Vaguely related to the writing process is my morning walk. I tend to get up at 5am to write for a couple of hours, and then, if I don’t need to start my day job early, I go for a refreshing morning walk. I am blessed by my being in close proximity to some lovely countryside paths (see pictures). On these morning walks I often meet dog walkers. Very generally, these tend to fall into two broad categories: a) The bestubbled gents of a certain age, almost always with a decrepit dog that hobbles along on the three legs that are still just about working, and b) the Yummy mummy types, clad in Hunter wellies and with a rosy complexion, often with 3 or more dogs, all healthy and bounding along.
The rule when meeting either of these categories is, in case of a: a nod and “mornin'” to which the bestubbled gentleman will remove his self rolled cigarette and grumble “mornin'” before having a smokers’ coughing fit. In the case of b you have to first ascertain whether they are going to blank you or not, then, if not, a chirpy “good morning” (intonation should be falling, as if declaring it, not rising as if singing it), to which they will reply a snappily pronounced “g’morning” and then call “Geraaald” to one of their canine charges.
But this morning I met a person (can’t bring myself to call him a “gentleman”) who did not fit into either of these two categories. I was first met by his dog. It was a labrador. If the old bestubbled gents of a certain age have a labrador, it tends to be very old and very scruffy; often very fat. It Yummy Mummies have a labrador it tends to be brown. This was neither. It was white, fluffy fur and quite healthy looking. Then the owner appeared. A man, not young, not old (around my own age I should image) but trying to look cool, with a mane of hair wore long at the ears and back. I suppose the Yummy Mummies would find him attractive in the sort of way they may find the gardener or builder attractive. I nodded and said “Good morning”, in a combination of greetings a and b. “Mornin!” he said, “How ya doin’?” “How ya doin'”? “HOW YA DOIN'”? Where on earth did he think he was? California? I was put out, but my defence mechanism soon kicked in: “fine, thank you, lovely day, isn’t it?”. He laughed an oh-dear-that-old-cliché-well-I-guess-you’re-only-trying-to-be-friendly-you-poor-conventional-guy-sort of laughter: “he-he-he, yeah”, and disappeared down the path.
I despise him.
It is of course not the building material of which the headline speaks, but of the source of the money that built one of the most visited of East Anglia’s great wool churches: St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Lavenham, in the green and pleasant county of Suffolk. The village of Lavenham is itself very much worth a visit by anyone with even a smattering of interest in history and/or architecture – apart from the cars it is like walking into a film set in the 15th century – but that is a post of its own. The first trace of building work on the church is dated 1473, and it was finished in 1525. More details here, for the interested reader. We have the generosity of the rich clothier Thomas Spring and the patronage of John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford, for the magnificence of this ecclesiastical edifice.
I only want to add a few words about my own sense of a awe, as I entered what is a worship in stone, masonry and wood. A reminder, more needed than ever, of a time when material wealth were, as of course, channelled into the spiritual needs of the community. I also sensed that it was a living church, NOT a museum. They had a children’s area with toys and soft furnishing, a second hand book corner (I really loved that – with an honesty box to pay for your chosen goods), and a little shop. I will leave the pictures to give you an, albeit inadequate, impression, and hopefully tempt you to visit, if at all possible.
Sir William Addison, in his book Local Styles of the English Parish Church, notes that light was all important to the builders of the great East Anglian churches (page 118). I hope my pictures (amateurish as they are) can give you at least a morsel of a sense of this. The overwhelming sensation when standing at the back of the nave of this church was space and light.
The tower: it is closed off by a rather unseemly notice board.
Entrance to the the little tower, containing an old Suffolk bell cast in around 1346.
The open pews add to the sense of light and space in the church.
The 16th century Spourne Parclose
Chapel containing a moving tribute to the fallen in war, with the baptismal font in the foreground.
The strange and moving infant grave.
Bit tower and little tower,
A rare feeling of open space and light.
My daughter and friends light candles for their loved ones.
One of the royal seals on display.
The font dates from the 14th century.
Notice the straight parapets, without the adornment of battlements, on this 114 ft. tower.
Light and space, from the back of the nave.
Still very slowly building my blogging steam, but here’s an update: the new novel/story/text is coming along very nicely, at least in quantity: it now stands on just over 50 000 words, and the climax of the story is very near. (Goodness, that was a long sentence). Once that is pulled off I only need another few thousand words to finish the whole thing in a satisfactory way. I do actually think I can do this. Encouraging.
Title: I guess it should not be the author’s preoccupation, not least since a publisher may take it completely out of our hands, but I do feel a good title would be Calling to Kill. Especially because of the double meaning of “calling”, both coming to visit, and the religious calling that you receive. We can also add on calling on the telephone or calling out as in shouting. I do like ambiguous titles.
Just finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies, and that is a good title. It is also slightly disheartening that I shall never be able to write as well as Waugh (I also like alliteration). Never mind, that is a high bar, after all. I only know that I now want to pretend that one of my previous jobs was as a chub fuddler.
Lastly today, I include a picture of a beautiful edition of Dracula, that I bought for my daughter (she is reading if for school). I was going to buy a £4.99 cheap version, then I saw this at considerably higher cost and thought Men liveth not by bread alone, and went for it. What a nice feeling it is to hold a properly produced hard back book. I hope my daughter also feels that way. If it increases her joy of reading it will have been worth the extra expense.
There was a time when churches were not turned into luxury flats or storage rooms, but when those people who lacked one demanded one, much in the way some people today protest if they don’t have a Waitrose within strolling distance. The people of Henton, a tiny hamlet in the parish of Chinnor in Oxfordshire were seriously miffed that they had no church – a place for all to celebrate the arrival of babies, the coming of age of the youth, the marriage of the young and the departure of the old. And let’s not forget, the best place to have a chat and catch up on the latest gossip. Finally, in 1886, Magdalen College, Oxford, let some ground for the princely annual rent of 1 shilling to the rector and churchwardens of Chinnor “for the purpose of a mission room to be erected thereon“, and so the people of Henton finally could have their own place of worship. Boulton & Paul of Norwich had the honour of supplying the construction, which was a pre-fabricated building in wood, clad in corrugated iron. It was not Notre Dame or Westminster Cathedral, but it was a place where the good people of Henton could congregate once a month (low frequency of services because they were so remote), a place that was theirs to come together as a community. How telling of our times that before restoration took place between 1994-1997, it had fallen into disrepair and had even been vandalised since services stopped in the 1970s, whilst people got bigger and bigger television sets. And talking of television, it was used as a location in an episode of Midsomer Murders. It is currently residing in the excellent Chiltern Open Air Museum, where I had the pleasure of encountering it whilst on a weekend trip to the area.
Clad in corrugated iron
The preacher’s view
At least they are not wooden pews…
The second organ – ready to groove
The spartan interior
One of two organs
The prefab “tin church”
The mission room of Chinnor
A place to hang your hat
Shakin’ the rafters…
Where are the parishioners
This bier from 1888 was in use to take coffins until 1970
A quiet moment
The crime writer P. D. James had a full-time career and children to take care of, but managed to write by getting up in the wee hours. Following her example in this (if nothing else) I have now managed to reach a word count of 21,439. Hurrah! Quantity sorted, quality is another question. I promised in an earlier post to share my sketches of the characters in the book. Here’s the first one. This is of the main character, Bjørn-Eirik (a name that causes him some bother when he first arrives in London). He is a young man who looks slightly older due to his thinning hair on top (not at all like me then, as I am not a young man anymore). So far I have eight chapters, which those good at maths will have worked out means that each chapter is a little over 2 1/2 thousand words. I feel that is a good, short length of a chapter. You can then realistically finish a chapter in the course of your commute, or in the evening before going to bed. I hate long chapters, as I find it easy to lose the thread if I have to pause mid-chapter. More drawings later…now, breakfast for the young one must be organised.
The early(ish) morning is my most productive writing time. From 7am to 8.30am, fuelled by excellent coffee from Guntons of Colchester, I have produced just over a 1000 more words to my new novel, s…
Source: Early Morning Writing