Saturday, 17 January 2009

Lewes Bowling Green, Tom Paine and the Minotaur

Lewes Bowling Green and its Pavilion, with the Norman castle looming above

Just emerging from hibernation after some freezing weeks, flu, etc. It's been a lovely bright, sunny and relatively warm morning here in Lewes. I spent two hours as a guest of the very friendly Lewes Bowling Green Society playing bowls on the beautiful green in the Castle grounds. Tom Paine used to play bowls here in the 18th Century. The woods, made of lignum vitae (a very heavy, dark, hard wood) have an inbuilt bias, and you have to learn by experience how to bowl using this bias, curving the wood up or down hill, and towards the jack, from an initial line which is to left or right of the jack. The green, which looks deceptively level, in fact slopes in several directions simultaneously and, with its rises and dips, is a treacherous and irregular terrain. This is probably the most beautiful and magical part of Lewes, so it probably won't be long before the planners allow it to be ruined with some totally inappropriate development (as is happening with the Gun Garden, owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society).
After this I had fish and chips for lunch, and a couple of hours at the Kings Head with the Headstrong Club irregulars drinking excellent Harvey's bitter, which is brewed here in Lewes. Then to the secondhand bookshops in the High Street (Bow Windows and Cummings), in one of which I found a nice copy of Michael Ayrton's Minotaur book for (Sir) John Tomlinson (one of the irregulars), who created the part of the Minotaur in the Birtwistle/Harsent opera premiered at the Royal Opera House. This year John will be singing Michaelangelo's poems, set to music by Shostakovich, Baron Ochs (Hamburg), Fafner, Hagen and Hunding in The Ring at the Met (New York), and lots of other stuff.

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