Saturday, 11 September 2010

Life’s Rich Patisserie – Bayeux Pt I

No, no, I mean tapestry, sorry.

Bayeux was great. Abso-bl**dy-lutely great. And we didn't forget the sandwiches this time, which made it even greater. Mighty, in fact.

When I was a wee slip of a girl, an entire academic year was taken up in a tutorial room with lovely Mr Hodges and slightly less lovely (borderline insane if you ask me) Dr Edwards. Lovely Mr Hodges was everything a stereotypical history lecturer is supposed to be - quiet, comforting, a bit sleepy, cuddly like a small bear (large bear in his case, but never mind). He also wore clogs. There you go.

Dr Edwards used to run about at high speed and tell us off. On one memorable occasion he stopped a lecture after 5 minutes and told us all to get out, just GET OUT, I REFUSE to continue this lecture because not one of you has bothered to do your assignment (I had, as it happens, but he wouldn't listen and anyway, the prospect of an afternoon off made it not worth arguing the toss about).


You’re not allowed to take pictures of the tapestry, so here is some wool in a shop in Bayeux

The point is (there is one, yes), that both of these intellectual giants mentioned the Bayeux Tapestry with tedious frequency as a primary source to the point where we'd all doze off at the mere mention and wish to goodness that Queen Matilda had never gone to needlework classes, or had stuck to embroidering sequinned pants (as mentioned in another post). But I was so wrong.

The tapestry "in person" is awesome. You can get a wee bit blase if you've spent your life looking at history things, but I could have spent all day in there. Which would have gone down like a lead balloon as it would have caused a pile up and people would have either fallen over in a heap, or pushed me headfirst out the exit. It's a bit like seeing the Crown Jewels in the Tower, you have to move along and try not to hold everyone up.


Here is a little sainted person in a church in Bayeux. Gasp in awe at yet MORE ARCHES!

Best of all, the audio tour was most definitely not rubbish. No made up nonsense about shiny swords, Matilda's lingerie or what William had for breakfast. Not unless these things were actually on the tapestry before your very eyes. Just facts. FACTS FACTS FACTS. Sparkly facts. You walk along, each panel is numbered, and the beautiful RADA trained voice in your ear tells you what's going on in each segment. Perfect.

And the best bit? The smiley horses. I loved the smiley horses. In order to highlight the fact that everyone, even the animals, were convinced by the rightness of William's invasion expedition, the industrious tapestry ladies sewed in a whole boatload of hooved characters, grinning away as their ship took them to certain death, or at the very least a very tiring and uncomfortable afternoon near Hastings with no time for oat breaks. And there they were - cartoon horses, embroidered centuries before, someone taking the time and trouble to give them smiles which are still visible to us all in 2010. Did the seamstresses all laugh about it at the time? Was it a private joke? Was it done to amuse a child? Did someone tell them to do it to impress the Duke and upset the Saxons, or was someone trying out a new stitch? I don't know, but it was beautiful. Just...beautiful.

And that, my friends, is why I love history. It is real and it is human and it is about people who are the same as us, just with longer frocks and less bandwidth.

Imagine getting that kind of finish on a garment from Primark? I don't think so, ladies.

In our next installment we really will (yes, verily and trulye) visit the French butcher that we didn’t have time to scribe about this time because we are verily disorganised and in a bit of ye olde rush.


silverpebble said...

Firstly, what is an oat break? Is that ye olde version of having a KitKat?

Secondly, my most favouritest part of the BT is the kebabs. Squirrel? Rat? Fancy marinade? Either way they're genois.

silverpebble said...

Genius (although genois looks French-ish doesn't it?)

Lynn said...

If you decide to turn your travel stories into a book, I'll buy it in a heartbeat.

Just as I will purchase any book that Emma Silverpebble chooses to write about the assorted configurations and horrors of her hair.

Either one = brilliant. No, genois.

The Coffee Lady said...

I remember the Bayeux tapestry from when I was about 14. But mainly I remember my stepdad writing about it in this holiday journal my mum insisted we kept, and how pompous his entry was and how much we laughed at him.

But yes. It is pretty. Even I got that.

Soft Rock Mama said...

Wonderful post. History is fascinating. I can't imagine living in a place surrounded with such a vast amount of history. Someday I will travel abroad and see some of the sights you have shown us.(I want to see the smiling horses.)
Looking forward to reading about the butcher.