Archive for April, 2015


Providential divining from Sholing Common to Glastonbury: two chalybeate springs

April 19, 2015

Chance furnishes me with what I need. I’m like a man who stumbles: my foot strikes something, I look down, and it’s exactly what I’m in need of.

James Joyce.

An unexpected mission to the Sholing area on Friday just gone (when I was supposed to be 15-20 miles away in Portsmouth), led me up Botany Bay Road. I thought I knew the area quite well, having lived here nearly twenty years, but it was with consternation that I noticed what seemed like a chalybeate spring emerging by the side of the road, not far from its junction with Portsmouth Road.


A fleeting visit on foot later that evening and on Saturday morning, en route to Somerset, confirmed my initial suspicion that here was a spring that appears not to be documented or marked on any map.


Considering an ‘obsession’ (well-documented on this blog) with the phenomenon of such iron-rich sources of water (the most well-known examples being the Chalice Well at Glastonbury and the mineral spring at Tunbridge Wells), it seemed a remarkable coincidence to find such a source on my doorstep, the day before a planned jaunt to Glastonbury. What was this, a manifestation of the Surrealists’ objective chance in a psychogeographical terrain? Did this ‘unexpected’ conjunction occur according to some ‘schedule’ unknown to me, an element of what Asger Jorn described as ‘the systematic structures of the situationist tendency’?


The spring does not so much gush as ooze or seep from marshy ground, staining the ground a rusty red with iron deposits. I realised that many years before I must have stumbled, unknowingly, on similar sources elsewhere and thought that someone had disposed of diesel fuel in the middle of the woods as I encountered a red quagmire – why would anyone do something as disgusting as that in the middle of nowhere, I thought.


This red seepage trickled into a roaring drain, where a fast-flowing stream on the opposite side of the road had been culverted. There had been much culverting on the part of Sholing Common between Botany Bay Road, Portsmouth Road and the aptly-named Spring Road in advance of a projected major housing development in the 1960s. Thankfully, local opposition saved this area around Millers Pond, at the bottom of Spring Road, from destruction.


Of course, the scheduled visit to Glastonbury on Saturday had now to include the Chalice Well, for which Frederick Bligh Bond had designed a wrought iron lid in the shape of a vesica piscis, installed in 1919. The same device, adapted as the ‘ALP diagram’ in Finnegans Wake, symbolises the coincidence of opposites and the indissoluble unity of matter/spirit. The waters emerge from the Lion’s Mouth in the Chalice Well Gardens, staining the ground red, as well as any vessel used repeatedly, such as the glass seen on the left in this picture.


As the waters flow downhill, this rusting effect presents a striking contrast with the grey stone and the green foliage.


During some moments of quiet reflection and conversation by the pool at the bottom of the garden it was with some amusement that we saw a magpie – the living embodiment of oppositional coincidence in Finnegans Wake – swoop down boldly for some refreshment from the stream before it scuttled away along the flagstones.


In another correspondence, the ‘White Spring’ which emerges from the foot of the Tor on the opposite side of the road from the Chalice Well, put me in mind of the clear torrent culverted under Botany Bay Road, opposite the Sholing red spring, as well as the two ‘rushy hollow heroines’ of Finnegans Wake – who ‘came down into the world as amusers… Rosa and Lily Miskinguette’ (FW 32.9-11).



The Phoenix Tavern

April 5, 2015

The Phœnix Tavern in Swan Street (formerly Cow Lane), Northampton, is long gone. When I found this picture (so long ago I’ve forgotten where I found it) I thought of the Phoenix Tavern in Chapelizod, which recurs in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Chapelizod is the place most closely associated with Issy in the novel, the written character into whom Joyce has transformed his living daughter, Lucia (Eide 2002: 142).

Phoenix North

The Northampton pub would already have gone (I think) by the time that Lucia Joyce was sent, in 1951, to St Andrew’s Hospital in that town. Here she stayed for over thirty years. She died on December 12th 1982 after suffering a stroke.


Eide, M. 2002. Ethical Joyce. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.