Mont St Michel – An Earthly Image of Paradise



Mont St Michel rising from the sea

The train sped through the rainy afternoon, past green fields dotted with stone farmhouses and fat cows. As dusk gathered the train finally stopped in the deserted village of Pontorson. In the gloom it took me a while to find the exit from the station: a walk over the tracks then through a knee-high gate, to the patiently waiting bus.

After some twenty minutes the lights of the island suddenly appeared. Against the darkness Mont St Michel rose from the sea, unchanged from medieval times when the island became a mystical emblem of the heavenly Jerusalem, an earthly image of paradise.

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Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty

A medieval scholar
Writing writing writing

I stumbled into reading this book. My first introduction to Moriarty was hearing my husband laugh as he read Big Little Lies. When our kids were younger he had been head of the local school’s P&C. A school very much like the one Moriarty describes. With much the same parents.
Truly Madly Guilty has moved from the school grounds to tree-lined suburbia. Essentially the story revolves around three married couples. Everyday, ordinary couples – and as always with the everyday, they carry their secrets and failings, believing no one else can see them. As the opening epitaph states: Music is the silence between the notes (Debussy). The novel revolves around what is said, and not said – and when the little things aren’t spoken about, they grow to assume profound significance.
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The Poltergeist On My Roof

Death on a hunt from

I should start by saying I don’t believe in ghosts. Never have. Belief is probably the wrong word, as it has no role in scientific argument. Belief and facts are two separate issues. (The classic example: 2+2 = 4. I can believe 2+2 =5 all I want, but the fact remains.) The concept of an incorporeal being able to also interacting with the physical world – tapping me on the shoulder then walking through a wall, for example – defines scientific laws. The only I can see is that a being a spirit or whichever term you care to use comes with an innate knowledge of quantum physics as yet unknown to us (just as vampires seem to have a great knowledge of king fu). Continue Reading →

The Physicians of Myddfai – 13th C Welsh Medicine


Typical medicinal garden

Medieval Medicine: Rhiwallon of Myddfai 


       Rosemary is useful as a lotion when a man is threatened with insanity. It is an excellent remedy for the stranguary, stone and catarrh. For swelling and pain in the legs, bruise rue, honey and salt. Apply thereto and it will disperse the swelling.

In the early 13th century, Rhys the Stammerer (warrior son of the Welsh Prince Rhys ap

Gruffydd), became Lord of Dinefwr and Llandovery castles. This title granted the right to call to his service a doctor from amongst his freeholders. Under Rhys’ patronage, Rhiwallon and his three sons, Cadwgan, Gruffydd and Einon, established a medical dynasty; the last of their line, Rice Williams, died in 1842. The gravestones of two other descendants, David Jones (d.1719) and John Jones (d.1739), stand in the parish church of Myddfai (in Carmarthenshire, south western Wales). Continue Reading →

Discovering the Cruise Port of Livorno

Boots left to dry amongst the fishing boats

                        We sailed into Livorno under a blazing Mediterranean sun. Sailing these waters is like sailing into the past – long stretches of barren coastline, little villages marked with their groves of olives and grapes, the sails of small boats dotting the water. Livorno is apparently the second largest shipping port in Tuscany ­– but a port where no work seems to get done.

The area here has been occupied since Neolithic times, with pieces of copper, ceramics and carved bones found in nearby caves. The Romans named the cove here Liburna, in reference to a ship used by their Navy. The town has been owned by Pisa, Milan, Genoa and Florence. Under the Medici the port expanded, and two Medici fortresses still dominate the port: the Fortezza Nuovo and the Fortezza Vecchia (Cosmio I had a palace built within the Fortress Vecchia). By the end of the 17th C had become a major trading port. (On a side note, the Italian Communist Party was founded here in 1921.)

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Sunrise Over Angkor Wat


It was still dark as we made our way through the jungle. Tree roots spread thick fingers across our way, and the noises of the night scuttled round us. Most tourists reach Angkor Wat via the front entrance, where a grand causeway stretches over a wide moat. Instead,we entered from the east, (unusually for Khmer temples, Angkor Wat faces the setting sun, traditionally the symbol of death.) Despite the aid of pocket torches we stumbled over fallen logs and mossy stones before suddenly the temple rose before us: the grandeur of a world long gone.

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