Corona Diary – Day 80

Thursday, 4 June

I’m a bit apprehensive about the distance but I feel I need a change of air and cycle to Ärentuna, a small village about 10 km north of Uppsala. It’s an easy ride, all on the flat, past Gamla Uppsala cemetery and the turn-off to the river bathing spot. Then on to Queen Christina’s long straight road to the north; it’s no longer the main road but it still has a brisk business-like feel to it. I follow it over the bridge, past the military airport and the signs to Uppsala’s second airport, south of Bälinge (what we would call an airfield). The last few kilometres are on a rural by-way to Ärentuna. It’s very pleasant and I recall memories from youthful trips in the Somerset countryside sixty years ago. I’m making for Ärentuna where the fourteenth-century church has wall paintings worth seeing. Some of them are at the National Museum in Stockholm but I believe the interior of the church still looks decorated in the mediaeval way, before literacy, before translation of the Bible into Swedish, before simplicity and introspection. However, I have to re-visit as the church is locked and I can’t find or contact the caretaker. But I’m not bothered to have to come back as it’s a luxurious place, still and surrounded by fields and a few church-related buildings. I wish I’d brought my copy of Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale, which I started the other day, appropriate for the fourteenth century surroundings. But it’s very fine to sit and muse.

I wouldn’t know from the outside that the church was originally fourteenth century. In England, I could probably tell from the windows and arches but the rounded windows of this church don’t fit in to our pattern of Norman, Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular. I’m not sure but I believe that way of categorising churches dates from the nineteenth century. It would be interesting to know how other countries organise their view of the gothic period. Most churches in Sweden seem to just refer to the century the church was built or refurbished.

There are other things worth seeing in the neighbourhood but I decide not to be over-ambitious and make for home. I’m quite tired by the time I get back but pleasantly so.

It’s very quiet on the work front now – I had an order today for a job in July but I’ve nothing in process just now. I spent yesterday organising a box of family history documents that has given me a bad conscience every time I saw it. I’ve now sorted it by family, the next step being to list the documents, copy old handwritten documents on to archive paper, and to make notes of what has been done where and logical next steps.

Most of this work was done thirty years ago and I’ve only dabbled a bit since then. I wanted the family to know its history and to produce an archive that could be handed down. The common people have a memory of three or four generations and then it’s lost, which I think is a pity. I’ve traced my father’s line back to the sixteenth century, fairly easily as they didn’t move around much but stayed in the same North Dorset village. To get further back to the period before parish registers were kept, you would have to look at the manorial documents, which requires a knowledge of mediaeval handwriting and some latin. And that might not tell you who exactly was in your line but you could perhaps see whether there were people of the same name in the village or not.

There’s a generation missing on my father’s side as his father was 40 when he was born and he was 55 when I was born. My paternal grandfather was born in 1855 and died in 1895, making the Victorian age feel closer for me. Just now I’m concentrating on sorting but I did notice (for the first time) that my maternal grandmother had 13 siblings and my maternal great grandfather couldn’t write but made his mark, a cross, on the marriage certificate. After leaving the army, he became a convict warder at Portland prison, Hardy’s Isle of Slingers so I have Dorset ancestry on both sides of my family although my maternal great grandfather originally came from Ballymena in Northern Ireland (where I believe the late Reverend Paisley came from…).

2 thoughts on “Corona Diary – Day 80”

  1. Just catching up on your diaries Dave. My paternal granny was born in 1856 I think & my parents were ca. 40 when I was born – I’m only just begining to realise that that leaves a mark, when the parents of nearly all your contemporaries were 10-20 years younger. I value the sense of history that brings -especially since my Granny was a school teacher with a life in Fiume and then Malta during WW1; but it makes us pensive children.
    In the medieval village almost everyone was a farmer/ worked on the land, probably not travelling more than 10 miles from the village during their lifetime, but with an intense experience of the coutryside, the night sky, and the seasons. I need to reasess my feeling for the medieval experience in the light of what it feels like right now during our lockdown.

  2. Having a father who was born in 1890 who remembered horse buses in London makes the late Victorian period seem much closer for me too. And having a granddad born in 1855 who was the first generation to move from the Dorset countryside to the city (London) is also a special feeling.
    My granddad was dead before the end of the nineteenth century (from “sun stroke” according to the death certificate) after participating in a march to a rifle competition on a very hot day. His wife died four years later and my father told me that she never got over her husband’s early death. I saw the house where they lived in Walworth, South London, before it was demolished.

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