Sometimes, after an afternoon in the garden, within the safety of our guilded cage, the light starts to fade away, the sun dips and the breeze flutters into silence. I stop what I am doing, and in the quiet I can hear a dog bark at the far end of the village, and a child playing at the other. The world grows large about me, spirits uncoil and gather me in their embrace, I’m tempted to take a walk in the empty streets. One can only imagine the tall stories the old walls would tell. I sometimes let my imagination run wild …
Was the church tower really built in only six years, some time after the church itself back in the 1200’s? I can only imagine the village must have waited a while until they could afford the next stage of construction. Sometimes as I pass I wonder if it is the ghosts of the masons I can hear, clinking mallets and chisels on stone as they struggle to finish the roof before summer’s end.
Here, a grey cat lives. I pretend he is the ghost of a labourer who built this wall in the summer of 1867. Perhaps he fell in love with a farmer’s daughter, only to find their attachment to each other was not welcomed by the farmer’s family, and later that year he was press-ganged into the French navy after a night’s revelry on Rochefort’s waterfront ended in a cell…could it have happened?
Was this fence put in place by the present day baker’s grandfather? To stop village boys in the 1950’s from stealing his raspberries? I’d like to think so. Today, a raft of artichoke heads, gone to seed for too long, nod away the days just inside the doorway…
And perhaps this is the door to the family Dupont’s kitchen. Was it once a winter barn for cattle? Converted into a dwelling place in 1920 when the father of the family came back from the Great War? Maybe to this day the smell of cows can still be recognised on a wet day inside the neatly tiled room, seeping up through the old hardened earth floor.
I like to think that for many years an old man called Blanchard worked this allotment. And that much of the earth he transported here came by mule and wagon from the Marais, since the natural soil is alkaline and replete with shards of sandstone. Now the old couple who work it grow food all year round, with great lines of leaks and onions in winter stretching all the way to the church wall.
The side passage by the church is sometimes filled with soft chanting and the rustle of cassocks in my mind. When there is no breeze at all a faint smell of incense lingers about the shadows, and I think I can hear a hum of Latin…..the door to the crypt always seems to beckon to me with a wizened white bony finger. I’m intrigued and nervous at the same time and never hang around for too long.
Could this be Madame Bouchary’s old sewing shop? Her era of couture might have taken place in the 1760’s. If the light is right and the door is open, the sun reaches into the dark inside of the room. Can I see her working by candlelight at the low table, mending a rip in the trousers of the ironsmith’s apprentice?
I love to think that the valerian growing along this wall is a chance of fate, perhaps a dynasty of pink that might have been here for 42 years. Each flower a descendant of a single seed deposited in a crack by a sparrow in the autumn of 1978. Each year the village council clears out the dead plants in winter, but there is always a seed or two lodged beyond their probing brush.
And this farmhouse. Did it once stand proudly in its own land, paying a tythe to the church each year as its cows and grain blossomed with each summer’s passing?
This barn might have been built before the battle of Waterloo, but who lives here now?Who lives behind the upstairs window that once saw hay bales swing through its narrow casement?
Here is a hole in the wall surrounding the old lands of the ancient Priory. Was it created by a young man as he came home late one night from a harvest dance in his brother’s Renault, or is it a matter of theft, where people have taken the stone to use elsewhere? In all the years we’ve been here it has never changed.
This small building tucked in to one side of the Priory, is a workshop, reputed to date from the time of the building of the church which is later than the Priory itself. Today, its gates never open, are the ghosts of my masons still at work inside?
Next door is the window into the workshop, with a pair of shutters made before the Second World War. Now it would cost more to repaint them than it did to actually make them, some 70 odd years ago.
Is this an old wash house under the ivy? In times past would steam have bellowed out on wash day, the cobbled floor afloat with sheets?
As I turn for home, with the echoes of voices whispering secrets at me, the sun sets for bed in a hole in the sky, winking at me and my imagination in huge amusement.
If only walls really could tell tales…….
And finally a little fact, NOT fiction! We’re really really excited to give you a hint of what we’ve been working on non-stop for the past few weeks. We’re just about ready to launch our e-book of short stories, to help support us and our family during this time. Bringing you something digital that will hopefully make your days happier in these terribly worrying weeks. It will be full paperback novel size, around 290 pages, comprising 8 stories. We would love to know how you would prefer to read it; via ebook, PDF, Kindle with a Kindle App? We’ll keep you updated here on the blog and via Instagram and Facebook. Our daughter, Millie, is putting the final touches to the cover she has designed. Jack, our son, is adding sketches for each story. Izzi is helping us with the formatting. In our usual style, it’s a real family affair and I am so proud of our children.