And here (in the top picture) is one of the squirrels, observed when we took binoculars up St Nicolas' tower; it is about to leap on to the bare branch some distance from the church roof, while we were about to assess the state of the roof and also get a photograph (the bottom picture) of a different angle on the church clock.
Meanwhile, my effort for the Cleethorpes Chronicle last week came out like this:
I’m worried about changes in rural pub names and signs. Goodness, there are enough real problems in society and the world which I should worry about more. But it is simply pub signs I want to write about this time.
We have a retired sign painter in our parish who used to work for a pub chain. He remembers the days he would hand-paint distinctive new signs having carefully researched each pub name. Today the job is probably done on a computer using market research algorithms.
In fact, most really early hostels were places of refuge for travellers or pilgrims in danger on the roads. These safe houses would often have a religious symbol painted on them so that they could be recognised.
The best example is the Lamb and Flag. This was a symbol of Jesus’ dying and rising again – and we have this sign at the bottom of the main window in St Nicolas’, Great Coates. The lamb is there to represent religious sacrifice; Jesus is called ‘the Lamb of God’ because he was slaughtered like a sacrificial lamb. The flag is there to represent the resurrection; almost every mediaeval picture of the newly risen Jesus has him carrying a banner just like the one in the pub sign when the painter gets it right.
Another example is the Salutation. This was a symbol of the angel Gabriel coming to young Mary to announce to her that she will be Jesus’ mother. Gabriel’s greeting – or ‘salutation’ – is used at the beginning of the prayer ‘Hail Mary, full of grace’ which would have been on the lips of medieval travellers several times each day. I think of this every time I drive to Market Rasen and pass a pub where the painter has forgotten this and instead generated an image of a Victorian lady and gentleman exchanging polite greetings.
I think of something else when driving the main road to Louth. This time I pass what was until a short while ago The Granby. Giving pubs the name of the Marquis of Granby is something more recent. He was an eighteenth century soldier who died in debt because he gave too much of his money away. A lot of the money was given to retiring non-commissioned officers who had no new livelihood to which to look forward. He financed a job creation scheme – he gave them grants to buy or set up and run a pub. They were so grateful they put his picture up at the door. It is a bit sad each time one of those is lost and the link to this Christian generosity is broken.