Consider this man in the field beneath,
Gaitered with mud, lost in his own breath,
Without joy, without sorrow,
Without children, without wife,
Stumbling insensitively from furrow to furrow,
A vague somnambulist; but hold your tears,
For his name also is written in the Book of Life.

Ransack your brainbox, pull out the drawers
That rot in your heart’s dust, and what have you to give
To enrich his spirit or the way he lives?
From the standpoint of education or caste or creed
Is there anything to show that your essential need
Is less than his, who has the world for church,
And stands bare-headed in the woods’ wide porch
Morning and evening to hear God’s choir
Scatter their praises? Don’t be taken in
By stinking garments or an aimless grin;
He also is human, and the same small star,
That lights you homeward, has inflamed his mind
With the old hunger, born of his kind.

R. S. Thomas


and listening to the voices ……


Erich Fried



When we were the persecuted

I was one of you

How can I remain one

when you become the persecutors?


Your longing was

to become like other nations

who murdered you

Now you have become like them


You have outlived those

who were cruel to you

Does their cruelty live on

in you now?


You ordered the defeated :

‘Take off your boots’

Like the scapegoat you drove them into the wilderness

Into the great mosque of death

Whose sandals are of sand


But they did not take upon them the sin

You wished to lay on them

The imprint of their naked feet in the desert sand

Outlasts the traces of your bombs and your tanks


[ referring to the instruction given after the six day war to Egyptian prisoners to walk home through

the burning sand without boots ]

The poem is written by Erich Fried after the Six Days war in 1967. He is Jewish, born in Austria, exiled to Great Britain when the Nazis overtook the country, and because of the background of his own experiences with an extremist regime he became one of the harshest critics of Zionism – a mix of theocracy and racism. He is one of the most important post-modern poets of German language.


The Air Forces Memorial, or Runnymede Memorial, in Englefield Green memorial dedicated to some 20,456 men and women from air forces of the British Empire who were lost in air and other operations during World War II. Those recorded have no known grave anywhere in the world, and many were lost without trace. The name of each of these airmen and airwomen is engraved into the stone walls of the memorial, according to country and squadron.


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The memorial was designed by Sir Edward Maufe with sculpture by Vernon Hill. The engraved glass and painted ceilings were designed by John Hutton, and the poem engraved on the gallery window was written by Paul H Scott. It was the first post-World War II building to be listed for architectural merit.

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The roof of the memorial looks over the River Thames and Runnymede Meadow, where the Magna Carta was sealed by King John in 1215. Most of north, west, and central London can be seen to the right from the viewpoint; such monuments as the London Eye and the arch of Wembley Stadium are visible on clear days. Windsor Castle and the surrounding area can be seen to the left.

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It is a Grade II* listed building and was completed in 1953.

Photographs taken by JWW on 1st May 2015

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The manor of Hughenden is first recorded in 1086, when formerly part of Queen Edith’s lands it was held by William, son of Oger the Bishop of Bayeux, and was assessed for tax at 10 hides.

Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister (1868 and 1874–1880, and Earl of Beaconsfield 1876), whose father rented a house at nearby Bradenham, purchased the manor in 1848 with the help of a loan of 25,000  from Lord Henry Bentinck and Lord Titchfield, because as leader of the Conservative Party “it was essential to represent a county,” and county members had to be landowners. He and his wife Mary Anne Disraeli, alternated between Hughenden and several homes in London.


The present house was built towards the end of the 18th century and was of a stuccoed and of unassuming design. However, in 1862 the Disraelis had the house remodelled by the architect Edward Buckton Lamb. Lamb has been described as “one of the most perverse and original of mid-Victorian architects”. Architecturally, he had a strong interest in the eclectic; this interest is very apparent in his work at Hughenden.

Hughenden Manor, the entrance facade.


Pevsner clearly failed to appreciate what the delighted Disraeli described as the “romance he had been many years realising” while going to say that he imagined it was now “restored to what it was before the civil war.  As the house was not originally constructed until the middle of the 18th century, almost a century after the Civil War, that scenario would have been difficult.

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The house is of three floors. The reception rooms are all on the ground floor, most with large plate glass windows (a Victorian innovation) giving onto the south-facing terrace overlooking a grassy parterre with views over the Hughenden Valley.

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photographs taken by JWW March 2015

I have very vivid memories of visiting Auckland Castle as a sixth form student beginning to wonder about my vocation to the ordained ministry in the Church of England. At a young people’s gathering in the Throne room of this imposing building I remember the Bishop of Durham, John Habgood, addressing us in a simple and direct way and asking us to consider how best we could use our lives for God. In retrospect this may well have been a significant turning point for my life decisions. In a recent visit to the north-east my sister very kindly drove me over to Bishop Auckland to see the Castle.

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Auckland Castle is one of the UK’s most important historical buildings. Since the days of the Norman Conquest in the 11th Century, Auckland Castle has been a seat of power. For almost 900 years, it has been the palace of the Prince Bishops of Durham and although the site where Auckland Castle now stands has seen numerous changes, few will have been as far reaching and visionary as those which are set to take place in the 21st Century.

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In recent times church commissioners came into some controversial conflict  following a decision to move Bishop out of the Castle into  a more manageable house. This plan included  the selling of  thirteen paintings by Spanish master Francisco de Zurbaran.  They were rescued by the philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer  who has established the  Auckland Charitable Trust  in 2012 with the aim of restoring the Castle, its art collection, the Deer Park and gardens to their former glory, ensuring they remain open to the public for generations to come. The Trust’s ambitions are high – and if we are to achieve them we will need to raise well over £10m to fund the restoration and redevelopment of the site.

I was very glad to visit  be Castle  and share with you some of my photographs  which give  you a flavour  of  this extraordinary building.

Here are some pictures of the Chapel;


This is the largest private chapel in Europe. It started life in the 12th Century as a Banqueting Hall, complete with buttery, wine cellar and minstrel gallery. The Castle’s original chapel, which stood from the 13th to 17th century, was demolished following the Civil War (1642-51) when the Prince Bishops lost their power, however by the end of the 1650s, the Restoration changed the political landscape again. Bishop John Cosin arrived in 1660 and set about rebuilding and renovating large parts of the Castle site.

One of his first tasks was to convert the Banqueting Hall into what you now see as the Chapel. It was consecrated on St. Peter’s Day, 1665.

In 1828 Bishop Van Mildert raised the side aisles. In the 19th century Bishop Lightfoot added stained glass windows and a reredos of carved oak sitting on a Frosterley marble plinth.

The heraldic shields and the six angels, which rest upon the supports of the roof of the old Banqueting Hall, were added by Bishop Lightfoot the 1880s. He also added tined glass into the windows; however some of the Chapel windows date back to Medieval times when Bishop Bek was at Auckland Castle.

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It was the  Throne room that  brought  back  very vivid memories for  me – and thinking back  visit must have been  in 1978 ! This imposing room is a sign of the power of the Prince Bishops. As you enter, you are faced by the Bishop’s Throne. The Throne is very clearly a chair of state; wide, heavy and ornately carved.

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Behind the Throne there is an ornate plaster screen depicting the arms of the Diocese supported by a crook and a sword, and surmounted by a bishop’s mitre rising from a coronet. This signifies the status of the northern Bishopric as though it should be worn by a king or queen. The use of a sword also shows that the Prince Bishop had power which extended beyond the Church to securing and administering the secular law.

Around the walls of the room hang portraits of some of the successive bishops. The two portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence of Bishops Barrington and Van Mildert are impressive, as is the portrait of Bishop Westcott painted by George Richmond. There are also portraits of some of the more recent Bishops, Michael Ramsey, David Jenkins and Michael Turnbull.

 And finally various pictures  including the Zurbaran  in the dining room  and the Spanish room.


This is a fantastic projects  and well worth visit  and indeed a detour   if you’re  in the area.





Baddesley Clinton , is a moated manor house, located just north  of Warwick ; the house was probably established during the 13th century when large areas of the Forest of Arden were cleared and eventually converted to farmland. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and the Hall is a Grade I listed building.




In 1438, John Brome, Under-Treasurer of England, bought the manor, which passed to his son, Nicholas. Nicholas was responsible for the extensive rebuilding of the nearby parish church dedicated to Saint Michael, done as penance for killing the parish priest, a murder reputed to have taken place in the great house itself. The house from this period was equipped with gun-ports, and possibly a drawbridge. When Nicholas Brome died in 1517, the house passed to his daughter, who married Sir Edward Ferrers, High Sheriff of Warwickshire, in 1500. The house remained in the ownership of the Ferrers family until 1940 when it was purchased by Thomas Walker, a relative of the family who changed his name to Ferrers. His son, who inherited it in 1970, sold the estate in 1980 to the National Trust, who now manage it.


Henry Ferrers “The Antiquary” (1549–1633) made many additions to Baddesley Clinton, including starting the tradition of stained glass representing the family’s coat of arms. Such glass now appears in many of the public rooms in the house. It is thought that he was responsible for building the great hall. In the 18th century the great hall was rebuilt in brick, and the east range was extended, though with great care to continue the style of the original building.


The house was inhabited in the 1860s by the novelists Lady Chatterton and her second husband Edward Heneage Dering, both of whom converted to Catholicism. The house’s Catholic chapel was rebuilt, along with a general refurbishment of the house. Major interior changes took place up until the 1940s, with the first floor outside the chapel being completely altered. The house as it now exists has extensive formal gardens and ponds, with many of the farm buildings dating back to the 18th century. St. Michael’s church, which shares much history with the house is just a few hundred yards up a lane. Inside the house are a beautiful great hall, parlour and library, amongst other rooms, and there is a great deal of 16th century carving and furniture to be seen, as well as the 19th century accessories the later inhabitants used.



I started my blogging life in 2008 partly as a way of capturing my experience of a sabbatical in America. In the spring of that year I spent a month in Washington DC followed by three months in Chicago. It was a rejuvenating and very significant time. I managed to get over to Washington for the annual American Society of Ageing conference and here is my blog from that day.

I kept the rather incidental comments about  the conference and meeting up  with an old friend as a way into  the profound effect that  this extraordinary woman had  on  me and hundreds of other people  gathered in that enormous ballroom.  What a legacy she has left ..

Picture the scene. 3,600 delegates crammed into the Ball Room of a Washington Hotel listening to a choir of ‘seniors’ as they call them over here. I am feeling the after effects of too little sleep and some jet lag having just flown from London yesterday. It is the Aging in America conference and the start of a sabbatical. I’m findng hard to unwind from work and home but the conference programme is 269 pages long and only covers four days!

I have already been taken on a journey through the demographic time bomb of China by a group of academics and bump into an old friend from Princeton Theological Seminary. We met eight or nine years ago and she still remembers Temple Balsall and the lunch I cooked all that time age ago. Abigal Evans is Professor of Practical Theology and we share an interest in health, ethics and death! Despite the queue lunch was good! I firmly resisted chips!

The first day ended with the most extraordinary reflection from Maya Angelou – she sat in a chair – and without a note talked about her life and especially the meanings and humour of ageing. Moving – tender – rich – honest – wise and deeply spiritual. Her love has been carved out of the rock of pain, rejection and deep oppression. She showed 3 600 people how to laugh at themselves and how important was the work of presence with older people. She reminded us of how badly we can treat older people but above all of the power and virtue of courage.

We listened to her poetry and she asked us to change the world through our influence. Her smile and eyes will remain in my memory for a very long time.

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