‘Sure as Stone’
‘Old as Hills’
‘White as Bone’
Never look back!
It is good advice, unfortunately, in story-telling this advice, when given, is never adhered to.
They are all concerned with Soul.
The Soul that turns to look back is caught in time.
It may be an ‘intention thing’, like trying to serve two masters, do not walk one way and look the other.
There are any number of mythological monsters depicted in this way to prove it.
Tiamet…Nergal…The Dread Beast of Mercia.
The hero ‘slays’ them all, by moving forward.
But going back to take another look, that is different.
That is part of going forward.
And it is also inevitable.
This time we inadvertently found ourselves following our own advice from one of our books.
We started at Hordron’s, that hoary old receptacle of time, went on to Strines, the ‘Peacock Pub’, and finished up at the Old Horns Inn.
And this time when we got to Bradfield, ‘Castle Hill’ was illuminated.
No need to wonder where we will be heading next then.
But first, we had another encounter with one of our mounds to experience.
We needed more photographs.
Were duly forthcoming.
Once we had braved the curiously over friendly sheep…
…A flutter of recognition flicked across his gaze.
“What is it?” Asked Wen, her icy tone slicing through the summer haze like a frosty stare.
“There’s an old lay, I can’t quite remember how it goes…”
“I don’t know, something about a green valley between two hills…”
“And a sentinel of stone which has to be appeased…”
“Before entry into the living rock is granted…”
“The last bit goes on about the embrace of a One-Eyed God, or something…”
“By Odin, I know that place!” shrieked Wen, leaping to her feet.
Moments later the Beast was again roaring along the lane.
Anyone would think she was glad to be back on the road…
…Her hand crept to the feather at her throat.
Her gift from the gods.
The colour of flame.
She had strayed from the path.
Preparing herself for what was to come.
The great bird had wheeled overhead.
Soaring above the trees in the morning.
She had looked down and seen rainbows caught in the feather, bright against the grass and smiled…
…Having exhausted my wish list of trips yesterday I have left today’s agenda to Wen and our first port of call is to another little church, Hulcott – All Saints. This church thing would not necessarily have been a top priority of mine but the discoveries at Little Missenden came as such a pleasant surprise that I find my anticipation rising as we approach the church porch and I start to envisage the possibilities that may lie inside.
… Wen has skipped along the gravel path and entered the church porch she pauses and looks back at me mysteriously, as I gain the porch, and then twists the iron door ring with a yank and leans into the heavy oaken door. The door does not yield. The door is locked…
“No matter,” says Wen, “they sometimes put contact details up, she starts to scrutinise the notice board of the porch and then taps a number into her phone…
Bugger times two!
We content ourselves with a swift circuit of the church but that merely emphasises the sense of disappointment and as we climb back into the car I start to wonder if we are destined for a hangover. It would have been in any case difficult to match the enormities of yesterday’s explorations and maybe we should be spending some time assimilating their significance rather than tearing about the country-side… it is akin I suppose to what as teenagers we used to call ‘Chasing the Dragon’ when we stayed out all night looking for drinking parties.
“No worries” says Wen, “there’s another we can try on the way.”
Wen of course has no such doubts, “on the way to where?”
“The Hell-Fire Caves.” Don’t you remember any of our conversation last night?
“Ah, yes, the Hell-Fire Caves…”
To be honest it feels a little bit off-beam to me but it is a place of interest in the area and we need to do something today…I attempt to retrieve some of last nights conversation from the fog of grape but before I have even got to the Megalithic Behemoth of Wayland’s name, we are pulling up outside the village church of Oving…
The mound of this one is too obvious not to remark and there are several stone steps and a still fairly steep incline before … Wen skips along the gravel path and enters the church porch where she pauses and looks back at me mysteriously… this is already becoming something of a ritual for us and as I gain the porch I find myself hoping against hope that the door will open… Wen twists the iron door ring with a yank and leans into the heavy oaken door. The door does not yield. The door is locked…
“There should be a law against it.”
“It’s sort of understandable I suppose.”
“Desecration of sacred places is incomprehensible on any scale…and besides now we’re on a mission it’s totally and wholly unacceptable.”
“And what mission would that be?” Wen arches her eyebrow in saintly fashion.
“Not sure yet… I’ll let you know.”
‘I know now’
‘What do you now know?’
‘I know what the mission is.’
‘Well, that didn’t take long.’
‘We’re on a mission to feel true.’ …
“It has to be the Stone on Gardom’s Edge…”
“What does?” says Wen.
“My Robin Hood Stone… I mean it didn’t look much like the stone on Gardom’s Edge but that could have been the angle.”
I study the sketch in our guide book.
“A lot of these stones look different from each and every angle you know.” …
…“Let’s go find the Hud Stone,” say I.
“Is the Hud Stone the same as the Robin Hood Stone?”
“Well of course it is!”
“The same stone that we are not totally sure exists at all?”
“Well it most surely does exist if it is what Mr Harris is calling the Gardom Stone.”
“All these names are apt to become a tad confusing don’t you think?”
“Not at all, it’s just one more way of marking time.”…
…A short walk later and we are approaching what are undoubtedly the outer precincts of a prehistoric enclosure.
Just then I catch sight of the Gardom Stone from some distance.
There is always a thrill when seeing a site or stone for the first time, but in this case the thrill is tempered somewhat by the simultaneous realisation that, even from this distance, it is obvious that the Gardom Stone is not the Hud Stone.
“It’s there,” I say, “but it is not the Hud Stone.”
“It’s been called, ‘The Devil Stone’ before now.”
“I can see that too, but let’s face it, we’ve had more than enough truck with that particular personage these last few months.” …
…“Is it significant,” interrupts Wen.
“Is what significant?”
“The fact that a lot of these stones look different from every angle… I mean it starts to look like another involution.”
“It’s spatially significant for your ubiquitous theory but how so otherwise?”
“Well, take your traditional temple of the elements.”
“Which few people ever do…”
…“Of what does it consist?” says Wen, ignoring me.
“It consists of a uniform central point and the distinct cardinals.”
“Eloquently put, O Something Feral, eloquently put,” she smiles.
“Oh I see, the distinct cardinals have been collapsed into a central point…”
“Collapsed and reversed, which is something of an involution is it not?”
“It is indeed, Little Grub, and if that is what they were doing…”
“It is genius.”
“Genius, yes, but to what end?”