blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, February 19, 2016

In Chichester

Lancing College, seen from the train
Chichester city centre
Chichester is a small oasis of gentility below the South Downs, about half way between Brighton and Portsmouth. It has a cathedral, a university, and an excellent art gallery. The stopping train from Brighton took me through Shoreham-by-Sea (where we used to live) and Worthing, past Shoreham airport, Lancing college, winding along between the coast and the Downs like the previous day’s ride in the other direction. 

Chichester’s town centre is a short walk from the railway station; on 3rd February when I visited it, I soon reached the pedestrian zone centring on the old town cross, the market’s focal point, built of pale sandstone like the cathedral. Every pavement seemed to be made of flagstones and the cathedral lies in a leafy close. That is to say, in summer it would be leafy; this month there are just bare branches with their atmospheric silhouettes, plus yews and other evergreens. The bell tower is freestanding, next to the west door of the cathedral whose spire collapsed in the 1860s but was quickly replaced. Its cream stone looks beautiful in the sunshine.

The Piper tapestry behind the high altar
Noli me tangere, by Sutherland

Inside the cathedral is a wealth of art and history, a John Piper tapestry behind the altar, a copper font, a painting by Graham Sutherland of Jesus disguised as the gardener after his resurrection, wearing a straw hat and bending over the steps to tell Mary Magdalene not to touch him. There are stone dedications remembering the English composers Weelkes and Holst. The Arundel Tomb of a knight and his lady holding hands as they lie in state, made famous by a poem Larkin wrote, is to be found here. The hand-holding is now thought to be after all original, not a sentimental Victorian modification. The cathedral also housed a couple of 12th century stone reliefs depicting the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. On the northern side of the church is a stained glass window created by Chagall, based on Psalm 150 (Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord) showing many instrumentalists including King David on a harp and a goat reading from a book (typical Chagall!) also a Jewish candelabra. The glass is mostly red.
I sat in the choir stalls to hear the Choral Evensong sung by a girls’ high school chamber choir similar to the one I sang in once, although 2 parts was the most they sang in. Most of the music was for unison voices. Tormead School must be a private school. They sang responses by Ferial, the service by White and an anthem by Dyson, a setting of Herbert’s hymn: Let all the world in every corner sing. The vicar exhorted us to pray for a young clergyman about to be appointed, for the residents and carers at a local nursing home, for people who were sick and bereaved families, for a sick baby and for the United Nations presently trying to make decisions about Syria. The lesson asked if we were a reed blown in the wind. There was no congregational hymn. Other members of the congregation than me were the parents of the singing girls, one saying, “Come on, honeybunch!” as she walked up the nave.

I window-shopped and had a few snacks at the Crypt Teashop, Costa coffee and a pub, during my walk around Chichester. In a side-street, I was delighted to discover the Pallant House Gallery, where they were exhibiting 80 works of art --- paintings and engravings, mostly watercolours ---by David Jones. It struck me that his style is similar to that of his Canadian contemporary David Milne. That exhibition was in the extension to the old house. The house itself, built in the days of Queen Anne, had a smaller exhibition of "The Lost Works" of Evelyn Dunbar, a female war artist whose paintings documented life on the home front, the lives of the land army, for example. She loved her garden and there was an evocative painting of the garden in springtime which seemed to me quintessentially English.

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