Lent by God to Edgar & Gertie Ray
August 9: 1916 - July 10: 1926
Called (while at play) to the nursery of Heaven
LAST weekend I stayed at Rachel’s house in Buckinghamshire. It was an action packed weekend of pottering around, enjoying gardens, country houses and delightful villages. On Friday we went to Oxford, where we visited a few of the wonderful museums, toured University College and admired the city’s architecture, as well as managing to buy some shoes and stare lovingly at some of the most magnificent cakes known to man. There was a slight drama with the buses, but otherwise a gentle day.
Oxford could have plenty of blog entries on its own, as it is a majestic place steeped in history and heritage, but today I actually want to talk about where we went on Saturday afternoon – a town called Wendover. Rachel went off to meet a friend in a chocolate shop-come-café, so I took the chance to explore. I knew nothing of the place – I had not ever heard of it before our arrival – and everything I found was a delightful surprise.
Heading down the High Street, I found a path called Heron Path. Intrigued, I walked along it. Bitterly disappointed though I was not to find any actual herons, the path twisted into a little piece of secluded countryside, with woods, fields and a river, and suddenly I was in my element. I felt like I was home.
A cricket pitch appeared to my right, with two local teams playing and a faithful collective applauding from the tiny red brick pavilion. Further downstream the path split into two, one arm heading uphill as a path with wall-to-wall stinging nettles, and the other to St Mary’s church. Just before this split a wild flower meadow spread out before me, it’s grasses patterned with red corn poppies and blue corn flowers, overlooked by a meadow cottage. It was an idyll I hadn’t expected to find and I was enchanted.
There are many reasons why I love Wendover. Firstly, it has a real community spirit, where everybody acknowledges you, and every public bench has a dedication plaque to somebody who loved their town and what it stood for. Not only that, but the council seemed to care about the place too, and had taken action on a derelict listed property under act 54 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. This was a place that cared about its appearance and preservation, a town of relaxed atmosphere where local residents support each other. I would hasten to suppose that the sun always shines over Wendover.
Another reason why I loved this town was because of a sign over Hampden Pond by the church. It read:
“For the safety of children and wildlife please do not overfeed the ducks.”
From which I can only suppose that excess food causes ducks to turn into monsters, or – as Rachel suggested - that ducks in Buckinghamshire are liable to explode if fed too much.
I continued on to St Mary’s church. Perhaps it is an unusual thing to say, but I find cemeteries tremendously interesting places. Far from scary, they are the preserve of memories – plaques alluding to emotions and histories that can only be guessed, testament to the complexity of life – and their unrelenting silence provides peaceful refuge to those whose hearts have run out of summers.
While wandering around the churchyard of St Mary’s I came across a damaged grave. It had a statue of a young boy, but sadly the statue had snapped and fallen to the floor. The inscription beneath was so poignant, so heart-wrenchingly sad that I decided to take a photograph and share what it said with you.
Not quite ten, this boy was clearly dearly loved, but his memorial has fallen into disrepair. I dedicate this blog entry to the memory of him.