Simeon had lived in Norwich since completing his PhD and for the last three years in this old house in Tombland. Norwich was a touchstone for him, to say it was his muse would have embarrassed him, but it suited and inspired him, anchored him to his spiritual and aesthetic roots. A city of duality, sky anchor; stone anchor.
Norwich languished beneath the expansive East Anglian skies that he missed more than any other thing when away from home. Skies that shrank the earth to a mote; that overpowered his senses, that made him reel under their immensity, their protean beauty. Walking on any East Anglian beach transported him to a place of infinite horizons. Land became an incidental, a mere vantage point, something to be resented in its feeble attempt to anchor and restrain. Once walking from Southwold to Walberswick he’d reached a particular point on the shore, back to the sea, a point that overlooked the expanse of the common and beyond it the gentle leafy undulations of the Suffolk countryside running down to Blythburgh. The sky had overwhelmed him wholly, left him standing in dumb incredulity. No words, no words, just……sky. At once subjugation and belonging, the place claimed him.
That day he’d picked up a small heart-shaped flint, pierced with a tiny hole, and put it in his pocket. A thumb-stone, both soothing and catalytic. A talismanic hag-stone to conjure up this place. Stone figured significantly in Simeon’s world. Its beauties and contradictions had held him, steered him for much of his life. Wonderment at the case-hardened sheen of razor-sharp flint fragments strewn on the Suffolk beaches of his childhood had not diminished, but had nurtured a consuming passion for stone in all its manifestations. Its vocabulary delighted him; knapping, flushwork, coffering, quoin; evocative words of resonance and beauty. Stone spoke to him; it formed a geological synapse between him and the earth, pulsing and vital. It provided the bedrock and the foundation in its raw state, it succumbed to the chisel and mallet to fashion the city. And Norwich rose in walls of stone.
The Bridewell, with its northern aspect forbiddingly faced in black knapped flint had confronted the city’s citizens and elements alike since the late 14th century. He often caressed its walls with his fingertips, glassy and uncompromising, with the sheen of oil on pitch. Churches, cobbled sets, city walls, cloisters peopled with animate carved roof bosses; Norwich’s rich vocabulary was one of stone, and Simeon was fluent. He knew its colloquialisms, understood its nuances, and sensed its timeless foundations. Tombland, the place where he lived, even the name was redolent of stone’s ability to enclose and confine. Stone anchor.
This extract is taken from Stone Ties by Steven Hobbs. If you'd like to read more, or purchase a copy on Kindle, please click on the following link - Stone Ties
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© Steven Hobbs 2014. All rights reserved.
© Steven Hobbs 2014