Sunday, 25 October 2015

Someone's been busy again!

A dog's got to do what a dog's got to do! lol

How the other half lived

The only complete building still standing within the Glastonbury Abbey complex is the Abbot's Kitchen. This rather impressive structure, built between 1320 - 1370, was untouched during the Dissolution of Monasteries because it is built entirely of stone unlike the rest of the Abbey structures, which were lead roofed (the lead, being expensive, was stripped from the rest of the Abbey leaving the structures open to the weather).

The Abbott's Kitchen

Glastonbury's Abbot’s Kitchen is one of the best preserved medieval kitchens in Europe. As already stated it dates from the early 14th century and as you can probably see, is a square structure with an octagonal stone tiled roof rising to a two-stage octagonal lantern louvre which let out the smoke from the cooking fires while drawing in clean, fresh air. The structure has unusual round buttresses on all four sides. How the kitchen connected to the Abbot's residence is uncertain, but excavations suggest via a roofed walkway.

The 80 or so Benedictine monks who lived at the Abbey would have had a pretty spartan lifestyle, spending much of their day either in prayer or singing the praises of their Lord God. Their diet is somewhat hazy, but seems to have consisted primarily of dairy products, fruit & vegetables, fish and on high feast days some small amount of meat. Not so the Abbot.

Over the centuries the various abbots at Glastonbury have been amongst the richest men in England. As such they have looked after themselves particularly well, feasting kings, barons and dignitaries from both Britain and further afield. Did the Abbot stick to a mostly meat-free diet? Not likely! Just have a look around inside the Abbot's Kitchen:

The Roasting Frame
The Roasting Frame (rotisserie), capable of holding a dozen fowl and a couple of carcases, hogs in the example here. An alternative rotisserie capable of holding larger carcasses (for whole beef or horse) would also have been available.

Preparation Table
The Preparation Board may also have been used for dinning, though it is unlikely the Abbot would have eaten here. The Board would have seen a hive of activity, especially on feast days as the various dishes were prepared here. Note the Boiling Station in the background used for cooking the vegetables and boiled meats.

Boiling Station
Most medieval kitchens had a Boiling Station with one or possibly two rise and fall hangers, but being a very rich man the Abbot of Glastonbury had four pot hangers as well as various floor standing pan stands.

With a staff of around 20, The Kitchener would no doubt have had a lot of fun in this kitchen. He would also have enjoyed considerable power and status and been among the best of European chefs.

As well as the areas shown here the Abbot's Kitchen had a bread oven and a patisserie, where pies and delicate pastries were prepared for Abbot's delight. Pretty amazing, eh? And remember this kitchen serviced just one man most of the year. As an outsider an invite to the Abbot of Glastonbury's table must have been much sought after.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Avalon, maybe

Glastonbury Abbey may have been the biggest draw to the town in years past, especially for those Christians wishing to 'buy' their way into Heaven... or at least to ensure some respite from Purgatory. These days though the faithful millions flock to Glastonbury either for the music festivals or to visit the mystical Isle of Avalon.

Glastonbury Tor, known as Ynys yr Afalon to the ancient Britains, is reputed to be the Isle of Avalon from Arthurian legend... well it may or may not be, but one thing is certain; in the days before the Somerset Levels were drained the Tor would have stood proud above a waterlogged landscape. These days the Tor stands proud to the east of Glastonbury town and is a landmark visible from miles around.

Glastonbury Tor
Whether you believe in Arthur, the Once and Future King, or not is entirely up to you, but if he existed he may well have visited Glastonbury and consequently the Tor.

Gwyn ap Nudd's home?
Other folk, those who believe in fairies for example, believe Glastonbury Tor to be the home of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of the Fairy Folk... mmmm, yeah, right.

The actual Tor itself is a conical hill topped with the remains of St. Michael's Tower, all that remains of St. Michael's Church erected in the 14th century by Abbot Adam of Sodbury. The tower is a grade 1 listed building managed by the National Trust.

St Michael's Tower
Should you visit Glastonbury for whatever reason I urge you to make the effort and climb the Tor... it's not easy, but it is worth it... the views from the top are simply stunning, especially on a clear day.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A lovely re-union day

I had a day out with a very good friend yesterday who was visiting the UK from her home in Bavaria. Sadly I don't get to see Silvia very often, but like all good friendships ours is such that whenever we get together it always seems as though we were never apart. I'll blog a little about my catch-up with Silvia over the next day or so, but thought I'd start by introducing a new friend.

I spent a very pleasant 45 minutes with an extremely attractive wench... lucky me, eh? Her name was Mistress Elizabeth a 15th Century tour guide at Glastonbury Abbey. Nice costume, lovely personality and well informed, just what you need when touring one of England's most important ancient monuments.

image of Mistress Elizabeth
Mistress Elizabeth strutting her stuff

Friday, 9 October 2015

Never ever again...

There are times when I just feel so damn ashamed of myself, like whining because I got a puncture and had to stop at the side of the road to repair it. Just take a look at this guy:

I promise I'll never moan about having to repair a puncture again!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Italy Badge Earned

I started wearing a Fitbit Flex that I got free back in June and religiously recording my activities from June 22nd. I was actually quite surprised to find how far I walked each week, mostly with Tilly of course although I do walk for both exercise and pleasure. Anyway I had a bit of a shock yesterday when Fitbit awarded me the Italy Badge for having walked 736 miles... that's the whole length of Italy apparently.

Italy Badge - 736 miles walked
Go me, eh? Of course since Fitbit awarded me this badge I must've walked at least another 15 miles, so right now I'm either high up in the Alps or deep under the Mediterranean Sea! lol

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

All wet and soggy

Given the time of year I suppose I should expect my morning ride to be a bit damp occasionally, but this morning I got caught out in a torrential downpour. Fortunately it only lasted 15 minutes or so, unfortunately it left me drenched. So wet in fact I had to empty water out of my shoes when I got home!

Most car drivers don't appreciate why cyclists avoid puddles or riding in the gutter, but the reasons are simple:

  • You have no idea what's in the bottom of a puddle
  • If you're cycling in the gutter you get the hell of a lot more splash-back when it is wet

Don't know what splash-back is? Well...

Cycling in the Rain
Splash-back refers to all the water thrown up by the front wheel when cycling in wet conditions. The wetter the road, the more water is thrown back at the rider. In my case this morning there was so much water being thrown up from the road it streamed back down my shins and filled my shoes.

I was thinking as I ploughed on through the driving rain some kind of weather proof canopy would have been handy... then I remembered I'd actually seen one such thing:

Wet Proofing
Can't imagine me ever buying one of those somehow, but it is an intriguing idea.

So anyway since I was soaked to the skin I curtailed my ride this morning shortening my route to just under 14 miles instead of the 22 I had originally planned.

Shortened Route