30 May 2007

The Clootie Tree and the Stone Circle.



I’d never heard of a clootie tree, and even if I had I wasn’t expecting to come across one in the lower levels of a cemetery in Nottingham.

Research tells me they are trees, usually situated by a Celtic well or stream, on which people make a wish as they tie wet strips of cloth (ribbons) to the branches. Such wishes are commonly associated with wanting someone healed.

The Nine Ladies stone circle, on Stanton Moor, Derbyshire, dates from the Bronze Age. A fellow blogger advised me to go look at it when I was pontificating over possible subjects to paint. My trek there was a strange one.

Firstly, the place is hard to locate, and locals I spoke to were uncertain as to its exact whereabouts. I drove up the hills as far as seemed possible, before leaving my car by the roadside and proceeding on foot through a field of cows and along the woodland paths. Amongst the trees I came across makeshift tents, old caravans, and even some tree-houses, but no people. Apparently, these were the habitats of those protesting against possible mining in the area. So, I was somewhat surprised when a beautiful “hippy” girl stepped out before me as in a vision. I asked her the way to the Nine Ladies and she silently pointed to a path leading further up the hill.

It was only during the final few steps up the summit that the Circle came into view. First impressions were disappointing. The stones are only about 24 inches (60 centimeters) high. But the legend is intriguing: Nine ladies were caught dancing around this spot on the Sabbath and turned to stone as a consequence of their sin. Indeed, one can see human shapes in several of the stones. I took my photographs and left.

I have an awful sense of direction at the best of times but, for whatever reason, I totally lost my bearings and exited the site along the exact opposite path I should have taken. After a while, with the sun going down, and knowing the car was left unprotected, I became quite flustered. After walking a good distance, I had to accept I was totally lost, and needed to try and retrace my footsteps to the Circle, and start again. This I did, as the evening sky grew ever darker.

Once back at the Circle I realized my mistake, and managed to descend the hill along the correct path, negotiating the field of cows, and reaching the sanctuary of my car. It was a rather unsettling experience. Quite strange. The resultant painting may be poor, but the day itself was a memorable adventure.

All text, pros, photos & artwork, copyright Ian Gordon Craig.

1 May 2007

The Betjeman Blues.

 The Betjeman Blues.

White shorts in the rock pool,
A seaside east town,
A bed-sit for two,
With furniture brown.
Crazy golf gripping fingers,
Crazy slot machine clown,
These Betjeman blues
Are bringing me down.

A sea salt sun memory,
Tanned legs against blue,
Of sand in the bath tub,
Of me inside you.
Crazy candy floss feeling,
Crazy joy ride fairground,
These Betjeman blues
Are bringing me down.

All text copyright ian g craig