17 February 2011

Sex Goddesses and Saxon Mercia

As one does, we went to have a look at Birmingham, which we have not visited since the mid 1960s, when Pam, after Oxford, was in management at Bournville. Most of it has been rebuilt; but not the old classicising Victorian civic buildings in the centre ... they're up a little hill, and so it's almost like climbing up to an acropolis.

We homed in on the Staffordshire Hoard in the Museum and Art Gallery - the vast assemblage of seventh century scraps of gold and silver discovered a year or two ago. I remember, just after the discovery, Sarah Foot, Professor of Church History in this University, remarking that they seemed set to bring utter confusion to the work of several of her DPhil students. I gather that we still are not decided whether they are loot from a battle or a jeweller's hoard or an ex voto offering.

To get to them, unfortunately, you have to run the gauntlet of masses of Pre-Raphaelite pictures and artefacts, repeatedly dodging the obsessed and hungry eyes and nightmare lips of Jane Morris. Oh dear, I really don't think it does a girl any good at all being a Sex Goddess ... if Ms Morris were the last woman left on earth, I don't think I would ... er ...... But I did find a deliciously frightening watercolour by Turner of a pass in the Alps (I have faint memories of seeing something rather like it twenty years ago in the Abbey Gallery at Kendall in Westmoreland). If one has to follow Mr Burke in his quest for the Sublime, I'd rather do it in Turner's company than through the 500-page tedium of that demented Mr Wordsworth. Then we had a snack in the restaurant ... rather Midlands food ... which we were just finishing as Mr Mayor came in, chain and all, for fish and chips. Do the mayors of provincial cities live, eat and sleep in their full insignia of office?

Before getting the train back to Oxford, we nipped along for a look at the papist cathedral; vandalised during the Great Disruption, but still unmistakeably Pugin. There - small world - we ran into Bernard Longley, now Archbishop of Birmingham, an extremely amiable bloke whom I think I last met over lunch in the National Liberal Club when he was Doing Time as one of Cormac's London auxiliaries and I was on a FIF theological working party. He rather proudly pointed out that he has S Chad's relics enshrined over his High Altar, and made a quip about recovering the Pugin screen which found refuge in Holy Trinity Reading after its eviction from the Cathedral during the Disruption.

Somehow, I don't think many RC bishops would have expressed pride in possessing the relics of a seventh century Saxon saint, or spoken (even light-heartedly) about reversing the Disruption, two or three decades ago. Things are looking up.


Anonymous said...

His Grace of Birmingham will shortly being Doing more Time for ARCIC III ("Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Tiber...").

Though it would hardly have been kind or politic of Fr H to remind him of that.

Father Jones said...

Oh Father, I do think you are being a little unkind to poor Jane, remember what you see is a construct, how she was seen by the lascivious PRB lot. One might construct a narrative of abuse from her story, the poor working class girl seduced by smooth talking Oxford men into appearing in soft-core porn etc,
Come to that drooling over long gone Rood Screens was described in recent years at an Anglican Seminary in Oxford as 'Church Porn'.

jeff said...

And that should be all the evidence any sane man needs to see that those men were NOT FIT for ordination.