This morning we continued taking down our Christmas decorations. For our fresh holly and ivy Jackie had raided the forest. Well, we could have driven into town and bought some, but there didn’t seem much point with it all around us. I thought it only right that the now crisp and crackling foliage should be returned to whence it came. There was not much point in bagging it up for the binmen when it would rot down as nature intended. I didn’t then know what my lady had discovered when Googling to verify whether Twelfth Night was 5th or 6th of January. This was that long ago people believed that tree spirits lived in the greenery that they brought into their houses to provide a safe haven for them during the harsh midwinter days. Failure to release them once this period was over meant spring would not return, leading to an agricultural disaster; furthermore, if left indoors the spirits would cause mischief until released. I had therefore, albeit unwittingly, been ensuring that our crops would grow again, and that our flat would not be filled with troublemakers.
Having released our sprites we drove on to Landford to buy some Foxi. Foxi is a material which we are assured will, when inserted between our rugs and the fitted carpet underneath them, stop the mats from getting rucked up or going walkabout. We have yet to test it. On our return we visited the parish church of St. Margaret of Antioch at East Wellow. We didn’t think it wise to enter the church at the same time as a very noisy group, one of whom whistled in the aisles, so we looked around the churchyard first. There was a very well trodden path to a family memorial which bore, among others, a simple inscription: ‘F.N. born May 12th 1820 died August 13th 1910’, as dictated by the will of Florence Nightingale. I have to confess to being rather more fascinated by a large pile of huge, recently cut, logs of a pumpkin hue, which were all that was left of a sizeable hollow tree nearby. No doubt this giant had lived during the lifetime of Florence, the famous Lady with the Lamp. Wither had its spirits fled on the felling of their home?
As we entered the church itself, with only the briefest overlap with our rowdy companions, Jackie was particularly intrigued by the 15th century, pitted, main door with herringbone patterned iron banding. She recognised, accurately, that the numerous holes had not been made by insects, but by nails. Her speculation that the nails had held notices, was not quite right. On the nails in the 17th and 18th centuries hung rats and other vermin ‘until paid for by the Churchwardens’. ‘Pay up or be stunk out’ would seem to have been the message of the early Pest Control Officers.
One is immediately aware of very old wall paintings decorating this place of worship. Much of this work, discovered, hidden under layers of whitewash, by the Rev. R.H. Fair in 1891, is thought to date from the mid-thirteenth century. On the north wall, opposite the porch, is a large figure representing St. Christopher, carrying the infant Christ with an eel spear in his right hand. Eels, which still live in local waters, surround his feet.
I first photographed a twelfth century wall-painting in St. Botolph’s at Hardham in Sussex in the early 1960s. Maybe that is why these interested me. I do wonder just how many of these treasures quietly exist in our ancient churches. And would St Margaret of Antioch’s be so well known without the Nightingale connection? Indeed, the memorabilia inside the building, including a windowsill containing a cross made from battlefield debris and various photographs, can only be described as a shrine to the nursing legend who wished to be buried with such an unobtrusive inscription.
Given our proximity to Romsey we went there for a shop and lunched in the Fresh Cafe which is to be recommended for breakfasts and an excellent array of well-filled baguettes and large slices of home made cakes. The coffee was first class.
On our return journey we passed a tree on the A3090 which had a yellow ribbon wrapped around it and a large ‘J’ affixed above that. Thinking it related in some way to the song ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree’. we stopped to investigate further. The oak bears a plaque just above the ribbon’s bow. The legend informs the reader that this is the official memorial site of Jason Bates. Jason was a young man killed in a car crash on 22nd February 2011.
This evening we finished various spicy leftovers followed by apple crumble. I finished the Roc des Chevaliers and Jackie drank Hoegaarden.