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"You've Got to Sleep With Your Mum and Dad" is now available on Amazon. Childhood angst, marathon swimming, international exploitation and the threat of impending pinniped intimacy. on 2014-08-13
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Have a look at my page on Amazon. Still plenty of summer left for challenging literature. on 2014-08-13
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Check out my Amazon Kindle page. 'The Baby Who Killed People for Money' is now available. An utterly charming child with a unique and lucrative skill. A father with no defence against his daughter's impulses. Would you take your little girl around Europe for a spot of murder tourism? Of course you would. on 2014-06-30
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My story on the Tate gallery website on 2013-11-11
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A Thousand Natural Shocks An anthology that includes two of my stories. Available now at Amazon. on 2013-11-11
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Posted February 6, 2019
  Posted by in Uncategorized

 

View of the chapel from the southern entrance

There must have been a holy precinct extending west from the city of Midye (now Kıyıköy) in the 6th century. 500 metres east of the Çalışkan Farm cave church and a kilometer west of the Aya Nikola Monastery lies a field of roughly carved rock graves – a necropolis. In the centre of these is what may have been the funerary chapel(41.629434875276, 28.068034333229) . 

This view of the niche in the northern wall shows the marks of treasure hunters’ tools

It is a small structure, accessed by an opening to the south and about three  metres along its main east-west axis. It is about 1.5 metres high, not enough height to allow standing room. It is probable that this was an intricate grave rather than a chapel, but the carved fixtures do not seem to allow sufficient space for a body or bodies to have been placed within.

Evidence that metal fittings were once held in place above the entrance

For a while, this structure was augmented by a concrete slab roof, enabling it to be used for farm storage. The concrete is now gone. There is evidence that treasure-hunters have tried their luck here but realized fairly quickly that once they started digging into bedrock, their chances of finding treasure were zero.

One of the areas of graves to the west of the chapel

The rock face, only about 30m from the main Kıyıköy – Vize road, is honeycombed with graves. These are all eroded as one would expect from a thousand years of limestone weathering.

A pyramid orchid from the necropolis area

The coastal heathland around the necropolis is home to some interesting seasonal flowers. In early summer, the pyramid orchids are in flower.

 

Civelek, E. (2016) Kıyıköy Şarapçı Yolu Kaya Oyma Mezarı. Kırklareli Kültür Varlıkları Envanteri. available online at: http://www.kirklarelienvanteri.gov.tr/anitlar.php?id=88 Accessed 5th February, 2019

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Posted January 31, 2019
  Posted by in Uncategorized

 

The eastern church at Kıyıköy harbor 

The harbour at Kıyıköy is separated from the main town by a precipitous cliff studded with Byzantine fortifications. Presumably, the upper town was well supplied with churches, but these have now disappeared. At the base of the cliff (41.632909228702, 28.096977436704) are the remains of two small rock-cut churches that were, presumably, for the use of seafarers using the harbour. These are now protected from the attentions of the casual trespasser by ridiculously thick and spiky vegetation. 

Apse at the eastern end of the church

The easternmost church measures about 4 metres by 7 metres. It is open to the south and has the usual apse carved into the eastern end. The stonemasonry is competent, but unadorned apart from a raised belt currently lying about 20cm from floor level. This would have been significantly above the original floor level. There are some interesting graffiti in the church, now of historical significance in themselves. One piece in the apse is dated 1898. 

Western end of the east church

The western end of the church has a flat wall and is covered with Greek graffiti. 

Graffiti in the western wall. Note the cross and the inscribed ‘STEFANOS’.

Two of the more finely executed of these are a cross and the letters STEFANOS. This may hint at a later dedication of the church but is more likely to be the name of a visitor with the urge to perpetuate his name. 

Niche in the northern wall

An arched niche carved in the northern wall is now at ground level, but would have been at waist height before sedimentation filled in much of the church. The niche has what appears to be a tomb in the bottom, now filled with water. 

Entrance to the western church

A short distance to the west is another, less impressive, church. As with the eastern church, it is aligned east-west and opens to the south. There is also a niche in the northern wall. 

Western end of the church

This rock-cut cavern is especially difficult to access because of the necessity of lacerating oneself on the barricading vegetation that protects this site better than the most vicious razor wire. 

North wall

The church appears to be of similar dimensions to its eastern counterpart, but the carving is of less delicacy and there are consequently fewer features of immediate interest.

It is difficult to gain any accurate date of establishment of these churches but they were presumably built in the 6th Century in the heyday of Kıyıköy, at the height of Black Sea trade in the reign of Justinian.

References

Civelik, E. (2016) Kıyıköy Liman Oyma Kilisesi (Doğu). Kırklareli Kültür Varlıkları Envanteri. Available online at: http://www.kirklarelienvanteri.gov.tr/anitlar.php?id=84 Accessed 31st Jan 2019

Civelik, E. (2016) Kıyıköy Liman Oyma Kilisesi (Batı). Kırklareli Kültür Varlıkları Envanteri. Available online at: http://www.kirklarelienvanteri.gov.tr/anitlar.php?id=501 Accessed 31st Jan 2019

 

 

 

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Posted December 17, 2018
  Posted by in Uncategorized

The organ in question was an enormous pipe organ built by T.C. Lewis and Co of London in about 1875. The transplant was a removal from the church of St Mark in Battersea and a putative installation into the Church of the Most Precious Blood in Southwark. 

St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, London

I lived near Battersea so when friends said that they were taking an organ out of one sanctuary and placing it into another, I was on the team. I was not expecting such a monster. 

The organ before removal

The external view of the organ was impressive enough – three manual keyboards and one bank of pedals. The fascia bristled with 29 stops and 12 couplers. An impressive bank of 33 big pipes faced out over the organist’s head and a further arrangement of 19 beauties faced the congregation. I was informed that the latter bank was composed of spotted metal, older and more prized than the plain, grey metal. 

Spotted metal diapasons

Three manuals (choir, great and swell organs)and a pedal. 

As with an iceberg, most of the organ was hidden. The 29 stops translates to an entirely different set of pipes per stop – one for each note – a total of well over 1500 pipes. All of them were connected to the bellows system by an intricate and delicate feat of plumbing.

Some of the impressive range of stops

The scene after much organ evisceration

As we began moving pipes out and laying them out in meticulously labelled fashion, a sizeable space began to open up. It turned out that the space formerly occupied by the organ  could accommodate a two-storey house of reasonable size. Another reason for the church finally overcoming sentiment and deciding to jettison such a fine organ. They planned to put a suite of offices in the newly available space. This was in addition to the main reason – the pipe organ kept going wrong and was too difficult and expensive to keep repairing.

The bright, jewel-like pipes began to occupy the floor of the church

until the house of God began to resemble an arsenal

The pipes had been arranged with careful and economical use of space. Spread on the church floor, they soon filled the available space and needed to be stacked in a van, ready for transport to their new body. Some of the pipes had a length of 16 feet and some were smaller than a child’s kazoo. 

One of the enclosed chambers of pipes with several banks removed

The removal of the pipes took two days, then there was the transfer of the bellows and plumbing together with the keyboards and pedals. The intention is to reassemble the instrument in all its booming glory in the Church of the Most Precious Blood, in the Borough area of London. Details of the organ are on the site of the National Pipe Organ Register. The difficulty and expense of keeping a pipe organ in musical operation means that donations are always gratefully received.

Last play before dismemberment

I think everyone would like to see and hear this magnificent Heath Robinson (or Rube Goldberg) machine inspiring awe once again in a working context. 

 

 

 

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Posted October 30, 2018
  Posted by in Uncategorized

The waterfall runs past the church entrance

Maybe monks were tougher in the 6th century. I visited this monastic complex after the heavy snows of January 2018. The snowmelt had enlarged the rivers into torrents. The Ana Deresi, normally a quiet, well-behaved watercourse, swished past Kuzulu’s rock church in a whitewater curtain, filling the church and associated monastic cells with freezing water and shards of ice.

Water runs through the narthex and into the ayazma cave

In calmer times, the water babbles through a channel in the narthex of the church, then empties into a domed cavern that must have provided a lovely, cool reservoir for thirsty summer monks. This system breaks down in times of heavy rain and makes attending church a foot-numbing experience.

The ayazma cave with a clearly-defined Vader

The ayazma cave has a surprise on the wall –  millennium-old evidence of the dark side of the Force. A churlish man may talk about patterns of oxide deposition on limestone surfaces but for most of us, this is the site of the first Jedi temple in history. 

“It is your destiny…”

To get to the complex, one heads north from the village of Kuzulu (41.869790, 27.271031), a slightly dispiriting place in midwinter owing to the battening down of any leaky bits of building with blue plastic. The surrounding area is dotted with Neolithic tumuli which have endured spasmodic excavation/treasure hunting over the past centuries.

Kuzulu village – coal smoke and blue plastic

After rain, one is forced to ditch the car a few hundred metres along the northward road. One continues on foot through hilly farming territory, occasionally seeing traces of Byzantine stonework on the hillsides. These are much easier to see in winter when the foliage is gone. The clearest of them are on hilltops immediately north-east and south of the monastery. The former holds the remains of a Byzantine castle (41.900885, 27.281598) from the 3rd or 4th century. Clearly , this was a flourishing settlement in early Christian times.

Remains of a Byzantine building to the south of the monastery

In a small, fertile valley amidst the hills, one finds a normally pleasant stream above which nestles a ridge of limestone. This contains a network of natural caves which has been enlarged and adorned to become the monastery complex (41.898462, 27.279970). The first few caves are small. There are traces of graves and of ledges that served as furniture. 

View of limestone ridge from the western approach

Entrance to westernmost cave

The first significant cave contains an entrance to a subterranean basement. This appears to have been a catacomb. Any human remains are long gone and it now serves as a home for bats.

The catacomb is still an active limestone cave

Tomb in the lower cave

Moving eastward, one finds a number of above-ground chambers. These appear to be natural with minimal stoneworking to render them suitable for habitation. The chambers have, however, been joined by a roughly carved passageway.

Living quarters in Kuzulu Monastery

The effect of these is similar to the dwellings at İnceğiz, although that monastery is much larger.

View from the windows of monastic cells

East of these chambers, the river is encountered in its full force. The church and ayazma are carved into the prow of the rock where the face is at its highest. 

Entrance to ayazma (left) and church

There is evidence of a wooden structure once attached to the rock in this area. Clearly, there was a form of narthex covering the entrance shown in the previous photo. With the river in full flood, it is not difficult to see why none of the woodwork remains. It is probable that the course of the Ana Deresi has changed and that the level of the water table has risen significantly. Evidence for this is the water level in the nearby Şükrüpaşa church, whose floor is permanently under 40 – 60cm of water. 

Water can be seen falling into the ayazma cave in the chamber to the left

Whether the Darth Vader cave really served the purpose of a sacred spring is conjectural. It appears that the water has flowed for millennia through the location of the former narthex and down into the sheltered cavern. If this is the case, it must have been wonderfully refreshing for the monkish residents. It is probable that the summer population of the monastery was significantly higher than in winter. 

View from the apse of the Kuzulu church

The church is a classic, single-nave Thracian excavation of about 7m x 4m. It is aligned as close to east-west as the rock enabled and there is a strengthening belt of rock supporting the centre of the nave. 

Reinforcing rib in the nave

The sanctuary is slightly raised, which put it above water level at the time of visiting. The apse is semicircular and has a number of features carved into it. 

Apse showing altar, niches and a sort of abbreviated synthronon

The altar is in the centre with a raised dais for the priest. The walls above the altar show evidence of the attachment of sacred objects. There is an unusual multi-stepped throne to the left of the altar. This may have been for the seating of dignitaries during services.

Throne or prothesis?

This view of the structure described above shows different detail. Perhaps this was the area for preparation of the sacrament – what would be the prothesis in later Byzantine churches. Clearly, there was a good deal of paraphernalia on the walls around the structure.

View from narthex to Ana Deresi

The picture above shows the view from the narthex toward the waterfall to the east. There is plenty in the rock wall to hint at a substantial structure attached to the church at this point. This part of the river may be an overflow from the main channel, only having a significant flow in times of flood and snowmelt. Most of the time, this monastery was probably a pleasant place to live with reliable water supply and storage. Not normally inside a waterfall.

 

Kırklareli Kültür Varlıkları Envanteri. Kuzulu Koyva Kaya Oyma Kilisesi, Kirklareli http://www.kirklarelienvanteri.gov.tr/anitlar.php?id=265 Accessed October 30, 2018

Kırklareli Kültür Varlıkları Envanteri. Kaynarca Kilise Kalıntası. Available online at: http://www.kirklarelienvanteri.gov.tr/sitler.php?id=365 Accessed October 30, 2018

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Posted September 1, 2018
  Posted by in Uncategorized

I am currently reading John Julius Norwich’s magnificent 3-volume history of Byzantium. The thing that stands out most to anyone who studies or lives in Turkish Thrace is the sheer number of times that disgruntled armies rampaged through it leaving ‘a nightmare trail of slaughter and destruction’ or warlords whose vengeance meant that ‘every living creature left unburnt was butchered’. For much of the latter part of Byzantine history, Thracian monasteries were not richly appointed repositories of precious objects. Those that survived outside garrisoned walls were carefully hidden and devoid of anything that might attract armed attention.

Main church inside natural cave

This monastery is about one hundred metres from the current border between Turkey and Bulgaria. It is well hidden, as the troubled history of that region would have demanded. It lies in a north-south valley (41°56’43.1″N 27°31’12.6″E) that is invisible until one is standing directly above it. This is about 1.3 km north-east of the village of Şükrüpaşa.

The valley from the south

The valley shelters a small natural cave system of the kind that the medieval monks of Thrace sought out to modify into their churches and monasteries. Presumably, most of the monks’ residences were structures built of wood and stone in the valley. There is little trace remaining of any of these. 

Bottom (north) end of the valley showing entrance to the cave of the main church

 

The main monastery church has been dug out of a cave in the east-facing wall of the southern side of the valley. The cave is about 15 metres wide and extends 7 metres into the rock at the point of the apse, unusually but of necessity pointing towards the west. The church is currently full of water. It may be possible to explore underwater in summer but I was there on February 1st, 2018. Five minutes of standing in there made me lose feeling in my legs for nearly an hour so I didn’t check much of the internal detail of the church. However, there are clearly niches in the wall of the apse; somewhat less developed versions of those in the south chapel at Asmakayalar.

 

Water-filled apse of main church

There is some evidence of carving in the rock wall above the cave entrance. Some of this seems to indicate that there may have been wooden beams attached here to support a roof. To the south of the nave extends a small chapel with no defined detail remaining. 

Carving (top) above the cave entrance

Chapel to the north of the main church

There are a few small tunnels carved into the rock in the uphill (northern) part of the rock face but nothing that indicates that it had any major part in the life of even such a small monastery such as this.

Passage carved into the northern end of the complex

It is difficult to estimate the construction date of the main church. The carving indicates that it is from a date later than the 6th century Monastery of St Nicholas in Kıyıköy. This one clearly comes from a more troubled time – perhaps the 10th century in the relative calm before the disaster at Manzikert. One presumes that the water table was lower when it was operating. No matter how hardy the outland Byzantine monks, surely even they could not worship with any real dedication in freezing water.

Water in the nave of the Şükrüpaşa church

Still, the remains of the monastery are more solid than any buildings in the nearby village of Şükrüpaşa. However, it does boast a nice version of the vernacular architecture of Thrace. The houses have a solid stone understorey with a wooden (often wattle and daub) upper floor. There is a great variety of balcony styles.

House in Şükrüpaşa

In addition, the area has a distinctive kind of A-frame barn.

One of the barns characteristic of the border region

 

 

 

 

 

Trakya Kalkınma Ajansını (2016) Şükrüpaşa Mağara Manastırı. Kırklareli Kültür Varlıkları Envanter. Available online at: http://www.kirklarelienvanteri.gov.tr/anitlar.php?id=268 Retrieved 27 Aug 2018

Norwich, J. (1992) Byzantium: The Apogee. Knopf, New York.

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