Tuesday 20 September 2016

St Peter's Church, Melverley

Hello, thank you for calling in.  We are in the last few days of summer here, the sun has been shining and the temperature is still mild enough for short sleeves.  This has made the transition from holidays to termtime much softer and easier, our magical summer break doesn't seem too distant and I am still wearing a holiday glow, although it fades a little each day.

If you travel west to the very edge of Shropshire you will find the village of Melverley, right beside the River Vyrnwy.  On the other side of the river is Wales, for this is border country, the Welsh Marches.  The river meets the River Severn nearby, and so people have lived at this place for longer than anyone knows, and where people lived, they built churches.  The church which is there now is a replacement for the building which stood there before until it was burnt down in an act of arson in 1401.  In 1406, great pieces of oak were transported here and a sturdy wooden frame was built, a simple, rectangular, barn-like structure, the gaps between the oak were filled with wattle and daub, a thin coat of plaster was applied and then limewashed.  Not a single nail or screw was used, the wooden frame was held together with mortice and tenon  joints and wooden pegs.  A couple of hundred years later, a wooden screen and gallery were added, as was the fashion of the time, using wood salvaged from ships which had been broken up and transported up the river.  At some point, a bell tower was added, simple windows were installed to admit the light and in 1925, a stained glass window was fitted into the east end of the building.

The great pieces of oak are still standing beside the river 610 years later, the wattle and daub was replaced only twenty-five years ago and people are still gathering here to worship every Sunday.

One day in 1990, the keyholder came to open the church and when she entered the churchyard, she thought that the church had moved!  Of course it couldn't be true, and in fact it was not the church which had moved but the river bank, sliding into the water and bringing the river dangerously close to the church.  Action needed to be taken so a survey was done and a quote obtained to stabilise the bank: £50,000 was needed.  There are only fifty houses in the village and the sum seemed enormous but, as that keyholder explained to me, "We couldn't let the church go," so they applied for grants, sent begging letters and embarked on a programme of fundraising events.  The money was raised and the work began but as the contractors sought to secure the foundations of the building they discovered that...there were none!  More work was needed to underpin the church and so more letters were sent, more fundraising events held.  English Heritage awarded a grant of £90,000 but attached conditions, one of which was the removal of the wattle and daub and its replacement with fireproof material.  Some pieces of the oak timbers were replaced but again, not a single nail or screw was used, so the building is still held together with wooden pegs.  The final bill was in excess of £234,000 and the determination, creativity and hard work of the villagers in raising the money was rewarded not just by a secure building which is in no danger of being swept away downstream but also by being named Britain's Most Motivated Village 1991.  The prize for this was a plaque and several large sacks of daffodil bulbs to be planted in the churchyard...but irony lay in the fact that the church had great difficulty in motivating anybody to come and plant the bulbs!! 

The church is open every day but in truth there is not a great deal to see.  There is an ancient font, probably Saxon, big enough to immerse a baby in, a Jacobean pulpit and altar, an 18th century chained bible and a rather nice stained glass window. 

The reason to visit is the building itself and its beautiful setting beside the river.  It's a peaceful place, a place to stand in the footprints of people who have been worshipping God here for more than six hundred years and wonder at that fact, a place for contemplation and reflection and you may find spirituality in its simplicity. 

There is just enough room for one person to walk between the church and the hedge which is planted in the river bank.  Before the bank was swept away, there was room for a coach and horses to get through.

Oh, and if you go in the spring, the churchyard is full of golden daffodils.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 17 September 2016

Good Thoughts

Hello, thank you for dropping in, especially if you have come here via Love Made My Home.  Today I am joining in Five On Friday so if you have time, please do hop over there and see what everyone else is sharing today.
Today I am not going to share five things with you, instead, I am going to take five minutes to reflect on one thing.  The late Roald Dahl was born on 13th September 1916 in Llandaff in Cardiff and this week has seen many commemorations of his one hundredth birthday.  One quote of his which I have seen several times this week comes from The Twits:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
I LOVE this.  Firstly, if we think "good thoughts", those thoughts often make us feel happy and so we smile.  People with genuine smiles bring happiness to those around them and, I think, are regarded as more attractive than non-smilers.  Secondly, I have known several really "good" people, people who are kind-hearted, non-judgemental and put themselves out for others.  Their warmth is very attractive, it really does shine out of them like sunbeams and draws other people towards them to bask in it.  They are described as "lovely", a description of their nature which eventually does seem to transcend physical appearance.  

Roald Dahl was a wise man.
I have been trying to think a lot of good thoughts this week.  Whether or not it makes me look lovely, it certainly makes me feel lovely.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 10 September 2016

My Summer Highlights

Hello, thank you for dropping in, especially if you have come via Amy at Love Made My Home.  Today I am joining in Five On Friday and if you have time, do hop over there and see what everyone else has been up to this week. 

For the last twenty-three years my life has been regulated by the rhythm of the school year and as the Best Beloved is a teacher, that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.  It's a peculiar rhythm, and I know that many people feel that teachers enjoy a lot of time off, but the reality is much more complicated than that. However, what is true is that teachers have a good stretch of time away from school in the summer, about six weeks here in the UK, which gives them a chance to release the tension from their minds and bodies, to stretch out their limbs and their horizons and, more prosaically, to tackle all the tasks they put off during termtime.  (In my case, it also meant that I had the best possible school holiday childcare!)
During the second half of August I noticed that many bloggers were referring to the onset of autumn and honestly, it practically made me weep with frustration: as far as I am concerned, it can't be autumn during the SUMMER holidays!  These weeks are very precious to me, a time when I have thoughtful, relaxed Holiday Husband who shops and cooks while I am at work (and while I am not) rather than the uptight, blinkered, tired chap who I look after during termtime.  The first week of the holiday is always tricky for us as while I can feel the metaphorical weights lift from my shoulders almost immediately and am desperate to kick up my heels, he unfurls slowly, a little each day.  It takes him about a week to adjust and fully relax into our holiday pattern - for although he is not at work, of course there is a pattern. 

He returned to school at the beginning of this week and we are back in our usual termtime routine now, but still lingering is the glow of summer, and I am reluctant to let it go.  So, as a final hurrah, here are five special things about this year's summer break.

1.  Eggs for breakfast

During termtime our weekday breakfast is always cereal but during the school holidays, every morning the Best Beloved cooks eggs for breakfast, either boiled or poached.  It's a very fine way to begin the day - and no, I am not too old for soldiers, buttered and carefully cut to dipping size.  After I have scooped out every last bit of deliciousness, I turn over the empty shell and bash a hole in it with my spoon so that no witches will be able to use it as a boat and put to sea to cause trouble for sailors.  For some reason, the Best Beloved thinks this is ridiculous!

2.  Lunch in the garden

If we were both at home and lunchtime and it wasn't raining, we took our lunch outside and ate together in the garden.  We can never do this on termtime weekdays so it felt like an enormous treat, lingering and chatting over enormous mugs of tea.  We had plenty of bees in the garden this year but very few butterflies, so I was delighted when a single red admiral chose to join us one day and basked in the sunshine on the brick wall...upside-down!

3.  Our family holiday

This summer was different from all the summers we have had before as the Best Beloved and I spent a lot of time together on our own: The Mathematician flew away across the sea in the middle of August to spend a year working before she returns to university in September 2017, and before she went she spent several weeks visiting family and friends and holidaying in Wales, London, Hampshire and Italy.  Consequently, the time we spent with her, and together with her sister, felt very precious.  Our week's holiday in Cornwall and The Scillies was so wonderful (thank you, sunshine) and I don't know when our family will all holiday together again. 

4.  The Shrewsbury Folk Festival
For the eighth time, we went to the Shrewsbury Folk Festival and were transported to a parallel world, one full of colour and music where everyone seems to be friendly, accepting and kind.  For four days we lived in this happy bubble, untouched by the reality of the world outside the West Mid Showground.  We watched people dance, listened to bands play, drank beer (him) and cocktails (me!) in the sunshine, stayed up into the wee small hours every night and I wore flowers in my hair.  Although we spent a fair amount of lovely time with The Teacher, who was dancing there, for the first time we had no teenagers with us and it was different - I have explained to the Best Beloved that he is now responsible for chatting to me and, equally important, for listening to me.  He is a bit shocked! 
5.  A Declaration
We caught a bit of Desert Island Discs on the radio one day in the car.  Do you know it?  A celebrity guest chooses eight pieces of music which s/he would take if cast away on a desert island.  I would find it extremely difficult to narrow my selection down to eight, so I asked the Best Beloved to choose one song which he would take with him - not necessarily the only one, but one of several.  He chose Follow You, Follow Me by Genesis and when I asked him why, he said, "It's about the ups and downs of a relationship; it's about commitment; it's about us."  My jaw fell on the floor.  He is not prone to expressing his feelings on any subject and is usually as romantic as a cabbage, but these words just tripped out of his mouth really easily!  He looked at me knowingly and said, "That's it.  I'm an emotional husk now."  We laughed, and I didn't push my luck any further, but I have played this song an awful lot over the last ten days.

I just couldn't bring myself to join in Five On Friday last week because the summer holiday wasn't over and I wanted to squeeze out of it every last drop of relaxed happiness that I could.  I am almost ready for autumn, and of course, as I am an astronomical kind of gal, that won't begin until the equinox on 22nd September, but in the meantime, the weather is kind and I am stretching out in my summer glow.
Please do pop over to read Amy's post because it's very special this week and has made my eyes very green.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x



Thursday 1 September 2016

Elephants Never Forget

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I continue to be delighted that people are reading my witterings.  My holiday glow is fading, but veeeery slowly and gently so I haven't been afflicted by any post-holiday slump.  The Olympic Games helped during the immediate aftermath as we enjoyed watching the coverage on the tellybox and celebrating all the medals won by Team GB - it's not like it was "in the old days" when we only won a few and so could remember all the winners' names.  Alan Wells, anyone?  David Wilkie? 
Much has been made of Nick Skelton's showjumping success: at 58 years old he is our oldest gold medal winner since 1908, he has recovered from a broken neck and a hip replacement and this was his seventh shot at gold.  Seventh!  Now, usually I would say that you have to admire someone who keeps picking himself up, dusting himself down and starting all over again, and I suppose I do admire him, grudgingly, but I am not a Nick Skelton fan and I'll tell you why.
I took up riding when I was eleven years old and gave it up when I went to university, seven years later.  This was during the era when the BBC televised the Royal International Horse Show and the Horse of the Year Show and so twice a year, for a week, showjumping would be on the tellybox every evening during prime viewing time.  Consquently, riders like David Broome, the Whitaker brothers and Alwin Schockemohle were household names, at least, they were well known in my household, probably because I went on about them Quite A Lot.  Eddie Macken and his lovely horse Boomerang were my favourites.  I was a little obsessed: I had posters of horses on my bedroom walls, books about horses and horsey ornaments. 
In December 1980 I went to the Olympia Horse Show in London with some friends. As we were browsing the stalls, we were excited to spot Nick Skelton doing the same with a friend very nearby - please bear in mind that at this time he was not yet 23 years old, the new Hot Young Thing on the showjumping scene and most of the horsey girls were in love with him.  Think Justin Bieber in jodhpurs.  As we were watching him, whispering and giggling as fifteen year-old girls do, a girl of a similar age approached him and politely asked for his autograph.  He refused her very abruptly, turned his back on her and strode off.  We were stunned and appalled. 
That was more than thirty-five years ago and the memory is crystal clear.  I have disliked Nick Skelton ever since.  So, gentle readers, if you are thinking of becoming famous, remember to treat your fans well because some of us are like elephants: we never forget.
Now then, I wonder if the Best Beloved would object if I put a poster of Eddie Macken and Boomerang on the bedroom wall?!

 See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x