A view north from Trinity Street, Colchester on a day in late May.
As the days draw longer, I enjoy my evening walk more. On Monday I strolled along the edge of Cymbeline Meadows towards the sunset, to catch sight of the moon, waxing crescent as it rose. I respect the older trees; here long before me, here long after me, their constancy reassures me.
1. An optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions
2. An unrealistic hope or wish that cannot be achieved
Origin – early 19th century: from French se mirer ‘be reflected’, from Latin mirare ‘look at’.
(With thanks to the Oxford English Dictionary).
Lately, although I have felt that much appears unreal and that my life is being lived in suspension as I watch my reflection in a waiting game, I know that this time will pass. It will do so quickly enough, to make way for September with her new beginnings and a change of uniform. And I do believe that this year’s colours are going to suit me.
Last Saturday in our mixed media art class, it was time to work with acrylic paint and oil pastels – depicting what we could see from the windows of Studio 2 of the FirstSite gallery.
The site is Scheduled Ancient Monument land, and there are archaeological artefacts beneath the building. So, no digging was permitted in its construction; the entire structure is supported by a floating concrete raft. Perhaps this is why when others look out onto the greensward, I see air and water: whatever I paint comes back to seascapes.
In breaks, there were the cosplay fencers to watch and the Magda Archer exhibition to enjoy. And coffee, as always. This week, too, a homeless man had set up camp under one of the older trees with his supermarket trolley and bicycle – mildly entertained by the swordplay and not at all by the painting.
On the way home from work on Friday, on the spur of the moment, I decided to visit Colchester Castle and make the most of my resident’s pass. It was dark, the gates to the park were barely open, and the Castle itself was about to close to the public for the night. Randomly, I thought I would shop local! in the museum shop. Specifically, I was looking for a Christmas tree topper with a difference and hoping for a Boudicca (ideally with chariot), but I would have settled for a centurion or Saint Helena (Colchester’s patron saint). Sadly, there were no such decorations, and nothing which could be adapted to suit.
As I was the only visitor, members of staff were eager to tell me what I was looking at; to act as my personal guides. I declined their help, I wanted to be alone with my ancestry, and I escaped to the Castle gaol. It ceased to be used for that purpose in 1835; but in its 600-year history, the gaol had held prisoners of war, convicted criminals, and suspected witches. A sound and light show is activated when visitors enter and reflects this latter part of the story – when Matthew Hopkins, the ‘Witchfinder General’ came to Colchester in the 1640s. He was busy here; more ‘witches’ were executed in Essex than in any other county in England. But we Colcestrians persist, as we must.
(Happily, dear reader, I headed home to make my own Christmas tree topper and – naturally – there is now a decorated dog topping my tree, to add to the two live ones ‘decorating’ its base).
The Moon and Venus (and a passing aircraft) as seen at 07:00 this morning, in Colchester, England. Taken facing south-east. A beautiful way to start the day.
Once upon a time, my grandparents lived here with my mother and uncle. Last week upon a time, I suddenly came across this house and realised it was the one. Now, the buildings and cars have encroached, but my family’s stories keep the place apart.
Long ago and not so far away, was my first home: 47 North Hill, Colchester, Essex, UK. It was there that my sister was born, and there that I was raised to realise that we are our stories. There, too, I learned to respect other stories, others’ stories: to understand that history is always in my back yard.
I was reminded of this, last weekend, when a friend and I visited Colchester on the first of this year’s English Heritage Open Days. After a backstage tour of the Mercury Theatre, and before a tour of 3 West Stockwell Street, we braved the crowds to enter Colchester Castle Museum. I’ve loved the Castle ever since I can remember, but I hadn’t been in to the museum for four years. On Saturday, entry was free for the English Heritage Open Day, but a ‘special offer’ to local residents, of 13 months entry for £6.50, was irresistible. I shall now be a regular visitor. My ancestry remains on display, here the mosaic removed from the garden of what became number 47, previously the site of an extensive Roman villa. There, glimpses of the Boudiccan Destruction Horizon, glints of the recently uncovered Fenwick Treasure, and gasps of: Colchester, surrender?
To which, of course, I answer: Never!
Dogs Trust: getting human and canine attention in town.
As seen today on the rear wall of a house in the Dutch Quarter, backing on to Colchester Castle Park, Essex. A feast for the eyes and food for thought.