forefathers in this village were no doubt as busy and
bustling, and as important, as ourselves, yet have their
names and transactions been forgotten from century to
century, and have sunk into oblivion.
White, Letter VIII on Antiquities
must be strange when theyre all let out of Heaven
for the day and meet up. The yearly rehearsal of old gossip
that has turned to myths. Probably squatting, a circle of
them in the belfry of their abbey church. Christened, wed,
buried, all in the one place.
of course worked here. Spent winter of 1779 whitewashing
the place top to bottom, says Thomas (died 1813).
Got paid ten pound, six shilling and elevenpence for
it. Tided us over nicely that did, for it were a bad year.
Jus before the wars wi France.
(died 1584) discussing the weight of a penny loaf of maslin
bread with Anthony (buried 1682 in a woollen shroud) and
working out how many penny loaves ten pound, six shilling
and elevenpence would buy. But loaf must ve
got smaller by the half in them hundred years, Anthony
concludes. Though it might be wi not so many
ground acorns worked into the dough.
Wars. Hands up all of you, says Roland (killed on
the Somme, 1917), who had to fight for king and country
at some time or other?
(he cant remember when he died) raises a fist and
says he drew a long bow at Agincourt. Anthony (died 1682)
says he was forced into the Kings ranks and skirmished
with the Roundheads near Abingdon. Edwin (died 1957) tells
how he stood on the Khyber Pass in khaki shorts and kept
the Afghans at bay, but never fired a shot at any man. William
(shuffled off some time in the 1390s) says he went through
the Great Mortality and being surrounded by plague was worse
than going to war.
us again what you was up to in 1554, granfer Bill,
coaxes Anthony (died just in time to cheat King Charles
of his promise of loyalty in 1641). You know, way
you got hauled up before Star Chamber wi Bloody Mary
keen to hang a noose around yer neck.
Twerent much, arter all, says Bill. Jus
this rogue wi a bit more money than most, when they
was selling off the abbey lock, stock n barrel, bought
up the meadow what fore that was always common pasture,
and slung up a dirty great ol gate to keep us out,
saying as it was now for is cattle only. We wasnt
avin none o that, was we? So what we done
was break the gate down, kick is beasts out and put
our own in to graze there instead.
what appened to you after they took you to the Tower,
the word, answers Granfer Bill.
blacksmith Thomas (passed away 1879 of decay of nature,
bronchitis, and gout of the feet) suggests they all cross
the road to the George, where brother James serves a warm
pint and writes the charge up on a slate, and there theyll
play a game of quoits.
this target up on Saint Elois anvil. From under
his leather apron a bar of mild steel from which he has
wrenched out a number of hooks large enough to catch a horseshoe.
Jim over the roadll have shoes enough to pitch."
I have first go! cries Clement (churchwarden once,
used to pushing himself forward, died 1662, his wits blown,
and waving a white wand to signify hed given five
loads of stones to rebuild the bridge so he might go safely
up to Heaven, and all else, farmlands, elmwoods, cattle,
to his son-in-law, cobbler and unlicensed preacher, believer
in the common ownership of property except that which he
might have the luck to acquire for himself.)
shies the first horseshoe, misses by a yard. Singing about
John Barleycorn the others take their turns to throw. Drinking
a toast to the spirits on the hill on the far side of the
of dark laurels
the flight of small brown moths
how hard to follow!