could be subtitled: "Adventures in ancient and Modern taste". Or: "An illustrated sketch of a controversial paintings conservator, dedicated artist, craftsman and rural revivalist". Stanley Kennedy North (1887-1942) was my grandfather and I am hoping to see his work and role recognised, interrogated and archived. Read more...

Published

14 March 2022

A spiritualism serendipity

An odd and touching synchronicity occurred whilst I was going through my father ‘s bookshelves with an eye to downsizing the collection I inherited from him. I had seen a book of his, inscribed by hand as belonging to Vera Bax (his mother) in 1951 (additionally she wrote: “First read… Read more...

Published

11 March 2022

The inspiring story of a mental institution

This is a layman's review of Better Courts Than Coroners: Memoirs of a duty of care, Volume 1, 2011, by Barone Hopper (1937-2019). It's a marvellous book (BCTC, in Hopper's shorthand): a memoir both of its author, a psychiatric nurse, and of Graylingwell, the Chichester mental institution (1897-2002) in which he worked for several years from the 1960s and of which he became an informal but diligent historian and archivist. I had not heard of Graylingwell until I read in the Annals of the Chichester Carmelite convent at Hunston that in 1929 the community's handyman gardener went to be treated, and eventually died, there. (More on that towards the end of this post.) So here was a link between Chichester institutions which share late 19th Century formation and a similar lifespan before dissolution. Both were fascinating communities. Read more...

Published

10 March 2022

21st C “stained-glass” innovation

This is an account of innovative "stained-glass" work done by youngsters in a Sunday School in the first decade of the 21st Century. Designed for their parish church, it deploys plastics technology and was undertaken partly in reparation of mid-20th Century arson damage to its Victorian glass. I love this body of work because it shows great respect for the medieval. It is at once muscular, naive, and feeling: I risk saying that it leaps across centuries, just as great Old Stained Glass does. Read more...

Published

08 March 2022

William James on being alive

RDN's credo, as at New Year, 2022 is culled from William James and, being paraphrased, runs: Humanity is a worthwhile joint enterprise and being useful to it makes sense of each of us. Read more...

Published

01 January 2022

Heiresses, art, and the Midlands

Subtitle: Female affluence and patronage, or the vicissitudes of compulsive collectors. Or: Abbesses, arrivistes, aristocrats and art.

Context: Last October my wife and I broke a round trip to Northumbria with overnights in the English Midlands and came across fabulous artistic treats. I was guided partly by a Matthew Parris… Read more...

Published

12 December 2021

Stoppard comes to Leopoldstadt

Tom Stoppard is the indispensable playwright of my generation. He is rather more: he is one of the key British cultural figures of my times. He ranks with the other knights Sir Mick Jagger and Sir Roy Strong as a person of style. As a creative talent, he ranks with… Read more...

Published

12 December 2021

WW1: still relevant as the right war, well-fought

I always resisted the Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Blackadder account of WW1. I took it to be a product of the 1960s generation who thought everything inherited from their parents and grandparents (except their money) should be rejected.

At least one of my great-grandparents fought (and at least one of my grandparents avoided) fighting in WW1. My father served in WW2, and his two half-brothers were killed on active service during it.

The essay which follows below is largely an account of various books, most of which I have read recently, which have, I am relieved to say, reinforced my long-standing belief that this country (and, most of the time, most of its allies) fought honourably and rather intelligently during the 20th Century. Read more...

Published

21 July 2020

Nature Writing Interrogated

You will find here a free download of a PDF, entitled Nature Writing Interrogated: 5000 years of nostalgia.

It's a longish essay (about 40,000 words) and explores the long history of writing about nature, beginning very roughly with the Gilgamesh epic and romping through to pieces in last month's Guardian. I have undertaken this task because for half a longish lifetime I have been growing in unease about the way nature has always been used as a repository for civilised mankind's regrets and yearnings. My feeling has been that it was ever thus and that in recent decades the result has worked against, rather than toward, a proper appreciation of nature. Read more...

Published

12 January 2020

Hunston Convent and Chichester Free School

Chichester Free School has taken over Hunston Convent, a 19th Century Carmelite monastery to the south of the city, on the threshold of the Manhood Peninsula. It's a brilliant and exciting adventure, since the school is a mint-fresh sort of institution and the convent building was a Victorian classic. The Chichester Carmel, as the Hunston community were known, had roots which go centuries deep, and all over the world. An offshoot of the Chichester Carmel is now to be found amongst the Carmelites of Terre Haute, Indiana. Vestiges of the old convent's fabric have been reborn, and its footprint largely preserved, in spectacular fashion. I hope something of the community's spirit lives on, too. Read more...

Published

14 October 2019
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