Saturday, 8 March 2014

Stardust to Stardust

luzborough pub romsey beer garden Today was supposed to be a quick trip to Grandad's place, show willing, do the family thing, you know the score. I'd been promised a new and interesting swingpark and a few charity shops, but Jof said we must come straight home so we can do something as a family, because she's been away at Nanna's and has missed us.
She is most unreasonable like that.
ancient doors romsey abbey hampshireAs it happens, because Jof was allergic to the "Rail replacement Bus Service" that she would have encountered today (adding only 1 hour to her journey), she came back late last night while I was asleep so all of a sudden things were different. We weren't in a hurry and everything was going to be done as a family by definition. Result.
romsey abbey ethelfleda Got to Grandad dead on time. He'd located a decent country pub and I had pizza because the Sunday Roast was not available at this time due to it not being Sunday. There was a hanging-tyre thingy in one of the many lovely gardens at the Luzborough Pub (built in the 16th century) and I found a £1 coin in the car park and it was actually hot in the conservatory because the sun had come out (we'd all forgotten what it looked like).
Not far away is Romsey, ancient market town and somewhat flooded. Grandad had his nose bandage changed at the little hospital and we did all the charity shops and Jof bought a dolphin (as you do) and a glass for Nanna.
view from romsey abbey roofNow, the town of Romsey is nice and picturesque and old and has lots of ancient street names stuck in 1342 and shops stuck in 1978. We looked around the Abbey (finished 1250 on the site of an earlier church) but I was getting bored and itchy, for I had been promised a swingpark.
But then Bud asked nicely to the extremely elderly church helpers if access to the tower might be available to passing trade like us. The nice verger said come back at 330 my son, and we shall ascend skywards.
Suddenly my sulk abated, because, basically, look at the stonework on that, mmm.
So we hit the ice cream shop "Sundae's Child" on Bell Street and I had a top-end chocolate cone and having wiped my face afterwards, we returned for our appointment with god (or his earthly representative, at least).
romsey abbey hampshire south viewThe first spiral staircase is on the inside of the little door I was pretending to be a Knight's coffin in. You go up to the first level and along the 1st level north clerestory (oh yeah, Baby) to the middle tower.
From there, up a steep straight staircase to the bell-ringing room where we stopped to learn about bells and Jacobean woodwork and dry riser fire-fighting hoses and the hundred year-old clock and the trap door in the middle where you haul the bells up and stuff. You can look through a hole straight down to the floor but the upwards draught dries your eye. The furniture is rather unique in that it is made of old bell-turning wheels or benches from when Henery the 8th I am I am sold the Abbey to the town for £100 and all that kind of good stuff. Because the access staircase is so narrow, the furniture has to be made in situ and thus has never been downstairs.
We couldn't ring the bells like I did in Portsmouth cathedral because they were in the 'up' position which is very dangerous. But the 'Sallies' (stripey fluffy bits on the bell-pulling ropes) were symmetrically pleasing as they hung from the roof-over-the-roof.
romsey and river test looking over water meadowsOf course, before we went onto the primary roof he had to give us the second speech about no insurance coverage and why falling off the roof would be on our own heads, depending on how we hit the Saxon flagstones.
He said that due to all the hidden walkways and staircases and passages, you can go up one side of the edifice, and all the way around it at 3 different heights without going back down to ground level. I think if I was verging on being a verger, I might spend a little bit too much time doing just that.
boy in stone spiral staircase romsey hampshireThe second spiral staircase up from the bell-ringer's chamber was much narrower and the roof had only a little lichen-encrusted retaining wall and lots of flies but a really good view. You could see many fields underwater and sandbags strewed the township. We waved to the little tiny humans far below us and I said "Not a bad tower, actually" which made the nice verger laugh and he said I had to write that in the visitor's book so I did, because you have to keep promises. The bellchamber itself sits on top like a pork pie made of wood. A wood pie.
have to go backwards down narrow medieval staircaseHe also showed us where Ethelfleda the builder messed it up a bit because she forgot to take account of where the Nun's bedrooms were and the south wall has this massive kink in it, a real Norman builder's botch job, the brick arch totally fails to meet its destined pedestal, get your money back on that one, mate. Thing is, you look at me and I'm just a kid with a hat. But I get to do all this hectic stuff because I ask nicely.
recreation ground romsey hampshireI got my promised swingpark and promptly commanded all the local kids to amuse me on the pyramid roundabout thing and Bud pushed us round and nobody fell off and died hardly at all.
oak box for ashes of dead relativeBack at the ranch, Grandma was there with us but only until Wednesday when her good deeds will be interred with her ashes in the green and pleasant Dorsetshire churchyard where she was church helper for 25 years, a transient sliver of existence in the chasm of time since the medieval church-let was built, way smaller but significantly more homely and relevant to me than Romsey, it was the first decent tower I climbed.
After all, we are only temporary, fleeting and diaphanous clever bags of mostly water, stardust to stardust we will turn. I can tell you that she ain't heavy, she's my Grandmother. Actually, the box was quite heavy, maybe it was lead-lined.
Much nicer to have Jof back, everybody needs a mummy.
Another tiring day, when will my life ever get easier?

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