Friday, 3 May 2013

Dogs Delight 13 Why did we move here?


The village is famous for its very tall filigree church spire, pointing fastidiously to heaven.  You can see it from far and near from many directions in the countryside around.

   Now that I am thinking spiritually, along the complex and evanescent lines suggested by C S Lewis, I feel drawn to Evensong whenever I see the spire or hear the church bells ringing.  They ring very often.  In fact, the bellringers practise the whole of Monday and Wednesday and Friday evening which makes Richard swear and ask why in heaven’s name we moved here.  (Naturally they perform for a very long time on Sundays.)  On the other days he forgets about it: Richard doesn’t bear a grudge.  Whenever there is a funeral, which is more often than is respectable, the great bell Vengeance tolls for most of the day.  Returning from shopping in Laxley or wandering back to the village along a public footpath, I am transfixed by St Agnes’ spire hovering over the fields.  On each sighting, from every angle, the summons is more insistent. 

The spire definitely has a hold over the villagers.  The cardboard signs by roadside plant stalls and on garden gates leading to jumble sales invariably read ‘Tower Preservation Fund’ in uneven capitals.  I have heard that a newcomer was ostracised for holding a raffle for Save The Children.  And the tower is famous for its beckoning.  It beckons people from various high points across the county, and daily beckons villagers to a closer acquaintance, despite the quality of the vicar. 

Mrs Dilkes often stands staring at the improbable finger.  She told me that Peter Hopkirk’s father Jacob once climbed it for a dare and refused to climb back down.  Mrs Dilkes says she was quite a girl, which I can hardly imagine, to look at her; but she remembers old Jacob Hopkirk frozen in fear, looking down on the upturned faces of the cheering villagers.  It did not end happily. 

A builder who was afraid of heights kindly climbed the tower to join Jacob on the ledge and found himself equally pinioned by fear against the crenellations.  After a while the builder engaged the crowd with a brief  attempt at a descent, during which he dislocated one or two elbows. The two men remained transfixed for hours underneath the famous sneering gargoyle and a relay of beer from the Lone Gelding kept the crowd’s spirits high until the fire brigade was called and arrived with an entertaining extra-extending appliance.  The builder told the Laxley Gazette that the gargoyle sneered at him the whole time.  Some people call the spire unlucky.

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