Varied Votives

One of the places I enjoyed most in Tuscany last year, was Fiesole, somewhere I knew little about until I got there. As well as the amazing Roman theatre, there’s the Civic Archaeological Museum, packed with displays and information about the Etruscan, Roman and Longobard history of the town. I was enthralled by these little votives, especially the dancing satyr, so I’m sharing these variations on the theme of Etruscan bronzes, for this weeks photo challange. I believe they were excavated in the 19th and early 20th century.

Fiesole lies five miles to the north east of Florence,high in the hills and you can catch a frequent bus close to Piazza San Marco.

Travel Theme: On Display

Ailsa said ‘No matter where you go, there’s always something for sale somewhere. The items on display in local stores are often evocative of the flavours and aesthetics of the culture you’re in and make for really interesting photographs.’ The things I have photographed are not for sale but displayed in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisation in Ankara, I’m sure that still counts.

Would you like to join in? call in at Ailsa’s Place she would love to see you.

Splendid, a Belated Sunday Post

St Stephens was one of several churches built in Exeter after AD 900; it has a distinctive bow and is unusual because it has a crypt. It survived the civil war in the 1640’s untouched, but later in1660 it suffered a fire, and was rebuilt courtesy of the generosity of a Mr George Potter who gave £500, a fortune in those days for its rebuilding. Exeter was a prosperous city, with the church at the heart of the wool and cloth business. A Mrs Back was known to have sold Sassafras tea under the bow to passers-by, how charming that sounds. In the 19th century repairs were carried out, including replacing the pews and the builders discovered remains in the Saxon crypt.

The safety of the west Gallery was debated in the early 20th century, but it was saved from demolition and was later used by the YMCA, when it was packed with worshippers.

Its tower was damaged in1942 but several of the nearby churches were totally destroyed, so once again the church’s congregation grew. In my memory it has been very much a place for the community that has coffee mornings, concerts and art exhibitions. It was in need of restoration and a major fund raising effort was staged – the St Stephens project. More serious war damage than expected was found, and eventually £1.5 million was raised over 9 years. During the rebuild 52 gravestones and an ancient charnel pit were found. The ancient gallery has been recreated and the whole building has become a place of understated beauty. It has survived its 1000 years and is now a valuable legacy for the city.

When I went into town on Saturday it was with Jake’s Sunday Post in mind. Once again I only had my phone camera. I walked down the High Street and something drew me into St Stephens, I hadn’t seen it for a year or two. I’m so glad I stopped, the transformation is staggering, from a pleasant but slightly worn and dim place to one which, I’m sure you will agree, is truly splendid.


My bits of history are from an audio visual presentation in the church. If ever you are in Exeter, add it to your list of places to visit, you never know you may time when there is teas and cake, or a lunchtime recital on offer. Pop over to for some more splendid offerings and have a lovely week everyone.



Red Ball Comes to Town

The Red Ball Project is street art at its best. It stimulates the imagination of the ordinary person, whether or not they would usually stop to look at art or visit a gallery. So just what is the appeal of a giant rubber beach ball? Its colour? the most passionate, symbolizing love, danger, power, fire and a beneficial sunset. I love to catch the red eye, the overnight coach to an airport. Red is the colour of heat, the fingernails of a confident woman and a woman who wore red shoes wore no knickers! What does red mean to you?

The shape of a ball? A wholeness, as of the earth and the planets surrounding us. Any one of numerous games from the humble marble to the posher polo. Something to reach for, we dance at a ball, maybe on the ball of a foot. A sphere with no beginning or end, tactile and smooth to roll between palms. What image springs to your mind?

RedBall has been travelling the world, Sydney, Barcelona and Taipei and before heading to London it made a brief stop in Exeter. It was seen outside the Guildhall, on the quay and on Saturday I saw it at St Catherines Almshouse, a fifteenth century ruin in the heart of the city. The building, which was bombed in 1942, already has its own urban art, Marking Time, comprising pieces of medieval pottery and glass along with a coke tin that have been enclosed in glass panels is a permanent feature on the site.

When I saw the Big Red Ball I was entranced – but you’ve already guessed that! The artist, Kurt Perschke from Chicago created it to ‘invite you to look afresh at your own surroundings’, I hope you get to see it and look afresh at yours.

You can see the glass panels to the right of the building and  behind is the thousand year old tower of St Stephens.

The Granite Way, 1. Industrial Archaeology and a Train Cemetery

Meldon quarry sits high on a hill between Okehampton and Lydford on the northern edge of Dartmoor. After nearly 100 years it closed in 2011 and has now become an industrial graveyard and a train cemetery. A footpath, The Granite way, also national cycle route 27 runs past it and on to Meldon viaduct from where the Meldon dam can be seen on a clear day and High Willhayes, the highest point on the moor is in the distance. The dam forms a stunning reservoir 900 feet above sea level. Today we walked the first section of the granite way to the viaduct and then scrambled down to the valley and along the banks of the River Okement. Climbing down was hard on the knees, but I was quite pleased to be able to climb back up without needing my inhaler!

The quarry was served by a trainline constructed for its workers and their families but fell into disuse when Mr Beeching made his cuts in the 1960’s. In the summer season the Dartmoor Railway company now provide a service as well as a café and visitor centre.

The train carriages appear to be relics of a more recent past. As any abandoned wreckage they have been grafitteed and their windows smashed. They look very sad, neglected and are rusting away.

For some of its route, the noise from the dual carriageway below intrudes on the bird song, but the walk has lovely views of the Devon countryside which I will post separately, and is well worthwhile.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Hidden

Hidden for millenia, parent and child from the palaeolithic age found in a cave in deepest Turkey and now in the Museum of Anatolian Civilisations in Ankara. They probably have more ‘visitors’ in a day now than they had in their entire lifetime. But is it okay?


Raku Cats and Amethyst, the Archaeology of Me

Naturally I want to leave behind something wonderful that creates a perpetual image of an interesting woman of the third millennium AD. But what is there to me really, what makes me ‘me?’ I have watched documentaries about the spread of mankind around the planet, the long walk from Africa, and have often said that all people are African, but some are more African than others. Half of my genes are English and I stake a claim to those being of good Celtic stock. I feel a strong tie to this south western land of green hills, red sandstone and mellow climate, and feel that I’ve been here a long time. But I may have only arrived with the Norman Conquest, with the Vikings, or on a coach from Llandudno. My other half is from the West African Igbo tribe, but those borders were only laid down by the raiding Empires in the last few centuries. My late father, who I strongly resemble, was not the blackest of Africans and could well have descended from Arabians mixed up in Saharan territories. That would account for my love of desert.

So who do I think I am, to be able to leave something wonderful? I shall leave my genetic fingerprint and hope that it continues to walk, in a lucid gypsy manner, around the globe.

But of material things, what will remain after I perish and return to dust?

In the 70’s I had a passion for ceramics from the Troika pottery in Cornwall and have just four durable pieces. I treasure a small, white, china bell decorated with a butterfly and ‘I love you mum’ in red. I’d love someone to find it intact in a thousand years and try to imagine me! Sat beside the television is a near life sized Raku Siamese cat by Dillon Rudge, well known in these parts. The beauty of the Raku may be a weakness that would cause it to fracture, but perhaps a 25th century archaeology student would be given the challenge of painstakingly re-assembling it. There is a French silver frame, the picture would fade away and the glass would shatter, but the tactile design would last as would my few gold rings and silver bracelets.

I make beads from polymer clay; if it’s accurate that carrier bags will not decompose for hundreds of years, then the beads should not only survive, but turn up around the world, as a few foreign tourists have bought them. Few can say that they don’t use plastic; I for one, have thrown away countless empty bottles, from decades of buying products to ‘manage’ my difficult hair, not the legacy I wish to be best remembered for. What would a future scientist conclude from an analysis of the traces left in one of these containers?

The most permanent possession of mine that will remain, is one that I am but a transient caretaker of. It’s been around for millions of years, and unless deliberately sledge hammered, will be around for millions more. Amethyst is mentioned in Greek mythology, mine is a small geode, most likely from South America, but possibly from Africa, as things are.

(With thanks to my friend Kathy whose Facebook post inspired this piece)