February 2009


After the war, Jones entered the Westminster School of Art, where he developed an interest in Post-Impressionism and studied under the English artist Walter Sickert, among other influential teachers. He also became increasingly attracted by Roman Catholicism, and in 1921 he converted, choosing “Michael” as his confirmation name. 

It was probably the priest who received Jones into the Church, who suggested that he contact the Catholic artist Eric Gill. Gill ran the The Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic|Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, based on the medieval guild model, in Ditchling, Sussex. Jones joined the guild and learned wood and copper engraving as well as experimenting with wood carving.  Jones soon began producing book illustrations for the[St. Dominic’s Press, and he would later illustrate for The Golden Cockerel Press, for whom he engraved the Cockerel itself in 1925.

Eric Gill split with the Guild of SS. Joseph and Dominic and moved with his family and some followers to Capel-y-ffin, a village in southern Wales, to pursue a rural way of life.  Jones spent much of the years 1924 to 1927 living with the Gills and assorted hangers-on in a rambling former monastery just outside Capel-y-ffin.  He had already become engaged to Gill’s middle daughter, Petra, whose characteristic long neck and high forehead continued as standard female features in Jones’s artwork for the rest of his career, even though his engagement to her did not last more than a couple of years. Jones continued to visit his family home in Brockley until the mid 1930s and some of his sketches depict the house and garden.

Jones’s major illustrated series include wood engravings produced for editions of ”The Book of Jonah”, ”The Chester Play Of The Deluge”, ”[[Aesop’s Fables]]” and ”[[Gulliver’s Travels]]” as well as for a Welsh translation of the Book of Ecclesiastes, ”Llyfr y Pregethwr”.  He produced an important group of copperplate engravings for an edition of ”[[The Rime of the Ancient Mariner]]”.  He also executed commissions for one-off engravings such as his illustration for T.S. Eliot’s ”The Cultivation of Christmas Trees”.

Despite his success and growing reputation as an illustrator, Jones seems to have become disaffected by the medium. He professed great disappointment in the way that his illustrations for ”Gulliver’s Travels” had been subsequently hand-coloured by art students, and complained about the reproduction of the very dark wood engravings for ”The Chester Play of The Deluge”. This may have influenced his decision later in life to concentrate on painting. His style changed over time from more traditional watercolour landscapes to a unique mixture of pencil and watercolour resulting in dense and busy works full of symbolism. His best-known paintings include early seascapes such as “Manawydan’s Glass Door” and later works on legendary subjects, such as ”Trystan ac Esyllt” (Tristan and Iseult).  He is also much admired for a genre that he devised later in life, which he termed “painted inscriptions”, and these exert a continuing influence on calligraphers.







I remember as a student in London buying the weekly magazine Time Out to catch up on films and see where cheap theatre tickets could be bought. Always a mine of information and very candid and illuminating reviews. I wonder of it is still in print?

I am back in Temple Balsall after some time out contemplating what lies ahead.  A few days in the bright open countryside of mid Wales.

Some of my regular readers will know that I am to move after Easter to pastures new.  A new home and area of the country – a new set of work colleagues and work.So change and all change ahead – and as ever – with human experience it is a mixture of feelings that rise to the surface often in an unexpected way.

There is first the immediate physical challenge of moving. Will the furniture fit? What about the pictures and – of course all those books? Do I need so many shirts and socks and pencils? Time perhaps to unclutter and try to live more simply. Easier said than done and especially when we all get so attached to those odd bits and pieces that make up our life. Will I ever be able to find anything ever again.

I have found the sorting through of papers very liberating. On the whole I have a tendency to keep too much so this time the recycling bin has had a generous top up from my office. I have one box for personal stuff from my ten years here – a photograph or two and especially a handful of letters that really made a difference to me.

Second I need to leave key matters in good order for my successor. Hard working colleagues need my care and support. There is a full programme for Lent and Easter and a number of speaking engagements to be honored. A new diary and a workable filing system is a good welcoming gift to whoever suceeds me in this work.

Third I need some space to cherish what  this place and community have meant to me so that I can let it be and let it go. My time here is but a short breath of its long history. Temple did very well before I arrived and has every chance of thriving after my departure! I hope that I have left matters in good heart but those evaluations are not for me to make – much of the work has been hidden – others rightly should harvest what has been sown. I grew up in a part of the country where people were good at cutting folks down to size – especially those who over claimed … so a proper reticence and humility are a part of deepening our humanity and  attending to our fragile egos!

Mind you I have been amazed at the sheer quantity of letters and cards.  And surprised by what has been expressed.People are kind and generous in their tributes. Others have the gift of the choice of words that hit the note just right. Some have enjoyed the pulling of my leg – and rightly so! Watch out!!

Of course much has been shared – but I have been blessed and enriched beyond words. Sometimes time out gives the space to be able to make these connections and reflect on what guides us forward in the sheer wonder and adventure of living. 

But unless you think time out is all about inward preoccuption – not so….. there was that huge book about Marc Chagall – all 600 pages of wonderful biography ( see the blog later in the week) and a very moving biography of Clementine Churchill by her talented daughter Mary Soames. A rich picture of a long life of devotion.

And the excitement of planning and lists and other preparations ( including wall paper samples) ….its a great life but even better with time out!!






Looking down on my father’s
dead face
for the last time
my mother said without
tears, without smiles
without regrets
but with civility
“Good night Willie Lee, I’ll see you
in the morning.”
 And it was then I knew that the healing
of all our wounds
is forgiveness
that permits a promise
of our return
at the end.
Alice Walker




Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether the summer clothe the general earth
With greenness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.


from Coleridge, Frost at midnight



Sad – perhaps – but a day away from Temple Balsall and two rather problematic journeys  down the M40 – rain and snow –  ice and fog sent me to the TV for relaxation!

I was gald to watch University Challenge. I failed to get into the Kings College team in 1980 and so am full of admiration for those clever students!!

Here is a reminder od the harmless ‘deal’:

At its inception in 1962, University Challenge was hosted by Bamber Gascoigne. Whenever audience figures began to fall (for example, due to its less-than-auspicious broadcast slots such as Sunday afternoons, weekday mornings and afternoons and, in some regions, late at night), changes were made to the long-standing format of the programme: initial games were staged over two legs, the second leg involving contestants selecting questions from specific categories such as sport, literature and science.

This added complexity did little to halt declining viewer figures, and after ITV regions started to drop the programme altogether (the final season was not screened at all by LWT) it was taken off the air in 1987. It was eventually revived in 1994 by the BBC, although still produced by Granada Television, using the original format with minor differences and presented by Jeremy Paxman.

 The current tournament format used for each series is that of a direct knockout tournament starting with 28 teams. The 14 first-round winners progress directly to the last 16. Two matches, involving the four highest scoring losing teams from the first round whose losing scores often exceed winning scores in other first-round matches, fill the remaining places in the last 16.

Teams consist of four members and represent either a single university or a college of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Wales or London.

“Starter” questions are answered individually “on the buzzer” without conferring and are worth 10 points.  The team answering a starter correctly gets a set of three “bonus” questions worth a potential 15 points over which they can confer. Sets of bonus questions are thematically linked, although they rarely share a connection with the preceding starter question. 

It is the team captain’s responsibility to give the answer to the bonus questions, unless he specifically defers to another member of his team with the phrase “Nominate [name]”. The team member so named may then give the answer in place of the captain.

In the course of a game there are two “picture rounds” (occurring roughly one quarter and three quarters of the way through) and one “music round” (at the halfway point), where the subsequent bonuses are connected thematically to the starter; if a picture or music starter is not correctly answered, the accompanying bonus questions are held back until a normal starter is correctly answered.

The pace of questioning gradually increases through the show, becoming almost frantic in the last minute or so before the “gong” which signals the end of the game. In the event of a tied score at the sound of the gong, a “sudden death” question is asked, the first team to answer correctly being deemed the winner; this is repeated until one or other of the teams answer correctly, or a team loses by giving an incorrect interruption. The ending of the programme is signified with Jeremy Paxman saying “It’s goodbye from (name of losing team, who wave and say goodbye), it’s goodbye from (winning team, likewise), and it’s goodbye from me: goodbye!”

The show has, since its revival in 1994, featured a number of very high-standard teams with postgraduate and mature student, who might be thought of as having the advantage of a greater breadth of general knowledge.The Open University(OU) won the 1999 series with a team whose age averaged 46.



‘Listen, now, verse should be as natural
As the small tuber that feeds on muck
And grows slowly from obtuse soil
To the white flower of immortal beauty.’

‘Natural, hell! What was it Chaucer
Said once about the long toil
That goes like blood to the poem’s making?
Leave it to nature and the verse sprawls,
Limp as bindweed, if it break at all
Life’s iron crust. Man, you must sweat
And rhyme your guts taut, if you’d build
Your verse a ladder.’

‘You speak as though
No sunlight ever surprised the mind
Groping on its cloudy path.’

‘Sunlight’s a thing that needs a window
Before it enters a dark room.
Windows don’t happen.’

So two old poets,
Hunched at their beer in the low haze
Of an inn parlour, while the talk ran
Noisily by them, glib with prose.


R. S. Thomas, Poetry for Supper


The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,


I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

Till human voices wake us, and we drown.


                                                T.S. Eliot


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