This is a slightly longer short story (a novella really) loosely based on a real event, or real events, or in other words, it is mostly made up, but not entirely made up. It is, however, literature (me hopes) which will hopefully entertain and move you, and possibly even offer the hint of insight for the more sensitive reader.
It is called The Weekend In The Country (click to read).
On Remembrance Sunday, 13th November, I had the pleasure of taking my daughter and two of her friends to the tiny village of Clare in Suffolk. The village sports an antique/second hand emporium that I like to visit, and the ruin-remains of what was once a motte-and-bailey castle, that my daughter likes to visit. But the main purpose of our visit on the 13th November was to take part in a Remembrance Sunday service.
The church of St Peter and St Paul in Clare is one of the around 500 medieval churches in East Anglia. The size and beauty of the church testifies to the wealth and importance of the area in the medieval period. Some interesting facts can be found on the church’s own website here. More on the history of the church on this Clare history website.
A remembrance service is yet another opportunity to reflect on the importance of sacred buildings, such as this, to our communities and to our souls. I may not share the regular church-goer’s literal belief in God, but there is no substitute for the sense of sacredness (in Norwegian we have the term “høytid“, which literally means a high, in the sense exulted, time) that the physical frame of a church building provides. It is one of the few remaining places where we come together, not to be entertained, but to create meaning in the occasion, by our actions and our togetherness.
In the case of this service to remember with gratitude and respect those who gave their lives in the two word wars of the last century, to save us from the tyranny of totalitarian regimes. Coming shortly after the divisive referendum, there is, I believe, healing in knowing that the entire nation is coming together, in similar actions all across the country, to unite around the values that bind us together as democrats and believers in the freedom and dignity of the individual.
The view from the top of the motte-and-bailey castle ruin of the village and church.
The straight and narrow(ish)..
The beautiful gallery was taken down in 1883 and restored in 1914, thank goodness.
The 18th century gotch, a word defined in OED as “A big-bellied earthenware pot or jug.”
The gotch was presented to the ringers in 1729 by the vicar, and the bell signifies it was from The Bell Pub. I wouldn’t mind being a ringer with such a vicar.
Stairs to gallery.
Close up of the wood in the gallery.
4 different floor surfaces in one shot.
Living ringers – the ring of eight bells is the heaviest in Suffolk
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.