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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

Rejections and Acceptances
Going through my mother's photographs, etc., has revealed my first ever rejection letter!


I wasn't quite 6 at the time, so don't take it too personally. It still pays to know someone in the biz.

In more contemporary news, I'm happy to say that my first successful Cardiff PhD student, aka Intertext, successfully passed her viva this week - having delivered her thesis (on intertextuality in Diana Wynne Jones) two years early.

Japanese Diary 40: Hidges, Pridges and Bridges
In honour of the rugby World Cup, Cardiff is full of trilingual posters, indicative of gutsy determination:


This piecemeal Welsh-Japanese-English lexicon of sporting inspiration is of great interest to me, you may be sure. For one thing, it's got me wondering about similarities (if any) between Welsh and Japanese. Of course, I'm slightly hamstrung in this respect due to my almost total ignorance of Welsh - albeit I was pleased to find myself reading and understanding "Y Hen Gorsaf" in Aberystwyth in August without needing to think about it. There's the vague similarity between yma ("here" in Welsh) and ima/今 ("now" - its temporal equivalent - in Japanese), but that's the kind of coincidence one might expect to be thrown up in comparing any two random languages.

Then I thought - front mutation! That's something both languages do quite a lot. For example, the Welsh word for "bridge", "pont," mutates to "bont" when there's something in front of it, as in Dôl-y-bont. Similarly, in Japanese the word for "bridge" is "hashi" (橋), but again this front-mutates to a "bashi," as in "Nihonbashi." You get many other similar mutations, typically from unvoiced to voiced consonants: sa-->za, ka-->ga, etc. English, although it dabbles in medial mutations (e.g. "leaf"-->"leaves"), as far as I know doesn't do front mutations at all.

Also, "popty ping" and "denshi renji" (電子レンジ) are both very cute ways of saying "microwave oven."

Two Kinds of Badness
Two voices are there: one is of the deep,
And one is of an old half-witted sheep,
And, Wordsworth, both are thine!

I've filleted J. K. Stephen's sonnet there, but those are officially the best bits - the rest is filler. And of course it's perfectly true - some Wordsworth is wonderful, but he can also be banal.

Of course, most poets write better at some times than others. It's the norm for novelists, artists and composers, too, maybe in fact for pretty much any human activity. But the badness of early Wordsworth, at least, is interesting. In that early work, bad Wordsworth and good Wordsworth aren't really very different from each other: each continually teeters on the other's brink. When your shtick is using ordinary language and everyday situations, banality is never going to be more than a redundant syllable away. (W. D. Snodgrass's De/Compositions: 101 Good Poems Gone Wrong illustrates this beautifully.) A change of light can prove your fairy feast a pile of stinking leaves, or blow beauty into a drift of dirt.

It's different from the badness of late Wordsworth, such as his sonnet sequence in praise of capital punishment:

IS 'Death', when evil against good has fought
With such fell mastery that a man may dare
By deeds the blackest purpose to lay bare?
Is Death, for one to that condition brought,
For him, or any one, the thing that ought
To be 'most' dreaded? Lawgivers, beware,
Lest, capital pains remitting till ye spare
The murderer, ye, by sanction to that thought
Seemingly given, debase the general mind;
Tempt the vague will tried standards to disown,
Nor only palpable restraints unbind,
But upon Honour's head disturb the crown,
Whose absolute rule permits not to withstand
In the weak love of life his least command.

Why this is not as good as the Lucy poems is not something I propose to discuss here; I leave that to the sagacity of the reader.

Anyway, this all prompts me to ask: what other writers exhibit the quality of keeping greatness and banality not at opposite ends of a spectrum, but as each other's shadows? I'm sure Wordsworth isn't alone.

"I Would Eat his Heart in the Market-place"
My home town of Romsey isn't often in the news, but today it caught the attention of the Telegraph diarist Michael Deacon because the local MP, Caroline Nokes, one of the Tories who had the whip removed recently for voting to block a No Deal Brexit, reported that she had been told in Romsey marketplace that she was "a traitor who deserved to be shot."

I haven't read the Telegraph piece, because paywall, but the comments are free to view, and give a pretty good idea of the level of the debate in Torygraph land. Many agree with the person who threatened Nokes; some suggest lynching as an alternative; the less extreme say she brought it on herself. A paltry few demur.

A couple of things to note, by way of necessary context.

a) Nokes is not a Remainer, as most in the comments assume. Unlike the current Prime Minister, she voted three times for Theresa May's deal. What she objects to is a No Deal Brexit.

b) Romsey did not vote Leave, as most in the comments also assume. The constituency was 53% Remain.

A complicating factor for me personally is that my mother, who taught Nokes when she was at secondary school, never much liked her. But, though an ardent Remainer herself, she somehow never called for her to be shot, or even put in the stocks.

Come buy, come buy, my home from the age of 8 or so. Memories at half a crown, reminiscences three for a shilling. Come buy, come buy.

Steepholm is an Island Once Again
I've been living on my own (cat excepted) for about two weeks, now, even since my daughter moved into student halls. I've done it before, of course, when she did her apprenticeship in Brighton for 18 months or so, but this feels rather more permanent, even if the halls in question are only 30 minutes' walk away. And this time, of course, I don't have my mother to go and visit.

I think it's an adjustment that will take time, and be managed on multiple fronts, but one thing I want to do is put a bit more effort into a meatspace friendships (actually, does anyone say 'meatspace' any more? If not, why not?).

It's not that I don't see people now, though. I did a mental audit of my social contacts in the last, pre-semester week, and found quite a full calendar, with a distinct international flavour: dinner with a Welsh-Iranian couple; taking watercress soup to my Myanmar neighbour; having lunch with a Kazakh witch in the Cotswolds; buying a Bosnian academic coffee in Montpelier; two private Japanese lessons (little Sumi-chan has learned to crawl!); and on Monday I'll be visiting a Chinese friend in Newport. Actually, I'm struggling to think of many British people I've spent time with apart from my daughter, and even she has a French passport.

Anyway, all this cosmopolitan busyness could be a very healthy sign, or a frantic distraction from underlying loneliness, or a bit of both, as I suspect is the case. Meanwhile, I flip-flop between the following two views from my daughter's tenth-floor room:



The second is of course the uncropped version of the first, and might in that sense be said to be more honest, but I like to think the first conveys a greater spiritual truth about the nature of inner-city Bristol.

Oh Why 50?
Jo Swinson rubs me up several wrong ways which I won't detail here, but I do want to mention the new Lib Dem policy to revoke Article 50 should they win a majority at the next election. It's a very unlikely contingency, admittedly, but policies shouldn't be adopted on the basis that they'll never have to be carried out.

The justification is that, if they win a majority in Parliament standing on that policy, they will have a mandate to revoke. However, they're comparing chalk and cheese. Typically, Westminster governments get around 42-45% of the popular vote: no party since the War has had more than 50%. The Lib Dems know this better than most, since they have used the fact to campaign for voting reform for decades. The referendum Leave vote, as we know, got 52%.

I think we've learned pretty thoroughly by now that Parliamentary democracy and democracy by direct plebiscite don't mix - but, partly for that very reason, having opened the Brexit worm can in one way, it can only be closed the same way. If I were a Leave voter, already resentful that my voice is ignored, having the referendum result discarded by fiat, by a Government with (as it would likely seem to me) less legitimacy, would make me feel that democracy had died altogether.

And that's a feeling that could very easily be exploited.

Indiana Jones and the Uvular Approximant
I was watching a video the other day about the IPA consonant chart:

consonant chart

As you know, Robert, this chart has two axes: the horizontal one refers to positions in the mouth and vocal tract; the vertical to the various ways that air can be stopped or constricted to make sounds. Plosives, for example, which involve air being completely stopped and then released, can be made at various points in the mouth from the lips to the epiglottis, but the lips can also be used to make other kinds of sound (nasals, trills, etc.).

The shaded parts on the map represent "impossible" sounds - impossible because of the limitations of human anatomy. A sound that requires vibrating a loose flap of skin, for example, can't be made using a part of the mouth that has no such feature.

But it's the empty-yet-unshaded parts that are most interesting. These represent sounds that are physically possible but that have not yet been discovered in any known language. I suppose an obvious comparison is with gaps in the periodic table deliberately left by Mendeleev for others to fill after him. What could be more enticing? Who wouldn't want to be the person to find that element and get to name it? Who wouldn't want to be the first to identify a particular phonetic sound and add it to the IPA map?

I'm reminded also of the white spaces left in nineteenth-century maps of Africa: an enticement to young explorers to go off and 'discover' and name new countries. This isn't entirely coincidental. Some seekers after rare minerals must have been among those who donned pith helmets to go into the Amazonian or African jungles. Seekers after rare phonemes go there now. White space is catnip to imperialists, whatever their brand of imperialism.

Severn Wonders
Well, I've written numerous insightful posts on the ongoing Brexit/constitutional crisis in the UK, only to have each of them upturned by events and all the wisdom spilt on the carpet. Not that I'm complaining. Even without tariffs, there's not enough popcorn on this island for all the entertainment it's providing. It's like a murmuration of a million chickens, all coming home to roost at once. If only people's lives weren't at stake too - but sadly this entertainment is not harmless.

Civil War comparisons are inevitable and apt, and my friend Diane Purkiss (none better qualified) was on the radio this week making them. The matter isn't straightforward, though: the basic pattern of Parliament vs. overweening Executive lines up well - but the stereotypes are askew, for now it is the government side that is made up of dour, insular fanatics, and the Parliamentarians who tend to see Britain as part of a network of continental alliances.

Meanwhile, I spent last week going full Geraldus Cambrensis. I began with lunch at my friend Marie's new house on the west bank of the Severn in the Forest of Dean - that strange bit of England that always feels like it should be in Wales.


She only moved in a couple of years ago, and they're still working on the house, which has bits from a wide selection of centuries. My favourite thing was this donkey-operated cider crush and press, still looking much as it must have done around 1900:


Then it was off to a magical weekend on the Gower, my more-or-less annual offline trip to the world of druids and witches. This time it was very druid-weighted, but I got on well with the one witch, who hailed from Kazakhstan. I can say little more of our eldritch rites (except that they were Pooh-themed), but I think it may be okay to show you the hobbit hole where I resided for three nights:


And maybe to share the last few lines of the Druidical Pooh hum I composed for the occasion:

Of Owl and Rabbit,
Earth and Sky,
A universe is made
Where you and I
Can see displayed
The Ancients’ Wisdom
And their Folly too,
Which is all one.

So, don’t excuse
A lack of brain, but rather muse
What we may gain
By making room for emptiness:
Guest room for unexpected guests
Who stumble into woods like these,
Bringing nectar from the bees.

From the Gower I went to Borth, and met up with my brother, daughter and daughter's boyfriend for a couple of days, before returning to Bristol and the world of grant applications. It's a strange life.

I note, by the way, that Robert Mugabe's dates - 1924-2019 - are the same as my mother's. (They had very little else in common, though.)

A Stag of Seven Tines
First things first, yes of course it's an attempted coup, and has been for some time. The era of British sakoku may be about to begin...

...however, the coup has not yet succeeded.

Also, as though to close out a more civilised era, yesterday I went to the Cotswolds again, in company with a small posse (here seen relaxing in Castle Combe), including my Japanese teacher, Kei, and the two latest recruits to Fosse Farmhouse:


My main reason was to retake a picture of Bourton Model Village, my previous ones having turned out to be too low quality, but we did quite a bit of supplementary sightseeing, topped off a visit to Broadway Tower, a first for me, where we got a bit distracted by this magnificent herd of red deer...


Quite a set of antlers, no? When you have antlers like that, you don't really need to try to get academic articles published. For the rest of us, however, it's a different story. I sent my revisions off today.

Blog Amnesty
You know how you keep putting something off because you're too busy to do it justice right now, but putting it off makes it even more daunting, because the amount that needs to be done just keeps getting bigger, etc?

I've been a bit that way for the last couple of weeks re. blogging. I've had a lot on, in fact, and done quite a few things I would like to have blogged about, but I was too busy doing them, and so the recordkeeping rather went by the wayside.

However, I'm declaring an amnesty. Rather than try to describe the last few weeks in one go I'll just jot down the headlines here, and hope to fill in some of the blanks over future entries, which will I trust from today be back to their former desultory frequency.

First, there was the Diana Wynne Jones conference in Bristol, which I organised with my friend Farah M, which involved just shy of 100 people coming to the Watershed to talk about DWJ. It was a great success, I think it's fair to say, though the weather was shit - but that was worse news for the balloon fiesta than for us...

The next day it was a night at my brother's in Brighton, then off via Gatwick to Stockholm for IRSCL - my first visit to the city. (I liked it a lot, though it was a tad too hipster for me.) The ABBA museum with Clémentine was a special highlight, along with the visit to the Golden Hall in the City Hall, which is apparently where they all dish out those glittering prizes we've heard so much about.

I was back in my bed by 4am on Monday morning, then off to work by 10 - where I did some needful work-y things, and since then I've been trying to catch up on all the other work stuff: articles and grant applications and the like. Oh, and Eriko came over for the night on Thursday, which was fun.

There you have a very bare-bones account! I'll try to fill in some of the detail later, but meanwhile, have some pictures of Stockholm...


Ladies First
Since when was Shinzo Abe's wife the "First Lady" of Japan?

I first saw this usage on the internet a few months ago, and dismissed it as the parochialism of an American reporter, transferring language appropriate to the United States to a context where it didn't fit - like the woman interviewing Nelson Mandela who asked him to comment on an issue "as an African American." (He was too polite to point out her error.) But then I saw it again, and again - and recently I even heard it from a Japanese friend, who confirmed that it was indeed a thing in Japan - even if, as in America, it's a courtesy title rather than a constitutional one.

But, while it makes a kind of sense in the States, where the President is also the head of state, surely it makes no sense in a monarchy? If Akie Abe is the First Lady of Japan, what number lady is Empress Masako?

I was about to write that if Boris Johnson tried to call Carrie Symonds the First Lady a couple of Beefeaters would be round to No. 10 sharpish to let him feel the business end of a pike - but I see that some newspapers have indeed started referring to her, albeit flippantly, as the "First Girlfriend". Will that take root?

I don't know why this even bothers me, since I'm not a royalist, but a) I do find the confusion of presidential and monarchical systems irritating, and b) I would be sorry to think that the whole First Lady meme was spreading, since it was always pretty irredeemably sexist.

I'm Glad 10

An Easy Mistake?
A couple of days ago I passed a shop window advertising "Gender Reveal Fireworks" - a first for me.

For a minute I thought, Wow, haven't we come a long way? When I transitioned, coming out was a scary, nerve-wracking thing, fraught with fears of rejection, anger and hurt. Now, people can invite their friends to celebrate their coming out with a fabulous fireworks party in which they reveal their gender (in as many colours as it takes), proud of themselves and their truth, and confident in the support of those who love them.

Then I remembered I wasn't living in a David Levithan novel. Of course, the fireworks' real purpose was to lock yet-unborn children into a rigid, cisnormative gender binary.

Perhaps they could still be used for the first thing after all, though?

I Didn’t Hear Me Arrive
On a friend’s FB today I had occasion to quote from one of my favourite C. S. Lewis essays, “The Inner Ring”:

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.

I read that when I was far too young to be able to judge whether or not it was true, though the idea was always appealing. But I think there’s quite a lot in it, perhaps especially in the professions that Lewis had as author and a scholar, which happen also to be mine.

You plough your own furrow, doing your own thing, because it’s interesting rather than because you think it will win you fame and/or fortune, then gradually you discover that a modicum of the first at least has indeed come your way. In the last week I’ve had several people come up to me (in person or online) in a strangely star-struck manner that doesn’t sort at all with my self-image or even with my image of my image, as it were. Admittedly I was one of the keynotes in Valencia, so it’s not surprising people would say nice things there, but I was still taken aback to have a Polish scholar tell me how excited her students would be to hear that she’d met me. I mean, wtf? I even seriously wondered whether she might be thinking of a different person, since there was someone with the same name at Cardiff before me and I occasionally get things that were obviously meant for her - but no.

Then there was the person at the children’s book publisher, whom I had to contact to request a review copy, who wrote back telling me how much she had enjoyed Four British Fantasists. How did she even know that was by me, since I wrote it under a different name?

Also, literally while I was writing this post, an email dropped into my inbox informing me that I’d been promoted to Reader.

That, along with the lavishly complimentary reader’s report I just got on my “Japan Reads the Cotswolds” article (which should, all being well, be out in Children’s Literature next year), have gone some way to swell my head like Keats’s autumnal gourd, albeit mine probably contains far less pith.

My Duty All Ended
"Felix Randal the farrier, O is he dead then? my duty all ended..."

I see that I quoted from "Felix Randal" here the day after my mother died. Tomorrow it will be five months since her funeral, and it's another line - the first, in fact - that keeps going through my head.

The weather is to blame. It's hot at the moment, and the habitual thought, "I hope Mum's managing to keep cool" keeps getting triggered - and then I remember that it's no longer really a concern. And I feel sad, with a side salad of relief because I don't need to worry about her, drizzled of course with a vinaigrette of guilt.

When I was a teenager and going through the Gerard Manley Hopkins phase that I guess most teenagers have, my favourite lines from this poem were these:

How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!

I loved the sudden time shift, the Anglo-Saxon phrasing and alliteration, the unexpectedness of "sandal". That said, I didn't identify with Felix, because death was never far from my forethoughts, nor did I really understand the priest's perspective: why was his first thought "My duty all ended", as if Felix had been first and foremost a burden to him? It seemed a tad uncharitable. Now, though, I appreciate the insight all the more.

Incidentally, Isabella Bird reports that, while staying in Nikkou, she visited a classroom where the children recited the following verse - in part no doubt for its pious Buddhism, but also because (like the quick brown fox jumping the lazy dog) it contains the entire Japanese syllabry, or 五十音:

Colour and perfume vanish away,
What can be lasting in this world?
To-day disappears in the abyss of nothingness;
It is but the passing image of a dream, and causes only a slight trouble.

Apologies if I've earwormed you with that catchy ditty, but I'd love to see the Japanese original.

Englishwomen Abroad
I've been in Valencia for a few days attending a conference, most of which was in Spanish and thus incomprehensible to me, but everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, and somehow that didn't matter too much. Why was I there at all, you ask, since I couldn't understand the proceedings? Why, because I had been invited. My keynote went well, thank you very much.

While in Valencia I read Isabella Bird's book about travelling in Japan in the 1870s, and found it very interesting, as an outsider's account of a country in transition from Edo culture to Westernisation. It's full of quotable titbits, but I shall refrain, at least for now. One interesting factoid, though: did you know that the only currency accepted in Japan apart from the yen at that time was the Mexican dollar?

Bird - who already had experience of adventuring in Hawaii and the Rockies before this - was in her mid-forties when she decided to travel the length of Japan (well, from Tokyo to Hokkaido), and she certainly knew her own mind. She isn't afraid of criticising the country: the flea-infested tatami, the food, the abominable roads, etc. On the other hand, this lends her compliments more force, so that when she praises the kindness and courtesy of the Japanese, their immaculate roads and fields, the beauty of the landscape, and so on, we can be confident she means it. Her relationship with her young interpreter, Ito, is also fascinating, if glimpsed only briefly in odd exchanges.

Of course, it turns out that the book has been made into a manga - [不思議の国のバード] (Bird in Wonderland). The Japanese like to look at people looking at them, and of course I like looking at the Japanese doing that, too, especially when refracted through a British children's classic. The allusion to Alice (recalling to me D. C. Angus's The Eastern Wonderland: or Pictures of Japanese Life, which was published at almost the same time as Bird's book, in the early 1880s), only adds to the allure.

Bird in the manga is much younger looking than the real woman, but otherwise it's a fairly faithful adaptation, from what I've seen, but that's only on the basis of a few pages.

How did they handle the fact that Bird, who did not speak Japanese, must speak Japanese in the manga to be understood by its readers? Why, like this:

bird japanese

This is actually quite an accurate representation of my arrival in Valencia.

Bubble Hubble
When I lived in York in the 1980s it was already very much a tourist city, especially in summer, and perhaps the most tourist-thronged street was The Shambles, with its picturesquely overhanging gables that (so I was always told) had shaded the meat in hot weather in the days before refrigeration. For The Shambles was traditionally a street of butchers, as the name implies, although by my day there were only one or two.

I've no idea whether The Shambles was a direct influence on J. K. Rowling when she created Diagon Alley (have you?), but it's probably the most famous street of the type that she clearly had in mind, if I can put it thus circumspectly. York, however, nowhere appears in the Harry Potter books, and has not, as far as I know, ever been mentioned as an inspiration.

So, with the recent Cotswold project in mind, it's interesting to see just how complete the Potterification of The Shambles has been. There are now no butchers at all, but you can see...

...The Potions Cauldron...

The Shop That Must Not Be Named...

...The Boy Wizard...

...The World of Wizardry...

... and several other shops that have some kind of Pottery merchandise. As in the Cotswolds, the Mobius loop has closed: the original has become the copy, and vice versa. When Haruka sent a picture to her sister, she replied by asking whether it was a film set.

Who, after all, is to say that it isn't?

Bird and Butler
As long as I’m on this train, I’ll just mention that, when I was talking with Chiho, my friend from Kagoshima, the other day, she mentioned the Victorian traveller Isabella Bird, as a Westerner who had written a book on Japan in that era (I’ve an amateur interest in such people, being in a small way one of their successors). Naturally I looked her up on Wikipedia, and was surprised to find, almost in the first line of her substantial entry, a reference to my great-great-aunt, Fanny Jane Butler. When Fanny founded her hospital in Srinagar, Bird provided the money.

It was just one incident in an extremely eventful life that took Bird to adventures in not only Japan but China, Australia, Hawaii and the Rocky Mountains, among other places, but perhaps it was the most influential. One-eyed Jim Nugent, the charismatic adventurer/poet with whom Bird spent such an invigorating time in the 1870s has long since been dust: coyote and cougar stamp o’er his head. The hospital survives to this day.

Senior Moments
As I write this, I’m on a crowded train “rushing” home from York to Bristol. I’ve been staying with Haruka at the house of my old PhD supervisor and his wife, and a nice time we had too. (Haruka has gone off in a different direction, to London, so for now I’m on my own.)

It’s strange being in a place where I spent so much happy time in what must now be counted as the moderately distant past, and that temporal discombobulation showed itself in a dream I had last night. There, I was asked, in some kind of social situation, how old I was. “Twenty-six,” I replied automatically. Even in my dream this sounded a little odd, so my dream-self corrected it: “I mean, thirty-six.”

Then I awoke, and realised the truth - that I was in fact forty-six - or rather (as I became a little less bleary) fifty-six. That was my final bid for the moment, but a very salutary wakening it had been. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that, when I was a York habitue, I really was in my mid-twenties?

My supervisor, meanwhile, who retired a few years ago, was embarrassed two nights ago because he unthinkingly cut the boil-in-the-bag fish he was making for supper out of its bag and put it into the oven on a baking tray. The truth is that it tasted perfectly fine, but he dwelt on his error, until I told him:

“It’s not a senior moment; it’s an emeritus moment.”

The conceit pleased him.

Severn Wonders
Haruka stayed again last weekend, which offered the opportunity to visit one or two new places. One was in Cardiff, a city I've worked in for four years now but still not thoroughly explored. In particular, I'd never been down to the bay area, so we made that good on Friday afternoon, and very pretty it was. The most intriguing discovery was Ianto's Shrine - a spontaneous outpouring of grief for a fairly minor character from a Doctor Who spin-off that last aired in 2011, who died a full decade ago but whose shrine is still relatively thriving, though some of the notes are a little blurry - presumably from the fresh salt tears of grieving fans:


From a shrine on the Severn's western shore to a temple on the east: Sunday saw us visiting Berkeley in Gloucestershire, from where (as the tour guide in the castle reminded us) everything named Berkeley ultimately derives, from London squares to Californian campuses. I'd visited the castle several times before, and very interesting it is too, not least as the site of Edward II's murder (with or without poker). But literally next door is Edward Jenner's house, and somehow I'd never actually paid my dues to go into the Jenner museum. I'm glad we did this time, though, because it gave me the chance to visit a place that had been on my list for many years - namely, the Temple of Vaccinia, so called by Jenner himself after his development of smallpox inoculation. Before becoming a temple it had been his summer house, and even now it is basically just a hut at the bottom of his garden, decorated in an archly rustic way to fit the fashion of the time. From this Temple he would inoculate the villagers of Berkeley free of charge.


Inside the house there is a portrait (and the preserved horns) of Blossom, the cow whose poxy udders began it all, and ultimately saved the lives of millions. We paid due reverence to her memory.