An Alternative Perspective

We have, on occasion, had to leave one of our most important family members at home, while we ventured off to enjoy pleasure a-plenty.

Occasions when the owner of some sea-fresh seaside villa does not want a dank forest-stale terrier roaming its rooms, and who, in truth, can blame them? Macaulay brings an ethos all his own where’er he treads with those stout paws. We shrug and make alternative arrangements.

When we return, the strangest phenomenon occurs.

Because when we see him once more, we expect a much bigger dog. One the size of that personality.

But on our return, it is clear Macaulay is a little dog. He is really quite deceptively diminutive.

Our minds, it seems, have gone a little mediaeval.

You recall, of course, the land before classical perspective entered our art: those strange characterful pictures from that era from the fifth to the fifteenth centuries AD, when size denoted one’s place in the world.

Thus, impossibly huge baby Jesus figures dwarfed the laps of their sedate Marian mothers; merchants were towering and peasants were tiny. It was a different perspective entirely.

And Macaulay the dog is very big, if not in reality, then in our  esteem. Our family would feature him like some hulking Great Dane somewhere in the middle of the clan, if we followed our mediaeval instincts.

Many moons ago I fell in love with Winchester Cathedral. I knew every inch of its being: from the ancient library to Jane Austen’s final resting place. And while loves have come and gone, my infatuation for that great tall structure for another era has endured.

It has an odd little Lady Chapel which graces the far end, way past the choir and the chancel and King Canute’s tiny coffin which teeters on a wall along with that of other ancient kings.

By chance I have found the chapel, here. Minds from 1500 painted murals on every section of the wall, showing a perspective -a way of viewing life – so entirely different from our own it could be another planet: these pictures are about the Virgin Mary and the superstitious tales concerning her redemption of those loyal to her.

In one, a young man slips a ring on the finger of the Virgin Mary statue for safekeeping: but when he comes to take it off it is stuck, fast.

There is nothing, for it, he resolves: he is betrothed to her, and must run away and become a monk.


In another, a very naughty monk indeed, loose and lascivious, falls to his death from a bridge.

He should, of course, go straight to hell, the scoundrel: but he was loyal to The Virgin, and so just as demons are about to bear his soul to hell Mary catches hold of it and bears it to heaven.

I know, I know. They’re all like that, these crazy-eyed paintings commissioned by a Prior of long ago.

I used to feel,walking around and looking again and again at these oddities, I was being pulled into a vortex. There is nothing enlightening about them. They belong to minds which were groping to make sense of a puzzling world of light and dark and legend and uncertainty.

A few days ago, temporarily and with very little peril, I lost my sight.

Felix, in a moment of exuberance but with a seven-year old’s spatial awareness, shot a jubilant hand up in the air where, coincidentally, my eye was because I was cuddling him at the time. He removed a large chunk of cornea and this is the first day since Wednesday that I can see properly once more.

I stepped back into my own personal Dark Ages. I could not see. So I could not write, or cook, or clean, or teach, or read. All I could do was listen. And that is a foreign land for me indeed.

One of the most striking things I listened to during my confinement was one of HG Wells’ most well-known works: War Of The Worlds.

Oh, yes, I know it well through Orson Wells and broadcasts and films which bear very little relation to the original creation.

But you see, Wells’s story happened in my neck of the woods.

And I never before realised what utter genius lay in its lines: what messages resound from his nineteenth century script for us today.

We all know the story: capsules land just outside Woking in Surrey, and from these come Martians, as superior to us as we are to ants. We represent a food source and they are meticulous, patient hunters and tidy eaters, leaving just skeletons to show they have been.

Humanity, it seems, is doomed, to exist from now on as a farmed food source; and the professor-narrator is one of the last to survive as the Martians extend across London.

This is a fiction. But Wells uses the story to show mankind under the duress of any disaster.

All civilisation is taken away, everything which was so certain is utterly vanished. These creatures have already reached the Natural History Museum,  although not yet the British Library. A new Dark Age has arrived: a perspective from another world entirely.

We watch  what happens to religion: a curate goes mad, whispering his desperation just after the attack and graduating, over the next days, to shouting it, so that he attracts the hunters and his doom.

And what becomes of the military? We meet a humble soldier who talks sense: the old order is over, he says, we must go underground and preserve the race: but it’s all words.  His actions cannot hope to keep pace with the mantras he speaks to comfort himself.

Of course, it is a common cold which saves the human race. And more quickly than one might imagine, the survivors have shops opening and trains running. The first paper to reach publication once more is the Daily Mail, although it’s full of ranting rubbish. Plus ca change.

We see it as fixed, this perspective of ours. The way we look at the world is a comfortable certainty.

Our mediaeval forebears show us, though, that perspective is transitional. It’s not a fixed target, but a moving one. That’s easy to track when one looks back 500 years; but it takes the work of a man like Wells to remind us that our perspective can change.

It can change in the blink of an eye.

24 thoughts on “An Alternative Perspective

  1. I love the concept that the size of the character influences the mind… a large dog in a tiny body! It reminds me of Scout arriving home after a holiday being quite adamant that, “someone’s trimmed the carpet while we were away.”
    Perception can change over a life time. But you are so right, sometimes, ‘It can change in the blink of an eye’.

  2. Ouch! Sorry about your eye . . . glad that your vision is now restored.

    When we lose one of our senses, even temporarily, it does indeed provide an Alternative Perspective.

    Thanks, Kate.

  3. ooh my eyes cried in sympathy, so it took me a whikle to come back and finish reading. A real Kate post, full of links and turns.

    size does change. I inherited a chinese kist from my great aunt. when it was dropped off I thought they were joking, it was so tiny. I used to sit on it and swing my legs. I forgot I did a lot of growing from pre-school to adulthood

    1. Ha! These things are such huge objects when we are small: like infant schools we revisit as an adult. Thanks for this brilliant theme idea, Sidey. It’s been fun working with Pseu. A bit of blogger networking goes a long way. Can’t wait to see everyone else’s results….

  4. So sorry to hear of your injured cornea, Kate. Ouch. That hurts, I know, and changes ones perspective for sure. Poor Felix. He must have felt so sorry for hurting him mum so. Glad you are on the mend, and proving it with such a great post.

    1. Thanks Penny 🙂 Felix was so mortified he ran to hide underneath the duvet upstairs! He took a lot of talking down! I think all is back to normal now though, and we have a week off to recover now because it’s the British half term holiday. Lots of us-time.
      I have loved your posts over the last few days. Sad to hear Kezzie has gone but so glad to read in your words the light she brings into your life. they are little meteors, these children. aren’t they…

  5. Brilliant post Kate. Perspective – nothing more important to remember than that we can choose our perspectives. I’ve been awesreuck by the freak accident that happened to me, too. slicing the vein in my hand. Not quite as perilous as tthe threat of losing eyesight but still a hage reminder of my assumption that I have and always will have two usable hands. How fragile is this skin encapsuled body that holds us all together.

    By the by i am so glad you didn’t leave this blog world completely. Your posts always inspire me with your brilliantly convoluted mind! Thank you for sharing it.

    1. Thanks Deborah. This adds what I haven’t been able to so far – too close – that our perspective is, at least, a choice. It is good when one’s friends fill in the gaps 🙂 Thanks for that last comment. I found the writing did not stop, even if the posting did: so I figured, post them anyway…

  6. I apologize for ragged spellings etc. weeks ago I touched some key on my computer which minimized the font on your posts beyond normal vision to see and I can’t figure out how to correct it. Very weird.

    1. Sorry to hear the font is playing games, Deborah…at the moment with my eyes I am turning the screen size up a lot manually…I’l have a check in case it’s something my end…

  7. “I stepped back into my own personal Dark Ages.” Sometimes I have yet to find the exit from mine.
    Sometime I feel I’m trapped in my “Neanderthal” phase…

    Finding your own perspective seems so “right” and still remains so difficult.

    1. Very true. It’s a baffling, and I suspect lifelong, business, and just when you think you’ve got it something happens to change. I guess perspective is not a solid state. Maybe it’s fluid?

  8. I love the perspective of Macaulay, and I am taken aback to realise that with all my keen exploration of Winchester (relatively close to our UK daughter and family) I have never entered the cathedral. Strange, because I normally ‘do’ cathedrals and churches as a matter of course. There is so much else there, from the table to the Water Meadows to the hill, and the high street with the statue … I can see it all clearly in my mind’s eye.

    What you say about changing perspectives resonates. So many have altered radically in my lifetime.

    1. Oh, what a delight: someone who knows Winchester: you never cease to surprise me, Colonialist… the water meadows are wonderful, and you only have to track back past Jane’s old house, through the stone gateway and past the choir school and you’re at the cathedral. Enjoy it next time you’re in the area 🙂

  9. What an interesting study of perspective from so many different angles and perspectives, Kate. You are an amazing writer.
    I’m glad your eye is on the mend – I winced at the thought of how painful it must have been and I can imagine how mortified your poor Felix was. Glad you’re both recovering well.
    Sunshine xx

    1. Thanks Sunshine- we’re all very relieved it’s over:-) just loved that last bog of yours about the show, by the way…fantastic and compulsive right to the end. Must try it myself now…

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