Feathers everywhere

A few years ago, while in France with the Weasels, I bought a Joan of Arc t-shirt. I’ve worn it many, many times and, up until today, no-one has ever said anything about it. That all changed today with two people mentioning it.

The first person was the vicar of the Blockley church. When asked if the church was open, she told us that it wasn’t but let us have a wander around while she was there. I think she had an upcoming funeral to officiate.

Just before we went into the church she looked at my t-shirt and asked why Joan. I was tempted to justify my wearing of a religious icon along with my atheist views but decided, instead, to just say I was a big fan. A little later, it occurred to me that she probably thought I was a Catholic. It’s a pity it wasn’t a Saint Sebastien t-shirt given that he’s supposed to protect us from the plague.

The vicar was lovely and told us lots of interesting things about her church. She started telling us about a secret staircase but was interrupted by Mirinda who said she had seen it outside, where the small stained glass slits are. The vicar was most complimentary about Mirinda’s powers of observation.

I rather liked this small stained glass window in the porch.

The second instance of Joan Recognition was a bit odd. We were walking down Chipping Campden high street. I was slowly progressing along the narrow footpath and an older woman moved to one side to let me pass.

Obviously I wasn’t going very fast. She looked at me and said “Come on, Joan! You can do it!

She did make me laugh.

We were in Chipping Campden for a wander around the unexpected remains of the extensive and expensive estate of Sir Baptist Hicks.

Of the main house there remains nothing. Actually, that’s not entirely true. There is a bit of wall in the middle of a field which I think was part of the original house. Sadly, the entire place was burned to the ground by a bunch of Royalists during the Civil War.

Baptist Hicks (1551-1629) was ridiculously wealthy. His estate was like a mini-kingdom with canals, shopping malls and a small airport. That may be an exaggeration but it did have water gardens and terraces. I think he was the sort of chap who could bend the landscape to his will by throwing money at it.

While the estate is now little more than a field with some amazing structures dotted around it, one of his descendants still lives in the attached barn. Now that’s wealthy.

We wandered all the way around the field, trying to piece together the fragments into some sort of whole. And failed. Any information I found was later, from Wikipedia. In fact, my first thoughts were that it was some sort of monastery attached to St James’ church.

Having been amazed at Baptist Hicks’ house, we then went for a wander around the church. Of course, it was closed. Yet another example of how people don’t actually believe in god. If god really existed, surely he would protect his flock. Or, he would take them into his keeping for all eternity in some pre-ordained mysterious plan.

Speaking of death, the churchyard was littered with feathers. It looked like someone had had a number of devastating pillow fights around the gravestones.

I encountered a fellow looking up at the tower. He explained to me that there was a pair of peregrine falcons living in the tower and they would pluck a pigeon from the air, take it to the top and pluck it. Feathers then just floated down to the ground.

It’s all very brutal yet wonderful to realise that life (and pigeon death) goes on regardless of the human stupidity surrounding everything at the moment. Like the 50% off food thing.

We had a drink and some nibbles at the Lygon Arms in Chipping Campden and the woman who totted up our bill went through all sorts of rigmarole to work out the total cost minus alcohol then halved it in order to charge it to the government.

I really don’t understand the government. Heaps of people have to visit food banks because they can’t afford to shop let alone eat out and yet the Tories decide it’s a good idea to pay half our eating out bills. Wouldn’t it be better to give the people visiting food banks vouchers to spend in supermarkets on food?

It was the second time I’d come across the 50% off thing today.

After we’d finished pottering around the cottage in the morning, we wandered up to the Blockley cafe where we had cakes. I know, I know, that’s very naughty and I think I suffered for it later but I do find carrot cake very hard to resist.

Anyway, when I went to pay the bill, the woman took half off and stapled the receipts together. All completely unnecessary.

After our coffee and cake, Mirinda took us on a guided tour of Blockley, taking in such sites as St Georges Terrace, the original police station outside of which the 1878 Riot took place and, of course, the house in which Patton and Eisenhower met to discuss the D-Day arrangements.

The house was originally called Peyton House and was built by a successful miller, Joseph Peyton, in around 1800. The name then changed at some point to Paxton House and became, in 1943, the HQ of the American Super Six division.

Now, Paxton House doesn’t even look lived in.

Rather oddly, once we returned from our wander, I started feeling quite ill. I started shivering and had a headache. I didn’t bring a fleece so I had to wear Mirinda’s baby blue one. It was lovely and warm.

When we returned from Chipping Campden, I went upstairs to bed for a few hours. I felt awful.

Two hours later, I felt a lot better. Though not well enough to eat, I did watch Ophelia with Mirinda. It was an excellent film: Hamlet from Ophelia’s point of view.

I have no idea what was wrong with me. Perhaps I got a chill. Or it was the carrot cake.

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