I hadn’t heard of Tam Black’s shack until I saw a mention of it in a local newspaper, included in a brief description of a walk from Wendover to Dunsmore and back. There was no context and no precise location given. But the name, and the fact that it was thought worth mentioning, intrigued me. Who was Tam Black and how did he come to have a shack in this part of the Chiltern Hills?
Here is a stretch of leafy road between Wendover and Ellesborough, at the north-eastern edge of the Chilterns, what you might call deep Buckinghamshire. And here on the boundary wall of one of the grand houses along this stretch are a pair of t-shirts, or rather t-shirts converted to banners.
Anne Greene’s luck only began to turn after she was hanged. A maid-servant in the household of Sir Thomas Read in the Oxfordshire village of Duns Tew, her misfortunes began when Sir Thomas’s grandson Jeffrey took a fancy to her.
A coda to my recent visit to Wayland’s Smithy. The standing stones have multiple circular holes drilled in them. I don’t what the purpose of these holes was, or whether they were part of the original design or added later. But I noticed that some ears of barley (or was it wheat? Barley, i think) had been placed in one of them.
I’ve visited a few Neolithic sites in Britain but I don’t think I’ve ever been to one as serene and captivating as Wayland’s Smithy. These ancient places are always awe-inspiring, but the atmosphere of pagan ceremony can often be discomforting in its distant inscrutability, not to say occasionally terrifying in its imagined strangeness.
It seems a curious subject to choose for a public work of art, this mural near the centre of Cardiff. And, as with any state-funded art commission, there must have a few bureaucratic hurdles to jump before final approval was granted. When the artist made his pitch, did anyone on the committee laugh or splutter or quibble, or did they nod sagely, as befits men and women of the cultural establishment?