After several days away from the keyboard, I am back and beginning the long process of catching up. Even after some seriously severe pruning, the inboxes are blossoming and the emails seem to be setting seed and cross pollinating quicker than wildflowers. That’s okay… it has been entirely worthwhile!
I would not, of course, wish anyone to think there was the slightest dereliction of duty here. Nor fun. Not at all. Wednesday evening, I collected the first of my visitors and we manfully… or, in my case, hobbitfully, faced the onerous task of opening a wine bottle over supper and talking half the night. Which, you understand, was purely writerly business. I left my visitor working next morning, keeping Ani occupied with tennis balls and making sure she was warm on the sofa while I went to cook and clean for my son. There was just time for the beast to take us for a walk through the fields in search of red kites, then by lunchtime we were on sentry duty, strategically situated outside the village pub, we stood guard awaiting the rest of our party.
We managed to flag them down as they passed, and given the heat, thought it wise to ensure they were suitably hydrated for the long hours of computer training ahead. Ani, now supplied with more ball-throwers than she could imagine, was overjoyed with her visitors and less than pleased when we gathered round my impractical desk for the task ahead. She was too excited to eat and it was probably just as well that she was going to stay with her friends that evening. Meanwhile, we got stuck in to the training day in good earnest, working through till it was time for dinner.
As we had, by this time, missed a glorious day of sunshine, we chose to dine in the garden of a local tavern in a village that was once part of the ancient kingdom of Mercia. The timbered walls of the Black Boy have watched the seasons pass for some five hundred years. Beyond the hedge a green lane leads down to the old Horse Pond, reputed never to freeze and famed for its purity. The water from this source runs to nearby North Marston and its healing well. Behind us, the small tower of the ‘new’ church, built around eight hundred years ago to replace the earlier wooden chapel. Where the fields open out, a small hill marks an ancient earthwork enclosure, whose history goes back even further than that of the Roman road that lies just beyond it. And it seems the weekend has already begun as we sink further and further into the past of this beautiful land.
Yet, surrounded as we were by a thousand visible years of history, this was barely a whisper of the breath of time. Over the next few days, a thousand years would begin to seem like yesterday as we plunged deeper and deeper into the mysterious heart of Albion…